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Prehistoric Burrough Hill

This short walk to an ancient Leicestershire hilltop is rich in atmosphere.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 295ft (90m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Variety of field paths and tracks, some steep slopes

Landscape Low rolling hills and patchwork farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 246 Loughborough

Start/finish SK 766115

Dog friendliness Under tight control near livestock on Burrough Hil

Parking Pay-and-display car park at Burrough Hill

Public toilets At car park (closed in winter)

1 Walk out of the car park along the wide gated track to the earthworks that crown the summit of the hill. Head right, towards the trig point, and go around the grassy ramparts in an anti-clockwise direction. At the far side is a handy toposcope identifying what you can see - and what you can't. Apparently Boston Stump is 41 miles (66km) distant, but you'll need an exceptionally clear day to make it out.

2 Continue all the way around the embankment, until you're facing the gate you entered by, and here drop down the wide, stone-filled track to the right. This swings gently around and below the western edge of the hill, with the toposcope above. At the end go through two gates for a wide path around the field ahead.

3 Follow this across to the far side, but before you reach the lane go over a stile in the hedge on the right for a short path, clearly indicated, across the adjoining field. Look back at the hill behind you and see how prominent and imposing it appears. Imagine it topped with a forbidding wooden palisade, and wild, bearded men waving spears and yelling at you from behind. Still fancy attacking?

4 Go over a stile and turn right, into the lane, and walk this for ½ mile (800m), going straight on at the junction (signposted 'Little Dalby'). The lane swings right at Moscow Farm, which has an old-fashioned plough mounted outside a row of handsome brick sheds.

5 Approximately 420yds (384m) beyond the farm is a stile in the hedge to the right. Indicated 'public footpath', it leads along the right-hand edge of a rising field and then through undergrowth to the left of a small area of woodland called Burrough Hill Covert. However, the first 50yds (46m) beyond the stile can get quite overgrown in the height of summer, and if this is the case continue along the lane for a further 100yds (91m) and turn right on to an unsigned farm track. This public access route follows the left-hand edge of the field and makes its way gradually up the hill, steepening towards the top where the woods close in. The presence of a small spring, and the attentions of horse riders and cyclists, can make the upper section a bit boggy. The aforementioned footpath joins from the right just before a set of double gates. Go through these and continue up and along the grassy path straight ahead, following the bottom of a small valley.

6 The ancient defences are high above to your right. Do you think you can make it up the steep banks without being seen and enter the stronghold? (And will you have any puff left when you get there?)

7 When you reach the very top turn right and either follow the yellow-painted posts across the pasture for the main gate and the track back to the car park, or wander back over to the ramparts once more.

Since 1970 the distinctive and popular summit of Burrough Hill has been managed as a country park by Leicestershire County Council, and access is via the official car park off the road between Burrough on the Hill and Somerby.

At 690ft (210m) Burrough Hill is one of the highest points in Leicestershire and commands excellent views in virtually every direction. The earthworks are thought to date from the last few centuries bc, and the deep ditch and broad embankments, probably topped by a high wooden fence, were likely used as a place of refuge for local settlers and their livestock in times of attack from other tribes. Some Roman coins and fragments of pottery have been found, and a stretch of cobbled surface and the foundations of what might have been a guard house were unearthed near the main entrance to the fort. However, since no detailed archaeological research has been carried out, the precise history of the site is still unclear - but perhaps that's not such a bad thing after all. The absence of modern interpretation boards at every turn encourages us to use our imaginations, and envisage the situation as it might have been 2,000 years ago.

In modern times the hilltop was the scene of various meetings and festivities, including sports events and hunting. In the 19th century the Somerby and Burrough Hill race meetings were held here, with crowds of spectators lining the ramparts to watch the horses being ridden around in the arena below.

What to look for

Burrough Hill sits on an outcrop of marlstone, a band of ironstone whose distinctive warming colours can be found in local cottages, barns and churches. It forms many of the other prominent hilltop locations in this area.

While you're there

When the Parish Brewery at Somerby began life 20 years ago, it was one of the first pubs in the East Midlands to brew its own beer. It has an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for brewing what it claims is the strongest beer in the world with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of a leg-wobbling 23 per cent.

Where to eat and drink

The Stags and Hounds at Burrough on the Hill, Royal Oak at Great Dalby, and Stilton Cheese Inn and Old Brewery at Somerby all welcome children, have outdoor seating, and serve food daily.

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