This modern hotel is located in a lovely country location between Newbury and Basingstoke and…
Due to the steep gradient leading to the summit of Beacon Hill, the highest point of the North Hampshire Downs at 857ft (261m), it’s advisable to climb the hill at the start of the walk. Don’t miss the Earl of Carnarvon’s grave and the views across to Highclere Castle (open spring and summer).
Set within a landscape of parkland and wooded hills designed by ‘Capability’ Brown between 1774 and 1777, Highclere Castle is a magnificent pastiche of a medieval castle, impressively grand inside and out. But Hampshire’s largest mansion is actually early Victorian, designed and built inneo-Elizabethan style by Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament, between 1839 and 1842 around an earlier house. It is the home of the Earls of Carnarvon and the sumptuous interior, particularly the great hall, the library, the Rococo-style drawing room and the dining room, are adorned with fine portraits of the Earl’s family, the Herberts.
Of the seven Earls of Carnarvon that have resided at Highclere, it is the 5th earl. George Herbert that was fascinated by Egypt and archaeology from an early age and, after a serious accident in 1902, he spent time recuperating there. From 1906 he began sponsoring archaeological investigations, employing Howard Clark, an expert Egyptologist. In 1922, after years of excavating in the Valley of Kings near Thebes, they discovered the tomb ofTutankhamun and treasures that had been buried for over 3,000 years. The5th Earl died a year later from an infected mosquito bite, which led to thestories of the curse of Tutankhamun. His body was returned to England and, as instructed, he was buried at the top of Beacon Hill overlooking his beloved estate. Much of his collection was sold after his death, but some artefacts were discovered in a hiding place in the castle in 1987. You can see these on display as you tour the mansion. You’ll probably recognise a lot of the rooms as they provide the sumptuous backdrop to Downton Abbey.
Climb Beacon Hill by following the path on the opposite to the parking area. Retrace your steps, leave the car park via the access road and cross the A34 bridge to reach a T-junction. Take the footpath opposite, downhill to a gate and walk along the field’s edge to Old Burghclere. Pass beside the churchyard wall and Burghclere Manor. Continue down the drive and go through a gate onto a lane and then proceed ahead, crossing the old railway bridge and taking the path left to enter a field via a kissing gate.
Keep to the left-hand field edge, leaving through a kissing gate and enter woodland. After a few steps, bear left onto the old trackbed. Turn right and follow the track and later a narrow path for half a mile (800m) to a bridge.
Bear left up a chalky path just before the bridge and turn right over the bridge. Gently descend to a lane, turn left and then right, signed ‘Ecchinswell’. After 50yds (46m), take the waymarked bridleway left. Keep to this tree-lined path to a gravel drive and turn left.
At the imposing gates, go through the side gate and follow the track through the grounds of Earlstone Manor, passing ponds, and exit through a gate, then pass a pair of cottages. Proceed through or close to woodland for a mile(1.6km) to a road. Keep ahead along Church Lane in Burghclere, signed to Sandham Memorial Chapel, passing the primary school on your left.
Turn left by the church and keep to the road, crossing over the former railway line and continuing past the Memorial Chapel and the Carpenters Arms, before turning left along a metalled dead-end lane. Pass Ashold Farm, then take the footpath right before the road bends between gardens to a stile. Skirt round Budd’s Farm across three fields via three more stiles and then go right on the path through trees to a stile.
Turn right along the field edge, following it left at the corner. Drop down to a fingerpost and turn right along a boardwalk into woodland. At a broken stile, turn right along the woodland edge, then right again over a plank bridge to a gate.
Keep ahead across the pasture towards Ridgemoor Farm. Pass a pond to a gate and track. Turn right, then where it bears right, turn left up a wooded sunken path which rises steadily to reach a track.
Turn left to a crossroads and turn right. Head uphill and keep to the undulating track for 0.5 miles (800m) to Old Burghclere. Turn left along the lane and then right along the drive to Burghclere Manor. Retrace your outward steps back to the Beacon Hill car park.
Tracks, field and woodland paths, some roads, 6 stiles
Open downland and farmland, with patches of woodland
Keep on lead on Beacon Hill March to July and around livestock
OS Explorer 144 Basingstoke, Alton & Whitchurch
Beacon Hill car park off A34
None on route
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Hampshire’s varied landscape of hills and heaths, downlands and forests, valleys and coast is without rival in southern England. Combine these varied landscapes and terrains with secluded and idyllic villages, complete with thatched and timber-framed cottages and Norman churches, elegant Georgian market towns, historic ports and cities, restored canals and ancient abbeys, forts and castles, and you have a county that is paradise for lovers of the great outdoors.
If you’re a walker, stride out across the high, rolling, chalk downland of the north Hampshire ‘highlands’ with far-reaching views, walk through steep, beech-clad ‘hangers’ close to the Sussex border. Or perhaps take a gentler stroll and meander along peaceful paths through unspoilt river valleys, etched by the sparkling trout streams of the Test, Itchen, Avon and Meon. Alternatively, wander across lonely salt marshes and beside fascinating coastal inlets or, perhaps, explore the beautiful medieval forest and heathland of the New Forest, the jewel in Hampshire’s crown.
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