Great Stones Way, Wiltshire - Part 2 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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So when’s the best time to do this walk you ask? Well, it’s possible to do the walk year-round, however, spring and summer offer the best weather and also fields full of crops and wildflowers.
If you want to do this walk without a car then Swindon is the closest train station to the start. It is on the line between London and the South-West. You will find that Buses run from Swindon to Coate Water, from where you can walk to the official start at Barbury Castle. Salisbury, at the walk’s end also has a station with direct trains to London and the South-West. The X5 bus runs between Swindon and Salisbury should you choose to leave your car at the start point.
There are plenty of places to stay on the route but if you plan this for a peak period then you should book ahead. Some good places are The Old Forge at East Kennett, which is a former blacksmith’s cottage converted into a B& B, within a mile of Silbury Hill and has double rooms from £85. About 1. 5km off the route is Troutbeck Lodge at East Chisenbury, which has five tasteful rooms with private riverside patios, and is run by the foodie focused Red Lion pub, just up the road; here doubles cost from £160. There are plenty of options in Salisbury, we choose to use Airbnb and stayed in a 15th-century townhouse near Cathedral Close where a double cost £60.
Eating on the route is not a problem. There are a few village shops en-route to buy snacks or stop at pubs, such as the Barge Inn in Honeystreet and the Bridge Inn at Woodford which has a lovely riverside beer garden. The period tearoom at the National Trust’s Avebury Manor serves enormous cakes and the food at the Red Lion is a gourmet treat.
The route isn’t well waymarked. So my top tip if you plan to try this is to buy a copy of The Great Stones Way by Steve Davison for tips about the route and be sure to take a good OS map.
Everyone will have their own speed but this is what we did. Day One was AMBLE to AVEBURY. The route’s official start isn’t served by public transport, so for many people, this mini-adventure begins at a roundabout on the outskirts of Swindon. From the bus stop at Coate Water Country Park which is the most convenient stop, it’s an 11km hike to reach Barbury Castle, which includes a footbridge over the M4, plus leafy paths and a lake with an Art Deco diving platform which the ducks love. There are great views from Barbury’s ditch-backed ramparts, which sit at 265m on the edge of Marlborough Downs. From here, the trail leads south via Hackpen Hill White Horse cut in 1838, and fields prone to crop circles.
Take a look the amount of gothic script on your OS map. As these all mark a myriad of tumuli and standing stones. Do take the detour to Avebury. It’s got a bit of everything: thatched cottages, a proper pub, a Tudor manor and Europe’s biggest stone circle, where you’re allowed to walk amid the menhirs. This henge sits within a wider ancient landscape that includes 4, 500-year-old Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow, a huge Neolithic tomb. You can stay nearby at Avebury or East Kennett, that way you get to explore after the day-trippers have departed.
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