Planning a Ridgeway walk

Last updated 3 March 2017

Resting near Nuffield

There can be few finer ways you can spend in the south of England than striding purposefully over downsland on a warm, sunny day. High up with wide views of the surrounding area, you can’t help but stand, look out and admire our green and pleasant land. All you need is a dog running excitedly around your feet, and you’re pretty much in the perfect world.

Following part of a historic drovers and traders route, the Ridgeway National Trail follows the line of the Chiltern hills and includes also includes white horses, ancient long barrows, remnants of old forts and a sense that you’re following a journey that thousands have followed before you.

And, of course, you don’t even need to do it on a sunny summers day – the Ridgeway is a great walk all year round.

In this guide

  1. What is the walk like?
  2. The route
  3. Planning an itinerary
  4. Finding and booking accommodation
  5. Getting to/from the Ridgeway
  6. Guide Books and Maps
  7. And finally, and any questions

Planning your own walk? If you find this guide helpful in planning your walk, please consider giving us £3 for a pint of beer to say thank you!

What is the walk like?

Haunted Forest and Witches Castle 1 mile

For the most part, the Ridgeway stays true to its name and is a relatively easy walk spent mostly walking along ridges. The paths often provide splendid views over the relatively flat local landscape. There are some gentle climbs, and often you’ll need to head down hill to get to accommodation. The Ridgeway’s good transport links mean it’s also an ideal walk if you live in London and wish to complete a walk in weekends.

The western section especially features a number of historical features such as white chalk horses and plenty of long barrows.

Much of the walk follows ancient tracks, that are often classed as byways which mean motor vehicles can use them, however in many area the local councils are restricting usage. Being closer to London, the eastern section features more roads and towns, however they are not too dominating.

You can, of course, read my own travels on the Ridgeway.

The route

You can see the route of the Ridgeway using the map above. Using the controls you can scroll around, zoom in and explore the route. Note that this map is a guide only, and should not be used for navigation.

You can also download the GPX file of the route.

Planning an itinerary

Approaching the M40

As ever, the first thing to do when planning a walk is exactly how you plan to do it. Given that much of the Ridgeway was an ancient trading route, you’d think it would visit more villages. Surprisingly it doesn’t, which means there’s not many ways to tweak the itineraries below.

Two itineraries are shown – a six day version and a seven day one. Unless otherwise noted, all locations have a shop and a pub. Locations with a railway station nearby are marked with a *.

6 Day Itinerary
Section From To Distance Notes
Miles Km
1 Overton Hill Ogbourne St George 9 14½ [1] [2]
2 Ogbourne St George Sparsholt 15½ 25km [3]
3 Sparsholt Goring and Streatley * 17½ 28
4 Goring and Streatley * Watlington 15 24
5 Watlington Wendover * 17 27
6 Wendover * Ivinghoe Beacon 11½ 18½
7 Day Itinerary
Section From To Distance Notes
Miles Km
1 Overton Hill Ogbourne St George 9 14½ [1] [2]
2 Ogbourne St George Sparsholt 15½ 25km [3]
3 Sparsholt Goring and Streatley * 17½ 28
4 Goring and Streatley * Watlington 15 24
5 Watlington Princes Risborough * 10½ 17
6 Princes Risborough * Wigginton 13 21 [4]
6 Wigginton Ivinghoe Beacon 9

Notes:

  1. No public transport to Overton Hill
  2. No shop in Ogbourne St George
  3. Sparsholt is a mile off route and there is no shop.
  4. No shop in Wigginton

With good tracks and easy navigation, the Ridgeway is a great walk to do all year round.

Breaking the walk up for several trips

The great thing about the Ridgeway is that it’s easily achievable over a single week and this is a lovely way to do it. However if you can’t spare that and you live in London or the South East, then the Ridgeway’s train and bus links mean it’s also relatively easy to do over several trips.

The western section between Overton Hill and Goring & Streatley has less provision and needs to be done as a three day block.

The eastern section to Ivinghoe Beacon can either be done in another three day block, or broken down further. Breaking at Princes Risborough results in two two-day chunks. Alternatively breaking at Wendover will result in two trips – one of 2 days, and one single day walk.

Extending your walk

If you look at the Ridgeway on a map you’ll notice something important. It starts and ends in the middle of nowhere. This means you’re liable to want to slightly extend the walk at both ends in order to reach public transport.

On the western side the best place to start is the village of Avebury (which has bus links) so you can admire the standing stones, long barrows and other ancient sights. From Avebury, head south to Waden Hill, then visit West Kennett Long Barrow, before heading to East Kennett, then Overton Hill. This is a section of a circular walk shown in the official Ridgeway guidebook.

At the eastern end there are a couple of options including the 7½ mile Ridgeway Link to Dunstable.

A far shorter version is to walk to nearby Tring railway station in a loop by visiting the Bridgewater Monument and the village of Aldbury.

Finding and booking accommodation

The Perch and Pike, South Stoke

As with all National Trails there is an extensive accommodation guide on the official Ridgeway website and is a fantastic resource for finding places to stay.

Whilst there’s plenty of accommodation on the eastern half of the Ridgeway, it is more sparse on the east as such it is advisable to always book in advance.

Hostels and Bunkbarns

There are two hostels en-route:

Some maps will show a YHA hostel at Ivinghoe, however this has closed.

Camping

The Ridgeway Accommodation Guide includes a full list of those offering camping on the Ridgeway. Sites are generally on the western section – there’s very limited camping beyond available east of Streatley.

There’s no legal right to wild camp in England, although the National Trail website does say that most landowners on the Ridgeway do not tend to object to people camping on the route as long as you tidy up after yourself, no damage is done and no campfires are lit. However if you choose to camp, do note that water sources are in short supply due to the Ridgeway being on a ridge..

Getting to/from the Ridgeway

Enthusiastic waving as we set off to finish the Ridgeway

Getting to either end of the Ridgeway is not the easiest thing to do

On the West, there is absolutely no public transport to Overton Hill. The easiest way to get there is to get the train to Swindon (which has excellent services to London, Wales and the South West) and from there get the hourly 49 bus to Avebury. You can then walk to Overton Hill from Avebury, taking in the stone circles and burial mounds whilst you’re at it. The bus runs seven days a week and is operated by Stagecoach in Swindon and runs daily.

At Ivinghoe Beacon you can choose to walk back three miles to Tring railway station either by the Ridgeway or by an alternative route. Tring is on the West Coast mainline with services and connections to London, Birmingham, the North and Scotland.

The 61 bus operated by Arriva also stops at the Beacon. This near-hourly service will take you to Tring railway station, or alternatively to Dunstable, however only runs Monday to Saturday. There is no Sunday service. Some leaflets and websites do refer to the 327 Chiltern Rambler as providing a service on summer Sundays, however this bus no longer operates.

There are several train stations en-route with services to London, and other destinations. The official website includes an excellent Travel Planner showing bus and train routes, and includes links to timetables. The Traveline South East website includes timetables for bus services across the whole route.

Guide Books and Maps

Tree near the Devil's Punchbowl

The Ridgeway is absolutely excellent in its signs and it will be very hard to get lost, however you’ll probably still want a guide book or map.

As with all National Trails there is a truly excellent guide book published by Aurum Press and I say that having bought two copies. True I bought the second because I managed to my first copy on a train, but hey…

The latest version of the guidebook was published in the summer of 2016. It contains Ordnance Survey mapping at the 1:25,000 scale, with a good amount of map on either side of the trail shown.

If you’d prefer just carrying a map then are two options. First is the A-Z Adventure Atlas for the Ridgeway. This is a book based format, although the size is similar to a standard map when folded, so it will fit in your map case without a problem.

The A-Z maps use Ordnance Survey mapping at the 1:25,000 scale, and covers a wide area around the route. It also includes a comprehensive index of places and locations, so finding what you’re looking for has never been easier.

Alternatively, if you prefer a traditional map, Harveys have a strip map for the whole route.

This uses Harvey’s own mapping at their 1:40,000 scale.

Finally for Ordnance Survey maps you will need the following: