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Linking Wiltshire's epic hill carvings — White Horse Trail

Cyberslayer (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Linking Wiltshire's epic hill carvings — White Horse Trail

Hiking Collection by Kit P

9

Tours

39:33 h

92.6 mi

4,850 ft

Wiltshire’s white horses are icons of this glorious county and spotting one never fails to bring a smile to the face. Carved into the chalk downlands, the horses span several hundred years. The oldest is this hike’s starting point: Westbury White Horse. High on the hill between Westbury and Bratton, this horse was carved in the 1770s.

This long-distance trail links eight chalk horses in a 93-mile (150 km) loop. While the hill carvings are extraordinary, there are plenty of other historic sites and monuments along the trail. Avebury stone circle; West Kennet Long Barrow; numerous Iron Age hillforts; Norman churches; and thatched villages are waiting for you to discover them. This region’s history is lengthy and fascinating, with ancient monuments rubbing shoulders with modern culture every step of the way.

Human history certainly makes this adventure one to remember and it takes place entirely amongst Wiltshire’s exquisite downland too. This means soaring views from chalk ridges, verdant woodland with chuckling streams, meandering rivers and gorgeous green grasslands.

I’ve broken the route into nine stages, each between 5.5 and 14.3 miles (8.9–23 km). Many of the end points are in small villages, so if you plan on overnight stays, book in advance and be prepared to hunt around a bit in nearby settlements too. The route is always undulating with some steep hills but there’s nothing technically challenging. When it comes to food, you’re rarely far from a pub, but it’s best to take lunch with you as shops are few and far between in most stages.

You can hike this route or any of the individual stages throughout the year but I recommend walking between late spring and early autumn. This allows you to make the most of longer days and more stable weather. While it begins and ends near Westbury, you can start anywhere along the trail thanks to its circular nature. You can also hike the stages individually.

To reach Westbury, your best option is by rail as the town has excellent connections to London, Southampton, Bristol and further afield. Pewsey is another convenient place to start (or end) as it has a train station on the same line as Westbury. In the north of the loop, stage five passes reasonably close to Swindon, which has further transport links. Many villages and towns along the trail have local bus services, so with good planning, you can leave the trail in most settlements you come to, if you want to hike the stages individually.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Intermediate
    04:38
    10.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    500 ft
    575 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This first stage begins at the Westbury, or Bratton, White Horse. It’s found between Westbury and Bratton, the former of which is a bustling town with a well-served train station. This hike follows the edge of down Salisbury Plain and the Imber Range, an active military area.

    Begin at Westbury White Horse, where you also find Bratton Camp, a hillfort. …

  • Difficult
    06:00
    14.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    450 ft
    700 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage leads you off Salisbury Plain and down into the Vale of Pewsey. It’s the longest stage in the Collection at 14.3 miles (23 km) but has only a small amount of ascent in it and is fairly easy-going. On this hike, you’ll see the Pewsey White Horse, dating back to the 1930s.

    Begin on the ridge path above …

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  • Intermediate
    04:12
    9.56 mi
    2.3 mph
    800 ft
    700 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Crossing the Vale of Pewsey and leading you up into the downs south of Marlborough, this hike comes with beautiful views, a couple of steeper sections and plenty of history, embedded into the landscape. At just under 10 miles (16 km), it’s a wonderful hike with time for a picnic with a panorama.

    Begin on the outskirts of Pewsey and …

  • Intermediate
    03:46
    8.73 mi
    2.3 mph
    600 ft
    425 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage leads you into the beautiful Marlborough Downs above the historic village of Avebury. Whilst the White Horse Trail does take you to ancient Avebury, for now you pass by, enjoying the earthworks and tumuli of the downland. You reach the Hackpen White Horse on this hike, first from directly above and close up, and then from below.

    Start …

  • Difficult
    05:04
    11.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    650 ft
    850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    You discover the Broad Town White Horse on this stage, as you hike the perimeter of the North Wessex Downs AONB. The trail undulates along the tops of the Marlborough Downs to Cherhill, the village at the foot of the Cherhill White Horse.

    Begin in Broad Hinton and head north out of the village, first across fields and then along …

  • Intermediate
    03:01
    6.91 mi
    2.3 mph
    550 ft
    450 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage is a real treat for anyone who loves ancient landscapes. Earthworks, hillforts, tumuli, sarsen stones, a stone circle and, of course, a white horse, all await you on this wonderful walk.

    From Cherhill, cross the A4 and immediately begin ascending the track to the western end of Cherhill Hill; just in case the name didn’t already make you …

  • Intermediate
    04:31
    10.6 mi
    2.3 mph
    550 ft
    650 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    In this stage, the White Horse Trail continues to lead you through beautiful chalk downland, taking in quite a large hill before dropping back down into the Vale of Pewsey. The Alton Barnes White Horse is the centrepiece of this hike, although there are many other brilliant sights too, such as the Wansdyke earthworks, the Kennet and Avon Canal and …

  • Difficult
    05:58
    14.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    200 ft
    375 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Much like the second stage, this is a long one but it does have the benefit of being largely flat. In fact, a significant portion of it is alongside the Kennet and Avon Canal. The last section actually descends from the canal, and leads you off on a glorious ramble across fields, along farm tracks and peaceful lanes to the …

  • Intermediate
    02:23
    5.46 mi
    2.3 mph
    575 ft
    100 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The final stage of the White Horse Trail leads you south across the flat valley back to Bratton and the Westbury White Horse. It’s the shortest stage, at just 5.5 miles (8.9 km) – the perfect way to end a fantastic adventure or, if you’re hiking the stages as day hikes, just a wonderful walk.

    Begin in the village of …

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    9
  • Distance
    92.6 mi
  • Duration
    39:33 h
  • Elevation
    4,850 ft

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Linking Wiltshire's epic hill carvings — White Horse Trail

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