Bruton Circular via Stourhead walk

Through quiet South Somerset pastures and across a wooded ridge past Alfred's Tower folly and through the beautifully landscaped Stourhead Estate

Palladian Bridge and Pantheon across Garden Lake, Stourton (Stourhead Estate) SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

Palladian Bridge and Pantheon across Garden Lake, Stourton (Stourhead Estate)

SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

11-Jun-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Alfred's Tower, front view SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

Alfred's Tower, front view

SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

11-Jun-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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The Iron Bridge, Stourhead Estate SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

The Iron Bridge, Stourhead Estate

SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

11-Jun-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

swcwalks swcwalk342 walkicon 48079224673

Bristol Cross, Palladian Bridge and Pantheon across Garden Lake, Stourton (Stourhead Estate) SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

Bristol Cross, Palladian Bridge and Pantheon across Garden Lake, Stourton (Stourhead Estate)

SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

11-Jun-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Stourhead House, Stourton SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

Stourhead House, Stourton

SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

11-Jun-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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The Obelisk, Stourhead Estate SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

The Obelisk, Stourhead Estate

SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead)

11-Jun-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Bruton Dovecote on Pillow Mound SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead) [Dovecote and Town Loop]

Bruton Dovecote on Pillow Mound

SWC Walk 342 - Bruton Circular (via Stourhead) [Dovecote and Town Loop]

11-Jun-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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22.7 km (14.1 mi). Cumulative ascent/descent: 490m.

For a longer walk, see below Walk options.


6 out of 10

Time: 5 ½ hours walking time. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 11 hours.


OS Landranger Map: 183 (Yeovil & Frome). OS Explorer Map: 142 (Shepton Mallet & Mendip Hills East)

Walk Notes

This excursion is centred on the small remote Somerset town of Bruton, with its honey-coloured stone-built cottages, a large dovecote on a mound overlooking the townscape and a fine selection of tea options. It leads along the vigorous River Brue and through bucolic pastures up to the wooded range forming the boundary between Wiltshire and Somerset, with the dominant local landmark Alfred’s Tower, a folly, on top of it. From there you drop down through enchanting woods to the heart of the Stourhead Estate at the source of the River Stour, with its breath-taking 18th century landscaped garden with lakeside walks, grottoes and classical temples (National Trust, ticketed entry, although large parts of the garden and most notable buildings are visible from the walk route).
After lunch at the estate pub or an NT restaurant you circle back past the large Palladian mansion with views, then through a U-shaped grassy valley (by the source of the river Stour) and up through hanging woods to continue high above the Brue Valley with fine far views across the South Somerset landscape.
Towards the end the route passes the renowned art gallery Hauser & Wirth Somerset with its fascinating bar and restaurant and an optional loop routes up to Bruton’s dovecote and through town.

A start from Castle Cary (with faster and more frequent trains) adds about an hour of walking.

Walk options

An out-and-back to the Bronze Age Bell Barrow site Jack’s Castle adds 550m.
A loop through the wooded Park Hill via its Iron Age hillfort site adds 900m.
A loop at the end up to Bruton’s dovecote and through town past most tea places adds 1.5 km.
An alternative start from Castle Cary (one stop further from London along the same line, but with more frequent – and often much faster – train services) adds 5.0 km/3.1 mi and 88m ascent/descent. For a detailed description see SWC 284 Bruton Circular or from Castle Cary.


Accomodation at Stourhead:

The Spread Eagle Inn (see below).
Stourhead Holiday Cottage and Stourhead B&B
For details check:


Bruton Station is a stop on the Heart of Wessex line from Bristol to Weymouth. There is also a limited direct service from/to London Waterloo. For the fastest connection from London a change is therefore usually necessary, either in Bath Spa, Westbury or Castle Cary, journey time from 117 minutes.
Bruton Station, map reference ST 687 347, is 45 km west of Salisbury, 31 km south of Bath and 168 km south west of Charing Cross. It lies 72m above sea level and in South Somerset.

Saturday Walkers’ Club: Bruton is outside the Network Southeast Railcard zone. Off-Peak returns for morning departures can be prohibitively expensive. Advance tickets are usually the better option.


The Old Red Lion North Brewham, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0JL (01749 850 287). The Old Red Lion is located 950m off route, 5.0 km/3.1 mi into the walk.
The Spread Eagle Inn Church Lawn, The Stourhead Estate, Stourton, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 6QE (01747 840 587). The Spread Eagle is located 11.0 km/6.8 mi into the walk. Open all day. Food served 12.00-19.00 Mon-Sat and 12.00-15.30 Sun.
The Stourhead Estate Restaurant The Stourhead Estate, Stourton, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 6QD (01747 841 152). The Stourhead Restaurant is located 150m off route, 11.4 km/7.1 mi into the walk. Open all day. Hot food served 12.00-15.00 daily.

Tea (on or just off route)

The Bull Inn Hardway, Kingsettle Hill, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0LN (01749 812 200). The Bull Inn is owned by Hauser & Wirth and managed by the team behind the Roth Bar & Grill. It is located 1.0 km off route, 4.5 km from the end of the walk. This pub is currently closed.
Roth Bar & Grill Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Durslade Farm, Dropping Lane, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0NL (01749 814 700). The Roth Bar & Grill is located 730m from the end of the walk. It is named after one of the more than 60 artists Hauser & Wirth are representing: Swissman Dieter Roth, and decorated with numerous art works along its walls and off its ceiling. It includes a site-specific bar created by Björn and Oddur Roth, the son and grandson of Dieter Roth.
On weekends a booking is recommended.
The Godminster Farm Shop Station Road, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0EH (01749 813 733). The farm shop is just off route before turning up to the station and sells beautifully packaged, vintage organic Cheddar, handmade Brie, gourmet crackers, tangy chutney, infused vodka spirit & more, as well as serving hot drinks. Open to 17.00 Mon-Fri, to 17.30 Sat and to 16.00 Sun.

Tea (on a loop through town)

The Bruton Castle 45 High Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AW (01749 812 104). This pub is currently closed.
Matt’s Kitchen 51 High Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AW (01749 812 027). Open for dinner only: Thu, Fri and Sat. BYO with £3 corkage.
Hive Bruton 95 High Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AR (01749 937 420). Open to 17.00 Thu-Tue.
The Sun Inn 33 High Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AH (01749 813 493). Open all day. Homemade food served 12.00-14.30 and 18.00-22.00 daily. With a full Persian Menu in the evenings.
At the Chapel High Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AE (01749 814 070). Open daily from 08.00. Food served 12.00-21.00 Mon-Sat and 12.00-20.00 Sun. The Chapel is a Grade II listed former chapel, and the restaurant puts a Mediterranean touch to British food.
The Old Pharmacy 3 High Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AB (01749 813 111). A wine bar and deli.
Osip 1 High Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AB (01749 813 322). A farm-to-table restaurant, open Thu-Sun 12.00-14.30 and 18.00-21.30. Tends to be fully booked weeks ahead.
The Godminster Farm Shop As above.


Bruton is a small town in East Somerset along the A359 between Frome and Yeovil. The name refers to the River Brue, which flowed dramatically fast through a deep valley in the heart of the town from the steep-sided neighbouring valleys, and often flooded the town (one of the buildings still shows a water mark 6m above the normal level of the river), until a 1982 prevention scheme following yet another flood, resulting in 1984 in a protective dam being built 1 km upstream, near Cogley Wood and passed on this walk.
In medieval times Bruton Abbey was one of the great religious houses of Somerset.
With just 3,000 residents it is one of the smallest towns in England, but has three highly regarded boarding schools and traces throughout of its history, including its ancient streets of stone and stucco houses, the 14th century Church of St. Mary and 16th century dovecote that stands on a hilltop overlooking the town. There are ancient stepping stones across the River Brue, next to a 15th century Packhorse Bridge.
The centre of town is laid out in the late medieval way with restricted frontages on the main road and long strips of land behind them, known as burgage plots.
King's School (founded 1519) dominates the town, then there are Sexey's School (founded 1889 and named after Hugh Sexey) on the outskirts – just off Lusty Gardens, and Bruton School for Girls (Sunny Hill) (founded 1900).
Arts and crafts flourish here in terraced streets of historic houses, and it’s one of Somerset’s local centres of creativity, punching far above its weight. Jon Steinbeck was a resident of Discove just outside Bruton for 6 months in 1959 and today the town can boast 15 published authors. Current part- or full-time residents include: Cameron Mackintosh, Rhys Ifans, Sam Taylor-Wood and some famous fashion creatives (Phoebe Philo, Bill Amberg, Alice Temperley and Solange Azagury). Don McCullin lives in neighbouring Batcombe, as does Mariela Frostrup, while Kevin McCloud is up the road in his converted 500-year-old house. Ben Goldsmith and Nicolas Cage are also locals and it’s rumoured that Stella McCartney has bought a farm in a valley outside Bruton. A further boost has been given in 2014 by the opening of a new Hauser and Wirth art gallery, ingeniously installed in a restored farm just outside the town.

River Brue
The River Brue (supposedly meaning ‘vigorously flowing river') originates in the parish of Brewham, close to the border with Wiltshire on the westernmost edge of the high land of Cranborne Chase and the West Wiltshire Downs, and reaches the sea some 50 km west at Burnham-on-Sea. It originally took a different route from Glastonbury to the sea, but this was changed by Glastonbury Abbey in the 12th century. The river provides an important drainage route for water from a low-lying area which is prone to flooding which man has tried to manage through rhynes, canals, artificial rivers and sluices for centuries. Major tributaries are the Rivers Pitt, Alham and Whitelake.
The Brue Valley Living Landscape is an ecological conservation project based on the Somerset Levels and Moors, managed by the Somerset Wildlife Trust. Much of the area has been at the centre of peat extraction.

Alfred’s Tower
King Alfred's Tower, also known as Stourton Tower, is a folly, located at the north-western edge of the Stourhead Estate in Wiltshire. The tower stands on Kingsettle Hill and belongs to the National Trust. It is designated as a Grade I listed building. The project to build the tower was conceived in 1762 by the banker Henry Hoare II (1705-1785), owner of Stourhead and creator of its famous garden, known to his family as 'the Magnificent'. The tower was intended to commemorate the end of the Seven Years War against France and the accession of King George III, and supposedly stands near the location of 'Egbert's stone' where it is believed that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, rallied the Saxons in May 878 before the important Battle of Theandun (now Edington, south-east of Trowbridge) where the Danish army was defeated.
The tower was designed in 1765 by Henry Flitcroft, the notable 18th century Palladian architect, and despite the inspiration from St Mark's Tower in Venice, this tower is rather different: triangular in plan, with round projections at each of the three corners. One of these, furthest from the entrance door, has a spiral staircase within it by which visitors can climb the 205 steps to the top, where there is a platform with a crenelated parapet. Open outside of core winter: Sat and Sun 12.00-16.00.

Macmillan Way
The Macmillan Way is a 470 km (290 mi) waymarked long-distance footpath that links Boston, Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury, Dorset. It is promoted to raise money for the Macmillan Cancer Relief.

Leland Trail
The Leland Trail is a 51 km (32 mi) waymarked footpath through the rolling hills of Somerset from near Stourhead to near Stoke-sub-Hamdon following the route traversed by royal librarian John Leland during his 16th century survey of Britain's churches and priories. The waymark is a bust of John Leland.

Stourhead Estate
Stourhead is a 1,072-hectare estate at the source of the River Stour in southwest Wiltshire, extending into Somerset. The estate is 4 km northwest of Mere and includes a Palladian mansion, the village of Stourton, gardens, farmland, and woodland. Stourhead has been part-owned by the National Trust since 1946.
The Stourton family had lived at the estate for 500 years until they sold it to Sir Thomas Meres in 1714. His son sold it in 1717 to Henry Hoare, son of wealthy banker Sir Richard Hoare. The original manor house was demolished and a new house, one of the first of its kind, was built 1721-25. Over the next 200 years, the Hoare family collected many heirlooms, including a large library and art collection. In 1902, the house was gutted by fire but many of the heirlooms were saved, and the house was rebuilt in nearly identical style. The last Hoare family member to own the property, Sir Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare, gave the house and gardens to the National Trust, one year before his death.
The original estate remained largely intact, the main additions are: Three temples (The Temple of Ceres in 1744, the Temple of Hercules in 1754 and the Temple of Apollo in 1765); Alfred's Tower in 1772; an ornamental cottage in 1806 and a Grecian style lodge in 1816.
The lake in the gardens at Stourhead is artificially created. Following a path around the lake is meant to evoke a journey similar to that of Aeneas's descent to the underworld. Buildings and monuments are erected in remembrance of family and local history. Monuments are used to frame one another. The gardens were laid out between 1741 and 1780 in a classical 18th-century design set around the lake, achieved by damming the Stour. The inspiration behind their creation were the painters Lorrain, Poussin and Dughet, who painted Utopian-type views of Italian landscapes. Lakeside features include the five-arched Palladian Bridge, the Rockwork Bridge over the road, the 14th century Bristol High Cross, the Temple of Flora, the grotto and the Gothic Cottage summerhouse.

Stour Valley Way
The Stour Valley Way is a 103 km (64 mi) long-distance footpath from the Stourhead Estate in Stourton, Wiltshire along the course of the River Stour, mostly through Dorset to Hengistbury Head, opposite Christchurch town quay. The waymark is a Kingfisher logo.

River Stour
The River Stour is a 98 km (61 mi) river flowing from springs fed from greensand at Stourhead in Stourton, Wiltshire south into Dorset through the Blackmore Vale and Gillingham and Sturminster Newton. At Blandford Forum the river breaks through the chalk ridge of the Dorset Downs and then flows south east into the heathlands of south east Dorset. At its estuary at Christchurch it is joined by the (Wiltshire and Hampshire) River Avon before it flows through the harbour, draining into the Channel.
It is sometimes called the Dorset Stour to distinguish it from other rivers of the same name in Kent, Suffolk and the Midlands. The catchment area for the river and its tributaries is listed as being 1,240 km2 (480 mi2).

Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Hauser & Wirth Somerset is a pioneering world-class gallery and multi-purpose arts centre, featuring new and innovative exhibitions of contemporary art. In December 2012 plans were announced by Hauser & Wirth to open a new gallery and arts centre at a derelict farm on the outskirts of Bruton. It opened in July 2014. Its owners Iwan and Manuela Wirth (they were jointly ranked as the number 1 most influential figures in the art world in Art Review's "Power 100" in 2015, but down to 6th in 2018) live locally and saw the derelict 17th century Durslade Farm as a ripe opportunity to add a Hauser & Wirth Somerset to their collection of galleries in London, New York, Los Angeles and Zurich.
Durslade Farm consists of a group of Grade II listed farm buildings, and was initially built as a ‘model farm’. It sits within 100 acres of fields and woodland. The Farmhouse and outbuildings at Durslade were used during the filming of ‘Chocolat’ (2000).
The gallery also houses the Roth Bar & Grill and has a landscaped meadow garden, designed by the internationally renowned landscape architect Piet Oudolf.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset has been awarded a Civic Trust 2015 Award, and in 2014 it was the winner of the William Stansell Historic Buildings Award, for Durslade Farmhouse.

Bruton Dovecote
Bruton is dominated by its famous dovecote. It’s visible from most places in town on a neighbouring hilltop (Pillow Mound), and is the best place from which to view the town. Built in the 16th century, it was once within the deer park of the Abbey and was adapted by the monks from a gabled Tudor tower. It was at one time used as a house, possibly as a watchtower and converted to a dovecote around 1780, catering for over 200 pigeons. It is a Grade II* listed building and ancient monument and managed by the National Trust.

St. Mary the Virgin, Bruton
The church of Saint Mary the Virgin sits on an historic site at the centre of the town. The present church was started in the 12th century, but sits on the site of one of the earliest churches in England, founded by King Ine of Wessex in the 7th century AD. It is described by Pevsner as one of the proudest churches in the county. It is unusual in that it has two towers, a 14th century north one and a much larger west tower, built roughly one hundred years later. The west tower houses the oldest dated bell in Somerset (1528).
The church is shared with the Roman Catholic congregation who have a weekly Mass.

Barton derives from Old English bere (barley) and ton (enclosure) and is a local word for the narrow alleys heading off the High Street, formerly to farmyards, now to the two parallel roads, Lower and Higher Backway.

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Start BA10 0EH Map Directions


National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234


Sep-21 Thomas G

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