SWC Walk 67 : Salisbury to Amesbury via Stonehenge
A walk up the Avon valley with a magical approach to Stonehenge
25km (15.6m) for the full walk, excluding any sightseeing in Salisbury but including Old Sarum and with lunch at the Wheatsheaf Inn at Lower Woodford.
There are several options for shortening the walk – see Walk Options below.
Explorer 130 or Landranger 184 (but some paths are not shown on the latter).
Note: The main walk directions are comprehensive but the OS map (or GPS device) is particularly recommended for the short cut option across fields into Amesbury, which has not been fully checked on the ground.
|Toughness||7/10; less for the shorter options. It is a long walk but with only gentle inclines.|
This superb walk has no major climbs but covers beautiful rolling countryside and farmland with spring flowers in April and May and fields of golden barley and wheat in high summer. You have an evocative and magical approach to Stonehenge across Salisbury Plain. After passing close to the site the route takes you down the original approach used by the Druids–The Avenue–as you set off on the final leg to Amesbury and a bus back to Salisbury city centre.
There is a lot to see on this walk and what you choose to do depends very much on your interests and how far you want to walk or travel.
If you wish to visit Salisbury Cathedral this is best done before you start the walk, but you will have a long day ahead of you. If you want to spend time in the city and visit the Cathedral but do not want a long walk to see Stonehenge then you could combine sightseeing with a short walk to visit the Old Sarum hill fort (£4; English Heritage members free) in the afternoon (for details see Walk Options below).
You get excellent views of Stonehenge from outside the site. If you wish to visit the site itself you now have to book tickets in advance on-line even if you are a National Trust or English Heritage member. You could walk to the new visitor centre (a three mile round trip to the west of the site) but you may find that there are no more tickets available for the day.
Shortening the walk
Direct Route with lunch in Upper Woodford: 22.0km (13.8m). This omits any visit to Salisbury Cathedral, no visit to Old Sarum and by-passes Lower Woodford to have lunch in Upper Woodford instead.
(i) Add about 0.7km for a visit to Old Sarum.
(ii) Add 2.3km (1.4m) for the loop to have lunch in Lower Woodford.
Short cut to Amesbury
This route means you only get a long-distance view of Stonehenge.
(i) With lunch in Upper Woodford - 19.4km (12.3m).
(ii) With lunch at the recommended pub in Lower Woodford 21.6km (13.5m).
Taking a taxi or bus to Old Sarum
You could shorten the walk by 4.3km (2.7m) by starting the walk from Old Sarum. Either take a taxi from the station or catch the X5 or Activ8 bus from Blue Boar Row in the centre of Salisbury to the Old Castle bus stop, a journey of just 10 mins. For the X5 there are 2 buses an hour on Saturdays but hourly on Sundays. The Activ8 also has two buses an hour on Saturdays but just one every 80-90mins on Sundays.
To get to Blue Boar Row from the station approach go down Fisherton Street which merges into Bridge Street and then swing sharp left with the road now called Minster Street. Blue Boar Row is then first on your right. You need bus stop N.
Cathedral visit, city sightseeing and a short walk
If you would rather go sightseeing in Salisbury and not do a walk to Stonehenge then you can walk to Old Sarum from Salisbury 4.3km (2.7m) and either walk back the same way or catch a bus from Old Sarum. Depending on how much sightseeing and walking you do you can do a short walk of say between 4 and 8 miles.
|Transport||There are 2 trains an hour from London Waterloo (hourly on Sundays). The return buses X5 or Activ8 run from the library in Amesbury twice an hour on Saturdays but only once every 90 mins on Sundays. The journey time is around 25 mins with a 10 minute walk to the station.|
|Suggested train||To get to the recommended lunch-time pub in Lower Woodford at about 1.30pm then you will need to catch the 9.20am train. If you are not going to visit Old Sarum then you could catch the 9.50am train.|
|Lunch and Tea||
The recommended pub is the Wheatsheaf Inn, Lower Woodford (01722 782 203.) The pub is 9.1km (5.7m) into the walk and you should reach it by about 1.30pm. The pub serves food all day and offers simple food at affordable prices as well as a more expensive menu.
An alternative pub is the Bridge Inn, Upper Woodford (01722 782 323). This is more of a gastro-pub but only serves food until 2.30pm and the pub closes at 3pm, not re-opening until the evening. It has a lovely garden with tables overlooking the river Avon and if you check with the pub (and buy some drinks) you may be able to use this as a picnic area after they have stopped serving food. If you want to eat here then you will need to by-pass Old Sarum and keep up a steady pace to get there by 1.45-2.00pm. This pub is 9.7km (6.1m) into the walk. Parties of more than 6 should book ahead.
The 17th Century Black Horse Inn, Great Durnford (01722 782 270, groups please call ahead) is a walker friendly pub reached a little later in the walk. It stops serving food at 2pm (Sat) / 3pm (Sun), but is open all afternoon for drinks. However it does add about another 500m there and back to your onward route.
Important Note. Currently there are no cafe or toilet facilities at the actual Stonehenge site. These have been relocated to the new visitor centre away to the west. There are therefore no places to get a drink or snack after the pubs listed above until you reach Amesbury, so make sure you bring something for the long afternoon leg of the walk.
There are many places for refreshments in the centre of Salisbury. The Mill public house is recommended but it is very busy on summer evenings.
After the walk, we would really appreciate your comments
Out: (not a train station)
Start: SP2 7RS
Finish: Amesbury, Wiltshire
National Rail Enquires: 08457 48 49 50 • Travelline South East (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (10p/min from landlines) • Transport for London: 0343 222 1234
|Copyright||© Saturday Walkers Club. All Rights Reserved. No commercial use. No copying. No derivatives. Free with attribution for one time non-commercial use only. www.walkingclub.org.uk/site/license.shtml|
A) Salisbury Station to Old Sarum (4.3km, 2.7m)
- Turn left out of the station, walk down the station approach road to go down Fisherton Street on the left hand pavement. You ignore ways off and cross over the river Avon. [!] Just beyond Carwardine’s café and with a Caffé Nero in front of you turn left down the riverside path, immediately passing a church with a square tower on your right.
- To visit Salisbury Cathedral: just beyond the riverside path turn right along the High Street, which soon becomes pedestrianised up to the junction with New Street. Continue ahead at the junction with New Street and you come to the Cathedral in another 100m. Retrace your steps to continue the main walk.
- To catch a bus to Old Sarum: continue past Caffé Nero as it becomes Silver Street. This soon swings sharply left and becomes Minster Street. Where Minster Street forks you take the right fork to join Blue Boar Row where you will find the relevant bus stop.
- To continue the main walk to Old Sarum. Follow the riverside path which is also a shared cycleway alongside the river, across several minor roads and under road bridges. After 1.5km where the path bears sharp left and before it turns into a gravel path, turn right across the river over a wide wooden footbridge with Five Rivers Leisure Centre in front of you.
- [!] Once over the bridge immediately turn left along a well worn footpath with the river now on your left. This is the Avon Valley Nature Reserve. (Do not follow the footpath sign to Stratford sub Castle – that path is uninteresting – though you rejoin it later). Follow this path for 1km ignoring paths off to the right for higher ground, until the path itself swings right and regains the cycleway.
- Turn left onto the cycleway to soon emerge onto Stratford Road where you turn right (The Golden Way). Cross this road as soon as it is safe, passing a thatched stone cottage on your left to take an ancient enclosed trackway ahead of you (The Portway) to Old Sarum.
- In high summer you may find this pathway overgrown and possibly partially blocked by fallen bushes. You can walk in the large open grassy area beyond the bushes just to your right, keeping the pathway immediately to your left.
- If you stay on the pathway continue straight past the 'William Pitt Stone' which indicates the rotten nature of the borough. Ignore a path to the left to continue for 300 metres to pass through a gap in the hedge still straight ahead uphill. You ignore another path to the left and go towards the main road ahead of you. Just before the main road turn left along a track and go through a wooden gate.
- Here you have a choice - visit Old Sarum, or take the direct route avoiding it (section B2).
B1) Visit the Old Sarum settlement and continue the walk from there.
- This adds about 0.7 to 1.0km to the walk depending on how much exploring you do.
- Bear right and then sharp left up the tarmac approach road into the car park of Old Sarum where there are a shop, refreshments/snacks and public toilets. (Those coming by bus from the city centre could meet the group here).
- There are notice boards with details of the site and its ruins. Walk around either side to visit the old Cathedral ruins before descending to the north west.
- To the north west of the old Cathedral is a dip in the embankment and a causeway crossing the ramparts. Take this and descend to the outer rampart where you turn right passing through a wooden gate. After approximately 200 metres turn sharp left and descend the steep grassy bank to a stile onto the road running east - west clearly visible below you.
- This is a very steep descent and potentially slippery so you could also walk a little further along the outer rampart to find a slightly less steep slope and then walk diagonally back to a second available stile onto the road.
- At the road turn right and after either one or two hundred metres (depending on which stile you crossed), you meet the Wiltshire Cycleway (NCN 45) and you turn left on this track heading northwards. Pick up onward route at point  below.
B2) Direct route – Old Sarum to Keepers Cottage (2.19km, 1.4m)
- If you do not wish to visit the Old Sarum settlement and save some time (and possibly your knees!) do not turn left on the tarmac approach road but instead turn right immediately ignoring a gate on your left leading to an uphill path. Continue down the road and in 50m where it turns sharply right you follow a footpath sign to your left to go through two wooden gates and continue down an enclosed path.
- Continue on this path where in 400m you reach a road which you cross to go along NCN 45 ahead of you going northwards.
-  Both B1 and B2 routes continue
- You continue ahead on this wide track for the next 1.7km when after descending for a short stretch you reach the small, thatched Keepers Cottage.
- Here again you have a choice, the via the recommended lunch pub route, or the direct route (Section C2)
C1) The route to the recommended lunch-time pub the Wheatsheaf Inn in Lower Woodford.
- This adds about 2.5km to the walk but is a very pretty route and the Wheatsheaf serves food all day unlike the Bridge Inn at Upper Woodford:
- Turn left (south-west) down The Avenue, a wide tree-lined driveway, to pass Little Durnford Manor. Cross a minor road and pass through a white painted gate (operated by a green button) to snake past Home Farm, with a lovely view behind you across the River Avon.
- Continue on this private road (sometimes there is a single bar metal barrier gate across this driveway). In a further 200 metres and 10m before a small stone bridge, descend from the road to pass through a white painted wooden swing gate on your right hand side into a field beside a stream on a permissive path.
- Continue in a north, north west direction, crossing the stream by a footbridge and several stiles until you meet a minor road. Go half right here and walk for 1 km along this road (beware of potentially fast traffic) to reach the Wheatsheaf Inn.
- After lunch turn left out of the pub taking the road northwards for 0.5 km until you reach a footpath sign on your right, pass over a cattle grid and along a gravel driveway in front of a large house and then across the River Avon by several footbridges. At the end of the track which gradually ascends to a road, turn left and after then after 30 metres take the farm track half right past Salterton Farm buildings. (Here you pick up the main route from Salterton Farm to the Bridge Inn at [Section D] below.)
C2) The Direct Route - Keepers Cottage to Salterton Farm (1.26km 0.8m)
- At Keeper's Cottage, continue straight on gently uphill on a wide track through open fields for 800 metres. [!] The path then sharply narrows to go through a wooded area where you soon meet the Monarchs Way running east-west. (There is also a path across the fields ahead of you).
- You turn left here (west) to traverse the hillside on a narrow path with a fence to your left all the way down to Salterton Farm.
D) Salterton Farm to the Bridge Inn, Upper Woodford (1.95km, 1.2m)
- Both C1 and C2 routes continue.
- At Salterton Farm, take the farm track right up the hill past the farm buildings on your right and where the track swings sharp right at Eddie's Bench "A seat for you to sit and ponder..." you take the footpath to your left. Keep the field edge on your left and you soon reach a tubular steel gate to then traverse the hill down through woods. (Take care here as the path can be a little tricky in places especially when it’s wet).
- Eventually you reach a minor road, where you turn right, to progress through the hamlet of Netton. You ignore three turnings off to the right and pass a number of thatched cottages to eventually reach a T-junction after 1.3km at Woodford Bridge. Turn right at the T-junction to reach the Bridge Inn, an alternative if a little pricey lunch stop and with restricted opening times.
E) The Bridge Inn to the start of the short cut to Amesbury (5.7km, 3.5m)
- Continue past the Bridge Inn to go along the road for 200 metres. Ignore a footpath to your left and in a further few metres turn right with a footpath sign down a gravel drive past Shepherd's Close House. Follow the track round past horse paddocks. Ignore all tracks off to private houses.
- Eventually the track turns into a muddy lane and a grassy path heading north east. After 1.5km ignore a footpath to your left to then drop sharply with the path down to the river where there is a wooden bridge across to the village of Great Durnford and the Black Horse pub.
- Possible detour to the Black Horse pub. Although the pub closes in the afternoon it is worth a short detour to see the mill, gardens and some pretty cottages in the village. The Black Horse is a small, quirky country pub 100 metres along the road to the left in Great Durnford. Retrace your steps across the weir to rejoin the main route.
- The onward route does not cross the river. It continues gradually uphill in a northerly direction, crossing a tarmac driveway, and reaching a minor road after 800 metres. To your right this road drops down into the village of Lake, but you cross the road half-left to a two-armed footpath sign, and head due west along the top of the field on a path alongside a beautiful wooded hillside This is the beginning of the bronze age landscape, a special part of the walk. (A more modern phenomenon is Sting's country mansion and remnant of a large man-made lake away to your right.)
- The path traverses the wooded hillside which used to house a bronze age village settlement. The path turns right down to the road alongside a wire fence. At Lake Bottom, the name of the area, turn left along the track past the ruins of a small well house where the path turns gently right. Follow this very wide byway for 1.5 km all the way to Springbottom Farm.
- With Springbottom Farm buildings in front of you take the path to the left, immediately passing a barn on your right. After 150m bear right along a very broad grassy track with horse paddocks either side. You are heading northwards.
- After about 1.5km on this track in a beautiful open landscape Stonehenge appears magically on the horizon. Here there are information boards about the area. Just beyond these you pass through a wooden farm gate where you have a choice: to get closer to Stonehenge and then the long route back to Amesbury or take a short cut to Amesbury.
- Here you have a choice - the main route to Stonehenge, or for the short cut to Amesbury see [F2] below.
F1) Getting closer to Stonehenge and then the long route back to Amesbury (6.7km 4.2m)
- The recommended route to get closer to Stonehenge is to turn left (west) along a permissive path. In 400m you reach a T-junction where you turn right on a byway. In 600m you reach a very busy main road which you need to cross with great care (and patience!).
- After negotiating the main road you continue ahead along the wide byway where in 700m you cross the former access road to the Stonehenge site, now around 150m to your right.
- Cross the former access road and continue ahead along the dirt track. In 60m you turn right through a wooden gate and follow the fence edge to your right. You follow a permissive footpath sign keeping the fence boundary just away to your right.
- Behind a fence Stonehenge and crowds of people are soon visible just 50m away to your right.
- [!] You continue along the fence edge until you reach a single standing stone 25m directly away to your right and with Stonehenge a further 25m beyond this. Here you turn left directly away from the standing stone and Stonehenge to go down a faint wide track in a shallow depression heading East North East. This is The Avenue – the original route of the Druids.
- You are going gently downhill across a vast field with trees in the far distance ahead of you. In 600m you reach a cross paths with a clear grassy track crossing from east to west. You continue ahead with a field boundary fence now in view 200m ahead and away to your right.
- In 150m the faint track starts to swing right and you follow this towards a field gate 80m ahead of you. Go through the gate with a footpath arrow on it. Keeping to the direction of the arrow you continue ahead gently uphill on no clear path. Your onward route is to head for the middle of a gap between two clumps of trees some distance ahead of you. (To further help position yourself later on you should see a cattle trough and feeding station in the field 50m away to your right.)
- After 400m as you near the top of the long gentle incline you should see a field fence and a gate ahead of you in the middle of a gap between two clumps of trees. Head for this gate and when you reach it look back and enjoy the superb views of Stonehenge and the ancient landscape around you. On the other side of the fence there is also an information board.
- Go through the gate and turn left down a grassy path. In 250m turn right to find the signposted route to Amesbury. For the next 3 km follow the stony farm track, ignoring all ways off, to a main road. On your way information boards describe how someone in the recent past has planted clumps of trees to illustrate the formation of ships in the Battle of the Nile.
- You exit onto the main road along side a five bar wooden field gate. Turn right (south) to follow the road into Amesbury town centre. (There is a bus stop here for the 5/6 service which would take you through Amesbury and on to Salisbury, but there is no timetable so it is better to continue into Amesbury where there is an additional bus service, the Activ8).
- Use the pedestrian underpass to cross the very busy A303. After a short uphill stretch you descend quickly into Amesbury. Turn right down the High Street soon passing the George pub on your right. Continue down the High Street to then turn left into Salisbury Street. The Bus Station at the end of Salisbury Street is now closed so you turn left at the roundabout onto the busy A345 and then in a few metres bear right into Smithfield Street where there are bus stops by the library for your journey back to Salisbury. Continue at [G].
F2) Shortcut to Amesbury to the East (4km 2.5m)
- At the permissive path turn right (east) and continue along the field boundaries. You start by going slightly downhill but then the path gently climbs. In about 1.5km you pass the Coneybury Hill Plantation on your left and a little way further on you come to a tarmac road.
- Here you have a choice.
- To continue on tarmac roads all the way to the bus stops at Amesbury library. (This road may have quite a bit of traffic).
- At the road turn left to soon pass Coneybury House on your left and then other buildings and houses again on your left. The road eventually swings sharply to the left and a little further on you reach a T-junction where you turn right. Continue down this road (Stonehenge Road) with a wooded area to your left and houses to your right.
- You continue on the road as it swings left to cross the river Avon - the road is now called Church Street. 180m after crossing the river Avon you turn right into Salisbury Street. Continue to the end of Salisbury Street to turn left at the roundabout onto the busy A345 and then in a few metres bear right into Smithfield Street where there are bus stops by the library for your journey back to Salisbury. See [section G]
- To continue on a route across fields to Church Street .
- Cross the road to take a winding path towards the river Avon. You negotiate water channels to then cross a bridge over the river Avon. [!] Here you need to keep ahead for a short distance to pick up a riverside path which now heads away from a sharp bend in the river going broadly east across a field. You cross a track to continue on the path to reach the river Avon where you bear right with the river immediately on your left.
- In 50m you turn left to cross a bridge over the River Avon and take a left hand fork to soon join up with Recreation Road. You pass Riverside Avenue on your left and then Amesbury cemetery on your right. You then meet the main road, Church Street, and turn right here to soon cross the river Avon.
- 180m after crossing the river Avon you turn right into Salisbury Street. Continue to the end of Salisbury Street to turn left at the roundabout onto the busy A345 and then in a few metres bear right into Smithfield Street where there are bus stops by the library for your journey back to Salisbury.
G) Amesbury to Stonehenge
- Catch either bus No.5/6 or bus Activ8 back to Salisbury. On a Sunday they run at approx 1.5 hourly intervals.
- In Salisbury alight at Market Square then cross to Minster Street and follow the signposts to the railway station. On the way you will pass a Wagamama and then The Mill public house set back from the river. Allow yourself 10 minutes to walk to the station.