This leisurely circular walk explores the ancient tracks, flower-studded downlands and scenic panoramas around Barbury Castle and Burderop Downs.

Throughout the walk, the guide – and walkers – will share their experiences and knowledge of the area through the ages, weaving together flora, fauna, history and culture. Connections to people and places of the past will be made through the words of writers, along with photos and objects.

The walk starts with a gentle descent across Burderop Down, looking out at the surrounding landscape immortalised in the acclaimed nature writing of Richard Jefferies. We then explore a short section of the ancient Ridgeway where people have walked and wondered for millennia, producing a routeway rich with myths, legends and folklore. The walk concludes with a gradual ascent to the Iron Age hillfort of Barbury Castle to soak up the views and the history.

The guided walk ends at the western entrance to the hillfort; walkers are then free to explore the rest of the site at their own pace if they wish.

Much of the route is over natural, unsurfaced ground and grazed rough grassland. There are two easy step-stiles along the route. The walking pace will be leisurely, with a 20-minute stop for a packed lunch (bring your own) and additional short stops for breathers or to take in the views.

Walk leader/organisation: Ian from the Richard Jefferies Museum

Walk Information

  • Booking: Free – Booking essential – 15 places
  • Distance & approximate duration: 4.5 miles (7.2 km) – 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate (more challenging, for keen/active walkers).
  • Accessibility: Suitable for older children (12+). Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult (see useful information). Steps/stiles on the route. Not suitable for wheelchairs.
  • Dogs: No dogs
  • Refreshments: Please bring a packed lunch and drinks. There will be a short break for lunch. There are no refreshments at Barbury Castle or on the route (see below). There is a picnic area at the car park. 
  • Toilets: The public toilets at Barbury Castle Country Park car park are currently closed (see below).
  • Meeting point: Picnic area, Barbury Castle Country Park car park, Swindon, SN4 0QH. What3Words: flags.pops.hunt. OS grid reference: SU 155 761.
  • Public transport: There is no public transport, but National Cycle Network Route 45 links the meeting point to Swindon town centre and train station (8.7 miles; 14 km). There are bicycle racks to secure your bike to at the meeting point.
  • Parking: Free parking at Barbury Castle Country Park car park, SN4 0QH.

For general booking information, health and safety advice, terms and conditions please see our useful information page.

Further Information

OS maps: Explorer 157 Marlborough & Savernake; Landranger 173 Swindon & Devizes

Local places to eat and drink include Three Trees Farm Shop & Café, Chiseldon, SN4 0HT, approx. 5 miles from the meeting point. See Three Trees Farm.

The Ridgeway is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a National Trail this year. There’s a Ridgeway Top 50 and other special events planned. For more information, see Ridgeway Anniversary and National Trails.

The Richard Jefferies Museum is a small, community-run museum and gardens at the edge of Coate Water Park, Swindon, SN3 6AA, approx. 6 miles from Barbury Castle. Entry to the museum is free, see social media and website for opening times. Enjoy a range of activities or live music and a cream tea in the museum garden. The 18th-century farmhouse was Jefferies’ birthplace in 1848, and the first base from which his close observations of rural life, the local countryside and nature influenced and formed the background for much of his writing. See the Richard Jefferies Museum or find us on Facebook.

This year, to commemorate and celebrate the 175th anniversary of Jefferies’ birth, the museum has created a long distance walking route between Swindon and Worthing to explore the nature of ‘Jefferies’ Land’. The aim is for participants to observe and record nature along sections of the route throughout the year, using any creative media, with the results being collated in a book. See the Richard Jefferies wildlife walk.

This walk is brought to you by our partners:

Jefferies and Barbury Castle © Creative Commons