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Rebecca Meacham November 15 2021

It’s time to take a step into the past and explore one of Britain’s most historic long-distance trails – The Ridgeway.

This National Trail follows the route of an ancient road used by travellers, traders, soldiers and herdsmen as long as 5,000 years ago. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the path not only takes you through some of England’s most splendid countryside but also on a journey through history.

The majority of the trail’s 87 miles follow a chalk ridgeline stretching across five counties – Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire – with gentle inclines and grassy paths. The going is fairly easy with expansive, scenic views.

 

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Historic Intrigue

The trail officially starts at Overton Hill, but most walkers choose to begin their journey at the nearby village of Avebury. This World Heritage Site boasts a wealth of prehistoric treasures such as West Kennet Long Barrow dating from 3600 BC, and Silbury Hill dating from 2400 BC. It is perhaps best known for the vast Neolithic stone circle which surrounds the village.

The village is also home to the beautifully-restored Avebury Manor with its lovingly furnished rooms and beautiful gardens.

With so much to see, Avebury really is a highlight in itself and sets the tone for what is to come on the Ridgeway walk.

A top suggestion would be to end the day in Avebury with an evening meal at the Red Lion – the only pub in the world located within a stone circle!

 

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Start of the Adventure

The next morning it’s onto Overton Hill to begin your Ridgeway adventure. Some journeys start in places that are picturesque, exciting and remote. This one starts at the side of a busy road 10 miles south of Swindon. Rather an odd starting point for a National Trail, but historically this was an important location with the Neolithic site of the ‘Sanctuary’ nearby.

Many prehistoric sites can be found dotted along this section of the trail as you head through the North Wessex Downs AONB, providing a glimpse into the area’s past. These range from the impressive hill forts of Barbury Castle and Liddington Castle, to burial chambers such as Waylands Smithy.

A highlight for many is the Uffington White Horse – one of the eight chalk horse figures which were mysteriously cut into the hillside during the Bronze Age.

 

Charming English Villages

The evenings are spent in small, idyllic villages with thatched cottages, colourful gardens, old stone churches and duck ponds galore. You might not find a supermarket, a bank or many other amenities, but there is always a cosy village pub to enjoy a hearty meal and a pint after a long day’s walk.

By the halfway point, the route takes you downhill towards the larger villages of Streatley and Goring, situated on opposite sides of the River Thames. Standing on the bridge connecting these twin villages with the sun setting over the Thames, you can admire the spectacular views of the river as boats drift lazily by.

On a weekend when the sun is shining, the river has an abundance of pleasure boats, kayakers, anglers and birds, making for a rather cheerful scene.

 

Diverse Countryside

While the first section of the trail takes you through the rolling chalk downlands of North Wessex with wide, exposed and sparsely populated vistas across the countryside, the second section is characterised by the mature woodlands, busy farmland, attractive villages and market towns that surround the Chiltern Hills.

The Chilterns are particularly vibrant in springtime when the woodlands are carpeted with bluebells, the fields are speckled with wildflowers, and the sky is alive with skylarks, lapwings, and red kites.

Autumn also has a unique charm with the leaves beginning to turn orange and gold, and the air becoming rich with earthy smells of moss and fungi.

As you approach the end of the route, the scenery changes once more from sheltered woodlands to gloriously open grassland with spectacular views all around.

The trail concludes with the final climb up Ivinghoe Beacon – a prominent landmark upon which you will find splendid views over the Vale of Aylesbury, bringing a rewarding and fitting end to the Ridgeway.

 

Walking The Ridgeway

If you’re inspired to walk through time on The Ridgeway, Absolute Escapes offers self-guided walking holidays which include accommodation, daily baggage transfers, guidebook/map.

Send us an enquiry now – we’d love to help you plan an unforgettable walking holiday on Britain’s oldest road!

Rebecca Meacham

 

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