Great West Way is a destination tourism group dedicated to promoting the many attractions on the route of the same name between London and Bristol. Based on one of the first Great Roads commissioned by the Kings of England, the Great West Way winds its way through landscapes filled with the world-famous and the yet-to-be-discovered.
That means world-renowned visitor destinations like (from east to west) Kew Gardens, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Roman Bath and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
It also means Swindon’s spectacular rural hinterland and nearby towns and villages like Avebury, Malmesbury, Castle Combe and Marlborough.
Great West Way’s first phase of new online itineraries includes a Guide to Walking in the North Wessex Downs.
Passing through the north of the glorious North Wessex Downs and just a stone’s throw from Swindon, the Ridgeway national foot trail has been used since prehistoric times and is effectively Britain’s oldest road.
Day one of the itinerary covers Avebury to Barbury Castle. Avebury is a picture postcard village surrounded by three rings of Neolithic standing stones that together make up the largest stone circle in Europe. Barbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort that offers panoramic views and is a geologist’s paradise – the chalk of the landscape started to form 100 million years ago.
Day two takes in the the undulating trail to the Iron Age hill fort of Uffington Castle, and just beyond it the iconic landmark of the Uffington White Horse. The enigmatic, prehistoric figure was carved into the chalk hillside some 3,000 years ago. Why it was created remains a mystery although there’s a theory that the image was supposed to be a dragon – this is upheld by the presence of Dragon Hill nearby, said to have been the place where St George killed the menacing beast of legend.
Day three starts at Segsbury Camp hill fort. This is very much equestrian country and you’ll pass the gallops of West Lockinge Farm. The path then runs to Wantage, the ancient market town that was the birthplace of King Alfred in 849AD.
Swindon provides the ideal base for the three-day itinerary, with a huge range of restaurants for evening meals and scores of hotels, from budget inns like Holiday Inn and Travelodge to the more upmarket accommodation offered by Blunsdon House Hotel and Stanton House.
You can get around the Great West Way on the rail and bus network using the Great West Way GWR Discoverer pass. It includes unlimited Off-Peak train travel from London Paddington along the route to Bristol Temple Meads via Reading with options to branch off towards Oxford, Kemble and Salisbury via Westbury. It also includes unlimited travel on the bus services along the route. Choose from a one day or seven days ticket to enjoy your Great West Way adventure (see gwr.com.).