The Ridgeway Trail is now shown on Google maps, in six sections that are each a one day walk. Unless you have a very keen sense of direction, we advise having a map and compass with you. More details on the relevant maps are on our Ridgeway maps page. Here are some details on the three sections at the western end of The Ridgeway, with the OS grid coordinates of the starts and finishes.
Stage One: Overton Hill (SU 118 679) to Ogbourne St.George (SU 201 739)
The Trail starts from Overton Hill, one mile from Avebury. Just three kilometres north, the path goes past the Fyfield Down Nature Reserve, which is said to have the best collection of sarsen stones in Britain. The Trail then goes due north to Barbury Castle (which isn't a castle, just to confuse the unwary). The Trail then turns east, then south east down Smeathes Ridge to Ogbourne St.George.
Total distance: 20 Km. Estimated time: 5 hrs. Do allow more time if you feel inclined to stop to admire the view, as there are many views to be admired.
Stage Two: Ogbourne St.George (SU 201 739) to Sparsholt Firs (SU 343 851)
Starting from Ogbourne St.George the trail climbs up onto the Downs before heading north past Uffington Castle (another place that's not a castle). It then turns north-east, towards Fox Hill, Wayland's Smithy, Dragon Hill, Uffington White Horse, and Uffington Castle. Guess what? That's not a castle either. For recommended B&Bs at the other end near Sparsholt Firs see our other B&Bs page. Also the Ridgeway Trail guide.
Some guides still mention the "Shepherds Rest pub". That's now a very good Indian Restaurant, but if your prefer curries at night, you might want one of our packed lunches instead.
Total distance: 26 Km. Estimated time: 6 hrs.
Stage Three: Sparsholt Firs (SU 343 851) to Goring and Streatly (SU 596 807)
Starting from Sparsholt Firs, heads east to the towns on either side of the Thames river.
Total distance: 28 Km. Estimated time: 7 hrs.
If you've started wondering what all these "non-castles" were really for, you wouldn't be the first to be puzzled by this historical misdirection. Start thinking about where you would need to stay each night if you were a traveller or drover on The Ridgeway a few thousand years ago.
You probably had livestock that needed a safe place as well as yourself and your family or fellow-travellers. Don't forget, there was a time when British wolves were still roaming the countryside. A nice big enclosure has plenty of room to keep you and your livestock safe from predators.
Over thousands of years these enclosures were only very rarely actually used by military forces as forts as well. Despite many orthodox historian's obsession with war and death (which is great for their academic careers, books and TV series), life on The Ridgeway was much more peaceful and routine.
Fortunately for you, there are now nice B&Bs to stay in, instead of camping in the wild and wondering what's outside your tent in the dark!