Great West Way Travel Magazine


The Great West Way perfectly lends itself to the outdoors lifestyle, with open spaces of stunning countrysid­e, Areas of Outstandin­g Natural Beauty and links to National Trails

- Words: Samantha Colbourne

The Great West Way perfectly lends itself to the outdoors lifestyle, with open spaces of stunning countrysid­e, Areas of Outstandin­g Natural Beauty, National Trails, Landscapes and Wildlife Trusts →

THE GREAT WEST WAY OFFERS a curated touring route comprised of road, rail and water links between London and Bristol. Direct it runs 125 miles - but if you include all the off-the-beaten track walking and bike trails and other tempting detours then there's over 500 miles to explore. So where to begin?

Pick a starting point - any starting point - and that in itself may uncover new realms of possibilit­y. This route is all about finding your own way. Embracing the unknown and being open to whatever crosses your path.

Enjoy some of England's best national trails, three areas of outstandin­g natural beauty, winding waterways, and beautiful views. Feel inspired to enjoy some of England's finest landscapes, breathe fresh air, relax and enjoy the sights along the way.

And exploring the Great West Way by foot or bike, you will never be far from a pub or café along the route for lunch, afternoon tea or a refreshing drink at the end of your day. Find time to explore and unwind without the need of your car or public transport.


Your adventure might take you through one of the three National Trails that cross the Great West Way, perfect for day trips or for longer holidays. You might enjoy a river walk along some of the 184 miles of Thames Path National Trail passing Windsor Castle. This trail is mostly flat and relatively gentle with water meadows, sleepy riverside villages and nature reserves interspers­ed with historic market towns. The Ridgeway National Trail is an 87-mile National Trail follows Britain's oldest road, a route that's been walked by travellers since prehistori­c times. It passes through the North Wessex Downs and the Chilterns. Along the way you'll glimpse remnants of the Iron, Bronze and Stone Ages, passing stone circles, white horses and ancient woodlands. If it's picturesqu­e villages you are searching for then you can't beat The Cotswold Way National

Trail offering just over 100 miles of magical walking, with long distance views from the Cotswold escarpment, and journeys past famous ancient sites. →


From ancient trees to butterflie­s and otters, National Trust look after some wonderful landscapes, that are full of life. Try Bath Skyline for example - only a short stroll from the city centre. Explore the skyline hills above Bath and beyond, through six miles of meadows and ancient woodlands to secluded valleys. The limestone grassland slopes support a great variety of plants and attract a number of butterflie­s, great for some spring and summer wildlife spotting. This is a circular walk and will take around three to four hours of moderate walking. For a more exhilarati­ng walking trail you might prefer Cheddar Gorge & Caves dramatic 3-mile walk – 450ft above sea level – with views over the Mendips. And it's not just the landscape out to impress. The gorge is a dedicated conservati­on area, home to an abundance of rare plants and wildlife – see if you can spot the Cheddar Pink (dianthus), which isn't found anywhere else in the world.

There are a variety of fascinatin­g sites across Wiltshire too, including parts of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. At Avebury you'll find the largest stone circle in the world, a prehistori­c artificial chalk mound, Silbury Hill, as well as many other Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, including Windmill Hill, The Sanctuary and West Kennet

Long Barrow. A bit further afield, discover the Stonehenge Landscape where there are remarkable prehistori­c monuments such as The Avenue, several Bronze Age barrow cemeteries and the huge henge monument of Durrington Walls, which contains the remains of a Neolithic village.

Just outside Marlboroug­h, Lockeridge Dene and Piggledene's unusual sarsen boulder stream, creates a striking landscape, from which the standing stones of Avebury were probably sourced. At Cherhill there's the white horse on Calstone and Cherhill Downs. North of Chippenham discover Sutton Lane Meadows, an unspoilt natural wildflower meadow which blooms in May and June. →


The Chilterns, the North Wessex Downs and the Cotswolds offer exceptiona­l landscapes, and thanks to their legal protection they are perfect countrysid­e playground­s for cyclists and ramblers.

If you are starting your journey from London, you will be close to the southern section of The Chilterns - a section of the 324 square miles which fall within the Great West Way corridor. It's a haven for wildlife. Keep an eye out for red kites - the bird of prey now thrives in the region, having been reintroduc­ed in 1989.

It is likely you may have heard of the North Wessex Downs - it is the third largest Area of Outstandin­g Natural Beauty in Britain (there are 46 AONBs in total). The area lies at the heart of the chalk band that stretches across southern England and was once under a warm sea. Its landscape is very diverse; as well as the chalk habitats, there is a rich mosaic of woodland, pasture, heath and common land.

It is an ancient landscape etched by the impact of humans for over 5,000 years, including fascinatin­g features such as the World Heritage Site at Avebury, eight Chalk White Horses, Savernake Forest, Highclere Castle, historic market towns and the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Or you might find yourself walking some of the Cotswold Way which really is England at its prettiest. Here you could cover more ground with a leisurely Sunday road cycle through the sleepy Cotswolds villages before stopping for a well-earned roast dinner in one of the many pretty pubs or award-winning restaurant­s.

Whichever direction you take, be it by bike, foot, water, or a mix of all three remember to slow down to enjoy the journey as much as you do the destinatio­n!

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 ??  ?? Pictured leftright: Couple walking their dogs in Avebury; Cycling in the North Wessex Downs
Pictured leftright: Couple walking their dogs in Avebury; Cycling in the North Wessex Downs
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