The White Horse Trail is a circular long distance walking route through the Wiltshire countryside linking eight white horse chalk figures and visiting historic sites like Avebury, Silbury Hill and the Kennet and Avon Canal.

UK Wiltshire Hackpen Hill Horse

The view up to Hackpen Hill Horse, Wiltshire

Walking the White Horse Trail

The White Horse Trail

Distance: 94 miles/151km

Duration: 5 – 8 days

Start point: Circular route

End point: Circular route

Difficulty: Moderate, with some hills

Suitable for: Walkers who like history, legends… and great views

The eponymous chalk figures are famous sights across the Wiltshire Downs and each has a different story and associated legends.

It’s a very rural trail using well-established paths across classic chalky hills and neat Wiltshire farmland. It can be muddy but there are no wilderness sections.

It’s rated moderate because there’s a fair amount of clambering up the sides of chalk hills - all the horse figures are cut on the sides of escarpments. The total elevation of the White Horse Trail is 6,703ft/2,043m and the highest point is 932ft/284m.

The White Horse Trail route

The route can be tackled in either direction and from any point, as it is a circle – but a possible day plan provides a formula to make your own holiday arrangements.

Day 1: Westbury to Market Lavington (11 miles/18km)

Start at Wiltshire’s oldest and most iconic White Horse at the site of Alfred the Great’s victory over the Danes. Then follow a spectacular ridge path next to the army’s Salisbury Plain ranges.

Day 2: Market Lavington to Pewsey (12 miles/19km)

The trail leads down into the fertile Pewsey Vale with the village’s modern white horse on the hills above.

Day 3: Pewsey to Marlborough (11 miles/18km)

More glorious rolling Wiltshire Downs leading into the grand historic market square of Marlborough and its 200-year-old horse.

Day 4: Marlborough to Broad Hinton (8 miles/13km)

Discover the Hackpen Hill Horse cut to commemorate Queen Victoria’s coronation amid great countryside views.

Day 5: Broad Hinton to Compton Bassett (12 miles/19km)

Pass prehistoric and medieval earthworks to find Broad Town’s small horse figure cut on a slope above the woods.

Day 6: Compton Bassett to Bottlesford (14 miles/23km)

Pass the Georgian Cherhill White Horse, walk part of the ancient Ridge Way and discover the Avebury World Heritage Site. Cross the mysterious Wansdyke and Milk Hill, Wiltshire’s highest point, to find the remote Alton Barnes horse.

Day 7: Devizes to Westbury (15 miles/24km)

Follow the Kennet and Avon canal towpath down Caen Hill, then cross the farmland and leafy villages back to Westbury.

UK Wiltshire Avebury World Heritage Site

The prehistoric standing stones of Avebury Henge

Need-to-know

The route is a circuit so can be started and ended anywhere. Obvious start/end points are the towns Westbury, Marlborough and Devizes. Note that of those, only Westbury has a rail link but Devizes and Marlborough have more historic (and attractive) town centres to explore.

Wherever you start the White Horse Trail there’s a good choice of accommodation in the towns, less so in the rural spots. It is certainly advised to plan ahead because some stretches will only be served by a couple of farm B&Bs.

Unlike other more popular routes, there may not be a huge choice of organised walking holidays on offer but your accommodation may offer a luggage transfer service, or be able to recommend one.

The walk can be tackled at any time of year and crowds won’t be much of a problem. In the peak of summer there may be small crowds around Westbury White Horse, the Kennet and Avon towpath and Avebury but these are generally wide-open spaces with lots of room to escape others if that’s what you want.

Caen Hill Flight

The walk out of Devizes along the Kennet and Avon canal provides an unexpected highlight: the Caen Hill Flight. This sequence of 29 locks is more than 200 years old and was built to help the canal negotiate the steep hill outside the town. It takes a narrow boat all day to pass through them all – thankfully walkers pass by much quicker.

About the author

The White Horse Trail

Daniel McCrohan

Daniel is a prolific guidebook writer who divides his time between exploring Asia for Lonely Planet and Britain for Trailblazer. As well as writing close to 50 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, he has worked on more than a dozen Trailblazer walking guides, and has hiked and camped his way across many parts of the UK, China, Mongolia and India.

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