Trail Information

The Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest road, follows the same route over the high ground used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers. Travel on a journey through time for 87 miles (139 Km). Experience wide, open views of rolling chalk downland and explore the many archaeological treasures close to the Trail including Neolithic long barrows, Bronze Age round barrows, Iron Age forts and the figures of white horses cut into the chalk. Relax in the evening at a cosy pub in one of the villages or small towns along the trail.

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About the Trail

What is The Ridgeway?

The Ridgeway National Trail a walking route in a surprisingly remote part of southern central England. It travels in a northeasterly direction for 87 miles (139 Km) from its start in the World Heritage Site of Avebury. As Britain’s oldest road The Ridgeway still follows the same route over the high ground used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers.

West of the River Thames, The Ridgeway is a broad track passing through the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is often quite a distance from villages or towns. Here you’ll experience wide, open views of rolling chalk downland and find many archaeological monuments close to the Trail including Stone Age long barrows, Bronze Age round barrows, Iron Age forts and the figures of white horses cut into the chalk.

East of the Thames, The Ridgeway travels through the more-wooded and intimate hills and valleys of the Chilterns AONB where, as well as further archaeological treasures, there are several nature reserves rich in the wildlife found in chalk grassland habitats. In the Chilterns, The Ridgeway goes close to or through several villages and small towns where refreshments and other facilities are easily available.

How long does it take to complete the Trail?

As a guide, using roughly 15 miles (24 Km) a day as an average daily walking distance, the Trail can be completed in 6 days so it’s perfect week’s break. If you have seven days spare it usually makes sense to start gently, with just half a day’s walk, and to have a short day in the middle, particularly if you’re not used to long distance walking.

It’s important to walk at the pace that suits you, allowing time for exploring and relaxing, and there is no pressure to do it quickly – as a historic route The Ridgeway is there for you to enjoy, and doesn’t have to be a route march!

You don’t have to do it all at one of course, you can dip in for half or a full day’s walk or enjoy the Trail in sections.

How hard is it?

Much of the surface of the Trail remains natural so that it can get a little wet and muddy during and after wet weather and in places some rutting will be encountered. You are advised to wear sturdy footwear.

Exploring the Trail

How do I get to The Ridgeway?

Getting to The Ridgeway is easy as this part of England is well served by motorways, railways and bus routes. London’s airports are within easy reach.

For detailed rail information please see www.nationalrail.co.uk

You can find up-to-date public transport information including a journey planner at www.traveline.info

Where can I stay on the Trail?

There is a good choice of accommodation close to the Trail and it can be viewed on the interactive map.

Many places fill up quickly, we recommend that you book in advance.

Can I camp along the Trail?

There are a few campsites along the Trail and they can be viewed on the interactive map.

The Ridgeway is privately owned and the public right of way along it is for passage only, not for stopping and camping. In practice, however, most landowners do not object if a tent is pitched on the Trail for a night and disappears the next morning as long as no litter is left, no damage done, nor camp fires lit. But PLEASE do not camp in adjoining fields, woods or gallops without prior permission from the landowner.

Can I get my bags carried or my accommodation booked?

There are several companies that will arrange to move your bags for you, help you plan your trip, or arrange a full package.

You can see baggage handlers here and holiday operators here.

What is the best time of year to walk on the Trail?

The Ridgeway can be enjoyed all year round, but spring through to autumn (March to November) probably provides the best views, the most wildlife and better surface conditions underfoot. Much of the surface of the Trail remains natural so that it can get a little wet and muddy during and after wet weather and in places some rutting will be encountered.

Early May is the best time to enjoy the bluebells that carpet many of the Chiltern woodlands, one of the treats for visitors to The Ridgeway. This time of year also sees the return of many migrant birds to England to breed such as warblers, cuckoos, swallows, etc. Bird song is at its best in the second half of April and May whilst birds are establishing territories and attracting mates; the song of the corn bunting, skylark and yellow hammer are still characteristic of The Ridgeway, despite a national decline in numbers.

The large number of chalk grassland wildflowers found in patches along the western half of the Trail, and in several nature reserves east of the River Thames, flower mostly from June to August and include several species of orchids. Chalk grassland is also rich in insects and a warm summer’s day can bring forth many colourful, and sometimes relatively rare, butterflies.

A walk in the Chilterns in November can be a memorable experience with the beech woods so typical of the area taking on a red/gold glow as their leaves change colour combined with the earthy autumnal smell of gently decomposing vegetation.

Which direction should I walk it in?

There is no “best” direction – it all depends on what you’d like to experience! However the prevailing wind is from the southwest, so starting at Overton Hill near Avebury will usually mean any wind will be behind you, and the official National Trail Guide also begins here. Another consideration that may influence your decision is whether you want to start or finish your journey in the atmospheric and magical Avebury Stone Circle.

What should I take with me?

We recommend that you take a map and/or guidebook with you, or a copy of the walk leaflet if you are doing a shorter walk. You may also find a compass useful.

If you are walking solo you may want to tell someone where you are going as there can be mobile black spots along the Trail. Ensure your phone is fully charged before setting off.

Weather in the UK can be changeable so it’s wise to be prepared. You’ll need good footwear, waterproofs and warm layers. Take plenty of water and just in case, pack a few plasters for your feet. In the summer you may need sun cream.

Will I have mobile phone and internet access?

Mobile phone coverage in rural areas can be patchy. Mobile data is available in most places with mobile signal.

Many accommodation providers, pubs and cafes offer Wi-Fi.

Is there signage on The Ridgeway?

The UK is unique in having a network of paths that the public can use, this is the Public Rights of Way network. You can see these paths on Ordnance Survey maps.

National Trails are signed with an acorn symbol and/or the Trail name which you will see on stiles, gates and signposts. This is the symbol used by all the English and Welsh National Trails.

As you are walking along the Trail you will also see waymarkers pointing to other paths. You can use the public rights of way network to leave the Trail to explore places of interest, reach your accommodation and find places to eat and drink.

You will often find a coloured arrow on signs which indicates the status of that section of path. The most common are yellow arrows which are footpaths and blue which are bridleways.

Can I download a GPX file?

You can download a GPX file of the whole Trail here.

Maps, Guidebooks and Merchandise

Can I get a guidebook and map for the Trail?

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.

Can I get a certificate if I complete the Trail?

Certificates are available from the National Trails Shop.

Interactive Map

Use the Map Filter to see places to visit and where to stay along The Ridgeway. View information on the map by ticking the boxes in the Map Filter.

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