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Stephanie Boon is in the centre of the image smiling at the camera. She has a large hiking backpack on and is surrounded by bluebells.

Walking The Ridgeway – The Ultimate Guide To Hiking Britain’s Oldest Road

Walking The Ridgeway – Contents

I'm sat on the grass smiling at the camera with Avebury stone circle in the background. I'm holding up a map booklet Walking The Ridgeway.

Ready to hit the trail!

I backpacked this lovely trail in May 2022 and I share everything I learned along the way in this, The Ultimate Guide To Hiking Britain’s Oldest Road

I’ll show you what makes walking The Ridgeway so special; I’ll give you useful tips as well as everything you need to know to plan your adventure, from travel, my costs, and kit list, to finding water and wild camping. First though…

What Makes The Ridgway The Perfect Trail For You?

Walking the Ridgeway - a level, broad track lined with bells stretches ahead under a canopy of beech trees.

An easy track through bluebell woods in the Chilterns AONB – perfect for beginner long-distance hikers

  1. It’s stuffed full of fascinating history and archaeology, wildlife and stunning views (it passes through 2 AONBs)
  2. You can walk the Ridgeway in 5 days, even 4 if you’re short on time (but why rush when there’s so much to enjoy?)
  3. It feels surprisingly remote and unpopulated for southern England, especially along the first section
  4. It’s one of the flattest trails there is, which makes walking The Ridgeway perfect if you’re new to long distance walking
  5. There’s no need to worry about map reading because it’s so well sign-posted that you won’t get lost!
  6. You don’t have to worry about wild camping on The Ridgeway either – it was really easy along the whole trail

Wild camping on the Ridgeway. There are plenty of verges beside wide tracks, as well as discreet places to pitch up

Walking The Ridgeway: My Top 10 Highlights

Walking the Ridgway - enormous upright blocks of stone in a row in front of the entrance to the long barrow. The stones have a wonderful gritty texture and are covered in green and gold lichens

Avebury World Heritage Site. These are the ‘blocking stones’ in front of the entrance to West Kennet Long Barrow. It’s an extraordinary experience to explore the stone burial chambers inside and I had it all to myself

In no particular order!

  1. Avebury World Heritage Site – especially West Kennet Neolithic long barrow
  2. White Horse Hill: Uffington Castle, the Uffington White Horse and Dragon’s Hill
  3. Wayland’s Smithy Neolithic long barrow
  4. Beech woodlands in the Chilterns
  5. Big views from places like White Horse Hill, Combe Hill (Princes Risborough) and Ivinghoe Beacon
  6. Wildlife: red kite, yellowhammers, deer, brimstone butterflies, even a mole!
  7. Wildflowers – cowslips and bluebells were my favourite
  8. Quintessential English towns and villages including Streatley and Goring, North Stoke and Watlington
  9. Cake! There are some great cafes along the second half of the trail (I can’t help myself!)
  10. Stunning wild camp sunsets
Walking the Ridgeway national trail - big open views across teh countryside with fields of yellow rapeseed in the distance and a bowl in the foregorund with what looks like folds in the hillside

Big views over The Manger, White Horse Hill

 

Walking The Ridgeway National Trail - a stunning field of dandelion clocks with a low sun behind

Sunsets not to be missed – this one was near Ivinghoe Beacon at the end of the trail

So What Is The Ridgeway National Trail?

The Ridgway National Trail is a long-distance path in southern England that’s also known as Britain’s oldest road – and with 5,000+ years of continuous use along some sections of the trail, it probably deserves the title!

Section 1: The Ancient Route Across The Wessex Downs

I'm standing in front of 2 large upright stones, smiling at the camera - and wearing sunglasses even though it looks a bit overcast!

5,000 years of history – exploring Avebury stone circle

The ancient provenance mostly belongs to the first section of The Ridgeway National Trail. This begins in the World Heritage Site at Avebury and continues to Streatley and Goring.

You can immerse yourself in the culture of Neolithic stone circles, Bronze Age long barrows, chalk figures carved into hillsides, and impressive Iron Age hill forts

Walking the Ridgeway takes you right past this fluid, stylised horse carved in chalk into the hillside.

The 3,000-year-old Uffington White Horse is, apparently, best seen from a road 1.5 miles away – but I’ll take this up close and personal view! You can just see the flat-topped Dragon’s Hill on the left-hand side too, which is where St George is said to have slain the dragon

 

Walking the Ridgeway - Wayland's Smithy Neolithic long barrow. The entrance to the barrow is marked by four huge upright stones with steps up to the top of the barrow. It's set within a copse of beech trees.

Wayland’s Smithy Neolithic long barrow (you can go inside the burial chamber, although it’s much smaller and lower than West Kennet, so you might need to crouch down!)

This ancient track also connects with 3 other routes to form a 362-mile coast-to-coast hike across southern England. The Greater Ridgway, as it’s known, starts on a trail called The Wessex Ridgweway which begins in Lyme Regis (Dorset). It then connects with the Ridgeway and continues on to the coast at Hunstanton (Norfolk) via 2 other ancient tracks: The Icknield Way and The Peddars Way. (The Peddars Way is also part of another national trail that I’ve hiked: The Norfolk Coast Path and Peddars Way.)

Confusingly, this long-distance hike isn’t actually the National Trail! National trails have the distinction of passing through the most scenic landscapes in the UK, and The Ridgway National Trail passes through two Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The first half of the trail is within the North Wessex Downs AONB.

Walking the Ridgway will take you across the top of North Wessex Downs on broad flinty tracks like this one. It seems to wind its way ahead for miles, and frequently there are copses of trees like the ones on the horizon here.

North Wessex Downs Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty

A broad track winds its way up along the chalk ridge from the start of the trail with views out across the working countryside of Wiltshire and Oxfordshire. The May landscape was lit up with yellow fields of rape and I loved the heady scent of it, but to be honest, the more I saw the more concerned I got…

Colourful fields of rapeseed on the North Wessex Downs AONB

There were vast swathes of yellow for miles and miles along the trail and as much as it satisfied my creative aesthetic, I couldn’t help wonder at the seeming monoculture of it all.

I preferred the softer yellow of the wild cowslips that love the chalk soil. They grew down hillsides and across ancient barrows, dotted verges and hedgerows – and the brimstone butterflies loved them.

Walking The Ridgeway: A yellow brimstone butterfly sits with its wings closed feeding on a yellow cowslip flower in a hedgerow

Cowslips carpeted the hillsides and dotted the hedgerows – where I chased large brimstone butterflies

There was another wildflower I’d love to have seen but I was about 2-3 weeks too early. I was told by a local that the hills around Uffington Castle would be covered in early purple orchids. That must be an incredible sight, and something to think about if you’re wondering when to go (late May would be a good time).

The Ridgway - a wide track cuts across the foreground with views out across open countryside. There are 2 small trees in the distance under a blue sky

Enjoy the wide-open spaces of North Wessex Downs on a clear, sunny day (I was lucky to have sunshine most of the way)

Section 2: Walking The Ridgway In The Chilterns

Walking The Ridgeway National Trail: Crossing the glassy river Thames at Goring

Crossing the River Thames at Streatley and Goring – the halfway point

 

A square towered church sits behing pond framed by weeping willows and other trees on either side

Picturesque views in Goring

Streatley and Goring mark the halfway point of the trail, after which it follows the northern edge of the Chilterns AONB. The paths were noticeably narrower and hillier (they’re not massive climbs) and passed through a very different landscape.

Walking The Ridgeway - a haze of bluebells under beach trees

The first bluebell wood is Oaken Copse, shortly before Nuffield

 

Starry white flowers cover a verge beside a wide track in the woods

Greater stitchwort lights up the hedgerows on woodland tracks

Leafy beech woods were carpeted with bluebells (just about to go over when I was there in early May) and there were plenty of spectacular views out from the escarpment.

Walking the Ridgeway means you get to see fantastic views way out over the valleys to the horizon like this one above Princes Risborough

Far-reaching views above Princes Risborough

Once you cross the Thames you pass through more towns and villages than any other part of the trail. There are beautiful old cottages, imposing houses, and even the Chequers estate (the serving prime minister’s country residence) to ogle.

 

The Ridgeway National Trail passes through towns like Goring where you'll see typical cottages like this one, with lots of small windows and tall chimneys

Beautiful cottages in Goring

Most of this part of the trail is very affluent and I was constantly aware of how the other half lived, and which part of the divide I’m firmly planted in!

How Long Is The Ridgeway National Trail?

The Ridgeway National Trail is 87 miles long

Walking The Ridgeway national trail: I'm standing at the signpost at the official start. I'm smiling and pointing to part of the sign that says 'Ivinghoe Beacon 87 miles'

The official start of the trail at Overton Hill

Most hikers walking The Ridgeway begin in Avebury though, a few miles from the official start, which makes it 90 miles in total.

Where Does The Ridgeway Start And Finish?

The Ridgway starts at Overton Hill in Wiltshire and finishes at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire

The trail winds its way in and out of 4 counties altogether including Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Hertfordshire.

The official start of the trail at Overton Hill was a let-down, to be honest, with nothing more than a plastic fingerpost beside a busy road. With zero views. (Photo above).

Take my advice and start in Avebury

Walking the Ridgway from Avebury will take you past this odd-looking hill that rises like a cone on the horizon. As you pass by you cross over the River Kennet on a small double-arched brick bridge that's in the foreground.

Silbury Hill ancient monument, just outside Avebury

And the end of the trail? There was no ceremony at Ivinghoe Beacon either – not even a fingerpost this time. There is a spectacular view though – and a trig point, but even the toposcope was missing!

If you're walking The Ridgeway don't expect any fanfares - at the end of the trail this is what you get: great views, a concrete trig point and a vandalised topograph!

Ivinghoe Beacon (233m) at the end of the trail, 87miles later

But Fear not, because despite the underwhelming start and finish, walking The Ridgeway is worth every step in between!

That’s except for some pretty horrible Tarmac and fast road sections in the middle. Still, you can’t have everything I suppose, especially in Southern England’s urban areas. And, thankfully, there’s not too much of it.

When you're walking the Ridgway you'll come across a few sights like this - a road sign with a red danger triangle and a blue 'Ridgway National Trail' underneath - and it's right beside a Tarmac road with no footpath

Let’s be honest, this is no one’s idea of a scenic (or safe) part of a national trail!

Who Uses The Ridgeway?

In more ancient times the track was used by traders and defenders of the impressive hill forts you see along the route, as well as soldiers and drovers.

Nowadays most of the trail is a designated bridleway or restricted byway (with motorised access to farms) which means you often share the trail with mountain bikers and horse riders. (There are lots of racing gallops in the mid-section too.)

2 horse riders seen from behind on a sunny day

Out for a ride

Oddly enough most of the cyclists I met on the trail were men, and most of the horse riders were women. Just a random observation – I have no explanation for this whatsoever!

I loved the fact that I could walk for hours and not see a soul, but I was surprised I only met one other backpacker – and he was headed in the opposite direction! (There were plenty of day walkers.)

Cyclists take a break on a grassy verge next to a broad earth track

Some parts of The Ridgeway were very popular with mountain bikers (this is at the water tap at Sparsholt Firs – see below)

That’s not to say I didn’t meet some interesting people. I chatted to an American lady at a cafe in Wantage who’d hiked the Appalachian trail on her retirement (talk about inspiring), and her friend John who was a mine of information about Avebury. Then there was the couple from ‘up north’ who were running the trail in 4 days. And the group of cyclists (above) who were old school friends getting together from “all around the country”.

The Ridgeway is definitely a friendly trail!

There were places that were popular with families as well, mostly after Goring. It’s fair to say these were at National Trust viewpoints and on easy tracks through woodland. However, if you want to keep yourself to yourself anywhere along the trail, it’s pretty easy – just smile and pass by!

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Walking The Ridgeway

How To Plan Your Hike On Britain’s Oldest Road

Walking the Ridgway in the Chilterns means you'll encounter lots of earthy tracks under beech wood canopies like this one.

A shady track through the Chilterns AONB

Contents

Is The Trail Well Signposted?

(Signposts, Maps And Guides)

Walking The Ridgeway is great for beginners – it’s the best sign-posted national trail I’ve hiked to date!

There are regular signposts along the whole trail and for the most part, they’re fairly obvious

When you're walking The Ridgeway these tall fingerposts are easily seen. They're marked 'The Ridgway' and have the acorn national trail symbol on them too.

A typical Ridgeway signpost

 

An information board showing a map of the Ridgway trail in a wooden frame. 'West Berkshire' is etched into the bottom of the fram

Ocassionally you’ll  see a map like this that indicates where you are along the trail

I like to use my map to keep track of where I am, but The Ridgeway is easy to follow so if you’re not a map reader rest assured you’ll find your way.

When I was walking The Ridgeway I was happy to see the half way signpost! It points to Ivinghoe Beacon and says 44 miles away (it also points to Overton Hill in the opposite direction)

The halfway point outside Streatley

There are only one or two places where you have to keep your eye open, and that’s in towns like Goring where the signage changes to be more in keeping with the surroundings.

When you're walking through towns on the ridgeway you need to keep your eye out for signs like this: it's next to a street sign marked 'Thames Road' (in front of a wooden building) and just on the right is a small wooden sign marked 'Ridgeway' with an acorn symbol. (An attractive street with old buildings is in the distance.)

Look out for more discreet signs like this one when you’re walking The Ridgeway through towns

My Go-To Maps And Guide Books

      • I’m a real fan of Trailblazer Guidebooks so I chose the 2021 edition of The Ridgway by Nick Hill (it was a gift from my sister). It’s superb for inspiration and sights you might see along the way, including wildlife. Other walkers swear by the hand-drawn maps and directions (I don’t use these myself), as well as info on where to stay (including B&Bs), services, and so on.
      • I took the Cicerone route map booklet Walking The Ridgway which was reprinted in 2021. It’s a handy size that fits in your pocket and has the trail clearly highlighted. A booklet like this saves carrying loads of larger maps, but it doesn’t give an overview of the wider area.
      • The OS Maps app is on my phone for exactly that: the wider view. It’s also useful as a backup in case I lose my paper map (it has been known, doh!). The subscription version has 1:25,000 maps and includes downloadable maps and GPX files.
      • Silva compass – you really won’t need one on this trail but I never go anywhere without mine

How Long Does It Take To Hike The Ridgeway?

My Daily Miles For Walking The Ridgeway: 5 Days Hiking + 2 Days Travel

I hiked the trail in 5 days (90 miles from Avebury), excluding two days of travel, which gave me plenty of time to explore places like White Horse Hill and Wayland’s Smithy – and enjoy some local cafes along the way (see below)! (I’ve highlighted any off-trail miles separately.)

  • Day 1: TRAVEL DAY- Truro to Avebury + 6.5 mile walk from Avebury – includes about 3 miles of the official Ridgway trail
  • Day 2: 18.5 miles to White Horse Hill
  • Day 3: 13.75 miles to Several Down area (+ 3/4 mile to/from Court Hill Cafe near Wantage)
  • Day 4: 18.5 miles to Ewelme Park area (+ approx 1 mile to/from Tesco at Goring railway station)
  • Day 5: 15 miles to Princes Risborough (+ approx 2 miles into and around Watlington and back)
  • Day 6: 17 miles to Ivinghoe Beacon (+ 3 miles or so down from the Beacon to Tring area)
  • Day 7: TRAVEL DAY – Tring railway station to Truro

If you’d like to hike fewer daily miles you could do it in an average of 15 miles a day over 6 days, excluding travel.

Walking The Ridgeway In 4 Days

This trail is easily doable in 4 days (excluding travel) if you’re short on time. It’s one of the flattest trails I’ve hiked (along with the Norfolk Coast Path and Peddars Way) so the terrain won’t give you much of a challenge (apart from the flint underfoot!).

You’d be looking at an average of 22.5 miles a day, as long as you don’t head off-trail. Obviously, you need to make sure you’re comfortable with long days and it would almost certainly mean wild camping.

However, unless speed is your thing, take the extra day – you won’t regret it. Give yourself time to soak up the atmosphere of the Neolithic sites on the first half of the trail, and then enjoy the small villages and woodlands (and big views) of the Chilterns on the second half.

Can I Section I Hike It?

The Ridgeway is in two very distinct halves so it would make perfect sense to break it in two.

If you're walking the Ridgeway in sections you'll see big open countryside views across the Downs like this one.

Views across the downs near White Horse Hill (section 1)

Breaking it into two would make it easy as far as public transport goes as well. To hike the North Wessex Downs section you could get to Overton Hill as described below and then walk to the halfway point (ish) at Streatley and Goring. Streatley and Goring train station is a 10-minute walk from the trail and is operated by South Western Railway with links to London Paddington.

For the second half in the Chilterns, you’d simply pick up where you left off at Goring, walk to Ivinghoe Beacon, and then down to the railway station at Tring (which goes into London Euston). See below for more details.

Travel: The Best Way To Get To And From The Trail

A fast-looking green liveried GWR train waits at a station platform

Swindon is the nearest train station to the start of the trail (operated by GWR). (This is Reading Station, my connection to Swindon)

Public Transport

National Rail Network Maps – use these to find routes to Swindon/from Tring from across the UK

Getting To Avebury

  1. Train: arrive at Swindon railway station (operated by GWR with links from around the UK, including London Paddington and South Wales)
  2. From Swindon take bus route 49 to Avebury (Swindon to Trowbridge service operated by Stagecoach)

Leave Ivinghoe Beacon

  1. Walk to Tring railway station (This is what I did and it’s an easy downhill walk of about 3 miles.)
  2. Alternatively, you can take bus route 61 from the bottom of Ivinghoe Beacon to Tring (Aylesbury to Dunstable service operated by Red Eagle – not that regular)
  3. Tring railway station has regular services into London Euston, the Midlands, and the Northwest with connections across the UK (operated by London Northwestern Railway)
After walking the Ridgway national trail you finish at the trig point on Ivinghoe Beacon. I'm photographed at the trig with stunning far-reaching views ahead of me.

The final destination: Ivinghoe Beacon at the end of the trail

My Costs For Walking The Ridgeway In 2022

Travel Costs

Outward

  • Train: Truro to Swindon (via Reading): £46.10
  • Bus: Swindon to Avebury: £3.50

Return

  • Train: Tring To Truro (via London): £54.40
  • Excess: to catch an earlier train from Tring: £2.20
  • TOTAL TRAVEL COSTS: £106.20
Train tickets from Reading to Swindon

Follow the link below!

Check out my guide on how to get the best price train tickets.

Maps And Guides

  • Cicerone 1:25,000 OS mapping booklet of the Ridgeway £7.95
  • Trailblazer Guide: £12.99 (a gift)
  • TOTAL: £21.94

Cafes

  • Outward journey: £3.09
  • On trail: £48.10 (this always seems like a very expensive way to charge up my electronics, but it’s a great way to taste the local cakes!)
  • Homeward journey: £14.39
  • TOTAL: £65.58

I was away for 7 days (including travel) so an average of £9.36 a day doesn’t seem so bad… (note to self: stop trying to justify your addiction to coffee and cake!)

Resupply/Groceries

  • TOTAL: £26.95

5 days of on-trail groceries = an average of £5.39 a day

Foot Care

  • *Gel insoles and Compeed plasters TOTAL: £26.31

TOTAL COST: £246.98

*This would have cost a whole lot less had I bought this stuff at home. Insoles (£16.50) were £4 cheaper in Tesco and although I took one box of Compeed, I obviously needed about 3 more – and it’s cheaper in large supermarkets. You live and learn!

My Kit List For Walking The Ridgeway

Make sure your kit is as lightweight as possible and carry nothing more than you actually need (says she!)

I'm walking the Ridgway with a huge rucksack that I call The Beast. In this photo I'm smiling at the camera, wearing sunglasses and a cap and you can see The Beast on my back!

Me and The Beast! As a rule of thumb you shouldn’t carry more than 20% of your body weight

Getting it right can be difficult and in early 2021 I made some big mistakes I didn’t want to repeat. Consequently, it was time to bite the bullet and invest in some lightweight gear (my bank account is still crying!).

I’ve put an asterisk beside the investsments I made in 2021 which have significantly lightened my load

I hope this will help you if you’re thinking about buying some new gear too.

There’s so much more I need to upgrade (a tent and sleeping bag for starters), but my pockets aren’t deep so it’s always a compromise. That aside here’s what I took for walking The Ridgeway in spring (excluding food and water).

 

I'm walking the Ridgway, smiling at the camera and holding up my walking poles.

You won’t need trekking poles for walking the Ridgeway unless you need them for your tent, or, like me, you’re hobbling because there’s been no rain and the rock-hard flint paths cover the soles of your feet in blisters! Although…it probably gets very muddy and slippery after rain!

23 Ways To Care For Your Feet On A Hike Or Long Distance Walk

Rucksack

Shelter (packed in a bin bag)

  • Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent
  • Wild Country tent footprint

Cooking

  • *MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe Stove
  • 110g MSR gas canister (new/full)
  • Trangia cooking pot with lid and handle
  • *Titanium mug
  • Titanium spork
  • Victorinox Swiss army knife

Sleeping (packed in an *Osprey Ultralight Drysack)

  • *Thermorest Neoair XLite sleeping mat (women’s)
  • Sea To Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme sleeping bag liner
  • 20-year-old Coleman sleeping bag

Water

  • 2l bladder
  • 750ml Camelback bottle

First Aid (packed in a zip-lock bag)

  • 6 blister plasters (I bought more en route)
  • 2 ordinary plasters
  • Strip of wound closures
  • 1 large self-adhesive dressing
  • 1 medium self-adhesive dressing
  • 1 safety pin
  • Emergency foil blanket (used as insulation under my sleeping mat)
  • Strip of Ibuprofen
  • Strip of antihistamine
  • Tick remover

What’s In Your Outdoor First Aid Kit?

Toiletries etc (packed in a zip-lock bag)

  • Personal medication
  • Toilet paper/x4 dog poo bags
  • Plastic trowel
  • Microfibre towel (doubled as a blanket)
  • Small tube sun cream
  • Toothbrush
  • Travel toothpaste
  • Small tin Vaseline
  • Small piece of soap
  • 2 hair ties
  • Hairbrush
  • Small pack of wet wipes
  • Face mask

Clothes (Wearing)

  • *Meindl Caribe walking shoes (new this year)
  • Walking socks
  • Sports bra
  • Knickers
  • North Face lightweight walking trousers
  • Mountain Equipment long-sleeve t-shirt
  • Mountain Hardwear lightweight fleece (charity shop bargain!)
  • Lowe Alpine cap (this was ancient with plenty of sentimental value and I lost it on the trail – gutted)
  • Sunglasses (Primark because I’m always losing them)

Clothes (Packed in an old Sea to Summit Dry Bag)

  • Ayacucho waterproof jacket (pretty rubbish but it was all I could afford when I lost my Mountain Equipment Paclite jacket – seriously gutted (as in sobbing) when I lost this one!)
  • Berghaus Paclite waterproof trousers
  • Craghopper shorts
  • Mountain Equipment short-sleeve t-shirt
  • Pair of M&S merino tights (sleep)
  • Longsleeve thermal top (sleep)
  • Rab padded gilet (doubled as a pillow)
  • 3 pairs of walking socks
  • 2 pairs knickers

Gear reviews of some of the hiking gear I use

Electronics/Camera (packed in an *Osprey Ultralight Drysack)

  • Anker battery bank with cable and fast charger
  • Sony Experia phone/camera
  • Bluetooth remote
  • Selfie stick (also use it as a tripod)
  • Fitness watch and cable

Navigation

  • Cicerone map booklet (2016)
  • Clear map case
  • Compass and magnifying glass

Other

  • Petzl headtorch in Noctilght case (turns the torch into a lantern)
  • *MSR walking poles
  • *Lightweight umbrella for extreme heat/rain (90g)
  • Debit cards, train tickets, and £30 cash
  • A5 notebook and 2 pencils
  • Reading glasses
  • Personal alarm
  • Trailblazer Guide (I ran out of time to photograph what I needed before I left)

Spares (packed in an old Sea to Summit dry bag)

  • Webbing strap (for tent compression/spare/tournique!)
  • Plastic peg
  • Plastic food bag clip
  • Shoelaces
  • Bin bag for tent
  • Various food bags for packing

I wore everything I took for walking The Ridgeway and used most things except a few items from my first aid kit, spares bag, and compass. Reassuringly, there wasn’t anything I wished I had and didn’t – except a new tent on the last day! Oh, and extra blister plasters and insoles for my shoes, which I bought on the way.

Extra: Food And Water

I carried about 2 litres of water and 1300g of food most days (round it up to 3.5 kilos to give you an idea of the extra weight).

Can You Wild Camp On The Ridgeway?

Yes, you can wild camp on The Ridgeway – there aren’t many campsites so there’s not much choice!

It’s not legal in England but most of The Ridgeway is a wide track with plenty of verges so wild camping is tolerated – as long as you’re discreet and leave everything as you find it. Check out this article for the best ways to do that:

Leave No Trace – 12 Ways You Can Help

 

My small green tent is in a field in the foreground with a spectacular sunset behind

You can’t beat a good sunset!

Wild camping on The Ridgeway was really enjoyable, but don’t expect huge views – most of the time I was tucked out of the way for a few hours’ sleep.  Even so, I saw some gorgeous sunsets – oh, and I slept like a log! Incidentally,

As a ‘solo female hiker’ I felt completely safe and at ease every night

Walking the Ridgeway - a small tent is pitched just beyond a bit of scrub

My first night on the Ridgway was a stealth camp on a field edge just off the main track

 

 

My Tent Disaster!

My last night on the trail was a ‘tent disaster’. Earlier that morning, when I was breaking camp, I put my foot in a rabbit hole. My feet were so painful that I lost my balance and, you guessed it, fell on my tent and broke the one and only pole! Laugh or cry? I laughed! But I shouldn’t have because I’d ripped the pole sleeve in the process.

When I came to put my tent up that evening I wasn’t laughing quite so much…

I’d previously used my repair ‘pole sleeve’ on the Cotswold Way. So when I tried to join the pole together, with Compeed of all things (wtf!), well, you can imagine the scene!! A pole at a 90-degree angle was never going to work and all I did was rip the pole sleeve even more.

There was only one solution: turn the tent into a makeshift bivvy bag, wear everything I had, and hope a. it didn’t rain, and b. I didn’t freeze to death.

When I was walking the Ridgway I broke the pole of my tent and had to turn it into a bivvy bag on the ground. This photo shows what looks like a collapsed tent on the ground with a sleeping bag inside it!

This was my effort!

I laid out the groundsheet, then separated the inner and outer tent. The inner part of the tent (the white bit) became something to slide my sleeping mat and sleeping bag into and the flysheet (the green bit) became a waterproof blanket. And, would you believe it, I was snug as a bug in a rug – and, had a wonderful view of the starry sky to boot.

The moral of the story is? Always be prepared for the unexpected – and be inventive!

Are You New To Wild Camping?

Britain’s oldest road is a great place to get some experience

It’s one of those long-distance trails that seems to have somewhere to pitch up everywhere you look. I wild camped the whole trail without any worries about finding somewhere each night. Check out my tips for wild camping on The Ridgeway below, or this full guide:

 Guide To Wild Camping

How To Plan Your Wild Camp On The Ridgeway

This is a view from my tent, with my walking shoes in the foreground. The sun's setting on the horizon and it looks like a relaxing end to the day

Watching the sunset from my sleeping bag – because who wouldn’t!

My Top Tips For Wild Camping On The Ridgeway

  1. Use an OS 1:25,000 map or satellite image to search for potential spots
  2. Look for somewhere with a bit of level ground (easy on this trail) and preferably some shelter
  3. Stay for one night only
  4. Pitch late and leave early
  5. There are a lot of gallops and racehorse trainers on some sections of this trail – you might be woken up by horses when the jockeys put them through their paces in the early mornings!
  6. Keep away from hamlets and villages where there may be early morning dog walkers (there aren’t many on the first half of the trail)
  7. Look at the ground – what tracks are there? You might see bike tracks, hoof tracks, dog prints, etc and all of these signs will give you an idea of how busy the trail is at your chosen spot
  8. Avoid livestock (mostly sheep (I only saw one herd of cows) in fenced-off fields)
  9. Don’t climb walls or fences (you risk damaging habitat or destroying field boundaries)

There’s more information about finding a place to wild camp in my Guide to Wild Camping

Toilets

There aren’t many public toilets on the first part of the trail which means you’ll have to take a ‘wild loo break’

Take a trowel and dig a 6″ cat hole well off the path and away from water sources, and when you’ve finished, cover it with soil. (It’s important to bury it so that it decomposes quickly and doesn’t attract animals.)

Toilet paper and sanitary products need to be packed out and put in the nearest bin – take a few dog poo bags for this. (They’re also useful if you can’t dig a hole (on rocky ground, for eg) and need to pack out your waste as well.)

Use a public toilet wherever you can – they’re marked on OS 1,2500 maps with a male/female symbol. You can use cafes and pubs too

Leave No Trace – 12 Ways You Can Help.

 

Campsites On The Ridgeway

I only saw a couple of campsites within easy walking distance of the trail but unfortunately I can’t personally recommend them

That said, these two looked great and I wouldn’t have hesitated to give them a try if I’d needed to:

  • The Court Hill Centre Wantage. This is a bunkhouse less than half a mile from the trail and has a few camping pitches. I had a coffee in their cafe and the setting was idyllic
  • White Mark Farm Watlington. This Camping and Caravanning site was literally a stone’s throw from the trail in a peaceful spot. It’s just a short walk down to Watlington too, which was well worth a visit

Resupply And Finding Water

 

I'm sitting on the ground and you can see a bowl of pasta on my legs with my camping stove and rucksack beside me. The sun is low and there are some pinkish clouds over green fields

Pasta – standard wild camping fare

Tried and Tested

Groceries

All of these were well-stocked stores:

  • Swindon: Tesco (near the bus station – worth a visit before you get on the bus to Avebury)
  • Goring: Tesco (slightly off-trail beside the train station – approximately a 10-minute walk through town)
  • Watlington: Co-op (just off-trail, but Watlington’s definitely worth the walk as it’s a lovely place)
  • Wendover: Budgens (town centre – on-trail)

Pharmacies

  • Goring: Lloyds (expensive)
  • Watlington: Watlington Pharmacy (really helpful)

Cafes

When you're walking The Ridgeway head slightly off trail and enjoy a cup of coffee and a can of drink like this. The wooden picnic table in the grassy courtyard, surrounded by old single story buildings was a welcome sight.

Court Hill Cafe is the perfect place for a coffee while you watch flocks of swallows swooping about. They also have a bunkhouse and camping.

  • Wantage: The Court Hill Centre. Highly recommended. Fab, friendly people, great toastie, coffee and cake, and the perfect outdoor spot to sit and watch the swallows. (They also have a bunkhouse and a few camping pitches.)
  • Goring: Pierreponts Cafe. Good coffee and cake, not so friendly service. I was asked if I had a reservation (no) and asked to move from where I’d chosen to sit to another ‘tight-squeeze table’ right beside the toilet. None of the empty tables were marked as reserved and none of them were occupied for the whole 45 minutes I was there (including the one I initially sat at). I got the distinct impression I was not a welcome walker and was deliberately hidden from view. There are other cafes further along the road.
  • Watlington: The Granary Cafe (Facebook page) (next door to the Granary Deli). Highly recommended. Lovely atmosphere, great coffee, and food. The staff were helpful and let me charge my phone too.
  • Wendover: Whitewaters Deli (Facebook page). Highly recommended. Lots of choices and a very filling toastie! The coffee was delicious, the staff were helpful (also let me charge my phone) and there were plenty of ‘outdoor types’ (cyclists, walkers…) enjoying the spacious outdoor area too.

Drinking-Water Taps

These water taps are a lifesaver on the first half of the trail (unless you want to walk miles to the nearest village)

Keep an eye out for them because you could miss them if you’re not careful. I think I walked past one in Hallam (SU 1971 7353), near Ogbourne St George, for example.

 

When you're walking The Ridgeway national trail you'll be glad of water taps like this one. It's easy to see beside a barn on the field edge (it's a field full of yellow rapeseed at this time of year)

Idstone Hill  SU 26345 83550. (This one’s marked on a fingerpost so it’s easy to find)

 

This water tap on the Ridgway is almost covered by a dense green hedge, and when the sky's as bright blue as this you'll definitely want to fill up!

An easily-missed tap near Sparsholt Firs SU 33824 85492. It’s on your right just before Hill Barn (assuming you’re heading west to east)

 

When you're walking The Ridgeway keep an eye out for this square towered church with a 'drinking water' sign beside the gate. You'll be glad of these taps on the first half of the trail.

Holy Trinity Church, Nuffield SU 6677 8734 (day 4)

 

Other places to eat, drink, resupply, and charge your electronics that I saw along the way (not tried and tested!)

You’ll have to walk into a village to find a pub on the earlier part of the trail (marked on OS maps with a pint glass symbol – but double-check it hasn’t closed its doors or has reduced opening hours). Be warned, this could add a good few miles to your hike.

Once you get to/past Goring you’re likely to find what you need either on the trail or just off it. There were plenty of enticing-looking old pubs, where you could get a meal and possibly charge up, lots of cafes, small grocery stores, and pharmacies too.

Is There Anything I Missed?

Thanks for reading Walking The Ridgeway: The Ultimate Guide To Hiking Britain’s Oldest Road! I hope you enjoyed it and found plenty of useful info for planning your own adventure but feel free to leave a comment if you’ve got a question. I’d love to help if I can.

Why not support me to write more guides? I plan to hike all of our national trails and share everything I learn with you in guides just like this. My supporters over on my Ko-fi page helped me raise funds for part of the train ticket for hiking this trail, and now I’m fundraising for the next one! You can support me for just £3 – the price of a cup of coffee (I love a cappuccino!). (Ko-fi is where I share regular mini-updates as well, head over and follow me there too, it’ll be lovely to keep in touch.)
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Another great way to help out is to share this guide on your favourite social media apps – and pin me to your favourite Pinterest board of course!

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Happy hiking

Stephie x

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