The Jurassic Coastline, endless hills, impressive white chalk horses cut into the hillsides, and deserted gravel roads. The Wessex Ridgeway across Dorset and Wiltshire might not be as well known as it’s neighbour the Ridgeway, but it’s still certainly not one to miss.
Following the chalk ridgeline through these two picturesque counties, you’ll ride through the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Cranborne Chase AONB and the Wessex Downs AONB. Besides the abundant wildlife and incredible views, this route is a great choice for history lovers, with sites including the Avebury Stone Circle, West Kennet Long Barrow and many ancient hill forts along the way. Plus, you just can’t miss the white horses and the Cerne Abbas Giant that characterise the Wessex hillsides.
I’ve proposed three stages for the Wessex Ridgeway here for a short multi-day break, but of course there’s nothing stopping you from continuing onto ‘the Ridgeway’ once you reach the quaint town of Marlborough (link below). In fact, you can then take the Icknield Way Trail, and finish with the Peddars Way to the North Norfolk coastline to complete the whole ‘Greater Ridgeway’ off-road cycle route.
There’s no doubt about it, the Wessex Ridgeway is challenging. As you’ll see from the elevation profiles, it’s hilly and pretty steep in places, which is made harder with a loaded bike. You’ll need a good level of fitness to attempt this route, although you can always further split down the length of the stages if you’re worried about biting off more than you can chew.
Either a gravel bike or mountain bike will be best, although whatever you choose, low gearing will be essential. I’d recommend tyres no narrower than 40 mm wide to combat the sometimes rocky chalk roads and singletrack.
You’ll pass through many towns and small villages en route, so resupply is easy. Here you’ll also find a range of accommodation and campsites, although you’ll be best to book ahead, especially in the busier summer months. This is also when you’re likely to enjoy the Wessex Ridgeway at it’s finest, as the chalk is delightful to ride in the dry, and pretty slippery in the wet!
Unfortunately, access to either end with a bike isn’t all that simple. The closest train station to Lyme Regis at the start is at Axminster, a 5.6 mile (9 km) ride. When you reach the other end at Marlborough, you can choose between Pewsey and Bedwyn for train stations, both 5.6 miles (9 km) away, either to the south or south-east.
Check out the related routes here.
The Ridgeway: komoot.com/collection/899679
The Icknield Way Trail: komoot.com/collection/959316
The Peddars Way: komoot.com/collection/900448
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