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.

Prepare for your trip

Select the blue arrow tabs below for more details.

Exploring the Trail

People enjoy all sorts of activities and events along The Ridgeway. You can walk, run, cycle, horse ride, picnic, birdwatch, paint, fly a kite and more. Events such as guided bike rides and marathons can help you to try new activities and explore new places.

Whatever the time of year, there’s something to do every month on any part of the Trail with the Ridgeway Spotter activities guide.

There’s also all sorts of ideas to inspire visits to different attractions along the Trail in the Ridgeway Top 50, including famous legends, colourful butterflies, mountain bike firsts and haunts of artists, photographers and writers.

A good place to start planning your visit is the visitor leaflet for The Ridgeway which has a colourful illustrated map to give visitors, of all ages, ideas for things to see and do. It explains how to be a caring, friendly visitor so that you can be confident about what you are allowed to do and respect the environment and local communities. This leaflet is free to download from this website.

The interactive online map of the Trail also provides details of visitor attractions and mapping of the sections promoted to cyclists and horse riders. There are circular walks and rides leaflets to download for free too, whilst the events webpage provides details of  marathons, guided cycle rides, farmers markets and more.

The latest tips, photos and conversations with people using The Ridgeway are easy to find on social media. Visit The Ridgeway’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts for lots of useful information. The news pages on this website provide highlights of what is going on along The Ridgeway.

All 87 miles of The Ridgeway is open to walkers but parts of the Trail that follow public footpaths between Goring-on-Thames and Ivinghoe Beacon are not promoted to cyclists and horseriders. When you are out on The Ridgeway, signs along the Trail inform visitors whether they are on a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway or byway open to all traffic. There are also metal highway signs in some areas to indicate that the public cannot drive or park cars or motorbikes on the Trail.

Cyclists and horse riders are welcome along much of The Ridgeway. The western half of The Ridgeway, from Overton Hill to Streatley-on-Thames, is a marvelous off-road route for horse riders and mountain bikers through scenic and tranquil countryside (those using touring bikes might struggle on some surface types).

The interactive online map shows what parts of the Trail are open to cyclists and horse riders, as well as alternative routes such as the Swan’s Way. Other information for riders such as bike shops, accommodation with stables, secure bike storage etc is also provided. When using the map, click on the menu bar to the left of the map and select ‘Cycling info’ or ‘Equestrian info’.

Tips for cyclists, from beginner to technical and for family groups, are provided on this dedicated webpage for cyclists.

Carriage drivers can also enjoy all of the western half of The Ridgeway, except for a recommended diversion to avoid Barbury Castle and a necessary to detour to bypass the one-mile bridleway section over Liddington Hill. Along the Chilterns half of the Trail, the status of the rights of way means carriage drivers can only use the 5 mile (8 km) restricted byway stretch from Britwell Hill to the A40.

Disabled people visit The Ridgeway in wheelchairs, hand-trikes, mobility scooters or off-road mobility scooters such as the Tramper (all called mobility vehicles). By law, a disabled person can take a wheelchair or other mobility vehicle on all rights of way which include public footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways.

The Ridgeway is a long distance, exposed route so it is a challenge to most people, whatever their mobility. However, it is relatively accessible compared to other off-road routes because The Ridgeway offers miles of wide track without gates or stiles. These more accessible stretches are detailed in the Disabled Ramblers Information Note.

It is important to plan ahead for safety and enjoyment reasons. There are organisations such as the Disabled Ramblers who can offer tips and also lead guided group visits. The Disabled Ramblers Information Note is for disabled people planning a visit to The Ridgeway has been produced in partnership with the Disabled Ramblers.

A guide and map about driving on The Ridgeway is free to download here: The Ridgeway Full leaflet and The Ridgeway summary map.

There are limited locations and times when the public can legally ride a motorbike or drive a 4×4 or other motorized vehicle on The Ridgeway. There are signs and notices along The Ridgeway clearly indicating where and when it is legal to drive on the Trail and this website provides information for drivers to plan their outings before setting off.

If you look at an Ordnance Survey map, such as the interactive map on this website, you will see that The Ridgeway follows rights of way and these routes can be one of four statuses: footpath, bridleway, restricted byway and byway. The public can legally drive on stretches of the Trail which are ‘byways open to all traffic’ (byways) but only as long as a restriction under a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) doesn’t apply. Ridgeway byway stretches are signed ‘Byway’ and those byways where permanent Traffic Regulation Orders apply have metal circular road signs on display. Places where temporary or emergency TROs are in force are indicated with laminated notices.

There is no public right to drive on the Trail where it follows a public footpath, bridleway or restricted byway. The police carry out patrols on the Trail and have powers to confiscate vehicles involved in illegal activities on The Ridgeway etc.

These public rights of access are different to the private access rights that farmers or others may have along The Ridgeway.

We ask all drivers to be considerate of others on the Trail and to avoid using the Trail when the surface is vulnerable to damage, for example when the ground is wet. Further guidance is provided in the Ridgeway Leaflet.

Drivers are encouraged to research their routes and check ground conditions before setting out. All Traffic Regulation Orders relating to The Ridgeway are detailed on the Ridgeway Leaflet and on this website, with notifications of temporary and emergency Traffic Regulation Orders provided on the news webpages and on social media. Please contact the Ridgeway Officer if you need more information.

There is satisfaction in covering the full distance of a National Trail, with many celebrating their achievement by joining our Facebook Hall of Fame  and/or claiming a certificate of completion!

At 87 miles (139km) long, The Ridgeway is one of the shorter National Trails so it makes a great introduction to long distance walking or an attractive ‘starter’ or training route.

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. Mountain bikers complete the 43 miles (69km) between Avebury and Goring-on-Thames over 2 days on average.

If long distance routes are new to you or you are not sure of your fitness, it usually makes sense to start gently so that it is enjoyable rather than a slog. Plan just half a day’s walk or ride for the first day and also have a short day in the middle to give you some slack. Some people break the Trail into sections that they can manage over a weekend and then use several weekends to complete the Trail, with time for rest between each visit.

Allowing time for exploring is also worthwhile, with so many appealing diversions off the Trail. The interactive online map of The Ridgeway displays numerous attractions just off the Trail, including nature reserves, museums, pubs and historic sites.

Apart from the few stretches of tarmac road, the off-road sections have a hard stone surface or retain a natural surface, ie. chalk, earth, grass. This means the surface can get a little wet and muddy during and after wet weather, and in places wheel ruts caused by vehicles will be encountered.

The Trail passes over high points crowned with prehistoric hillforts and descends into river valleys but the climbs and descents are gentle compared to the mountainous regions of England or elsewhere. A leaflet is available to download which illustrates the gradient profile of the Trail which can be found here:  leaflet illustrating the gradient profile of the Trail.

Walkers are advised to wear sturdy footwear.

To most mountain bikers, the route presents a fair  endurance challenge. Most of The Ridgeway would be graded a Blue route in mountain biking terms. This is a route which requires riders to be in good health with basic off-road riding skills and a basic mountain bike.

To celebrate and record the achievement of completing a National Trail, many people join the Ridgeway Facebook Hall of Fame and there are also certificates and merchandise available from the online shop!

There will be a diversion of the Trail starting 2024 near Wendover in Buckinghamshire. Ellesborough Road will be diverted as part of the High Speed 2 railway engineering works. The Ridgeway will follow an alternative road between Wendover train station and entry to Bacombe Hill entrance off Ellesborough Road. There will be clear signage to guide Ridgeway users through the diversion.

Top tips for enjoying the Trail

Getting to The Ridgeway is easy as this part of England is well served by motorways, railways and bus routes. London’s airports at Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow are within easy reach thanks to good train and/or coach connections to the Trail. Popular tourist destinations such as London, Oxford and Bath have good public transport connections to the Trail, offering the possibility of a city break combined with a Ridgeway adventure.

We encourage our visitors to consider leaving their car at home to reduce their carbon footprint and avoid the hassle of parking. General information is provided below but specific tips on getting to either end of The Ridgeway (Ivinghoe Beacon or Avebury/Overton Hill) by public transport is available here.

BY CAR (including taxi):

The Ridgeway has excellent road links to the M4, M40, M25 and M1 providing easy access to and from London and the national motorway network.

There are numerous car parks on The Ridgeway or near to the Trail in nearby towns and villages.  These car parks are marked on the interactive online map – tick the box ‘Transport’.

Car parks are a good place to arrange for taxis to drop off or pick up. Details about train stations on the interactive map indicate if there is a taxi stand on-site. A list of local taxi firms is also available from the Ridgeway Officer.

BY BICYCLE (including cycle hire):

The Ridgeway connects with the National Cycle Network. NCN routes connecting to the Trail and nearby train stations are marked on the interactive online map – tick ‘Additional Cycling Routes’ under the Cycling tab.

Cycle hire shops around the Trail are listed on the interactive map – tick ‘Cycle Hire’ under the Cycling tab. Some will arrange for bicycles to be stored at train stations ready for customers to collect as they come off the train etc.

BY COACH, TRAIN AND/OR BUS:

Major settlements near The Ridgeway are served by long distance coaches, e.g. Swindon, Hemel Hempstead, Oxford. There is a long distance coach stop close to The Ridgeway at Lewknor  which is served by Oxford coaches, including Heathrow and Gatwick coaches. Details about the ‘Lewknor Turn’ coach stop is provided on the interactive map – tick the box ‘Transport’.

The Ridgeway is by and large easily reached with a number of main rail stations near to the Trail. Our interactive online map provides details for each train station – tick the box ‘Transport’. Train stations along the eastern Chilterns stretch are a short walk from the Trail – Goring & Streatley, Princes Risborough, Wendover and also Tring near the end at Ivinghoe Beacon. For the western end of The Ridgeway, train stations lie further from the Trail but there are good onward links by bus, taxi or bicycle. There is a direct bus from Swindon to Avebury as well as pleasant National Cycle Network routes to lead you on foot or bicycle to the Trail from Swindon, Didcot, Great Bedwyn and Chippenham.

There are some local bus services linking nearby towns and villages along the Trail. You can find up-to-date public transport information including a journey planner at Traveline.

Whatever the time of year, there’s something to do every month on any part of the Trail with the Ridgeway Spotter activities guide.

The Ridgeway can be enjoyed all year round, but spring through to autumn (March to November) probably provides the best views, the most events to enjoy, 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.

If you want to plan your visit to take part in events on the Trail, the events webpage provides details about event dates etc.

Events are a great way to try something new or explore a new area of the Trail because event organisers plan your visit for you and provide support such as guides or marshals, kit lists, first aid checkpoints etc.

Events on The Ridgeway are listed on the events webpage.

You can choose from a range of activities and sizes of event. There are guided horse rides, ultra-marathons, walking festivals, outdoor art workshops, farmers markets and more. Many events are held every year, such as the Swire Ridgeway Arts Prize exhibition.

Some events raise funds for charities and good causes and some donate to The Ridgeway to help with its maintenance. Taking part in these events makes you a caring Ridgeway visitor!

Whether you want to take part in an event or organise an event, please visit the events webpage for details.

 

There is a good choice of accommodation close to the Trail and it can be viewed on the Interactive Map below or on the Create Your Own Trip page.

Download and print a list of accommodation for each section of the Trail.

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

There are plenty of campsites along the Trail and they can be viewed on the Interactive Map.

If you plan to camp please note in England and Wales, there are normally no rights for national trail users to wild camp along the way – so seeking the landowner’s permission is recommended.

The Ridgeway is privately owned and the Public Right of Way along it is for passage only, not for stopping and camping.

However, in practice, most landowners do not object if a tent is pitched on the Trail for a night and if it disappears the next morning – as long as no litter is left, no damage done, nor camp fires lit. Please do not camp in adjoining fields, woods or gallops without prior permission from the landowner.

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

View a list of these companies here, The Ridgeway – Walking Holidays.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Contact the Ridgeway Officer to report a problem on the Trail. We welcome feedback to help us keep the Trail in good condition. You can use the contact page on this website; phone 01865 810224 or email ridgeway@oxfordshire.gov.uk. Please provide information about the nature and exact location of the problem, plus the date you noticed the problem. It is very useful to email us photos of the problem too. Trail officers aim to resolve issues as quickly as possible, but we ask for your patience with problems that are not easy to solve or require fundraising.

A GPX file can be downloaded from the Create Your Own Trip page (the button is below the map).

All Ridgeway visitors from the local area and further afield are encouraged to be caring visitors. The Countryside Code sets out the basic principles for caring for the countryside and there are also sustainable tourism options to consider.

Walking, cycling and horse riding are carbon-free activities and so The Ridgeway makes a great choice for the environmentally conscious day tripper or holiday maker. Visitors can further reduce their environmental impact by travelling to the Trail without their car and choosing locally sourced and sustainable products and services.

Leaving your car at home can add to the adventure. You could hire bicycles or electric bicycles from a train station and enjoy pleasant off-road routes connecting the Trail. If cycling isn’t your thing, there are also taxi companies to provide a shuttle service. For more details about sustainable travel options, see the FAQ ‘How do I get to The Ridgeway?’.

Your refreshment choices can also be environmentally friendly and support the local economy. The interactive map on this website and the Ridgeway’s social media provides details of farm shops, local breweries, pubs and cafes.

If you are taking part in an event, choose one which donates to The Ridgeway. Alternatively, you could make your own independent donation to support the Friends of the Ridgeway in caring for the Trail.

Last but not least, where you choose to stay will support and encourage the local tourism industry to prioritise sustainability. From campsites to large inns, every business can make it possible for their guests to be more eco-friendly. When you are making enquiries, why not ask what they are doing to reduce their environmental footprint?

Trail Holidays

Visit our Walking Holidays Page for holiday inspiration for the Ridgeway.

Leaflets, maps, guidebooks and merchandise

There are several overview leaflets freely available to download from this website, including the visitor leaflet for The Ridgeway which includes a colourful illustrated map.

Circular walks and rides leaflets are listed on a dedicated webpage and are free to download. If location is significant to you, note that it may be best to access information about circular walks and rides using the interactive map.

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

You can find a list of Ordnance Survey maps for the Trail here: The Ridgeway – Maps for the Trail.

Upon completion of The Ridgeway, we invite walkers, cyclists and horse riders to join, for free, the Ridgeway Facebook Hall of Fame and/or buy a certificate of completion from the Trails online shop. The Hall of Fame displays a photo and a short message about each person or group’s Trail experience (more details below).

Walkers must complete all 87 miles of The Ridgeway. Cyclists and horse riders must complete  the Trail between Avebury and Goring-on-Thames (whilst the rest of the Trail does not currently cater fully for cyclists and horse riders).

To join the Facebook Hall of Fame for free, we ask you to give us feedback about your Ridgeway experience by completing an online survey. Feedback helps the Ridgeway Officer improve the Trail and also work with others such as accommodation providers to ensure a high quality visitor experience. Details about how to join the Hall of Fame are provided at the end of the survey.

Printed certificates to record completion are available to purchase from the The Trails Shop. Please make sure you provide feedback about your Trail experience through the online survey mentioned above, whether or not you take up the option to join the Hall of Fame at the end of the survey. Thank you for your help!

Circular and Linear Walks and Rides

There are some great circular walks and rides to sample parts of The Ridgeway and explore the surrounding area. Going further afield opens up opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the history and nature of the area, and also support local pubs, museums and shops.

The Ridgeway Partnership works with partner organisations to promote a set of high quality and well-maintained circular and linear routes. These are detailed on our webpage for circular and linear walks and rides. Other routes can be found in guidebooks, online blogs, walking magazines etc.

Most routes we promote are suitable for a day visit, but a few others  propose multi-day trips as an opportunity to dip into the attractive places to stay and eat in the area, perhaps as a weekend break. There are linear walks and rides that provide useful connecting or ‘link routes’ between the Trail and nearby train stations or major towns, e.g. National Cycle Network routes. Linear routes are also a great way to add distance so as to extend your holiday or build fitness, e.g. Icknield Way.

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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Create your own trip

Feeling inspired? Build a bespoke itinerary and start planning your visit to this great National Trail here.

Contact the Trail Officer

If you have feedback or a question about The Ridgeway please contact the Trail Officer.

Cysylltwch â Sarah Wright
Trail Officer