Lacock riverside walk
Lacock, near Chippenham, Wiltshire SN15 2LGRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Explore the medieval market village of Lacock, with its superb architecture and houses dating back over 800 years. The route opens up to beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and the River Avon, as it follows the river bank through the valley of Snaylesmeade on which stands the historic Lacock Abbey.
- Bus stop
Start: Hither Way car park, grid ref: ST918682
From the car park, cross the road and follow the brown tourist signs into the village, where youll emerge in front of the Fox Talbot Museum and entrance to Lacock Abbey.
Lacock is widely known as the home of photography and the Abbey was the home of its inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot, who conducted many of his earliest experiments there in the early 19th century.
From here, walk toward the High Street and pass the Red Lion pub on the left, where you'll see a half-timbered house on your right. Walk down East Street to your right, passing the Tithe Barn on your right-hand side and then the Village Hall.
There has been a settlement here since before Saxon times, but it became important as a community for estate workers of the abbey. Built on a grid of four streets, its architecture is unique with houses of every century from the 13th onwards. Look out for the 14th century tithe barn, a medieval church and an inn dating to the 15th century, reflecting the village's importance as a staging post between Marlborough and Bristol. Parts of King Johns Hunting Lodge beside the church would have belonged to someone important in the village, and it's possible that the king stayed here on his hunting trips in the forest.
At the end of East Street, with the bakery in front of you, turn right towards the church. Turn left just before the church at the half-timbered house, towards the brook and the packhorse bridge. Walk over the bridge, keeping the weir to your right. Walk up the hill, past allotments on your left.
Lacock remains much as it looked in the 18th century. The lively town of 200 years ago, with its shops, businesses and crowded market, can still be imagined. It has often been used as a filming location for period dramas including Pride and Prejudice and Cranford, as well as some of the Harry Potter films. Lacock Abbey has also featured in the Harry Potter films and in The Other Boleyn Girl.
At the top, pass through a kissing gate and onto a narrow tarmac path which leads down to the hamlet of Reybridge. As you approach another kissing gate at the end of the path, youll see glimpses of the River Avon to your right.
Pass through the gate and walk down the path, past Wicket Gate Cottage. Continue along the path then turn right and then right again over the bridge. At the end of the bridge turn immediately right over the stile and into a field.
Keep the river on your right and walk along the river bank. Through the clearing in the trees, look back towards the village for views of St Cyriac's church.
The River Avon, which runs through the valley, has been important throughout the centuries for both communication and fishing. It still remains popular with fishermen today (one-day coarse-fishing permits are available from the Post Office in the High Street). In winter it can rise and fall as much as 10ft (3m) in a day.
Exit the field through a metal kissing gate and wooden bridge. With the river still on your right, continue along its bank. After the next bend in the river, the path veers off to the left. Pass over a stile and along a waymarked path through the middle of the field. Here you can catch your first glimpse of Lacock Abbey on your right.
Founded in the early 13th century by Ela, Countess of Salisbury, for a community of Augustinian nuns, the Abbey was converted into a country house in 1540. The atmospheric monastic rooms include medieval cloisters, a sacristy and a chapter house. The price paid by Sir William Sharington for the Abbey on its dissolution in 1539 was £783. Sharington's Tower, which is part of the Abbey, was built at this time and was used as a strong room and display space for his treasure.
Leave the field by the metal gate and walk along the field edge to a stile and footbridge. Cross over the footbridge, where you'll see your first view of Sharingtons Tower at the Abbey. With the tower on your right, cast your eye along the river which is marked out by a line of trees in the middle distance. Scanning to the left youll see Stone Bridge, walk towards this over the well worn path, which goes diagonally right across a field. At this point you could take a small diversion and head straight towards the river where youll get better views of the Abbey on the opposite side.
Continue on to the stone stile by the bridge, cross over it and turn right towards the village. Walk over the bridge, onto the footpath and back to the car park. Take care as this is a busy road.
End: Hither Way car park, grid ref: ST918682
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 2 miles (3.2km)
- Time: 40 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 173; Explorer 156
Generally flat terrain, walking along the banks of the River Avon for most of the way; can be muddy in parts over winter. Dogs welcome but please be aware of livestock and horses grazing in some of the fields.
- How to get here:
By bike: National Cycle Network route 4, 1 mile (1.6km) away
By bus: Faresaver X34/First 234, Chippenham to Frome
By rail: Melksham, 3 miles (4.8km); Chippenham, 3.5 miles (5.5km)
By road: 3 miles (4.8km) south of Chippenham. M4, exit junction 17, signposted to Chippenham (A350). Follow A350 (signposted Poole/Warminster) until you reach Lacock, then follow signs for main car park
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