Hike through the heart of the South Downs to the sea — Shipwrights Way
The Shipwrights Way is a spellbinding long-distance hike that winds through the historic Hampshire countryside, where wildlife thrives and beauty flourishes, to finish on the English Channel.
The name of the trail reflects Hampshire’s shipbuilding heritage and follows the route that oak trees were taken in Tudor times, from Alice Holt Forest to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, to be turned into pioneering naval vessels.
From Bentley Railway Station, the Way travels 46 miles (74 km) through the heart of the South Downs National Park, cuts across Hayling Island, and then winds along the golden coastline into the city of Portsmouth.
Along the way, you explore picturesque and much-contrasting countryside, get a slice of rural idyll in traditional villages and towns, see stunning wildlife displays in many nature reserves, and hike through some majestic woodlands.
Historical sites are everywhere on the route. Some highlights include: St Hubert’s, a picturesque little church from the 10th century; St Peter’s, a stunning Grade I-listed church in the heart of Petersfield; the Harrow Inn, a 17th-century and Grade II-listed pub; the Red Lion, a pretty thatched pub from the 16th century; the grandiose Portsmouth Cathedral; and HMS Warrior, Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured warship.
For the most part, the route stays off-road, using rights of way and permissive paths. The walking is generally easy and the trail never strays too far from civilisation, making it a good choice for beginners and seasoned long-distance hikers alike. The route is waymarked throughout, just look-out for a ship's wheel and the trail name.
In this Collection, I have opted for an ambitious three-day itinerary; 18.4 miles (29.6 km), 15.4 miles (24.8 km), and 13.5 miles (21.7 km), respectively. As the terrain is easygoing and the hike is on a general downwards trajectory, anyone with good fitness will smash through these stages, especially on long summer days.
However, as with all my Collections, any routes that are over 15 miles (24.1 km) long have a suggestion on how you can split them. 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. Public transport is generally good along the route.
Every stop is relatively well-served with accommodation. However, places to stay can be limited so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling your rest days accordingly.
The route conveniently starts from a train station and finishes in the well-connected city of Portsmouth, roughly a 15-minute walk from the train station, making getting to and from the Way very easy.
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: November 8, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
The first stage explores ancient habitats, traditional Hampshire villages, a 17th-century pub and a Gruffalo woodland.
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