Dan Hobson

Hike seven counties on Britain’s oldest road — Icknield Way Path

tommyscapes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Hike seven counties on Britain’s oldest road — Icknield Way Path

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

8-16

days

3-6 h

/ day

116 mi

4,775 ft

5,350 ft

The Icknield Way Path is an enchanting long-distance walk that follows Britain’s oldest road through seven different counties.

Starting from the end of the Ridgeway Path at Ivinghoe Beacon, in Buckinghamshire, the trail runs for 110 miles (177 km) to the start of the Peddars Way at Knettishall Heath, in Suffolk. The trail combines with three other long-distance routes to link the Dorset and Norfolk coastlines via a prehistoric road (more on this at the end).

You experience a rich array of landscapes on this hike, including ancient woodland, serene farmland, wildlife-rich chalk grassland and heathland, as well as awe-inspiring hilltops with views that stretch for miles. You explore many traditional villages, too, most with welcoming inns.

The route is rich in history, passing many prehistoric sites and historic Grade I-listed buildings. It also affords impressive displays of wildlife at all times of year, exploring numerous nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Highlights along the way include: Ivinghoe Beacon, which towers over the countryside to afford spellbinding views; Dunstable Downs, which boast scheduled monuments, breathtaking vistas, and several SSSIs; the Pegsdon Hills, which offer the best panoramas over the Chilterns; Cavenham Heath, a nature reserve and SSSI where wildlife thrives; West Stow Country Park, which has 125 acres of wildlife-rich countryside and an Anglo Saxon village; and Knettishall Heath, which is home to 12,500 species of wildlife, of which 30% is rare.

The majority of the route is moderate, with a couple of challenging ascents and descents here and there. For the most part, you are never too far away from civilization and the route is waymarked. As such, it is a good choice for seasoned long-distance hikers and those just finding their feet.

In this Collection, I split the route into seven challenging stages, ranging from 15 miles (24.1 km) to 18 miles (29 km). However, the five routes that are considerably more than 15 miles (24.1 km) have suggestions on how they can be split. Of course, you can divide each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages.

You find accommodation at the end of every stage. However, places to stay can be limited so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling your rest days accordingly.

Getting to the start of the trail is very different, depending where you are travelling from. However, Aylesbury, Dunstaple, and Luton all have train stations and public transport links to Ivinghoe.

As I allude to in the final stage description, getting from the end of the trail is a little tricky. Once you have made it to Hopton, though, you can catch the 338 bus service to Bury St Edmunds, which has connecting train services around the UK. For the timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/338-bury-st-edmunds-stanton-garboldisham.

The Icknield Way Path combines with three other long-distance footpaths — the Wessex Ridgeway, the Ridgeway, and The Peddars Way — to form the Greater Ridgeway, an epic country-crossing hike from Lyme Regis, in Dorset, to Hunstanton, in Norfolk, that follows an ancient trade route developed long-before Roman occupation. If you would like to combine these routes, follow the links below.

For the Wessex Ridgeway hiking route, click here: komoot.com/collection/935252/discover-prehistory-and-epic-beauty-on-ridge-hike-wessex-ridgeway.
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.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    06:42
    15.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    850 ft
    1,175 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 1 explores hilltops with breathtaking views, a medieval rabbit warren, and prehistoric burial sites.Easing you into a tough overall itinerary, the first stage is 15.5 miles (24.9 km) long with 850 feet (259 m) of uphill and 1,175 feet (358 m) of downhill.You start from Ivinghoe Beacon, which towers over the surrounding countryside and affords spellbinding views. The Ridgeway long-distance footpath ends on the beacon. The trail then rises over Steps Hill, where more fine views await, climbs through woodland to Ward’s Hurst Farm and then follows Hog Hall Lane to Dagnall village.From there, you cross Whipsnade Park Golf Course, wind around Whipsnade Zoo, and cut through Whipsnade village. You then rise over Dunstable Downs — which boasts breathtaking views, scheduled monuments, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest — and cross another golf course into West Dunstable. Here, you find shops and a decent pub, the Pheasant, making it a good choice for a pit-stop.

  • Difficult
    07:16
    17.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    800 ft
    1,000 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You experience some of the best views in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on this hike.Dialling-up the intensity, this stage is 17 miles (27.4 km) long with 800 feet (244 m) of uphill and 1,000 feet (305 m) of downhill. (For a suggestion on how to split the hike, see below).From Toddington, you head east through farmland, cross over the M1 motorway and follow a quiet lane through woodland to Upper Sundon. You step into the Chilterns AONB at Sundon Hills Country Park — a beautiful chalk grassland with many rare species of plants and animals — and hike onto Sharpenhoe ancient woodland.The trail heads south to Streatley and continues through farmland to Bramingham. If you fancy a pit-stop, there are a couple of pubs and shops less than a mile away from the trail here.

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  • Difficult
    07:09
    16.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    800 ft
    725 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage explores diverse Hertfordshire landscapes and visits the home of George Orwell.Another test of fitness and stamina, this hike is 16.9 miles (27.2 km) long with 800 feet …

  • Difficult
    07:37
    18.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    775 ft
    875 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Expect historic architecture, patchwork landscapes, and a real test of endurance on this hike.With 18 miles (30 km) of distance, 775 feet (236 m) of uphill and 875 feet (267 m) of downhill, this is the toughest stage in the Collection and will really test your mettle. (For a suggestion on how to split the hike, see below).Before leaving Royston it is well worth paying a visit to the Church of St John The Baptist, which is Grade I-listed and dates to the 12th century, and nearby Priory Gardens, which have received multiple Green Flag awards.Here, you hike east along Newmarket Road before taking a footpath on the right and continuing through farmland. At Gravelpit Plantation, you head southeast to Heydon and then cut through the heart of Chrishall — which has a good pub — Elmdon and Strethall.

  • Difficult
    06:48
    16.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    725 ft
    550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores traditional villages nestling among pretty Cambridgeshire countryside and makes a whistle-stop at a listed 18th-century pub.After a tough previous stage, things ease up a little on this hike, which is 16.1 miles (25.9 km) long with 725 feet (221 m) of uphill and 550 feet (168 m) of downhill. (For a suggestion on how to split the hike, see below).You begin by climbing Rivey Hill, which is one of the highest points for miles and affords good views. Here, you find a distinctive Art Deco water tower.After skirting around Borley Wood, you follow a Roman Road for a short while before hiking through fields to Balsham village, which is home to the Grade I-listed Holy Trinity church.It is level walking through empty countryside for the next 6 miles (9.7 km), intersected only by the occasional lane and farm.

  • Difficult
    06:15
    15.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    350 ft
    600 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    You explore a wildlife-rich nature reserve and visit one of the best examples of an unspoilt Suffolk church on this stage.In anticipation of a gruelling finale, the penultimate hike …

  • Difficult
    07:24
    17.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    475 ft
    450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The final stage allows you to experience life as an Anglo Saxon and explores a country park with more than 12,500 species of wildlife, including many rare animals and plants. …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    116 mi
  • Duration
    49:10 h
  • Elevation
    4,775 ft5,350 ft

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Dan Hobson

Hike seven counties on Britain’s oldest road — Icknield Way Path