- At a glance
- Locality & Walks
- Accommodation & Meals
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Your Holiday at a Glance
|Independent Walking Holiday||
|Dates for 2020||
|Accommodation and Meals||
|What's not included||
This self guided walking holiday in southern England explores the beautiful countryside of the Cranborne Chase along the area of the Wiltshire / Dorset border. It traverses the inner bounds of the former medieval, royal hunting estate.
The Cranborne Chase is a chalk plateau that straddles the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. The downland has a long history with much archaeology from the Neolithic onwards including the Dorset Cursus, the largest example of this class of ancient monument, over 3 times longer than the Great Cursus near Stonehenge. Although very little remains above ground of the Dorset Cursus, later Bronze Age barrow cemeteries appear to have respected its presence, in stark contrast to the Romans who built the Ackling Dyke road across the middle of Wyke Down. You will be able to walk some of the Roman road as well as see many of the ancient eathworks including the unusual ruined 12th century church of Knowlton in the midst of a Neolithic circle.
Cranborne Chase was a royal hunting ground from at least the time of William the Conqueror until the 17th century. For centuries the Chase was preserved for kings and their noble relatives. King John is known to have visited at least 14 times to hunt. James I gave it to Robert Cecil, who was created Viscount Cranborne and then Earl of Salisbury. James and Charles I delighted in hunting in the Chase. The Cranborne Chase enjoyed the privileges as well as suffering the restrictions that came with the royal preservation of hunting grounds. The Pitt-Rivers family, who were the last lords of the Chase, could legally impose restrictions on other landowners in the Chase. It was not just a question of the right to kill deer, but no-one was allowed to interfere with the vegetation and you might have to pay a toll to use roads that may be harmful to the deer during breeding season. However, the 'medieval' restrictions had the effect of turning the Chase into an area that attracted smugglers and poachers, so an Act of Parliament ended the preservation of 'vert and venison.' The Cranborne Chase's special qualities are in part due to the restrictions that hunting had imposed.
Your 2 or 3 centre-based walk starts in the village of Ludwell from where you can explore the Saxon hill top town of Shaftesbury, with stunning views, lovely historic cottages and of course, the stunningly beautiful Gold Hill as well as Old Wardour Castle as featured in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. To reach your 2nd B&B you will climb to the highest point in the area, Win Green with amazing panoramic views, before descending to Tollard Royal. From Farnham, your location for 1, 2 or 3 centre-based holidays, you can explore more of the villages of the Chase including Ashmore and Chettle. To reach your last location for the 3 centre-based holiday you will traverse some of the ancient woodland of the Cranborne Chase along the Dorset/Wiltshire border to the Wiltshire/Hampshire border before descending to Cranborne. Your final walking day will discover some of the ancient monuments of the region as well as more of the charming villages, such as Wimborne St Giles and Gussage All Saints with their flint banded churches and thatched cottages.
A moderate walking holiday with each day's walk averaging 18km or 11 miles with moderate ascents at a time, with maximum daily ascent being 300m. The walk follows many different types of paths, tracks and small country lanes. Occasionaly the walking trail is steep when ascending or descending the chalk escarpments, but in general the walking is relatively gentle in nature.
Day 1: Arrival
Welcome in guest house in Ludwell (Farnham for 1 centre-based).
Day 2: Old Wardour Castle
Today's walk starts by heading in the direction of the palladian-style Ferne House and via the village of Berwick St John before climbing onto the downland at White Sheet hill where the old drove road follows the ridge top. You then descend the downs to reach the haunting ruins of old Wardour Castle and follow the Wessex Ridgeway trail through the secluded Nadder Valley to return to your accommodation at Ludwell. 20km, +290m
Day 3: Shaftesbury
Today you walk via Middle and Higher Coombe and adjacent to the victorian buildings of the girls school and into Shaftesbury via the famous Gold Hill with its steep cobbled street lined with thatched cottages. You'll be supplied with a walking route around the town to take all of the best views from the escarpment surrounding Shaftesbury. A return route that takes advantage of the heights of Semley Hill before descending with views down to Donhead St Mary before returning to your accommodation. 18km, +200m
Day 4: Ludwell - Farnham
Your walking trail climbs steadily onto the hills to reach Win Green, the highest point in the area with stunning panoramic views which on clear days reach as far as the Isle of Wight and Glastonbury Tor. You'll follow a beautiful ridge top along an old Ox Drove before a gradual descent takes you to the pretty village of Tollard Royal hemmed in its valley bottom. Afterwards you have the opportunity to visit Larmer Tree Gardens, before the short walk to your next guest house. 14km, +210m
Day 5: Villages of the Chase
Today's walk takes you from Farnham to the pretty village of Ashmore, the highest village in Dorset. Lovely historic cottages surround a large pond set on the chalk plateau. You walk through Ashmore Wood, an area of ancient, semi-natural woodland, and along a valley to Tarrant Gunville at the head of the Tarrant Valley with its typical flint and brick cottages. From here, you return to your accommodation via the village of Chettle and Farnham itself, lined with thatched cottages. 20km, +200m
Day 6: Farnham to Cranborne
From your guest house you walk up through Rushmore Park taking a route along the Dorset/Wiltshire county boundary, the Shire Rack, a boundary that has existed for at least a thousand years and then across Oakley Down with its Wor Barrow, a neolithic long barrow. The route then goes via Pentridge onto Martin Down Nature Reserve before following a stretch of Bokerley Ditch, a Romano-British defensive dyke that forms part of the Dorset/Hampshire border. You thentake a path along the top of Pentridge Down before descending to the River Crane and into Cranborne. 20km, +210m
Day 7: Gussage Down & the Ackling Dyke
Your last day's walking takes you from Cranborne, which has been one of the seats of the Cecil family since 1600 (although the house is not open to the public the Manor Gardens are open Wednesdays from March to September), to Wimborne St Giles which is the estate village to St Giles House, the home of the Ashley Coopers, the Earls of Shaftesbury. The family has had some tragedies in recent years and their association with the village goes back further than the Cecils. The almshouses, church and village stocks are worth a visit; re-built by Ninian Comper early in the 20th century, the church has an elaborate & dramatic interior, including the Ashley Cooper tombs. From here, you can detour slightly to the ruined church at Knowlton before heading to Gussage All Saints with its 17th century Drovers Inn and 14th century church. You then head across the rolling downland to reach Ackling Dyke, the Roman road, where you can detour to the Barrows on Gussage Down. Then a march on the Roman road bisecting the Dorset Cursus before heading back to your accommodation at Cranborne. 20km, +120m
Day 8: Departure
Departure after breakfast
For useful advice about independent walking and preparing for your self guided holiday please take a look at the articles in our top-tips section.
Once you have booked on this independent walking holiday in southern England, further information about the walking, the region and what to bring, will be sent to you. We do have a web page dedicated to what clothes and equipment you should bring. In addition, our travel shop has direct access to all the top walking and travel retailers. Please contact us if you need any further information.
Accommodation & Meals
7 nights B&B in a variety of small quality guest houses with ensuite accommodation. Mixture of inns or pubs, bed & breakfasts and small hotels. They are located in delightful historic properties, mainly in villages, but some in beautiful locations in the countryside. The B&B's are generally 4 star AA rated. Lunches can be picnic meals ordered from your guest house. Evening meals are taken in your guest house or in local pubs and restaurants. There will be plenty of local food to try and of course the local real ales. A couple examples of the types of guest house we use are shown below.
|The Grove Arms||Village Inn||The Grove Arms has been licensed since the 17th century and has traded under its current name and as The Black Dog. There's a residents lounge, sun terrace to the rear and six bedrooms||4 star rated AA|
|Farnham Farmhouse||B&B||Wonderful farmhouse, built in the 1850s, with flagstone floors, open fires, around an acre of garden and outdoor heated swimming pool.||5 star AA rated|
To Get to Salisbury
Transfers to and from train stations at Warminster, Castle Cary or Gillingham (Dorset) are included in the price. Routes from London are via Waterloo or Paddington station and take from 1hr 30min to about 2 hrs.
Location is about 1hr 30mins from Bristol Airport, Bournemouth about an hour and London Airports 2 to 3hrs away.
National Express operate services to Wincanton from London Victoria.
Please visit our travel shop for links to useful sites for reserving airport parking or booking train tickets
Note: Please check concerning the availability of a holiday before booking any flights or trains. If you need further information or would like to discuss any aspect of your travel arrangements, please contact us, we’re here to help you.