For five thousand years, ceremonial circles and avenues of great standing stones have kept their silent watch over Wiltshire’s countryside. Raised by Neolithic man, these awesome examples of human endeavour tantalise us with their secrets. The pretty village of Avebury with its Manor House and museum is partly encompassed by its great stone circle, enclosed by a deep ditch and approached by an avenue of stones. The World Heritage Site of Avebury, where The Ridgeway starts, also includes a series of other major archaeological sites, such as the towering man-made mound of Silbury Hill, the burial chamber of West Kennett Long Barrow and the ancient camp on Windmill Hill. There’s plenty to explore in this itinerary but including a visit to Marlborough, a gracious and elegant coaching town, can only enhance your stay.
Avebury World Heritage Site walk
Without a doubt the best way to start your Country Escape is to download and follow this circular walk which takes in most of the major prehistoric monuments within the World Heritage site.
Distance: 6¾ miles/3 hours
Avebury to Barbury Castle via Fyfield Down Venturing further afield you can explore other prehistoric landscapes on foot.
Avebury to Barbury Castle via Fyfield Down
Venturing further afield you can explore other prehistoric landscapes on foot. Start in Avebury and walk via Green Street (incredibly once part of the main London to Bath Road) to The Ridgeway which you cross taking the gate straight ahead into Fyfield Down National Nature Reserve. This atmospheric chalk grassland landscape, little changed since prehistoric times, is strewn with sarsen stones known locally as ‘grey wethers’ as from a distance they look like sheep - a wether is a castrated ram. In summer you’ll enjoy colourful wild flowers and a host of birds from corn buntings to linnets. Rejoining The Ridgeway turn right and follow the Trail north on a lovely, breezy walk across the open Marlborough Downs to Barbury Castle Country Park with its dramatic Iron Age fort. It was here in 556AD that Cynric the Saxon King of Wessex defeated the Britons. More practically, there are toilets, car park and an easy rendezvous with a taxi for a lift back to base.
Distance: 6¾ miles/3 hours
Ogbourne St George to Barbury Castle
An alternative is to follow the Barbury Castle circular walk, perhaps beginning with lunch at the Inn with the Well or Parklands Hotel in the village of Ogbourne St George. Then head northwest along The Ridgeway to Barbury Castle via the springy turf of Smeathe’s Ridge. This is racehorse country with the ground falling away on each side of the ridge to give fantastic panoramic views. After exploring the Iron Age fort, either catch a taxi back or head north downhill along the minor access road to Barbury, turning right onto paths back to Ogbourne at the bottom of the scarp.
Distance: Ogbourne to Barbury Castle – 4½ miles/2 hours
Round trip - 8 miles/3½ hours