Believed to be England’s oldest road, The Ridgeway is not just a trail but a pilgrimage for those willing to walk its 87 miles (139km) length.
For at least 5,000 years, this road was used by traders, armies, drovers, and now adventure seekers. However, you don’t have to walk the entire length to enjoy its treasures. From Uffington’s White Horse to the acclaimed stone circles of Avebury, this path is sprinkled with history.
So, if you are planning a day out soon, don’t forget to visit our top ridgeway historical sights!
An Introduction to Historical Sights on the Ridgeway Trail
Our list of historical sites starts from the Western end of the trail (Avebury in Wiltshire) and finishes at the Eastern end of the trail (Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire). As the route is 139km long, we’ve chosen locations dotted evenly throughout the trail.
So, no matter where you are along the stretch, you’ll find something accessible. Or better yet, strap on your walking boots and tackle the full trail!
Map of 7 Historical Sights on Ridgeway Trail
Avebury Stone Circle (Avebury)
Estimated age: 2850 BC
The Ridgeway Trail is renowned for passing through some of the country’s most important Neolithic (10,000-4,500 BCE) sites.
Avebury Stone Circle is one of the largest prehistoric circles in Britain and Europe. Although debated, many researchers believe the area was used for pagan spiritualism and worship. While the Avebury and Stonehenge site is believed to be built by the same people, Avebury’s circles are older.
Visiting the circles is an absolute must for anyone on the Ridgeway Walk; the sheer enormity of the stones is breath-taking. The entire site is made up of 98 sarsen stones, all of varying sizes, and they can easily be walked around.
Here’s more information on Avebury on our article about Avebury’s History and Pagan rituals
Barbury Castle (Swindon)
Estimated age: 700 BC
Not far from Avebury lies an ancient Iron Age hill fort, Barbury Castle. The site was believed to be occupied over 2500 years ago by Anglo Saxons and later, Romans.
While all the buildings have been destroyed, deep trenches surround the fort, outlining where defences would have been placed. Additionally, its high position means that the views are often spectacular. Visiting the fort on a clear and bright day will give you wonderful views of the Cotswolds and River Severn.
The Ridgeway Walk runs straight through the site, so it’s impossible to miss. Equally, day visitors can park close to the site in a public car park, giving you lots of opportunities to enjoy this section of the trail.
West Kennet Long Barrow (Marlborough)
Estimated age: 3650 BC
West Kennet Long Barrow is the second Neolithic site on our list. While some people argue the stone structures aren’t as impressive as the Avebury stone circles, we beg to differ.
This long barrow is one of the largest Neolithic graves in Britain. Historians believe that local communities used the barrow as a final resting place for men, women, children, and even animals. Its large domineering stones at the front of the barrow suggest that it was a site of great importance.
Curiously, the entrance to the barrow was purposefully blocked by stones during the end of the Neolithic period. Roman coin stashes have also been found buried close to the structure. All in all, it’s a very mysterious and important site on the trail and worth visiting if you’re a history nut.
Uffington White Horse (Uffington)
Estimated age: Between 1740 and 210 BC
Why craft a simple, wooden horse statue when you can carve a 360ft sculpture out of chalk? Clearly, Britain’s ancestors were bold and ambitious when it came to their artwork; the Uffington White horse is evidence of that.
Located just outside of Swindon, the site has been regarded by The Guardian as a “masterpiece of minimalist art.” While chalk horses can be found throughout the country, the Uffington horse is believed to be the oldest. However, its purpose still remains a mystery.
Scholars argue whether it’s simply a tribal symbol of power or specially aligned with the sun to represent spiritual belief. Interestingly, the chalk horse has to be scrubbed regularly as the area can easily become dirty and overgrown.
While the best angle of the horse is arguable ariel, visitors can appreciate the vastness of the carving by visiting it personally. Luckily, the Ridgeway Trail passes right next to the horse, and again, there’s a car park for others.
St Botolph’s Church (Swyncombe)
Estimated age: 1000 CE
Built in the 11th century, St Botolph’s church sits cosily in Swyncombe village. While it looks unassuming from the outside, like many churches in Britain, it has a rich history.
Saxon workers likely constructed the building itself during the Norman invasion. Because of this, it’s unsurprising that it’s so close to the Ridgeway Walk, which functioned as an important trade route for years.
If visiting, make sure to view the stunning stain-glass windows that feature principal local figures such as Abbot Herluini. The perfect time to visit this area is around February, when local paths are littered with white snowdrops.
It’s also worth noting that local residents still use the church, so it’s important to be respectful and quiet when visiting. Additionally, parking is fairly limited around the area.
Coombe Hill (Chiltern Hills)
Estimated age: 1904 CE (Boer monument)
Coombe Hill is an area of chalk grassland that belongs to the National Trust. The hill itself rises 852 feet above sea level, offering visitors amazing views of the surrounding Chiltern Hills, Chequers Estate (the Prime Minister’s country house), and the Boer War monument.
The walk to the top of Coombe Hill is a gentle 3-miles, where you’ll pass through beech woods, patches of colourful wildflowers, and friendly wildlife such as butterflies and nesting birds.
This area of the ridgeway is ideal for keen walkers. You can take ridgeway circular walks, the Coombe Hill trail, the Chequers trail, and more. However, be prepared; the area does get very busy on the weekends and during spells of good weather!
Pitstone Windmill (Ivinghoe)
Estimated age: 1627 CE
Traditional windmills are huge, quirky structures that became largely obsolete after the industrial revolution. Yet there’s something nostalgic and romantic about their presence, which is why so many of the structures still survive today, Pitstone Windmill being one of them.
Pitstone Windmill is thought to have been built in 1627, which would make it the oldest listed windmill in the British Isles. For years the mill was used to grind grain into flour, but now it’s a grade II listed structure, owned by the National Trust.
While walking to the mill is a small detour from the very end of the trail, it’s worth the effort. The mill’s huge sails look spectacular against a morning or evening sky.
Final Thoughts on the Ridgeway Walk
Whether you are cycling the ridgeway, walking, or simply taking a day trip, these historical sights are guaranteed to intrigue and inspire.
Better yet, the National Trust has done an excellent job at maintaining public pathways, car parks, and other essential services along the route.
If you do decide to take walks in the Chilterns Ridgeway or elsewhere along the trail, remember planning is key. Make sure to arm yourself with snacks, plenty of drinking water, good shoes, and of course, a Ridgeway Walk map.