- The National Trails
- Cleveland Way
- Cotswold Way
- England Coast Path
- Glyndŵr's Way
- Hadrian's Wall Path
- North Downs Way
- Offa's Dyke Path
- Peddars Way / Norfolk Coast Path
- Pembrokeshire Coast Path
- Pennine Bridleway
- Pennine Way
- South Downs Way
- South West Coast Path
- Thames Path
- The Ridgeway
- Yorkshire Wolds Way
Trail Information and FAQs
We have tried to provide answers to the most common questions about the Trail here. If you can't find the information you are looking for please contact us directly and we'll do our best to help.
About the Trail
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 travelers, 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.
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.
The individual record for running The Ridgeway non-stop was set in 2009 by Andrew James, in a time of 12 hours 25 minutes. There is also a ladies record of 16 hours 24 minutes, set by Karen Hathaway in 2010.
The record for a relay team of 10 runners was set in 2011 by a team from Vale of Aylesbury Athletic Club, in a time of 9 hours 29 minutes. That was actually for a distance that is a couple of miles longer than the full Ridgeway, as the finish of that event is in Marlborough rather than Overton Hill.
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.
The Thames Path is managed by a Thames Path Partnership representing a wide range of groups, societies, organisations and individuals including the highway authorities through whose area the Trail passes (22 of them); Natural England; the Environment Agency; North Wessex Downs and The Chilterns AONBs;The River Thames Alliance; The River Thames Society; Transport for London; The Thames Estuary Partnership and National Trail Volunteers. These groups all have the success of the Thames Path National Trail as a key objective, working together with local authorities, businesses, landowners, trail users, communities and residents to enable the trail to reach its full potential and ensure a great trail experience for all. Most of the day to day work is undertaken by a small team of National Trails staff, helped by Volunteers managed by the team, based within Oxfordshire County Council's Countryside Access – doing much of the physical maintenance and improvements, and providing a range of information for users.
Volunteers perform a vital role in helping to maintain both The Ridgeway and Thames Path National Trails (the two Trails are managed by the same team). They carry out an ongoing programme of maintenance and improvements which include tasks such as vegetation clearance, installing and repairing signs, gates and information boards - and workshop tasks.
Tasks are carried out on most weekdays and occasional weekends, led by staff from the National Trails team. All tools and training are provided and the tasks are a good way to meet like-minded people. Our newsletter, which can be found on the news page, has a list of all forthcoming tasks on both Trails and is sent to all volunteers who register onto the scheme.
Alternatively, volunteers can become 'monitors' by adopting a 2-3 mile section of a Trail, walking it once a month and reporting back any problems.
If you're interested in volunteering, please either download and complete the Volunteer Information pack, the Registration form and Health and Safety Declaration form which you can download from the Leaflets page and return to: Volunteer Co-ordinator, National Trails Office, Signal Court, Old Station Way, Eynsham, Oxford OX29 4TL; or email NTvolunteers@oxfordshire.gov.uk with your name and full postal address to request a pack. If you have any queries please phone 01865 810211.
Exploring the Trail
The Ridgeway is by and large easily reached with a number of main rail stations near to the Trail. This is particularly true of the eastern side with stations like Goring & Streatley, Princes Risborough, Wendover and Tring near the finish. For the western end of The Ridgeway, Swindon is easily reached from London and from there you can take the bus to Avebury, near to the start of the Trail.
There is plenty of accommodation along the Ridgeway National Trail. Accommodation can fill up quickly, especially in the summer, so we strongly advise that you book in advance. Some accommodation providers can arrange to transport your bags for you, or pick you up from the Trail if necessary. Accommodation which is on or within a short walking distance away from The Ridgeway is listed on the website or in the Ridgeway Companion. Where settlements have a considerable number of places to stay, details of the appropriate Visitor Information Centres are provided instead of individual accommodation listings.
See the Plan Your Visit page for accommodation information.
There are a few campsites near to The Ridgeway. You can see these on the interactive map on the Plan Your Visit page.
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.
Carrier Bags now operates on the Trail and can transfer your bags along the entire trail. Many accommodation providers will transport luggage to your next night’s accommodation. There are also taxi firms that will transport your luggage to your next overnight stop.
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.
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.
It is always advisable to carry water, whatever the distance you are planning to walk, and in hot summer weather carry extra. Additionally, wear appropriate clothing and protection. Given the English weather that provides such a ‘green and pleasant land’, it’s sensible almost all year round to carry waterproofs just in case of a shower, and in wetter weather, or if you’re planning to walk some distance, wear sturdy footwear. In hot weather wear a hat and use sunblock cream.
It is a good idea to use a map when walking, particularly in unfamiliar areas.
Mobile phone coverage may be patchy in rural areas, so you cannot always rely on it. Some accommodation offers Wi-Fi.
The entire Ridgeway follows a series of defined Rights of Way along which you have a legal right of access.
An acorn is the symbol of the National Trails and it will be found at regular intervals along the Trail.
When using the Ridgeway you will see the following symbols on the Trail or on connecting paths, which can be used by vehicles, horse riders, cyclists or walkers as indicated.
An acorn, the symbol of Britain's National Trails, is used to guide your journey by marking the route in a variety of ways. It is used in conjunction with coloured arrows or the words 'footpath', 'bridleway' or 'byway' to indicate who can use a particular right of way.
The yellow arrow indicates a path for use by walkers The word 'footpath' and/or a yellow arrow indicates a path for use by walkers only and where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to cycle, ride a horse or drive a vehicle.
The blue arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders and cyclists The word 'bridleway' and/or a blue arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders and cyclists but where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to drive any vehicle.
The plum arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists and carriage drivers. The term 'restricted byway' and/or a plum arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists and carriage drivers but where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to drive any motorised vehicle.
The red arrow indicates a right of way which can be legally used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists, carriage drivers and motorists. The word 'byway' and/or a red arrow indicates a right of way which can be legally used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists, carriage drivers and motorists.
To report a problem on the trail go to the Report a Problem page. From here you will need to identify where the problem is on the map and add some details. If you want to be informed about progress to resolve the problem please add your email address.
Trail staff aim to resolve problems as quickly as they can, but some things do take a long time. Please be patient if you do not see immediate resolution.
Who can enjoy the Trail
The western half of the Trail, from Overton Hill to Streatley on the River Thames, is a marvellous route for mountain bikers (those using touring bikes might struggle) and horse riders. It provides an almost continuous 43 miles (69 Km) stretch of track with only a few short sections of road. Some sections have a hard stone surface whereas the rest is a natural surface, in places with some damage from excessive use - maintenance to repair these is ongoing.
Carriage drivers can use most of this half of The Ridgeway, only having to avoid the one-mile bridleway section over Barbury Castle.
East of the River Thames there are less opportunities for cyclists and riders. However there is a lovely 9 miles (14 Km) stretch through The Chilterns that can be used on a bike or horseback. This is from Britwell Hill just west of Watlington to Bledlow, west of Princes Risborough. Carriage drivers can use the 5 mile (8 Km) restricted byway stretch from Britwell Hill to the A40.
Those cyclists and horse riders wanting a long distance ride east of the Thames that uses The Ridgeway as much as possible have two good routes to follow. The Swans Way (phone 01296 382171 for leaflet) starts from Goring-on-Thames, just across the river from Streatley, and travels to Bledlow where it turns north away from the line of The Ridgeway. At Bledlow cyclists and horse riders can then join the Icknield Way Riders' Route that provides a good alternative route to The Ridgeway as far as Pitstone Hill, just a couple of miles from Ivinghoe Beacon. Unfortunately riders and cyclists can't continue to the end of The Ridgeway as the route to it is a public footpath.
Your dog is welcome on the Ridgeway, but do make sure it’s fit enough to do as much walking as you. When on the Trail your dog must always be under close control to prevent it from disturbing livestock or wildlife. Below are a few Dos and Don'ts
- Try not to get between cows and their calves
- Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
- Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
- Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead.
- Always clean up after your dog and dispose of the mess responsibly.
- Make sure your dog is wormed.
- Carry enough water for the dog.
- Hang onto your dog. If you are threatened by cattle - let it go as the cattle will chase the dog.
- Put yourself at risk. Find another way round the cattle and rejoin the public right of way as soon as possible.
- Panic or run! Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow just walk on quietly.
If you wish to ride a motorbike, or drive a 4 by 4 or car on The Ridgeway you can legally use the following sections (most of which can only be used by recreational vehicles from 1st May to 30th September each year).
Western half of The Ridgeway
There are four sections of the Trail from Overton Hill to Streatley on the River Thames that have byway status and can therefore be driven for recreation. A summary map of the western half of The Ridgeway is available on the Leaflets page but grid references are given here and you are advised to check detailed maps before you venture out:
- 6 miles - from the start of the Trail at Overton Hill (SU 118681) to just west of Barbury Castle (SU 145764). Available for driving from 1st May to 30th September only (apart from final 200m that can be driven at any time of the year).
- 4.5 miles - from just west of Ogbourne St George (SU 193746) to south of Liddington Castle (SU 215780). Available for driving from 1st May to 30th September only.
- Less than 2 miles - from Fox Hill (SU 232815) south of Hinton Parva to Bishopstone (SU 259832). Available for driving at any time of the year.
- 4 miles - from north of Compton (SU 509819) to Streatley (SU 567813). Available for driving from 1st May to 30th September only.
East of the River Thames
There is just one very short byway section available for driving 1st May to 30th September only:
- 1 mile on the edge of Princes Risborough from the Wycombe Road (SP 806025) east to SP 814033.
An advantage of The Ridgeway is that the entire western half, and an 8 miles (13 Km) stretch east of the River Thames (from Britwell Hill just west of Watlington to Wainhill on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire border), follows byways or bridleways that have no stiles or other obstructions to users of wheelchairs or mobility scooters. In fact there are no longer any stiles remaining on The Ridgeway, although there are several small kissing gates east of Streatley.
Much of the surface of these byway, restricted byway and bridleway sections remains natural and can be rough as a result of use by horses and/or vehicles with ruts in some places. In some locations the surface can also become wet and muddy during and after wet weather. However the 3 miles (5 Km) section from Fox Hill (Grid Reference SU 233814) southeast of Swindon to south of Ashbury (Grid Reference SU 273843), both with parking space, mostly has a hard surface. It’s worth noting, though, that in places the surface is beginning to wear and potholes have developed.
The National Trails Team is working to increase the accessibility of the entire length of the Ridgeway. .
The Chilterns AONB website is a great source of information about walks that are accessible to people with limited mobility.
We get a number of enquiries from people who would like to find out how they can organise a sponsored walk or other event on The Ridgeway National Trail. As a result we have produced some guidelines that we hope will answer your questions.
If your event will have a large number of people attending, say 30 or more, then we would like to hear about it as we find it useful to know in advance what‘s planned so we can advise other events’ organisers which dates and areas to avoid. Please let us know by completing our Events form.
Please contact the Trail Team to find out more.
What is special about the Trail
The Ridgeway is one of the 15 National Trails in England and Wales. National Trails are designated by the Secretary of State and are administered by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, and managed by the local authorities and National Park Authorities whose area they pass through.
Most National Trails have a dedicated Trail Manager responsible for maintaining the high quality standards on the Trail. National Trails are waymarked with the distinctive “acorn” symbol.
National Trails are special because they pass through some of the best landscapes, and they are managed to a very high standard. Because of this you can be confident that any journey you make along a National Trail will be one of the best you have taken.
Natural England sets quality standards for National Trails and their management. You can find out more on the Natural England website.
For, at least 5,000 years and maybe many more, people, including drovers, traders and invaders, have walked or ridden The Ridgeway. As part of a prehistoric track, once stretching about 250 miles (400 Km) from the Dorset coast to the Wash on the Norfolk coast, it provided a route over the high ground for travellers which was less wooded and drier than routes through the springline villages below.
The Ridgeway passes through two distinctive landscapes; the open downland of the west within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the more gentle and wooded countryside of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the east.
Maps, guides, certificates and merchandise
The official Guide Books for the National Trails are produced by Aurum Press. The guides are regularly updated and all details are checked by the trail managers. The books include sections of Ordnance Survey 1:25,00 maps and are the very best accompaniment to your walk. You can buy them from the National Trails shop.
As well as a guide book we recommend a good quality map and you can buy these in paper or digital format - to browse the maps and books available please visit the Maps and Guide Books page.
If you have completed all or a substantial part of the Ridgeway (or if you have cycled/horse ridden all or most of the western half) we would love to hear how you got on and find out your views on the experience (good and bad). If you fill out and return a feedback form we will send you a Completion Certificate or a cloth sew-on badge as a thank you.
You can download the feedback form here.
How to add information to the Trail map
Anyone can add information to the website. We hope that people who have enjoyed the National Trails will want to share their good experiences and that businesses will promote their services by adding information to the map.
You can add information to the map. This includes:
- Points of interest or attractions
- Services - for example shops, pubs, vets, cycle hire shops etc
- Details of your accommodation business
- Events - for example farmers’ markets, village fetes, guided walks
- Information to help horse riders or cyclists such as busy road crossings or water points
To add content you will need to sign up – click the join button in the top right corner. You’ll need a username and an email address. We won’t give your email address to anyone, we’ll only use it if you need a password reminder or if we need to contact you directly. For more information read our data protection policy.
Once you’re signed in you can add information to the map by clicking here.