The Ridgeway follows Britain's oldest trail through an idyllic landscape of rolling hills, enchanted woodlands, prehistoric castles, stone circles, sleepy villages, and grasslands filled with some of the rarest wildflowers you will see.
The ancient route starts from the World Heritage Site of Avebury and travels 87 miles (139 kilometers) to finish on the iconic Ivinghoe Beacon, named after the huge fires that were once lit at the summit for navigation and communication.
The western part of the trail follows an ancient ridge track along the crest of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which was used by prehistoric travelers, herdsmen and soldiers. This section passes some incredible Bronze Age hillforts, stone circles, and burial chambers, some of which are more than 3,000 years old.
The eastern part follows the River Thames for a short time before heading east into the Chiltern Hills AONB. The walking on this section is a delightfully-contrasting mix of open downland, farmland, grassland, and woodland. Along this section, you pass through some internationally-important nature reserves that are home to incredibly rare flora and fauna.
In this itinerary we split The Ridgeway into six stages. Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation.
Every stage finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby. However, places to stay are not always abundant so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.
If you are planning to arrive by public transport, you can catch a train to Swindon railway station, which is served by direct trains from London and Bristol, and has connecting services around the country. From Swindon, you would need to catch the 49 bus service, which runs hourly buses to Avebury.
To get home, you would need to catch the 61 bus service from Ivinghoe to Aylesbury. The train station in Aylesbury has direct trains to London and has connecting services around the country.
As with all long distance hikes, arriving by car is not the most sensible option. However, if you do decide to, your best bet is to leave your car in Swindon, then catch the 49 bus to Avebury.
To get home, you would need to catch the 61 bus service from Ivinghoe to Aylesbury, then catch a train from Ayelsbury to London Marylebone, then jump on the tube from Marylebone to Paddington Station, then catch a train from Paddington back to Swindon.
For more information about The Ridgeway, visit: nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
For the 49 bus timetable, visit: stagecoachbus.com/routes/west/49/trowbridge-devizes/xsbo049.i
For the 61 bus timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/61-aylesbury-tring-eaton-bray-totternhoe-dunstab-2.
For information about the London Tube, visit: tfl.gov.uk/maps/track/tube.
The Ridgeway starts from the World Heritage Site of Avebury and travels 87 miles (139 kilometers) along Britain’s oldest road.
Before you start this enchanting journey, it is worth taking some time to explore the amazing sites that are literally a stone's throw away from the beginning of the route—but are not officially on it.
Starting from the village of Avebury, it is only a brief walk to see the impressive Avebury Stone Circle. In a stunning location, you can actually get up-close to these mystical stones, which date from around 2600 BCE.
From there, it is worth a small detour to see Silbury Hill. The largest artificial mound in Europe, this mysterious hill is similar in height and volume to the Egyptian pyramids.
The actual route starts from Overton Hill, which affords excellent views over the landscape and has several round barrow burial mounds which date back to the Iron Age.
You then climb gradually over Barbury Castle Iron Age fort, a well-preserved for with excellent views, through Victorian clumps of beech woodland and into a landscape dotted with history.
This stage finishes in the villages of Ogbourne St George, which has a few options for accommodation and food and drink.
Taking you through a landscape that is rich in beauty and history, this remote stage affords abundant tranquility and lots of interest.
With more than 18 miles (29 kilometers) of distance to contend with, this is the longest stage in the itinerary and will really test your mettle.
From Ogbourne St George, you climb north through fields until you reach Liddington Castle Iron Age Fort. Standing at 909 feet (277 meters) tall, the fort affords superb views and is also believed to be one of the oldest in Britain.
You then hike northeast over Fox Hill and Lammy Down until Wayland's Smithy Burial Mound, an impressive a Neolithic chambered long barrow.
A short time later, you arrive at Uffington Castle, an exceptionally well-preserved example of an Iron Age hill fort, and also The White Horse, believed to be the oldest chalk-cut hill figure in Britain.
From there, you continue over the undulating landscape to Gramp’s Hill Road, at which point you head left through Letcombe Bassett to Letcombe Regis, where this stage finishes.
There is not much in Letcombe Regis, however there are options for accommodation and food and drink.
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Superb views northwards over the Thames Valley and southwards over serene downland fill this hike with wondrous beauty.
From Letcombe Regis, you follow the road south out of the village to rejoin the trail at Gramp’s Hill, where you continue east.
You arrive at Segsbury Camp a short time later; an Iron Age hill fort with extensive and well-preserved ramparts and gateways.
A few miles later you pass the Lord Wantage Monument, which is situated high on the Ridgeway and affords stunning views of the Vale of White Horse.
From there, you continue southeast on a predominantly downhill trajectory through an area that is synonymous with horse racing. In fact, you can expect to see some fine specimens exercising.
This stage finishes in Streatley, which has a good range of accommodation, places for food and drink, as well as shops and other attractions. Nearby Goring-on-Thames has plenty, too.
This challenging stage will really test your fitness and endurance.
As you hike alongside water, through sleepy villages, and into the stunning patchwork landscape, the pretty countryside, abundant history, and lovely views should be a more-than-adequate reward for your effort.
From Streatley, you follow the iconic River Thames for the first few miles, which is easy walking along a level landscape.
It is worth making a brief detour from the trail to see the historic market town of Wallingford, as shown here.
Crossing the Thames via the impressive medieval bridge, you can go on to explore the town’s castle and much more. This is also a great place to stop for some lunch.
You return to the trail and climb east along the beautiful (despite its name) Grim’s Ditch and over Bachelor’s Hill until you reach Nuffield, which has a lovely Grade II-listed church from the 12th century that is worth visiting.
Whilst you do more-or-less maintain height for the rest of the hike, there are a few more sharp ascents and descents before you reach Watlington, where this stage finishes.
Watlington has a few accommodation options, plenty of places for food and drink, as well as some shops.
With some tough climbs and a challenging 17.5 miles (28 kilometers) of distance, this is the most strenuous stage you will encounter on The Ridgeway.
Your effort is rewarded with spellbinding panoramic views, wildlife-rich nature reserves, and remarkable beauty, however.
From Watlington, the trail is relatively flat for the first five miles (eight kilometers) before a steep climb up Chinnor Hill.
When you reach the summit, you are treated to breathtaking panoramic views. There is also a nature reserve which is home to rare wildflowers during spring and summer, as well as birds including red kites and kestrels.
The trail then winds through fields, past small woodlands and along the southern edge of Princes Risborough.
As you leave the small town behind, you begin another tough climb up to the summit of Brush Hill; a nature reserve with lovely views over the Chilterns and an important habitat for wildlife, flowers, and birds.
You descend to the road and then make another ascent over Grangelands and Pulpit Hill and eventually to the highest viewpoint in the Chilterns, Coombe Hill.
From the summit of Coombe Hill, you experience enchanting views over the Aylesbury Vale and even as far as the Cotswolds on a clear day.
You then make a short but sharp descent to Wendover, were this stage finishes. Wendover has a good range of accommodation, places for food and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
The final stage of The Ridgeway takes you through the enchanting wooded landscape of the Chiltern Hills.
From Wendover, you follow the trail south and climb gradually into Barn Wood, and then through Hale Wood, Milesfield, Hengrove Wood, Northill Wood, Parvis Wood, and Bull’s Wood.
In fact, between Wendover and Wigginton, you are either in woodland or walking beside it most of the time.
The final section of this hike is breathtaking. After passing through Duchies Piece reserve and Aldbury Nowers wood, you climb Pitstone Hill where the views to Ivinghoe Beacon are spellbinding.
Pitstone Hill is also home to lots of rare plant life including the nationally-scarce pasque flower and field fleawort. At least 26 species of butterfly have been recorded here, too.
The final climb of the day takes you to the iconic Ivinghoe Beacon. Standing at 764 feet (233 meters) tall, Beacon Hill towers over the surrounding countryside and affords views of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire.
The nearest place to stay after completing this hike is the village of Ivinghoe, which has some accommodation options, plenty of places for food and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.