The Ridgeway National Trail: Britain’s Oldest Road

The Ridgeway National Trail lies in a remote area of southern central England. It’s known as the oldest road in the nation and runs for a total of 87 miles from Avebury to Ivinghoe. This ancient road was believed to have been used by travelers ever since prehistoric times. A journey along the entire route usually takes about six to seven days to complete.

The Ridgeway National Trail

There is an abundance of natural beauty along the trail and you’ll pass by rolling downland, numerous archaeological monuments, Iron-Age forts, castles, valleys, woods, hills, grasslands, nature reserves, and famous chalk figures of horses that have been carved into the chalk hills. You’ll also pass by many charming and picturesque small towns and villages.

The hike isn’t really strenuous and if you have the time you shouldn’t have a problem going the entire way. There are a few hills along the trail, but nothing too strenuous. The trail is also ideal in many parts for cyclists and horseback riders. In fact, on the west side of the River Thames the whole trail can be used by horses and bikes while sections to the east of the Thames are also ideal.

There are plenty of historical sites along Ridgeway, such as the Avebury World Heritage Site, Chiltern Hills, Streatley, Thames Valley, and Uffington Castle. Some of the communities that are located close to the hike include Marlborough, Goring, Wantage, Watlington, Wallingford, Wendover, and Princes Risborough. You can access many of the places along the way by bus.

The route has been traveled for thousands of years by all types of people, including farmers, traders, soldiers, and even invading armies. The road used to stretch for close to 250 miles from the coast in Dorset all the way to the Norfolk coast. It provided a high-ground path for travelers which was drier and less wooded than some of the other options.

There are many remains along Ridgeway that were left in the New Stone Age by Britain’s earliest farmers. In the Bronze Age, the Avebury Circle was created by huge stones. The Iron Age then brought about the building of hill forts and then the Romans controlled the area starting in the early first century. Most of the forts are built on the highest areas of the trail and Uffington Castle is actually the highest point on Ridgeway. Vikings and Saxons used the pathway during the Dark Ages when they were headed to battle in Wessex. The route was then often used by drovers and farmers as they moved livestock along it.

If you’re interested in hiking the trail for more than one day you’ll find quite a few options when it comes to accommodations. There are plenty of choices for overnight stays such as bed and breakfasts, inns, hotels, hostels, campgrounds, and caravan sites. There are even places where you can keep your dogs and/or horses for overnight stays.

A hike on any part of the Ridgeway National Trail will allow you to view some breathtaking countryside, quaint communities and ancient historical sites.


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