Part three of the Monarch’s Way explores some of the prettiest countryside in Britain and takes you on a breathtaking journey through the ages; from Jurassic to prehistoric, from Bronze Age to present day, whilst continuing the tale of Charles II’s escape after defeat in the Civil War.
From Charmouth on the Jurassic Coast, the Way takes you 228 miles (367 km) along the coastline and through the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB); through Somerset, Wiltshire and into the Cranborne Chase AONB; and finally into Hampshire and through the heart of the South Downs National Park.
Along the way, you experience countless breathtaking views, most notably from Golden Cap, the highest point on the South Coast of England. You also explore many Bronze Age and Iron Age hill forts, crumbling castles, weathered churches, grand cathedrals, sleepy villages, vibrant cities, nature reserves, chalk grasslands, vast woodlands, and more.
The Monarch’s Way traces the escape route taken by King Charles II after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the final battle of the civil war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians. At 615 miles (990 km) in total, it is the longest inland trail in England.
After Charles’ attempt to flee on a boat from Charmouth had failed, he went on the run once again. After six weeks dodging Cromwell’s armies, Charles finally managed to board a ship from Shoreham and landed in France at Fécamp, near Le Havre, on the morning of 16 October, 1651. Two hours after the ship had set sail, troops arrived in Shoreham to arrest the King.
The trail is waymarked throughout and follows well-maintained paths. The hiking is generally quite leisurely but there are some challenging sections, making it a good choice for all abilities.
In this Collection, we split the route into 15 stages, each averaging 15.2 miles (24.5 km). Of course, you can divide each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or couple of stages, in isolation. Any hikes that are dramatically above average distance have a suggestion on how you can split or tweak them.
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.
To get to the start of the trail, you can catch a train to Axminster, which has direct links to London and connecting services around the country. You would then need either the X51 or X53 bus service to Charmouth. At the end of the trail, Shoreham has excellent public transport links.
For more information about the Monarch’s Way, visit: monarchsway.50megs.com.
For the X51 bus timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/x51-dorchester-bridport-axminster.
For the X53 bus timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/x53-weymouth-bridport-axminster.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
Click the links below for more Collections on the Monarch’s Way.
Part 1: komoot.com/collection/911739/conquer-the-longest-inland-trail-in-england-monarchs-way-part-1.
Part 2: komoot.com/collection/914707/conquer-the-longest-inland-trail-in-england-monarchs-way-part-2.
Classic coastal walking, epic views, and world-class fossil-hunting combine on this first stage.Whilst the 14.1 miles (22.7 km) of distance is manageable, the first half of the hike follows the South West Coast Path as it drops dramatically into coves and rises onto the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, and is tough at times.At West Bay (a great midpoint place to stop for fish-and-chips), you head inland, loop around Bridport, and retrace your path east.After Charles II’s failed escape to France from Charmouth, he rode to Bridport with Juliana Coningsby, a niece of Lady Wyndham, in a last-ditch attempt to restore the plan.They arrived in the town to find it full of Cromwell’s troops. Nevertheless, Charles walked through the soldiers and asked for rooms at the inn, convincing a suspecting landlord that he was a servant.This stage finishes in North Chideock, which has a couple of places to stay. There are other accommodation options and places for food and drink nearby.
Sublime views over the rolling Dorset countryside await on this challenging yet rewarding hike.With 16.4 miles (26.4 km) of distance and 1,950 feet (594 m) of climbing, this is a tough stage but has plenty of interest.From North Chideock, hike north and reach a high point at Pilsdon Pen, where you experience breathtaking views over the patchwork landscape.A short time later, you arrive at the sleepy village of Broadwindsor, a good place to stop for a pit stop, or even a good option to split the stage.The trail continues northeast and finishes close to the village of Chedington. There are a couple of places to stay where the stage finishes and other options nearby.
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This stage takes you through lush rolling countryside to the historic town of Yeovil.After some challenging recent stages, the gently-descending 11.8 miles (19 km) on this hike may come as a welcome break.When you reach the village of East Coker, there is a decent pub and a pretty 12th-century church to explore.The trail continues to Yeovil, where this stage finishes. Whilst in the town, it is worth visiting the Church of St John the Baptist, a stunning Grade I-listed building from the 14th century.Yeovil has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
Serene countryside, an easily-missed Saxon landmark, and beautifully-weathered churches combine on this stage.With 13.6 miles (21.8 km) of distance and 1,125 feet (343 m) of climbing, this is a demanding hike but should be manageable.To start, you rise out of Yeovil and, right on the edge of town, find an important Anglo Saxon marker called Hundred Stone.The trail crosses the River Yeo by the 14th-century Church of St Mary, bends southeast briefly and then heads northeast.The stage finishes in Charlton Horethorne, which has some accommodation and a decent pub that serves food.
The hedgerow-lined pastures and small woodlands along this stage are scattered with history that stretches back to the Bronze Age.The gently-undulating 15.3 miles (24.6 km) on this stage take you to the edge of the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.For the most part, you follow footpaths and quiet lanes through gentle countryside and the walking is easy.As you enter Mere, the trail passes the stunning Grade I-listed St Michael the Archangel church, which has parts that date to 1190. It is then worth a brief detour up Castle Hill, where you find the remains of Mere Castle, a medieval fort built in 1253.The small town of Mere has options for accommodation, food and drink, and some shops.
This stage takes you onto the chalk plateau of the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.With only a few gentle climbs, the 14.4 miles (23.2 km) on this stage should not feel too taxing, enabling you to savour the understated, yet stunning countryside. Hindon, at slightly over the halfway point, is a good place to stop for a while. With a history stretching back to 1218, its pretty high street has a couple of pubs and a village shop.On the outskirts of Fonthill Bishop, it is worth a brief detour to see the Grade I-listed Church of All Saints. Built through the 13th-15th centuries, the stunning church houses box pews from the 1600s.When you reach the end of this stage, take the footpath on your right and follow through farmland to Teffont Magna, adding 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the route.The small village has some accommodation options, including the Howard's House Hotel, which is also a restaurant.
You explore South Wiltshire’s largest woodland on this stage, a place where Roman and Iron Age history combine in beautiful surroundings.Gently rolling and predominantly downhill, the 12.9 miles (20.8 km) on this stage should feel easy.Around an hour into the hike, you step into Grovely Wood, a large, wildlife-rich woodland with a story stretching back many thousands of years,You emerge from the woodland into gentle countryside and hike onto Great Wishford, which has a nice pub if you fancy a pit stop. Cross the River Wylye and continue to Middle Woodford, where you find the 12th-century Church of All Saints.This stage finishes in Little Durnford. Whilst the area is quite remote, you will find some options for accommodation and food and drink nearby.
You hike into ancient history on this stage; exploring sites that were occupied by civilisations many thousands of years ago. With 16.8 miles (27 km) of distance and 1,125 feet (343 m) of climbing, this is a challenging hike that rewards you richly.To begin, this Tour diverts from the Monarch’s Way to visit Old Sarum. Dating to around 3000 BC, it is one of Salisbury’s oldest settlements. If you skip this, it shaves-off 1.3 miles (2.1 km).Shortly after Winterbourne Dauntsey, you reach Figsbury Ring, an Iron Age hill fort that affords fine views over Salisbury Plain, Old Sarum, and Salisbury Cathedral. At just over the halfway point, you reach Middle Winterslow, which has a decent pub and shop.You hike along country lanes to Broughton and through fields to finish in Houghton. The area is remote but you will find some accommodation and food and drink in the vicinity.
This stage explores a diverse chalk downland and finishes in the historic city of Winchester.Despite there being very little climbing, 17.5 miles (28.2 km) is a hefty distance. To shorten the route by 3.2 miles (5.1 km), simply finish at Twyford and skip the Winchester extension.To start, cross the River Test and Park Stream in quick succession and follow the latter to Somborne Chalk Quarry, where you rise sharply and continue through farmland.After Lower Stackstead, you cut through the heart of Ampfield Wood and continue to Hursley, which has two great pubs.After crossing Shawford Down, this hike follows the Itchen Way for a brief detour into the historic city of Winchester, which has an excellent range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
Historic buildings and stunning countryside combine on this stage, which takes you into the South Downs National Park.At 17.1 miles (27.5 km) and with 1,375 feet (419 m) of climbing, this is another tough hike. (For a suggestion on how to split the stage, see below).Despite the time pressure due to the distance, it is worth admiring Winchester Cathedral, the longest medieval cathedral in Europe, from the outside at least, and having a look at Wolvesey Castle, a free-to-enter 12th-century ruin, before leaving the city.You hike along the Pilgrim Trail to rejoin the Monarch’s Way as it winds through the South Downs.The trail reaches a high point around Beacon Hill and then drops into Warnford, where this stage finishes.Between the villages of Warnford and West Meon (only a few miles apart) there are accommodation options, places for food and drink, and shops.If you wish to split the hike, a detour in Bishop’s Waltham is a good option. Alternatively, missing the Winchester extension from stages 9 and 10 shaves-off around 4 miles (6.4 km) each time.
This stage takes you deeper into the South Downs and explores one of its most beautifully-situated Iron Age hill forts.With 14.3 miles (23 km) of distance and a gently-undulating terrain, this walk should be a manageable challenge.You leave Warnford and soon make a short but sharp ascent of Winchester Hill, located within a chalk grassland nature reserve that is home to myriad plant, bird, and animal species. Atop the hill you find Old Winchester Hill Iron Age fort, set amid one of the most beautiful landscapes of the South Downs. It is a long, gradual, and gently-undulating descent through empty pastures along lanes and footpaths to Horndean, where this stage finishes.Horndean has a good choice of places to stay, eat and drink, and shops to resupply.
Iron Age hill forts afford breathtaking views over the South Downs on this stage.With 16.5 miles (26.6 km) of distance and 1,425 feet (434 m) of climbing, this is a challenging hike. (For a suggestion on how to split the stage, see below).The first half of the hike is a gently-undulating amble over the rolling chalk landscape. Shortly after Stoughton, the hike takes on a different, altogether hillier character.You firstly rise onto Goosehill Camp, an Iron Age earthwork within Kingley Vale Nature Reserve that dates to 350 BC-50 AD.After West Dean, you make a long and gradual ascent of the Trundle, an Iron Age hill fort which commands fine views over the coastal plain and the Weald.The trail then skirts Goodwood Race Course and descends through woodland to finish in East Dean, which has options for accommodation and food and drink, as does nearby Singleton.To split the hike, take the path left from Goosehill Camp to Chilgrove, which has a couple of places to stay.
This stage takes you along an important Roman road, affords breathtaking views from a dragon's lair, and visits a castle with more than 1,000 years’ of history.With 14.3 miles (23 km) of distance and only a moderate amount of uphill and downhill, this hike should be manageable.You begin through fields and woodlands. As you turn off Eartham Lane, the path might suddenly feel very straight as you step onto Stane Street, a 56-mile (90-km) Roman road that linked London to Chichester.The trail heads over Bignor Hill, which was a dragon’s lair, according to legend, and treats you to some wonderful views. It is then a long and gradual descent to Houghton, where you pick-up the River Arun briefly before making a rapid climb and descent over Arundel Park.The stage finishes in the presence of Arundel Castle, a spectacular building with a history stretching back to 1067.Arundel has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
You explore the largest Iron Age hill fort in Sussex, climb a hill that is littered with historical artefacts, and visit the breathtaking remains of Bramber Castle on this stage.With 15.4 miles (24.8 km) of distance and an equal 1,275 feet (389 m) of ascent and of descent, this is a testing hike but should be manageable. To start, you rise steadily out of Arundel, revealing good views of the town behind you, and soon enter Wepham Wood. A long stretch of woodland walking ensues before the trail emerges into farmland to Findon, a good place to stop for a pit stop. As you leave the village, it is worth a brief detour to Cissbury Ring, the largest hill fort in Sussex. From the 5,000-year-old fort, you can enjoy views all the way to the coast. The trail skirts Steyning Round Hill, where many artefacts from the Bronze Age onwards have been found, and descends to Bramber, where this stage finishes. The free-to-enter Bramber Castle is worth a visit at the end of the hike if you have the legs.Bramber has a good choice of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
After six weeks on the run, Charles II finally managed to flee to France on a ship from Shoreham Harbour. As such, the bustling port also marks the end of the Monarch’s Way.It is level walking out of Bramber to start. You then cross the River Adur, rise dramatically over Beeding Hill and Thundersbarrow Hill and continue to the northern edge of the urban landscape.You then cut diagonally through to the streets to the coast at Brighton. This stage takes a brief detour to see the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Beach before heading east along the coast to finish at Shoreham. Whilst there is a lot of flat, easygoing walking on this route, 17.5 miles (28.2 km) is always going to be challenging and the mid-section is hilly. Brighton is an obvious choice if you wish to split the stage.Shoreham, Brighton and the wider area has an excellent range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.