Stourhead Whitesheet Hill walk
Stourhead, Stourton, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 6QDRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Take in the panoramic views over the Stourhead estate and surrounding countryside. Whitesheet Hill is of considerable archaeological interest. With a Neolithic enclosure dating from around 3000 BC, a circular earthwork, Bronze Age barrows and an Iron Age hill fort to the south. The downlands are a rich habitat for wild flowers, including several species of orchid, butterflies such as chalkhill blues and birds including golden plover in the winter.
If you are starting your walk from Whitesheet Hill car park, then please begin from the end of point 2.
- Bus stop
Start: Visitor Reception, grid ref: ST 77838 34024
From the main car park, go through visitor reception. Follow the zig zag path, go over the bridge in to the walled garden and follow signs to Stourhead House. Join the main driveway towards the house and go through the metal kissing gate diagonally to the right. Following the waymarkers, head for the stile on the right of Drove Lodge, a 19th century building which may have been used by drovers before the creation of parkland around the House. Go over the stile and through the woodland path to the main road. Carefully turn left along the road towards Drove Lodge.
Being mindful of traffic, cross the road and go through the gate opposite Drove Lodge. Go along the 18th century drove track lined with beech trees. Follow the path to the top of the hill into Beech Clump. Continue straight ahead to Whitesheet Hill car park. In the car park go over the furthest stile by the National Trust sign and ascend. Please keep to the main path as the area is a sensitive butterfly habitat. Continue through a disused chalk quarry and make your way to the top. From here head for the hill fort, which is to the right of the radio mast, along the escarpment edge. The hill fort is Iron Age and dates from about 500 BC, lying at 800 feet above sea level.
When you reach beech clump you will see a memorial dedicated to the airmen who lost their lives here when their Dakota plane crashed after taking off from RAF Zeals in 1945.
From the hill fort return along the fence, passing the reservoir and radio mast on your right. Keeping the fence on your right, take time to admire the views of the Estate, with King Alfred’s Tower on the skyline. Go over the stile by the information panel and onto the byway, where you turn left. Walk down the hill, passing the 18th century milestone on your right and back to Whitesheet Hill car park.
The hill fort is Iron Age, with high rampart and deep ditches. It dates from around 500BC, lying at 800 feet above sea level. The causewayed enclosure (camp) consists of a ring of short lengths of bank and ditch and was built about 5,500 years ago.
Retrace your steps back to the Beech Clump and continue downhill for approximately 300 yards. Go over the stile and then turn left through a gate in to a field, opposite Jimmy’s Pits. This area is specifically managed for tree sparrows. Walk along the edge of the field towards the farm buildings. On reaching Search Farmhouse, turn right onto the track.
Search Farm is home to a thriving population of rare Tree Sparrows. Numbers of these farmland birds have declined by 95% since the 1970s. With special feeding points and nest boxes, National Trust rangers and volunteers are working with tenants at Search Farm, which is in the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, to ensure their survival.
Continue along the track, then carefully cross the main road on to Stourton High Street. Going straight ahead follow this road back to the main visitor car park.
End: Visitor Reception, grid ref: ST 77838 34024
In partnership with
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Hard
- Distance: 6 miles (9.7km)
- Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 183, Explorer 142
Footpaths across farmland and chalkdown, crossing roads and narrow lanes used by vehicles. The smaller paths can be boggy in wet weather so sturdy footwear is advisable. The ground is mostly flat, but with a steep ascent to the top of Whitesheet Hill. Please keep to footpaths - you'll be walking on working farmland where cattle may be grazing. Dogs are allowed on this walk, but must be kept under close control. Due to steep ascents, 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
- Contact us