North Wessex Downs AONB
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A Guide to the North Wessex Downs AONB

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If you’re looking for a weekend adventure in southern England, the North Wessex Downs AONB is the perfect destination. This area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) is home to stunning landscapes, charming towns and villages, and a rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re an avid hiker or cyclist, or simply looking to explore some of England’s most iconic historical sites, the North Wessex Downs has something for everyone.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the beautiful North Wessex Downs AONB and share some tips for planning your own weekend adventure.

Why Visit the North Wessex Downs AONB

Alright, let’s talk about the most obvious reason to visit the North Wessex Downs AONB: its natural beauty. This place is an absolute feast for the eyes. Think rolling hills and valleys dotted with quaint little villages and farms. And the best part? You don’t need to be an expert hiker to enjoy it all. There are plenty of easy walking routes that will take you through the most picturesque spots in the area.

If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, though, the White Horse Trail is definitely worth the effort. It’s a 90-mile long-distance path that takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of the North Wessex Downs. And as the name suggests, it will take you past some of the famous white horses that are carved into the hillsides.

Another must-see spot is the Kennet and Avon Canal. This waterway stretches from Bristol to Reading and passes through the heart of the North Wessex Downs. The canal is surrounded by lush greenery and wildlife, making it a great spot for a leisurely bike ride or a peaceful walk.

Speaking of wildlife, the North Wessex Downs is home to some pretty amazing creatures. Keep your eyes peeled for birds of prey soaring overhead, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a deer or two. And if you’re a butterfly enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to know that the area is home to some rare species, like the Adonis blue and the Chalk Hill blue.

So, whether you’re looking for a gentle stroll or an epic hike, the North Wessex Downs has an option for you.

Outdoor Activities

The North Wessex Downs is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts with its abundance of walking and cycling routes, here are just a few of your options…

Walking Routes in the North Wessex Downs AONB

The North Wessex Downs is a walker’s paradise, with miles of picturesque footpaths and trails to explore. One of the most popular walks in the area is the Ridgeway National Trail, an 87-mile route that follows the ancient chalk ridge from Avebury in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. The trail offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside, with opportunities to explore prehistoric sites like Avebury and the Uffington White Horse.

If you’re interested in walking the Ridgeway, we recommend starting in Avebury and walking towards Goring, as this direction offers the most scenic views. A suggested itinerary is as follows:

  • Day 1: Avebury to Ogbourne St George (13 miles)
  • Day 2: Ogbourne St George to Letcombe Regis (15 miles)
  • Day 3: Letcombe Regis to Streatley (17 miles)
  • Day 4: Streatley to Goring (8 miles)

Aside from the Ridgeway, there are also plenty of other walking routes to explore in the North Wessex Downs. The Wayfarer’s Walk, for example, is a 71-mile route that runs from Inkpen Beacon in the north to the coast at Emsworth in Hampshire. The Test Way is another popular walking route that follows the River Test from Inkpen Beacon to Totton in Hampshire.

Our Top Pick

Walking in the North Wessex Downs

Guidebook to 30 walking routes in the North Wessex Downs AONB. The routes cover four counties: Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, with descriptions to reach the highest points in each one. There are walks to suit all ages and abilities, and they can be walked all year round.

  • The routes range from 7 to 21km (4 to 13 miles) and range from gentle rambles to challenging day-long hikes
  • OS 1:50,000 mapping and step-by-step descriptions for each walk

Cycling Routes in the North Wessex Downs AONB

The North Wessex Downs AONB offers a range of cycling routes for all abilities. From easy canal paths to challenging hill climbs, there is something for everyone.

The Kennet and Avon Canal towpath is a popular option for cyclists. It’s a flat and easy route that takes you through some beautiful countryside and charming villages.

For something more challenging, the Vale of Pewsey is a great choice. This 23-mile route takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the area, including the iconic Alton Barnes White Horse. Another good option is the North Wessex Downs Cycleway, which is a 140-mile circular route that takes you through some of the best scenery the area has to offer.

Other Outdoor Activities

In addition to walking and cycling, the North Wessex Downs offers a range of other outdoor activities.

Paragliding and Hang Gliding

The hills and valleys of the North Wessex Downs provide ideal conditions for these exciting sports. There are local clubs and businesses that offer training and equipment rental for those who want to give it a try.


The North Wessex Downs is a designated Dark Sky Reserve, meaning that there is minimal light pollution and excellent visibility of the stars. Several local organisations offer stargazing events and tours, so check them out if you’re interested.

No matter what outdoor activity you choose, the North Wessex Downs AONB offers a stunning backdrop for a weekend adventure.

Places to Stay in the North Wessex Downs AONB

There’s plenty to see in the North Wessex Downs AONB, so you’ll probably want to spend at least a weekend here. Fortunately, the area has a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences.

Camping and Caravan Sites

Camping and caravan sites are a great option for those who love the great outdoors. The North Wessex Downs has a number of sites that are perfect for a weekend getaway. From basic campsites to luxurious glamping options, there’s something for everyone. Some of the most popular campsites in the area include the Bracelands Camping and Caravanning Site, Blackland Lakes Campsite, and Cholsey Grange Camping and Caravanning.

Bed and Breakfasts

If you prefer a more comfortable option, there are plenty of bed and breakfasts in the North Wessex Downs. These provide a homely and welcoming atmosphere, with a range of rooms available to suit different group sizes and preferences.


For those who want a little more luxury, there are several hotels in the North Wessex Downs that offer comfortable accommodation and excellent facilities.

Self-Catering Accommodation

If you prefer to have your own space, there are plenty of self-catering accommodation options in the North Wessex Downs. These range from cosy cottages to large holiday homes and are perfect for families or groups of friends.

No matter what type of accommodation you choose, you’ll be sure to find a comfortable and welcoming place to stay in the North Wessex Downs.

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