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An ancient and beautiful ridge hike — Wessex Ridgeway

David Norfolk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

An ancient and beautiful ridge hike — Wessex Ridgeway

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

11-23

days

3-6 h

/ day

161 mi

14,300 ft

14,750 ft

The Wessex Ridgeway is a magnificent long-distance ridge-top hike that winds through three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to finish on the Jurassic Coast.

Starting from Marlborough, in Wiltshire, the 138-mile (222 km) trail follows a chalk ridge through the Wessex Downs AONB, into the Wiltshire countryside, and through the heart of the Cranborne Chase AONB and Dorset AONB to finish in the coastal town of Lyme Regis.

The route passes some of the most cherished prehistoric sites in the UK, including West Kennet Long Barrow, a Neolithic burial chamber that is older than Stonehenge, and Avebury Stone Circle, one of the greatest marvels of prehistoric Britain. The trail also explores some incredible ancient hill forts.

Throughout the walk you explore some of the most picturesque scenery in southern England and can expect stunning displays of nature and awe-inspiring views. You can also observe a great deal of medieval architecture and crumbling ruins within the sleepy villages you pass.

Other highlights along the way include: Westbury White Horse and Bratton Camp, Wiltshire’s oldest chalk hill carving on the site of an ancient hill fort; Battlesbury Camp, an Iron Age hill fort with wonderful views; Win Green, the highest point in the Cranborne Chase; Hambledon Hill, one of the best-preserved Iron Age hill forts in Britain; Cerne Giant, the largest and best-known chalk hill figure in Britain; Lewesdon Hill, the highest point in Dorset; Charmouth Beach, one of the best places in the UK to hunt for fossils; and Lyme Regis, an enchanting seaside town on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

For the most part, the route follows the ridge-top and is moderate. However, some sections can be rather steep, especially up and down the chalk valleys. The terrain is a mix of hard-surfaced tracks, old lanes, footpaths through farmland and woodlands, and occasional segments on the road.

The trail is waymarked in the Dorset section with green discs but it can be sketchy in places. There are no waymarks in Wiltshire, so you will need a map and compass as back-up. All things considered, an average level of fitness and some hiking experience is required to tackle this route.

In this Collection, I split the route into 13 stages, each averaging 12.4 miles (24 km). 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.

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.

To get to the start of the trail, your best bet is to catch a train to Swindon, which is served by direct trains from London and Bristol and has connecting services around the country. From there, you need to catch the X5 bus to Marlborough, which runs hourly.

To get home, the best option is to catch the 9A bus service from Lyme Regis to Exeter city centre and then walk a few minutes to the train station, which also has direct trains to London and Bristol and connecting services around the country.

The Wessex Ridgeway combines with three other long-distance footpaths — the Ridgeway National Trail, the Icknield Way, and The Peddars Way — to form the Greater Ridgeway, an epic country-crossing hike from Lyme Regis to Hunstanton, in Norfolk, that follows an ancient trade route.

For the Ridgeway hiking route, click here: komoot.com/collection/889209/the-ridgeway-discover-3-000-years-of-history-on-britain-s-oldest-trail.
For the Peddars Way, click here: komoot.com/collection/991/hike-the-treasured-peddars-way-and-norfolk-coast-path-in-11-days.
For the Icknield Way Path, click here: komoot.com/collection/954916/hike-seven-counties-on-britains-oldest-road-icknield-way-path.

On The Map

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Wessex Ridgeway

137 mi

12,650 ft

13,075 ft

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.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Marlborough to Beckhampton— Wessex Ridgeway

    Intermediate
    04:48
    11.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    600 ft
    500 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Ancient history is everywhere on this highlight-filled hike, which visits a burial chamber older than Stonehenge and a stone circle hailed as one of greatest marvels of prehistoric Britain.

    

    To make the overall itinerary work, this stage would typically be 8 miles (12.9 km). However, to ensure a decent

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:07
    11.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    675 ft
    775 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Expect breathtaking views over the rolling Wiltshire countryside and gentle walking throughout on this stage.

    

    With 11.9 miles (19.2 km) of distance, 675 feet (206 m) of uphill, and 775 feet (236 m) of downhill, this stage pushes-up the tempo slightly but should feel leisurely.

    

    From Beckhampton, the trail

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:26
    12.6 mi
    2.3 mph
    700 ft
    850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Crumbling churches full of character and spectacular views from peaceful hilltops combine on this hike.

    

    Ratcheting-up the intensity a little more, this stage has 12.6 miles (20.3 km) of distance and 700 feet (213 m) of uphill. With a general downhill trajectory, however, the hike should be manageable

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:51
    13.0 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,500 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores a unique 14th-century priory and rises above the oldest White Horse hill-carving in Wiltshire.

    

    In typical form, the intensity is stepped-up once again on this stage, which has 13 miles (33.7 km) of distance and 1,500 feet (457 m) of ascent to contend with. With some challenging climbs

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:17
    9.72 mi
    2.3 mph
    700 ft
    1,025 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Prehistoric earthworks fuse with medieval buildings and magnificent views over the Wiltshire landscape on this hike.

    

    After four stages of increasing-intensity, this hike drops it down a gear with 9.7 miles (15.6 km) of distance, 700 feet (213 m) of uphill and an easygoing 1,025 feet (312 m) of downhill

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:29
    12.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    800 ft
    700 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You explore a wildlife-rich lake with movie-star connections, a crumbling 12th-century church and finish in a village with a history that stretches back 800 years.

    

    With 12.8 miles (20.6 km) of distance, 800 feet (244 m) of uphill, and 700 feet (213 m) of downhill, this is a decent walk but should feel

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:08
    11.3 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,300 ft
    1,275 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Crumbling castles, Grade I-listed buildings, and stunning scenery combine on this hike.

    

    Whilst the distance is down slightly from the previous stage at 11.3 miles (18.2 km), there is more uphill and downhill to contend with on this hike — a near-even 1,300 feet (396 m) — so it should get you pumping.

    

    You

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:22
    14.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,500 ft
    1,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage climbs to the highest point in the Cranborne Chase, visits Dorset’s highest village, and explores one of the best-preserved Iron Age hill forts in Britain.

    

    With 14.2 miles (22.9 km) of distance, 1,500 feet (457 m) of uphill, and 1,325 feet (404 m) of downhill, this is one of the toughest hikes

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:15
    11.6 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,200 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Expect breathtaking views from picturesque hilltops, idyllic scenery, and heritage-rich villages on this stage.

    

    After a tough previous hike, things ease up a little on this stage, which is 11.6 miles (18.7 km) long. However, you have 1,200 feet (366 m) of climbing and a tough ascent of Shillingstone Hill

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:53
    13.1 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,225 ft
    1,500 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You see the largest and best-known chalk hill figure in Britain on this hike, as well as some lovely 15th-century architecture.

    

    With 13.1 miles (21.1 km) of distance, 1,225 feet (373 m) of uphill, and 1,500 feet (457 m) of downhill, this is a challenging stage but should be manageable.

    

    From Lower Antsy

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:30
    14.5 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,250 ft
    1,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    Dreamy Dorset countryside combines with medieval architecture and unspoiled nature on this stage.

    

    One of the toughest treks of the Collection, you hike 14.5 miles (23.3 km) and climb 1,250 feet (381 m). However, with 1,425 feet (434 m) of downhill, there is a general downwards trajectory.

    

    To begin, the

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:56
    10.6 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,475 ft
    1,275 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You climb to the highest point in Dorset on this stage and enjoy fine views over the rolling countryside.

    

    Whilst the distance is a manageable 10.6 miles (17 km), there is 1,475 feet (449.6 m) of ascent crammed into the hike. To make it tougher still, there is 200 feet (61 m) more uphill than downhill

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:27
    14.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,400 ft
    1,800 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage takes you through gorgeous scenery to the Jurassic Coast, where you visit one of the best fossil-hunting spots in the UK and the enchanting seaside town of Lyme Regis.

    

    With 14.2 miles (22.9 km) of distance, 1,400 feet (427 m) of uphill, and 1,800 feet (549 m) of downhill, this is a challenging

    by Dan Hobson

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    13
  • Distance
    161 mi
  • Duration
    71:30 h
  • Elevation
    14,300 ft14,750 ft

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An ancient and beautiful ridge hike — Wessex Ridgeway

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