Rowlands Castle Grand Circular walk

Long walk via Kingley Vale SSI, Beacon Hill, and the South Downs ridge


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Option Post # Weather
Sat, 22-Apr-23 Scottish Warm-up: Rowlands Castle Circular (from Grand to Petit) 8 mostly sunny conditions
Sat, 15-Jun-19 Rowlands Castle Grand Circular
Sat, 19-May-18 Rowlands Castle (Grand) Circular 9 bright blue clear skies

SWC Walk 68 and 313: Rowlands Castle Circular t=swc.313

Distance: Something for everyone – From the Grand Circular of 23 miles/37 km to the Petit Circular of 10 miles/15 km with various options in between. SWC walks 68 and 313 are both circular routes from Rowlands Castle and share a lunch pub (except the shortest SWC 68 option) – so it is possible to mix and match the routes to create a walk of desired length.

Difficulty: 12 out of 10 for the full Grand Circular; 7 out of 10 for the main SWC 68 walk (3 out of 10 for the shorter walk and 8 out of 10 for the extended walk)

Train: For those aiming for the Grand Circular, take the 8:00 AM Portsmouth Harbor train from London Waterloo, changing at Haslemere (arriving 8:53 and departing 8:57) to arrive at Rowlands Castle at 9:23. All others can take the 9:00 AM Portsmouth Harbor train from London Waterloo, changing at Haslemere (arriving 9:53 and departing 9:57) to arrive at Rowlands Castle at 10:23.

Return trains from Rowlands Castle are hourly at 28 past the hour until 20:28; then 21:45 and 22:46. Buy a day return to Rowlands Castle.

There are very few walks in the SWC SE repertoire that have over 1000 meters of ascent and the RC Grand Circular is one of them – so perfect for those aspiring to reach the summit of Munros on the upcoming Scottish trip. However, others should not despair, as there are plenty of options between the two Rowlands Castle walks to devise a walk of desired length. For example, you can do the longer morning of walk 313 with the shorter afternoon of walk 68 OR start with the shorter morning and do a longer afternoon. I will note though that the longer morning of SWC 313 covers some terrain not visited on other SWC walks -- so is worth an exploration.

All the routes cover a lovely section of the western part of the South Downs with undulating hills and great views far and wide. You can find more information about the walks and download the walk instructions here (SWC 68) and here (SWC 313).

The recommended lunch spot is the Royal Oak (01243 535 257) in Hooksway (8 miles/13 km into the SWC 68 walk and 11 miles/18km into the SWC 313 walk) which serves food until 2:00pm – so do keep an eye on the time. Tea and other post walk refreshments can be had at the Castle Inn -- a stone’s throw from the train station.

Enjoy the walk (which ever route you choose)!

  • 23-Apr-23

    Six emerged from the early train (which was about 10 minutes delayed) and quickly dispensed with formalities to promptly set off knowing they had a long way to go before lunch. The route begins in familiar territory but soon branches further afield towards Stoughton and Kingly Vale -- through stunning rolling countryside -- looking really fab -- a solid show of bluebells, several oilseed rape fields in blossom, trees just leaving out -- a riot of spring color! At the Devil's Humps we spent some time enjoying the fine views far and wide before we traveling on to Hooksway for lunch, arriving as planned about 1.45pm and at exactly the same time as two others from the later train, making for 8 in total. After an enjoyable lunch, the two from the later train continued on the route 68 main walk and the remaining 5 pub lunchers plus 1 picknicker continued on the Grande Circular route. The afternoon route was also very enjoyable with fine views and woods awash in wild garlic, some of which was just starting to flower. The 5 lunchers stopped at the Red Lion for some much-needed rehydration (some with puddings) before the final push back to Rowlands Castle -- arriving about 8pm -- time to gather some provisions and a quick drink in the pub before catching the slightly delayed 8:28pm! A fine grande day out in great company and mostly sunny conditions .

  • 23-Apr-23

    I should have realised you were the SWC group, sorry. I was in the red jacket on the same train home when one of you spoke to me. Inspired by this SWC walk for the day, I did 15 miles starting at 12.30. fantastic day, but I had few words at the end.

  • 23-Apr-23

    hi anonymous, glad you enjoyed the walk, hope you can join us on a future walk.

Sat, 15-Jun-19 : Rowlands Castle Grand Circular ?

Length: 37km (23m)
Transport: Take the 8:00 train from London Waterloo, change at Haslemere to arrive at Rowlands Castle at 9:22. Return trains from Rowlands Castle leave hourly at xx:46.
Toughness: >10

This long walk explores the area to the east of Rowlands Castle, including a Saxon Church, Bronze age burial mounds on top of a ridge and a nature reserve with a curious collection of yew trees. The afternoon traces more familiar paths along the South Downs way across Beacon Hill and a finish through Chalton and (hopefully) a sunset walk across the downs to back to Rowlands Castle.
I would like to propose the White Horse as lunch pub which you reach after 16km. 2km further on there is the Royal Oak which serves food only until 14:00.
This is a strenuous walk with several steep climbs !

You can shorten the walk slightly by walking the morning or afternoon section of SWC.68 (Rowlands Castle Circular) and switch to/from this walk at the Royal Oak.

  • Anonymous

    Going. Thanks for scheduling.

  • Anonymous

    Hi. Why so early a start? It's a long walk, but a long day. New to grouo and hoping for a good turnout. Cheers.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Dirk thanks for posting this very long walk. Love to attend but could only do the 16 miles. Last bus from South Harting to Petersfield is 16.34 and not sure if I can catch it. Failing that is another 4 miles to Petersfield station or a share taxi if other members are dropping out at 16 miles. Anyone interested in the 16 miles? Monica.

  • Anonymous

    Plan to do the 16m or so Rowlands Cross Circular, not the Grand Circ. Getting 9am train.

  • Anonymous

    Dirk thank you for posting.

    What time will we (average walkers) get to the White horse pub for lunch?

    Have you booked a table?

    Is it possible to get to Uppark House by 4.30 pm when the bus leaves, if stopping for pub lunch?


    The lunch monitor

  • Anonymous

    Hi Dirk,

    Please respond to TLM's question. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I will come if I manage to catch the 6:49 train...


  • 13-Jun-19

    Re below questions: It is about 16km to the White Horse, we start walking at about 9:30 and should be at the pub at about 13:00, which requires an average walking pace of about 4.5km/h, doable, but no dillydallying possible. From the pub it is about 8km to the bus stop near Uppark House. Assuming that the pub serves speedily we could be off by 14:00, which gives you about 2.5 hours to catch the bus at 16:34 which requires an average pace of 3.2km/h. However, there are several steep climbs between lunch and Uppark House. So, it is possible to catch the bus, but you need to walk at a brisk pace.

    Alternatively, if there are several walkers who would like to finish the walk early you could walk down to South Harting (less than 1km) and get a taxi from there to Petersfield.

    I have not reserved a table. Depending on numbers and weather (they have a patio) I will do so at the station.

  • Anonymous

    The White Horse is closed tomorrow for a wedding.

    The Lunch Monitor

  • 14-Jun-19

    Then it will be the Royal Oak. They are open.

  • Anonymous

    n = 7

    w = sunshine and cloud, with one shower

    Seven (one new to the movement) started the walk at 9.25 and kept up a fast pace, reaching the friendly Royal Oak by around 1.30, all doing the Grand Circular route up to this point. The Christmas pudding - available all year round - was a hit with one walker, while two others enjoyed the apple crumble. Another reported that the venison pie was satisfactory but doubted whether the meat had ever formed part of a deer. Four then continued with the Grand Circular route (24m), while three took the shorter Circular (16m or so). I'm told the quartet found the second half of the walk even better than the first and that they stopped at two other pubs, getting the 7.47 train (I think) back. The trio had an interesting and largely food-oriented chat curated by the genial ex-chef in our number. A great day for all concerned in great company with plenty of new and old memories shared. Thanks to Dirk for scheduling it.

  • Anonymous

    Plus copious orchids on the walk including a greater butterfly orchid alongside the path before the Royal Oak (making six orchid species in all) plus a magnificent beech then yew lined avenue and last but not least, a wooded glade of Solomon's seals. A kestrel also inspected the walkers. Three of the walkers on the longer walk felt the need for further refreshment at the Red Lion and caught the 19:45 train leaving the other to catch the 18:45 with plenty of time to spare.


Length: 37km (23m) or 25km (16m) or something in between
Toughness: 10+/10 or 9/10 or something in between
Transport: For the Grand Circular (313) morning leg take the 8:00 from London Waterloo, change at Haslemere and arrive at Rowlands Castle at 9:21. For the circular (68) morning leg take the 9:00 from London Waterloo, change at Haslemere and arrive at Rowlands Castle at 10:21. Return trains are at xx:46 with the odd 17:32 thrown in.

This is the first outing of this new walk. It visits all the highlights towards the north-east of Rowlands Castle: A "Saxon" church at Stoughton, a yew tree forest and bronze-age burial mounds in the Kingley Vale Nature Reserve (morning leg), a remote pub in the middle of nowhere and magnificent views from Beacon Hill. The landscape the walk passes through feels remote, as if time has stood still from a more pastoral era.

The full Grand Circular (walk 313) is a very tough walk: It is long and includes several steep climbs. In addition, it is 18km to the recommended lunch pub, The Royal Oak at Hooksway, which stops serving food at 14:00. This means you would need to be able to cover this distance in about 4.5 hours. However, there is a fall-back option: The White Horse, 15.5km from the start which serves food until 15:00. Hence the following idea: Those who want to do the Grand Circular morning leg take the 8:00 train, those who want to have a more leasurely morning take the 9:00 train and walk the morning leg of walk 68 (This will not lead to Stoughton nor Kingley Vale Nature Reserve). Both walks meet at the lunch pub The Royal Oak (provided the grand circulars manage to get there in time). After lunch you then have again two options: Take walk 68 back to Rowlands Castle or follow walk 313 via Chalton (nice pub) and a beautiful sunset walk across the downs back to Rowlands Castle. This afternoon section is again about 18km, but now without the pressure of a closing lunch pub.

There is also a bus crossing the afternoon section of walk 313 6km after lunch which can take you back to Petersfield.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone for the circular walk catching the 0900hr train?

  • 20-May-18

    5 regulars and 1 neophyte emerged on the platform in Rowlands Castle immediately setting off under bright blue clear skies . A brisk pace was set over fears of not reaching the lunch pub (10 miles away) in time -- though time was taken to admire some stunning views from the tops of some hills not previously explored by the SWC. We arrived at the lunch pub in ample time and enjoyed our lunches in shade in the garden. Towards the end of lunch, we were joined by 2 from the later train who decided to reverse walk the new morning route. After lunch, we bumped into yet another off an even earlier train who had paid a visit to Uppark -- making a total of 9 on this new long walk. Towards the end of the walk, we stopped in the lovely Red Lion in Charlton for early evening bevies before completing the final stretch over and along the downs in beautiful evening light -- a super ending for a grand day out! Most caught the 19:46 and 2 the 20:46 (after a meal at the Castle Inn). This new route is interesting and varied with grand views and nice Woodlands with loads of wild garlic.