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2 day weekend tour – Ridgeway Explorer

This 2 day tour covers approximately 60 miles.

For a couple of reasons this is a very different tour to our other weekend tours. First, a good proportion of this route is off road. This route does take you along quite long stretches of the Ridgeway. The Ridgeway is an ancient trackway described as Britain's oldest road. The parts that we cycle along in Wiltshire are mainly on the high ridge (with fantastic views) and are well defined and well used walking and cycling paths. The second difference is that on this route there is not a different start / end point for days 1 and 2. On this route on days 1 and 2 you will both start and end in the town of Marlborough.

Some typical questions we have been asked about this route:

Will I need a mountain bike? No – although the route does use a lot of off road tracks and bridleways there is no need to use a mountain bike. A normal leisure bike will be just fine.

Will it be muddy? It could be. If there has been much rain then the Ridgeway can get a bit muddy in places.

Do I need to book a hotel for the Friday night? It’s up to you. We aim to start out at around 09:30 on the Saturday morning. If you can get to Marlborough and be ready to go by that time then you might not need a hotel. If you do need one then we can always help you with the booking.

Overview and highlights

On day 1 we aim to be on the road leaving Marlborough by 09:30.

For the few hours of the day we will be sticking to the roads (quiet, back roads). We leave Marlborough and head up the Kennett valley. It feels a bit like going back to the 1950s. We skirt past the small hamlet of Stitchcombe, and Stitchcombe weir – for those that are keen this is a popular place for wild swimming!

Stitchcombe

For the next few miles we ride close to the River Kennet.


River Kennet

Its then on through the village of Axford and onto the very attractive large village of Aldbourne.


Aldbourne

After a few miles we head off road start on the Ridgeway – where we stay for the next 7 miles. The good news is that for this stretch the Ridgeway lives up to its name and stays on top of a high ridge – the views are spectacular.

View from the Ridgeway

On the Ridgeway we pass (and have the opportunity to stop and explore) both Wayland’s Smithy and the Uffington White Horse. Wayland’s Smithy is a Neolithic burial mound which is 5,000 years old. The Uffington White Horse is the oldest hill figure in Britain, dating to the Bronze Age approximately 3000 years ago. The figure of the chalk horse is enormous (374 feet long).

Soon after the White Horse we leave the Ridgeway and head back onto road. Heading down from the Ridgeway, and into the village of Uffington you finally get a full view of the White Horse cut into the hillside.


Uffington White Horse

The poet Sir John Betjeman lived in Uffington in the 1930s. Also, Thomas Hughes (1822–96), author of Tom Brown's Schooldays, was born in the village. The village school mentioned in the book survives as Tom Brown's School Museum, with exhibits on Thomas Hughes, the Uffington White Horse, and other local subjects.

From here we wind our way back across the Vale of the White Horse until we get to Chiseldon where we again go off road and take a disused railway line (now a cycle path) back to Marlborough. Here the things to see and explore include one of the widest high streets in England, Marlborough College public school, and the supposed burial site of Merlin.


Marlborough high street

We aim to have you in Marlborough around late afternoon or maybe very early evening.

Day 2 sees us out on the road by 09:15. Yesterday we headed out eastwards in the Kennet valley- today we go west.  Sticking to the road we pass through a ribbon of small villages. At the village of Lockeridge you can stop to look at the Sarcen stones in Lockeridge Dene.


Lockeridge Dene

We then go on to East Kennet. Here you can take a small diversion to see Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow.

Silbury Hill

We then move on towards Avebury. Getting there means cycling past the West Kennet Avenue. This is an 'avenue', originally of around 100 pairs of prehistoric standing stones.

The West Kennet Avenue

Then it’s on to the world famous Avebury. Here you will have time to look around and take a stroll among the stones.

Avebury

Once you have seen all there is to see in Avebury we head into the heart of the Wiltshire downs, and go back onto the Ridgeway. Similar to yesterday we will be riding mostly on top of a ridge – and gain the views are spectacular.  After a couple of miles you can stop to explore the Hackpen White Horse.


Hackpen White Horse

We continue along the high ridge of the Ridgeway until we come to Barbury Castle.

Barbury Castle is not in fact a castle, but an Iron Age hill fort. It is situated on the top of Barbury Hill, which, under ideal weather conditions, commands a view across to the Cotswolds and the River Severn.


Barbury Castle

We now climb down from the high Ridgeway, but stay off road until we pass close by the village of Chiseldon. From there we skirt around the base of another Iron Age hill fort - Liddington Castle, before once more climbing up to the high ridge of the Ridgeway again. We follow this for the next 4 miles until we drop down again near the village of Ogbourne St George. From here we take a few more miles of back lanes and byways until we get back to Marlborough.

We should be back in Marlborough early to mid afternoon.