This 10 mile circular walk takes you first to Dragon hill, and up to the Uffington White Horse. You will then join the Ridgeway to walk along to Wayland’s Smithy and then further across the hills of North Wessex before circling back. You will walk around the perimeter of Ashdown House, which has a very interesting story (more on that later in the post). Before walking uphill for a grand view of the place.
This whole area has a lot of ancient remains, showcased by the landscape itself, with its rippling hills and defence ditches. Apparently there are numerous burial mounds, which you can see when walking up White Horse hill. I didn’t know this at the time so didn’t look closely. Now you know to keep an eye out.
What I’m going to do in this guide, is give you a little overview of the walk around the Uffington White Horse and to Wayland Smith, with full logistics and a map. Then I will go on to describe the route step by step with lots of photos. At the end I will provide suggestions for other similar walks, or walks nearby.
What is the Uffington White Horse?
It is a white chalk hill figure, dating back to prehistoric times. It is in fact the oldest white chalk hill figure in England. If it’s not maintained, then the ground tries to engulf it. So periodically, the National Trust holds ‘chalking days’ where volunteers smash up chalk to paste, to then put onto the horse.
Want to see the most Northern White Horse in England? Head up to Yorkshire to the Kilburn White Horse.
When we were there, the horse did seem rather small and almost not there. I wonder if lockdown had meant the ground was taking over because chalking days couldn’t happen.
nb. I did this walk about a year ago. I was just late to publish.
Fun fact: During the second World War, it was covered up to prevent German pilots using it for navigation.
What is Wayland’s Smithy?
It is a historical chambered long barrow, a short walk from the Uffington White Horse. It is thought to have been the home of the Saxon God of Metal working, called Wayland. Although it was built long before he was around. It is thought to date back to sometime around 3600 BC. Then when the Saxons arrived, they claimed it, and I presume named it.
There is lots of history and tales about this place, and I found an interesting read by a guy named Mike which you can find here.
Fun fact: Radiohead recorded a music video here.
What to expect on the walk to the Uffington White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy?
Now, let me get this out there. The Uffington White Horse turned out to be the least interesting bit of the walk. It looks nothing like in the photos. Think about it, all those photos you see are from above it in the sky. You are not a bird. You do not see this view.
Despite this, so much of the walk was spectacular. The walk up to Dragon Hill, and then Horse Hill is fantastic. The surrounding views of the hills carved out of the ice age, and the banks and defence ditches really take your breath away.
Then there is Wayland’s Smithy which doesn’t seem real. I mean, it’s a crazy old piece of history not guarded by fence. You can walk right up to it. You would be forgiven for thinking this was a recent build made to look ancient, like in a theme park.
- Start/Finish: Uffington White Horse car park
- How to get there: It is located in the North West area of North Wessex AONB.
- Distance: 9.7miles
- Time: 3h 30 min (although it took us 1 hour to walk the first 2 miles because Ollie stopped so much to take photos.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation: Highest point is 267m. You don’t start at 0, but there are a few hills, so you will gain a total of 542m.
- Terrain: Gravel path, dirt path, grass trails.
- Tips/Amenities: At the car park there is a food truck. I didn’t notice any toilets around. Car park pricing (at the time of writing) is £2 for 2 hours, £4 for the day. You can pay on the machine or the pay by phone app.
- Time of year: We walked this in summer
Map for the Uffington White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy circular walk
A guide to the Uffington White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy circular walk
Ok, I’m writing about our walk to the Uffington White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy over a year since we did it. So bear with me…
We chose to do this walk because we had booked ourselves an Airbnb nearby….in a converted horse box. Yes, you heard me.
We were a couple of hours early for the horse box check in, so decided to fit in the Uffington White Horse walk first.
It’s only just occurred to me as I write this, all the horses in this story.
Anyway, we made it to the Uffington White Horse, to then realise there was no way we could fit in the whole walk we had planned before check in time. So we abandoned it and came back the next day.
Why am I telling you this? I’m glad you asked. I have used photos from both days which is why the pictures start off sunny, then get cloudy and moody. Just needed to make this point. Anyway, on to the walk.
Walk to the Uffington White Horse viewpoint
From the Uffington White Horse car park, there are a few exits. The one you want is the photo below:
Walk up the steps, where you will see the sign pointing straight for the Uffington White Horse, and left for the viewpoint. Ignore the sign and go left to follow the grassy trail downhill, then to the right, with the fence to your left.
Walk to the end, and you will get your first sighting of the Uffington White Horse. Take a good look, because this is it. The best view you will get. Actually, I’m being dramatic, there is another spot coming soon where the view is marginally better. But not the kind of better you will probably be expecting.
What is pretty cool from this spot is the way the hill sort of ripples. It’s an unusual type of bumpiness, and is known here as the Giant Steps.
Fun fact: The Ripples were caused by the retreating permafrost during the last Ice age.
This ripple view does get better, and is actually my favourite part of the walk, not the Uffington White Horse as I thought it would be.
Walk to Dragon Hill, the second viewpoint for the Uffington White Horse
Follow the grassy trail uphill to reach the road. You would think at this point, to follow the trail across the road and uphill. You would be wrong. Notice to the left there is a slither of a trail alongside the road. Definitely take this one, the hill view to come next is pretty cool.
You will be walking on a roadside carved halfway up the hill, and when you get to the corner, take a look back to see the rippling hillside you got a glimpse of earlier. This time in full bloom. This valley is known as the Manger.
We could see some people walking up the valley in the distance, which really highlighted the scale of it all.
Ahead on the trail you will see a hump type hill. This is Dragon Hill. Go and walk up it for the view of the Uffington White Horse.
Fun Fact: It has been said that St George slayed a dragon here, and the blood poisoned the ground and left a white chalk scar (I’m assuming the scar is the white horse).
Ok, so this is a better view. But my gosh, the horse was way smaller than we though it would be. It’s probably like if you see a celebrity in real life and realise they are way shorter than they seemed on tv.
At this point, I was so sure that this couldn’t be it. Maybe if we got closer it would be better?
Walk up to the Uffington White Horse
Standing on the hill looking towards the horse, you should notice the steps on the left. Go and walk up those steps, and follow the trail as it takes you past the lonely tree and a rope fence.
As you can see, the weather was quite moody at this point. The threat of rain was looming.
Continue to walk alongside the rope fence, and it will guide you around so that you are directly next to the Uffington White Horse. There you go. This is officially it.
Being closer does not make it better. The view down to Dragon hill and fields in the distance is pretty cool though.
Walk to Uffington ‘Castle’
Ok, so you don’t actually see a castle. What you see is an Iron Age hill fort.
Hill fort definition: An elevated site with ramparts made of earth, stone or wood with an elevated ditch.
Archaeologists have found evidence that structures were once standing here. You can read more about Uffington Castle here.
From the Uffington White Horse, walk directly uphill towards the ‘castle’. You will know you are going in the right direction when you can see the trig point.
Up there you will now be at the highest point in Oxfordshire (262m) with views as far as 6 counties.
Walk to the Ridgeway
Continue walking past the hill fort ditch toward the fence on the other side. This will lead you onto a trail known as the Ridgeway.
Once we got to this point, we realised we would be sharing the trail with ultra-runners on a race. Actually that’s a lie, we didn’t know this was an ultra race at the time. Just that there was a running race going on. We only clocked on to how far they were running the next day on the Avebury walk, by passing some real high mile markers. This run turned out to be 100km.
Walking along the Ridgeway was interesting, one might say dangerous. We noticed a lot of hogweed lining the trail. This plant is toxic and can cause sever burns and blisters if you touch it. At times, the hogweed was leaning way into the trial, like it was trying to reach out to you for the kill.
They are pretty looking plants. The pretty ones are always the dangerous ones.
Walk to Wayland’s Smithy
Walking along the Ridgeway, look out for the wooden signpost pointing towards Wayland’s Smithy, which will point you to the right.
We weren’t the only people there, which was a shame because I think it would have been truly magical and a bit spooky if no one else was around.
Walk from Wayland’s Smithy, back along the Ridgeway
After you have finished with Wayland’s Smithy, walk back the way you came to continue along the Ridgeway. You lose your views along here, by the tall bushes hedges. I was actually quite happy when it came time to leave the Ridgeway. It’s nice, but after a while I was getting bored with the civilised path and no views.
At the point where you turn off the Ridgeway to the left, there is also a little opening on the other side on the right, which will lead you to some nice corn fields. We had a little mosey in there.
There was a chalk bored sign here pointing downhill to what I assume is a pub. ‘The Rose and Crown’ sounds like a pub name. It was enticing, but not enticing enough to walk down the hill…it would mean we would have to walk back up.
Leave the Ridgeway
Taking the correct trail (it’s the left trail if standing on the Ridgeway), the path then leads through a field towards some trees.
This is where you need to pay attention. See the photo below:
Do not take the right trail.
We took the right trail.
When walking along here, something felt off. There was a lot of overgrowth, like the path was sort of non existent and we were walking in land not meant for walking. I checked my online map, and it told me this is correct. So we kept on.
It was only when we were too far along it, that we realised it took us to a dead end with a barbed wire fence, and tall corn crop on the other side. I couldn’t figure it out. Looking at my map. It was telling me we were on the correct trail. But how could this be? There was no where else to go?
I lifted myself up by putting my foot on one of the wires, and there it was. A few meters away, a very lovely looking wide green grass trail.
I realised that the path we were meant to be on ran parallel to this one. It was a nice clean path, not like this scratchy overgrowth we had pushed though.
Now the next dilemma. How do we get to it?
A barbed wire fence and corn stood in our way. Ollie wondered off along the edge of the fence whilst I stayed put and played around with the wires, trying to find a bit taught enough that it wouldn’t swing and cause a scratching incident as I tried to climb over.
After lots of manoeuvring, and about 15mins, I made it over without a scratch. Ollie was gone though. He would appear some time later to tell me of the deer he had been watching prancing through the corn field.
On the correct trail, the grassy one, continue following it straight, and once through the second gate, take the left split in the trail. Along here you should get a view through the trees to Ashdown House, (you actually get your first view just before the second gate).
Ashdown House has quite an interesting story. I will bullet point it for easy reading.
- It was built by Lord Craven as a place for a woman named Elizabeth to stay.
- Elizabeth is the daughter of James. James was king of Scotland for a while, then king of England.
- Elizabeth married a guy named Frederick and they reined as King and Queen of Bohemia for one year. Yes. Just one.
- This is because Frederick was overthrown and they both went to live in exile at The Hague.
- This is where Lord Craven met her.
- After Frederick died, Lord Craven looked after Elizabeth and moved her to his place in London.
- Then the plague hit.
- He wanted her away from the germs so planned to build her a mini Dutch style palace at Ashdown.
- She unfortunately died before the house was complete.
Today, Ashdown house is owned by the National Trust, and you can go and visit.
Continue walking around Ashdown Estate to the big hill
Continue to follow the perimeter of Ashdown estate, and it will curve you around to the left and to the road. You may get to see a horse in the field ahead.
Continue straight on the road towards a big hill at the end. You will also pass by the gates of Ashdown, and another grand view of the place .
Walk up the hill for the best view of Ashdown
Once you reach the hill, go straight up. It’s a little tricky here in terms of knowing where the trail is. I will get to that in a moment. But for now, just go up.
Up here, if you look back, you will get a fantastic view of Ashdown house, and a moment of jealousy might follow.
Anyway, as I said, the trail is a bit tricky up here. When you walk up the hill, you want to continue going straight, but slightly to the right. You should be heading towards a fence with a gate. It’s not very visible at first, but will come soon.
Through the gate, you get to walk along a path through the corn field. This is kind of fun. Seeing nothing ahead but corn. Then at the junction, continue going straight with a view to the undulating hills ahead.
Keep an eye out for deer. We spotted a few jumping around here.
Turn to follow a straight line for the rest of the walk back to Uffington Horse car park
You should reach a signpost at a corner, pointing the way you came, and straight. Don’t go straight, but instead follow the path as it curves to the left. From here, it’s basically a straight line for the remainder of the walk back to the Uffington White Horse car park. You are still over 2 miles away though, and have a bunch more lovely landscape to see.
This first bit might be a little overgrown. I was convinced for a moment that we were going the wrong way, given what happened earlier, and the fact that the sign told us to go the other way. I had to check a few times to make sure.
The overgrowth didn’t last for too long though, before we found ourselves on a more obvious grassy path.
The little tree row
At some point along here, I spotted the little tree row in the distance. I recognised that tree row from earlier, so knew we must be close to home.
Yes, yes, I know I have a map which also tells me where we are, but I have never been good at judging distances and timings on maps…just ask my boyfriend. He now knows that if I tell him a walk is just a few miles, what that really mean is 10 miles.
Walk along the road to reach the Uffington White Horse car park
When you reach the end of the fields, the trail will take you past a farm building and onto the road. Keep going straight, first on dirt road, then normal road, and keep going straight across the junction.
At the next junction, you should see a little gate leading into the field on the right. See photo below. Go through it:
Keep walking straight, and this will lead you back to the hill you started on near the Uffington White Horse.
More walks nearby or similar walks
The next day we did an interesting walk to Avebury. I say interesting because we got attacked by nature. You can read more about that in the blog post.
The first white chalk hill figure walk I ever did, was to the Whipsnade White Lion on the Ivinghoe Beacon walk. Interestingly, this walk is also on the Ridgeway, way on the other end of it in the Chilterns near London.
I have also just tried out this walk to the Long Man of Wilmington. This one is over on the other side of the South Downs. The view to the Long Man on this walk is very good.
If you head up to Yorkshire, you can do the most northerly white horse walk in England. This is a very short and easy route, however, there are options to make it longer which I describe in that guide.