September 26, 2023

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A Guide to Walking The Ridgeway

The Ridgeway is Britain’s oldest ‘road’, and follows the footsteps of travellers, herdsmen and soldiers, who used to walk the path over 5,000 years ago. 

Starting in Wiltshire and ending in Buckinghamshire, the 87-mile (140 km) trail follows the chalk ridge from the North Wessex Downs, across Goring Gap and eastward over the rolling Chilterns. 

It’s a beautiful walk – one of the best long walking routes in England – steeped in history, passing sites like the famous Avebury Stone Circle, Liddington Castle and Wayland’s Smithy.

In fact, this year (2023), marks 50 years since The Ridgeway opened as a National Trail in 1973.

Ready to follow in the footsteps of history? Here’s everything you need to know in our guide to walking The Ridgeway.

Where does The Ridgeway start and finish?

golden fields on the ridgeway

The Ridgeway trail starts in Avebury, Wiltshire, and ends at Ivinghoe Beacon, Buckinghamshire.

How long is The Ridgeway?

The Ridgeway is 87 miles (140km) long.

How many days does it take to walk The Ridgeway?

It takes 6 days (15 miles a day on average) to walk The Ridgeway. However, you can reduce the miles each day and enjoy a longer walk, if you wish.

There are also good train links to certain areas on the route, so you could even do the walk over a series of weeks or months.

Are there many places to stop during The Ridgeway walk for refreshments?

There are a few small villages and towns along the route to rest and stock up on supplies.

How fit do you need to be to walk The Ridgeway? 

Compared to some of the other UK walks, like the Pennine Way, and Cotswold Way, The Ridgeway isn’t as demanding. However, a good level of fitness is required.

The biggest accents are during the Chilterns sections, so we recommend taking walking poles if required, and plenty of snacks.

How well signposted is the route?

The Ridgeway Walk signposts

As a National Trail, the route is well signposted, with the familiar acorn symbol. We do still recommend taking a map with you, as well as the route downloaded on an app like All Trails or Komoot, on your phone.

What are the highlights of The Ridgeway?

Waylands Smithy on The Ridgeway

– The Chalk: The iconic chalk began forming around 100 million years ago when the sea level was very high and most of Britain was under water. Over the years, climate change and environmental impact have affected the landscape of the area, forming the sloping ridge we have today.

– Sarsen Stones: Sarsen Stones are hundreds of years old, made from hard sandstone. They are scattered all over The Ridgeway walk, look out for them in the Fyfield Down National Nature Reserve, near Avebury and at the foot of the Kingstone Down near Ashdown House. One of the most interesting stones is the Blowing Stone, situated in a cottage garden near Kingston Lisle. If you find the right hole in the stone, you can cover it with your mouth and blow, creating a loud noise (Wikipedia.org).

– Barbury Castle: A striking Iron Age hill fort, offering beautiful views of the surrounding countryside (Wikipedia.org).

– Wayland’s Smithy: A historic site about a mile walk along The Ridgeway from the Uffington White Horse. Legend says it was the home of Wayland, the Saxon god of metalworking (English-heritage.org.uk).

– White Horse Hill: The White Horse is a prehistoric hill figure, formed from deep trenches filled with white chalk. There’s also an Iron Age hillfort known as Uffington Castle here, which is the highest point in Oxfordshire, at 860 feet (Nationaltrust.org.uk).

– Wallingford Castle: The remains of the 11th-century castle still remain, and today it’s possible to see what’s left of St Nicholas College, some of the castle walls, and Motte Hill. About one mile from The Ridgeway National Trail, it’s a fun and interesting site to explore. Plus, it’s worth the detour for the shops and services (Wikipedia.org).

– Whiteleaf Hill Nature Reserve: The Chilterns offer beautiful diversity, with rolling hills, magical woodlands and butterflies and wildflowers in abundance. Whiteleaf Nature Reserve offers the best of the Chilterns, including panoramic views from the top (Chilternsaonb.org).

– Coombe Hill Nature Reserve and Monument: Coombe Hill is the highest point in the Chilterns at 852 feet. The views are stunning and on a clear day, you can even see all the way to the Cotswolds (Gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk). 

– Chequers: The Ridgeway walk crosses the main drive of the British Prime Minister’s country estate, so you should be able to get a good look at the majestic house.

– Pitstone Windmill: For almost 300 years, this windmill was used to ground flour for the local villages, until a storm in the early 1900s destroyed it. Today, it has been restored for visitors to enjoy (Nationaltrust.org.uk).

– Ivinghoe Beacon: This hilltop is where The Ridgeway walk ends. Soak up the views, and the scenic countryside, and revel in your achievement (Wikipedia.org). 

Chequers on The Ridgeway walk

What are the best walking sections of The Ridgeway?

We recommend completing the route in 6 days – if you’re up to the mileage each day.

6-Day Ridgeway Walking Itinerary

  • Day 1: Overton Hill to Ogbourne St George – 9.25 miles (14.7km)
  • Day 2: Ogbourne St George to Sparsholt Firs -16 miles (25.5km)
  • Day 3: Sparsholt Firs to Streatley – 12.5 miles (27.8km)
  • Day 4: Streatley to Watlington – 15.5 miles (24.7km)
  • Day 5: Watlington to Wendover – 17.25 miles (27.6km) 
  • Day 6: Wendover to Ivinghoe Beacon – 11.5 miles (18.4km)

Planning a walking holiday in southern England? Check out our range of Cotswolds walking tours.

Experienced by

Gaby

Expert Guide

Signature Tours

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