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50 Walks in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

High above Highclere Castle

Try this sample walk from the latest edition of 50 Walks in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

About 50 Walks in Hampshire & the Isle of Wight

Walking is one of Britain's favourite leisure activities, and this guide to Hampshire & the Isle of Wight features 50 mapped walks from 2 to 10 miles, to suit all abilities.

The book features all the practical detail you need, including:

  • fascinating background reading on the history and wildlife of the area,
  • clear OS-based mapping for ease of use,
  • every route has been colour coded according to difficulty,
  • annotations for local points of interest and places to stop for refreshments,
  • summary of distance, time, gradient, level of difficulty, type of surface and access, landscape, dog friendliness, parking and public toilets.

Buy 50 Walks in Hampshire & the Isle of Wight from the AA Amazon Shop.

50 Walks in Hampshire & the Isle of Wight

Sample walk: High above Highclere Castle

  • Distance: 8.4 miles (13.5km)
  • Minimum Time: 4hrs 15mins
  • Ascent: 1007 feet (307m)
  • Gradient: 2
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Paths: Tracks, field and woodland paths, some roads, 6 stiles
  • Landscape: Open downland and farmland, with patches of woodland
  • Suggested Map: OS Explorers 144 Basingstoke, Alton & Whitchurch
  • Start Grid Reference: SU463576
  • Dog Friendliness: Keep on lead on Beacon Hill March-July and around livestock
  • Parking: Beacon Hill car park off A34
  • Public Toilet: None on route
Background reading

Due to the steep gradient leading to the summit of Beacon Hill, the highest point of the North Hampshire Downs at 857ft (261m), it's advisable to climb the hill at the start of the walk. Don't miss the Earl of Carnarvon's grave and the views across the Highclere Estate to Highclere Castle (open July-August). Set within a landscape of parkland and wooded hills designed by 'Capability' Brown during 1774-77, Highclere Castle is a magnificent pastiche of a medieval castle, impressively grand inside and out. But Hampshire's largest mansion is early Victorian, designed and built in neo-Elizabethan style by Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament, between 1839 and 1842 around an earlier house. It is the home of the Earls of Carnarvon and the sumptuous interior, particularly the great hall, the library, the Rococo-style drawing room and the dining room, are adorned with fine portraits of the Earl's family, the Herberts. Of the seven Earls of Carnarvon that have resided at Highclere, it is the 5th and probably the best known that we are interested in. George Herbert had been fascinated by Egypt and archaeology from an early age and it was following a serious accident in 1902 that he spent time recuperating in the country. From 1906 he began sponsoring archaeological investigations, employing Howard Clark, an expert Egyptologist. In 1922, after years of hard work excavating in the Valley of Kings near Thebes, they discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun and treasures that had been buried for over 3,000 years. The 5th Earl died a year later from an infected mosquito bite, an event which led to the stories of the curse of Tutankhamun. His body was brought back to England and, as instructed, he was buried at the top of Beacon Hill overlooking his beloved estate. Much of the 5th Earl's collection was sold after his death, but some artefacts were discovered in a hiding place in the castle in 1987. You can see these on display, together with an exhibition on horse racing, as you tour the mansion. Unfortunately, outside July and August, you will have to be content with viewing the impressive castle and grounds from the 5th Earl's grave on Beacon Hill or on television as the sumptuous location for Downton Abbey.

Directions
  1. Climb Beacon Hill at the start or finish of the walk. Leave the car park via the access road and cross the A34 bridge to reach a T-junction. Take the footpath opposite, downhill to a gate and walk along the field-edge to Old Burghclere. Pass beside the churchyard wall and Burghclere Manor. Continue ahead down the drive and go through a gate onto a lane. Proceed ahead, cross the old railway bridge and take the path left and enter field via kissing gate.
  2. Keep to the left-hand field-edge, leaving through a kissing gate and enter woodland. In a few steps, bear left onto the old trackbed. Turn right and follow the track and later a narrow path for 0.5 miles (800m) to a bridge.
  3. Bear left up a chalky path, just before the bridge and turn right over the bridge. Gently descend to a lane, turn left and then right, signed 'Ecchinswell'. In 50yds (46m), take the waymarked bridleway left. Keep to this tree-lined path to a gravel drive and turn left.
  4. At the imposing gates, go through the side gate and follow the track through the grounds of Earlstone Manor, passing ponds and exit through gate, then pass a pair of cottages. Proceed through or close to woodland for a mile (1.6km) to a road. Keep ahead along Church Lane in Burghclere, signed to Sandham Memorial Chapel, passing the primary school on your left.
  5. Turn left by the church and keep to the road, crossing over the former railway line continuing past the Memorial Chapel and the Carpenters Arms, before turning left along a metalled dead-end lane. Pass Ashold Farm, then take the footpath right before the road bends between gardens to a stile. Skirt round Budd's Farm across three fields via three more stiles and then go right on the path through trees to a stile.
  6. Turn right along the field-edge, following it left in the corner. Drop down to a fingerpost and turn right along a boardwalk into woodland. At a broken stile, turn right along the woodland edge, then right again over a plank bridge to a gate.
  7. Keep ahead across the pasture towards Ridgemoor Farm. Pass a pond to a gate and track. Turn right, then where it bears right, turn left up a wooded sunken path which rises steadily to reach a track.
  8. Turn left to a crossroads and turn right. Head uphill and keep to the undulating track for 0.5 miles (800m) to Old Burghclere. Turn left along the lane and then right along the drive to Burghclere Manor. Retrace your outward steps back to the Beacon Hill car park.
While you're there

Visit the Sandham Memorial Chapel (cared for by the National Trust and open Wed, Fri and Sat from March to October) in Burghclere. Built in the 1920s, the interior walls are entirely covered with magnificent paintings by the artist Stanley Spencer between 1926 and 1932. They depict the everyday grind and routine of a soldier's life during the Great War.

Where to eat and drink

In Burghclere, at the half way point, is the Carpenters Arms, a homely pub offering food six days a week, an open fire in the winter and a sunny rear terrace with rural views to enjoy in the summer. Highclere Castle has a tea room for visitors.

What to look out for

Climb the steep grassy slopes of Beacon Hill (covered in cowslips in spring) to view the Iron Age hill fort close to its highest point. The well-preserved single rampart and ditch enclose the site of around 20 huts. Just inside the defences is the grave of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who died in 1923.

Buy 50 Walks in Hampshire & the Isle of Wight from the AA Amazon Shop.