The Old Chalk Way is a 575 kilometre (375 mile) bikepacking route from south coast to North Sea along the chalk vein of Britain’s oldest road.
We’ve pieced together the best bits of the Greater Ridgeway to create a coast to coast all-road or gravel route to embody the history of this ancient highway, and we think the best scenery and most enjoyable riding in Southern England.
Expect a mix of well trodden and signposted bridleways, white gravel chalk paths and overgrown grassy desire lines. You'll find rolling green hills, ancient woodland, two seas, ancient market towns, Bronze Age round barrows, Iron Age hill forts and plenty of red kites.
Chalk can be a challenging substance to ride on. When its dry and smooth it rolls like tarmac, when wet and rough it’s a tractionless quagmire. Tracks are made up of a mix of gravel, farm tracks, poorly maintained paths but it’s not shy of tarmac either. If its dry, there’s minimal gnar so technically very easy and open to all! Large sections of this route if wet are not for the faint hearted.
Cyclocross bikes, gravel bikes and mountain bikes all would be suitable. If it's wet you will want big rubber, knobbles and extra clearance for that mud. We reckon 35mm width tyre minimum.
If you’re riding the full route, you’ll need to keep in mind that Sailsbury Plain training ground is only passable on certain days, as the route passes though the ‘Larkhill’ site. Find info about firing days here: gov.uk/government/publications/salisbury-plain-training-area-spta-firing-times . This is very important for the purposes of not getting shot or arrested as live firing is taking place. We don’t need that on our hands.
There are loads of train stations along the route so you can split up the adventure if you don’t have time for it all in one go. Axminster, Gillingham, Swindon, Princes Risborough, Luton, Royston, Thetford and Kings Lynn are stations all either on or just off the route.
Find the full route here: komoot.com/tour/508391363
Inspired by Second City Divide and the Badger Divide, we thought the South of England deserved something just as fun! An emphasis was placed on creating flow, rather than travelling on every bridleway we could find.
Find us on Instagram at @theoldchalkway - website coming soon.
If you have done it, send us a message (and photos) on Instagram or comment here: we would love to hear from you.
Stage one though Dorset is the hardest section of The Old Chalk Way, characterised by relentless steep hills and few resupply options en-route.
You will be rewarded with beautiful views, a few field crossings, Iron Age forts, prime gravel tracks though woodland, and a disused railway line.
The famous Gold Hill in Shaftesbury at the end will certainly test out whose legs are working well!
This is undoubtedly the most iconic stage of The Old Chalk Way. Less hilly than the first stage, but there's a large percentage of gravel tracks here, with most of them being smooth.
Take in expansive views over Wiltshire on the flowing ridgeline path into Wilton. The route passes Stonehenge which you can get up relatively close to for free! …
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
Stage 3 starts along the Ridgeway with beautiful views on your left. Passing race courses, then over the Thames river at Goring, there are a few climbs into woodland before linking up with the lower Icknield Way for a straight, flat ride for a while.
More woodland climbs take you past Chequers (the Prime Minister’s residence), and into Wendover, back into more woods with the steepest climb of the stage. Lots of trees!
Today the route goes though the woodland paths of Ashridge estate, descending into Luton/Dunstable where you’ll follow a traffic free route almost all the way though Luton. Nice gravel paths toward Hitchin and though Letchworth. Between here and Royston lies my stomping ground and I know these quality trails like the back of my hand. More smooth single track on …
The last section! Well done for making this far. it starts on the Ickneild Way heading though the Kings Forest (where the UK Gravel Champs were hosted in 2021), can get a bit sandy round here. Though parts of Thetford forest, look out for deer and red squirrels if your lucky, feels wild out here in The Brecks. Though the …
Have a look to see if the red flags are flying, you'll be able to find out online too (gov.uk/government/publications/salisbury-plain-training-area-spta-firing-times). If they are, you'll have to take an alternative route around the training area.
You could follow the King Alfred's Way route to the west or we'd recommend this flowing road sandwiched by some pristine gravel tracks used by tanks. Enjoy!
Bike Touring Collection by Laura Kennington
Bike Touring Collection by Emsland Tourismus GmbH