Behold the Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest road at over 5000 years old. It was once a crucial trade route spanning the country from Dorset to Norfolk and is now made popular by walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike, since its designation as a National Trail in 1972.
In its entirety the National Trail measures 87 miles (140 km) from Overton Hill in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. Only half of this is accessible by bike, as the more Easterly section is a footpath for walkers only. This 43 miles (69 km) of ridgetop bridleway, plotted to be well draining underfoot year-round as well as give a good vantage point from which to see potential rivals or conflicts from, is now a mecca for mountain bikers and gravel riders. Yet it’s not just the prehistoric road that makes this route unique, but the many archeological treasures that line its path.
This collection is designed as a two day ride, giving you ample time to stray from the official Ridgeway route to explore the ancient burial mounds, the spectacular stone circles and the imposing white chalk horses that add such character and history to this route. The perfect length for a leisurely weekend’s escape on the North Wessex Downs.
Wild camping is forbidden across most of England so you’ll need to either plan to stop at a campsite overnight or book bed and breakfast, hostel or hotel accomodation for your trip. As some of the Ridgeway can be quite rocky and rough under tyre, the best bike for this route would be a mountain bike, either hardtail or rigid. Some riders will be fine on a gravel bike with wide tyres (ideally 40mm+), but beware there are no bike shops on the route so take all the necessary spares!
The Ridgeway is best explored in the summer, spring and autumn months, as the chalky surface of the trail becomes very slippery when wet, and can become hard going in the winter. If you’re able to avoid peak holiday season, you’ll have more of the ancient treasures on route to yourself, as they are very popular with holidaymakers and students alike.
Even though the official Ridgeway route is only accessible by bike for 43 miles, there are a huge number of other trails in the area that intersect or follow closely to the Ridgeway that are great on a bike. The Chiseldon and Marlborough Railway Path, the Mercian Way and numerous other bridleways and byways all link up to make some great circular routes if you want to ride further.
The best direction to tackle the Ridgeway is typically from West to East, as the prevailing wind is from the South West. With very exposed and sometimes barren hilltops a good tailwind will be much, much better than a block headwind!
There is a train station in Goring at the end of the cycleable trail, but not in Avebury at the start. To get there by train you’ll need to take services either to the main line station of Swindon with a 13 mile (21 km) cycle on roads after, or the smaller station of Pewsey with a 10.5 mile (17 km) ride to the start.
For more information on the Ridgeway National Trail, visit: nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway
Although the official Ridgeway starts at Overton Hill, be sure not to miss Avebury. This small Wiltshire village is home to not just one, but three prehistoric stone circles, thought …
The second stage is slightly shorter at just over 21 miles (34 km), leaving the Vale of the White Horse behind and heading further East towards Goring. Although the full …
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