Stourhead King Alfred's Tower walk
Stourhead, Stourton, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 6QDRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Follow the blue waymarkers on this circular walk of historic interest, through beautiful woodlands to King Alfred's Tower. The route then continues to St. Peter's Pump, through Six Wells valley and past Stourhead House.
- Bus stop
Start: Visitor Reception, grid ref: ST 77838 34024
From the Visitor Reception building in the main car park take the path that zigzags down towards the Spread Eagle Inn. Walk through the car park and courtyard. Watching out for traffic, turn left and walk down the road, passing St Peters Church on your left. Continue along the road until just beyond the Rock Arch, where you turn right.
Continue walking with Turners Paddock lake and the waterwheel on your left. Keep following the track beside the cattle grid, past Beech Cottage on your right, and over a stile. Go a little further on the main track. Where it forks, take the right hand track and go through a gate. Follow the track along the top of the field. The ruins of Tucking Mill and cottages are hidden in the trees on your left.
Go over the stile at the gate and through the mixed conifer woods, keeping on the main track, going straight ahead at any junctions. After a steep ascent of approximately ¾ mile the track will come out onto park of the Terrace ride, where visitors in the 18th century used to take carriage rides around the estate. Turn left and walk for approximately ½ mile until you reach King Alfreds Tower.
The tower is a 160ft-high folly designed by Henry Flitcroft for Henry Hoare II in 1772, on the site where it's believed that King Alfred the Great rallied his troops. It commands spectacular views over the three counties of Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. Please look at the Stourhead pages for opening times.
Retrace your steps along the Terrace (following the blue waymarkers) to where the woodland area on your right ends. Turn right down the forestry track on the edge of the woodland.
If you're walking this route between April and July, you're likely to see a beautiful array of orchids growing in the grasses surrounding it, including the common spotted variety, which varies from white to dark pink in colour with tiny, spotted marking on the petals.
When the path bears right, take a left fork and descend to the stile leading into Six Wells Valley. On your left is St. Peters Pump, which marks the source of the River Stour, from which Stourhead takes its name.
Turn right and walk down the valley until the medieval fish ponds come into sight and then walk diagonally uphill to the left, keeping the medieval fish ponds on your right. Upon reaching a gate, go through it and head up the woodland track, then through a second gate and walk left up a short slope. You will now be at the foot of the Obelisk, which was erected in 1746 and rebuilt in 1839. This stands in Great Oar Meadow.
With your back to the obelisk inscription, turn left and cut diagonally across the Great Oar Meadow to join the track (18th-century carriage ride). Turn right and head to the front of Stourhead House. Follow the drive, turning right just before you reach the clock arch to walk through the walled garden. Cross the bridge over the road and follow the zigzag path back up to the Visitor Reception car park.
This Palladian villa was built in the 1720s with parkland on its western side. The ha-ha you will see behind the house was built for Sir Richard Colt Hoare to keep cattle and sheep off his lawn and terrace. Today, cattle and sheep still graze the parkland known as Great Oar Meadow.
End: Visitor Reception, grid ref: ST 77838 34024
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 5.5 miles (8.9km)
- Time: 2 hours
- OS Map: Landranger 183, Explorer 142
Mainly through woodland areas, along gravel, grass and natural forest tracks. There are steep climbs at the beginning of the walk and the paths can be boggy in places, so sturdy footwear is advisable. You're free to walk your dog along this route, but please do keep them under control at all times for wildlife conservation and due to cattle grazing in Six Wells valley. Unfortunately this route is not suitable for wheelchair users.
- How to get here:
By bike: Wiltshire Cycle Way runs through estate
By train: Gillingham 6½ miles; Bruton 7 miles
By car: At Stourton, off B3092, 3 miles north-west of Mere (A303), 8 miles south of Frome (A361)
By bus: Frome Minibuses 82 Warminster to Mere; First 58/158 Shaftesbury to Wincanton (passing Gillingham train station), alight Zeals, 1¼ mile
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