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.
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.
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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 …
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 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.
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 …
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 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).
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.