For much of its route, The Ridgeway National Trail follows part of an ancient track, the Great Ridgeway, which once ran from Dorset to Norfolk and which has been dubbed ‘the oldest road’ in Britain. It winds its way through some of the most intensively farmed parts of England and yet is enormously wide. Even 100 years ago, so Richard Jefferies tells us, The Ridgeway was feeling the pressure of encroaching agriculture: ‘It is not a farm track: you may walk for twenty miles along it over the hills; neither is it the King’s highway... Plough and harrow press hard on the ancient track, and yet dare not encroach upon it. With varying width, from twenty to fifty yards, it runs like a green ribbon...’
This route can be made into a two-day walk by staying overnight at Liddington.
In common with many sections of the route, the next few miles of track have been subject to work to remove the worst of the ruts and improve surface drainage. The path is still climbing, crossing the minor road from Ogbourne to Aldbourne, but this is easy to forget as the views westwards open out, and it is possible to trace the course of the route from Barbury Castle.
About a mile (1.6km) away down the right-hand track on Whitefield Hill lie the remains of the village of Snap, a settlement which is known to have been well established in 1377 but which steadily declined and was finally abandoned in the early part of the 20th century.
The Ridgeway itself does not deviate to visit Snap but continues ahead towards Liddington Castle. This Iron Age hill fort was beloved of Richard Jefferies, who was born at nearby Coate, and at 911ft (278m) it is the highest point on the trail. Liddington may be reached by a permissive path from The Ridgeway.
From Liddington Castle it is only 2 miles (3.2km) by minor roads across the Wanborough Plain and over the M4, to Fox Hill. If you are making the walk into a two-day jaunt, you can take the B4192 to Liddington and spend the night at Meadowbank House, a contemporary B&B.
There is room for parking at the bottom of Fox Hill, where The Ridgeway shrugs off its coat of tar macadam and strikes off with single-mindedness northeastwards. Below this section of the ridge is the pretty village of Bishopstone, with its thatched cottages gathered around a large pond. The scarp
between The Ridgeway and the village carries a fine series of strip lynchets — contouring terraces formed over a long period of time by regular ploughing around the steep downland slopes. Just beyond Bishopstone a track runs off south towards the National Trust property of Ashdown House standing in the grounds of Ashdown Park.
This section of the route lies slightly behind the northern edge of the Downs which, together with the almost continuous hedges, give an enclosed feeling to the walking.
Despite signposts to the ancient monument, it is almost possible to walk past Wayland’s Smithy without noticing the presence of the barrow in a hanger of beeches some 50yds (45m) off the track.
Beyond the Smithy lies one of the most familiar parts of The Ridgeway, as it ascends on a track towards the ramparts of Uffington Castle. Some 600yds (545m) before reaching the castle, a track leads off left towards the car park on Woolstone Hill, but before finishing this section of the route, carry on up to the fort for spectacular views out over the Vale of White Horse.
Wide story or grassy tracks, roads
Huge vistas down to the darkling plains below, woods, farmland, Iron Age forts
On lead if you encounter livestock
OS Explorer 157, 170
On street in Ogbourne St George
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.