|Length||87 miles (139km)|
|Toughness||3 out of 10 - mostly gentle ridge walking in the west, a bit hillier in the Chilterns|
OS Explorer Maps :
The Ridgeway is a National Trail and the country's oldest trail with a history of use back to megalithic time with many ancient hill forts and remains. The trail has 2 distinct parts divided by the Thames at Goring - the open, treeless Wessex Downs to the west and the wooded Chilterns to the east.
Dividing this walk into public transport friendly stages isn't easy as the western half of the trail is quite remote. If doing the walk in weekends (2 stages at a time) you may wish to do longer stages as you will not have so much travelling time. The same for the summer, when you have more daylight.
The western half of the Ridgeway has suffered from being used by 4 wheel drives and motorbikes in the past to the point of being unuseable by walkers. While this is not as bad as it was (it has been closed to road vehicles in winter for several years), the path can still be rutted and muddy in places due to horses, mountain biles, farm vehicles, and in summer after periods of rain, 4-wheel drives
For day walkers, it is very poor for public transport. In the western half, you'll need to catch a bus to the start and finish of each stage. In the Eastern half, the nearby stations are with different rail companies, so you'll need to but 2 singles rather than a day return
In Wiltshire (the western half), there is a Day Bus (£7.50 in 2013). Download leaflet (PDF).
Stage 1 - Overton Hill (near Avebury) to Ogborne St George
9.9 miles ( 16.0 km) 530 ft (160 meters)
The trail starts at Overton Hill near Avebury in Wiltshire, a small and very pictureque village surrounded by standing stones similar to Stonehenge. It follows the northen ridge of the Wessex Downs escarpement with fine views throughout. It passes Barbury Castle (ancient hill fort, free) on its way to Ogborne St George. The route is quite remote crossing only a few small road with no pubs or other facilities.
Both Avebury and Ogborne St George have bus links to Swindon which accept the Wiltshire Day bus pass. Swindon is outside the Network Card area for train travellers from London, making it an expensive journey.
Stage 2 - Ogborne St George to (near) Ashurst
9.2 miles ( 14.8 km) 775 ft (235 meters). Add 0.7 miles from the path to/from Ashurst
This stage is another remote ridge walk passing few roads, with no pubs or other facilities. It passes Liddington Castle (ancient hill fort, free) and the M4. Below the ridge to the north are a series of small villages, including Ashurst which has a bus service.
Both Ogborne St George and Ashurst have bus links to Swindon which accept the Wiltshire Day bus pass. If starting from Ashurst, ask the driver if he will drop you on the Ridgway itself, a mile or so outside of Ashurst (the bus route crosses the ridgeway by a parking area, about 1k after the Ashurst turnoff, but there is no official bus stop)
Note that Ashurst has no Sunday bus service
Thamesdown Bus 47 : Swindon - Ashurst - Lamborn. Takes 40 mins. 2 hourly, Not Sundays
Stage 3 - (near) Ashurst to (near) Wantage
Stages 3 and 4 could be done in 2 days by staying at Court Hill bunkhouse (01235 760253, formerley YHA Ridegway) which is on the path south of Wantage on the A338. It has a tea room open all day
Wantage has buses to Didcot, but the last bus is quite early, so it would be best to start from Wantage, rather than finish here - if necessary doing 1 stage in reverse. Didcot has regular fast trains to London, and is in the Network Railcars area.
Thames Travel Bus 32 : Wantage - Harwell Science Park (near Chilton) - Didcot (train station). Takes 50 mins. Hourly. Last bus about 6pm. The science park has additional services (X32) to Didcot which finish later.
Stage 4 - (near) Wantage to Goring
Another day of remote open ridge walking across open downland with fine views! Finishes by crossing the Thames to Goring
If this stage is too long, you could break it at Chilton (marked on the OS map) and have a pint at the Rose & Crown awaiting your bus. Chilton has rare buses, but the science park a mile further north is served by the same buses as Wantage on their way to Didcot
Streatley, on the other side of the Thames from Goring, has a Youth Hostel
Goring has regular trains to London (2 per hour)
Stage 5 - Goring to Nuffield
This stage has a completely different character - no more open downland. It follows the Thames north, then the bottom of the northern edge of the Chiterns to the north west
Thames Travel Bus 139 Wallingford - Nuffield - Henley. Takes 15 mins. Every 60 to 90 mins. Every 120 mins on Sunday. In practise, train tickets to Goring are accepted from Henley
Stage 6 - Nuffield to Princes Risborough
Gentle walking along the bottom of north edge of the Chilterns hills
A long stage and an expensive one by public transport. Trains to Henley and to Prince Risborough are on different lines that only meet up in central London, so you would need 2 seperate train tickets and a bus ticket as well!
Stage 7 - Princes Risborough to Wendover
A great walk through the Chilterns hills
These 2 stations are on different lines, but part of the same company, so you should be able to buy a return covering both legs of the journey. Some guards turn a blind eye, some do not.
Stage 8 - Wendover to Ivinghoe Beacon (and back to Tring Station)
A great Chilterns walk with a fitting end at Ivinghoe Beacon.
And a nice pub on your way back to Tring Station.
Tring and Wendover are on different rail company lines. You will need 2 tickets
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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