This itinerary breaks down the six day trip into daily sections, including travel in to Oxford on the first day and travel back home via Swindon on the last day. The first day is spent in Oxford, followed by 5 days in the countryside walking a total of 30miles/48km, exploring part of The Ridgeway and its historic and spiritual gems.
Day 1 - Oxford - the city of dreaming spires
Oxford – non walking day
Arrive in Oxford with time to soak up the history and culture of the city. Take a tour bus to get an overview or wander the city centre to enjoy the detail of narrow lanes, college buildings and waterways. Visit the Ashmolean museum to see the Watlington Hoard, a Viking stash of coins and precious metal found along The Ridgeway, or explore the Pitt Rivers Natural History Museum to look out for a prehistoric tool used to create Avebury stone circle. There is a wealth of places to dine and stay from budget to boutique, including Michelin restaurants
Day 2 - Wantage - King Alfred's town
Wantage – non walking day
From Oxford city centre, catch the bus to Wantage out in the countryside (Thames Travel X32 bus – 1hr 20min journey, or Stagecoach Oxfordshire S9 bus – 50min journey). Explore the Market Square, looking out for the statue of King Alfred who was born here and famously defeated Viking invaders in the 9th century. Visit the Vale and Downland museum to delve into the rich history of the landscape you will be walking through over the next few days (not open on Sundays). If local stories about the well-known British poet John Betjeman put you in a cultural mood, see a concert or other event at the arts centre. Alternatively, independent shops, cafes and pubs in this historic market town will keep you occupied and, if you are lucky, it may be market day with local producers selling tasty food and drink. Enjoy fine dining in nearby villages of East Hendred or Sparsholt – Eyston Arms and The Star respectively.
Day 3 - From Wantage to Uffington White Horse
From Wantage to Uffington White Horse
From Wantage, follow a path beside the little chalk stream called the Letcombe Brook for 1.5 miles to reach the village of Letcombe Regis where the award-winning Michelin pub The Greyhound offers a tasty lunch. Continue along the brook for 1 mile to Letcombe Bassett, a place that inspired Thomas Hardy’s Cresswell in ‘Jude the Obscure’, and head up Gramp’s Hill just short of another mile to The Ridgeway. Now on The Ridgeway, it is easy to follow the track westwards and enjoy the views for 5 miles until you reach the breath-taking finish at White Horse Hill. Take some time to explore the hillfort, find the trig point which marks the highest point in the county of Oxfordshire and trace the chalk horse in the grass. Re-enact St George slaying the Dragon on Dragon Hill and don’t miss catching sight of the Devil’s Punchbowl nearby. Enjoy dinner in one of the local country pubs and, if you fancy an after-dinner stroll, follow the interesting village trail around Uffington. Enjoy a night under the stars at Britchcombe Farm campsite or get cosy in the inns and B&Bs in nearby local villages such as Uffington.
Day 4 - From Uffington to Bishopstone - In the footsteps of magician Merlin
From Uffington to Bishopstone
With a packed lunch, head back up to The Ridgeway where you left off and continue 1 mile westwards to the prehistoric long barrow known as Wayland’s Smithy, dating back to 3590BC. Look for ‘offerings’ in the small entrance chamber constructed from sarsen stones and take time to soak up the atmosphere. There are many legends about Wayland, Saxon god of metalworking, who lived here – one being he made King Arthur’s sword Excalibur upon request from Merlin. Following in the footsteps of Merlin on a 4-mile loop, venture off the Trail onto Odstone Down to find your way to Ashdown House, pausing to view the field of ‘sheep’ that Merlin turned to stone! Find your picnic spot in Ashdown Park and take a look at the country mansion of Ashdown House (not open to the public). Return to The Ridgeway via Alfred’s Castle and continue west for 1.5 miles and then 1 mile downhill to Bishopstone. Spend time exploring the little paths weaving between the thatched houses, gardens and streams of Bishopstone. Enjoy dinner at the acclaimed Royal Oak and have a restful sleep in a B&B in this peaceful rural area.
Day 5 - Poet Richard Jefferies and walk across the downs to Marlborough
Poet Richard Jefferies and walk across the downs to Marlborough
From the bus stop beside Bishopstone village school, catch the bus (West Berkshire Council 47 – Mon to Sat, 25min journey) or taxi to the Richard Jefferies Museum on the edge of Swindon (open Tues, Thurs, some Wednesdays and Sundays during peak season). Jefferies was a nature writer inspired by The Ridgeway and its landscape and the historic farmhouse where he lived is now a museum. Enjoy tea in the garden and, if you are lucky, catch a writing workshop or other event. Set off into the Wiltshire Downs to reach the Three Trees Café 2.5 miles away near Chiselden in time for lunch, following blue signs for cycle route 45 along an old railway line. After lunch, continue for another 3 miles along the railway line through the hills, following route 482 to Ogbourne St George. From Ogbourne St George, continue for another 4 miles or catch the bus to reach the historic wool town of Marlborough (Salisbury Reds X5 or Stagecoach West 80 – 10 min journey). Merlin crops up again in Marlborough where he is said to have been buried at Marlborough Mound. Try to reach Marlborough before 5 pm so that you have a little time to browse the shops set around the large market square. Enjoy dinner in one of the many restaurants and pubs, perhaps the town’s Rick Stein restaurant listed in the Michelin guide.
Day 6 – Avebury and travel to Swindon to head home
Avebury and travel to Swindon to head home
From Marlborough, head to Avebury on the bus (Swindon Bus Company 42 – 20 min journey) or walk 6.5 miles along the signed cycle route 403. If walking, take time to explore Fyfield Down National Nature Reserve near The Ridgeway – it is an ancient grassland with scattered sarsen stones and earthworks of a settlement. In Avebury, enjoy a day around the village – spend time amongst the ancient stones of the largest henge in Europe, visit the museums and enjoy lunch in the pub or cafes. Venture further afield following National Trust signs to discover unique monuments including Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow which attracted the attention of famous antiquarians such as William Stukeley. Take time to connect with these sacred sites which have drawn pagans and druids for centuries. This is also a convenient place to contemplate a return visit to The Ridgeway in future since the Trail starts/ends near Avebury. Bring your visit to a close with enough time for your journey home. You can return to Marlborough by bus (Swindon Bus Company 42 – 20 min journey) or head directly to Swindon for connections home (Stagecoach 49 – 30 min journey).
Accommodation is available along this section of the Trail but it is advisable to plan and book ahead. Accommodation can be viewed on the itinerary map.
To make your journey more enjoyable you may want to use a baggage transfer company to transport your luggage.
We advise that you choose footwear and clothing appropriate to the predicted weather and the day’s activities.
Food & Drink
Oxford, Wantage and Avebury have many shops and cafes but other sections of this route are quiet so finding food or places to eat along the way may not be so easy. Be sure to plan your food and drink in advance and carry enough supplies for the day with you.
Maps, Guidebooks and Merchandise
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.