Stourhead Whitesheet Hill walk
Stourhead, Stourton, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 6QDRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Follow the orange waymarkers on this walk to the top of Whitesheet Hill, a site of considerable archaeological interest. Enjoy panoramic views over the Stourhead Estate and surrounding countryside and look out for the wild flowers and wildlife of this rich downland habitat.
- Bus stop
Start: Visitor Reception, grid ref: ST 77838 34024
From the Visitor Reception building in the main car park follow signs to the walled garden and house. Join the main driveway towards the house and go through the metal kissing gate, part-way along on the right-hand side. Following the orange 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 paths to the road. Turn left along the road towards Drove Lodge.
Carefully crossing the road, go through a 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 the Whitesheet Hill car park.
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.
In the car park, go over the furthest stile by the National Trust sign and ascend. Please keep to main path as the area is a sensitive butterfly habitat. Continue through a disused chalk quarry and go over the stile at 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, 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.
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 interpretation panel and onto the byway, where you turn left. Walk down the hill, passing the 18th-century milestone, for 1½ miles until the track meets the road at the Red Lion Inn. This 18th-century public house is thought to have been built to service the traffic using the east-west road and the north-south turnpike road.
Look for flowers and butterflies as you walk across Whitesheet. Cowslip and aromatic wild thyme can be found on the chalk soils, as well as orchids. Butterflies are found in this habitat, including the Chalk Hill blue and Adonis blue.
Cross the road and follow the track, which was originally part of the Hardway - an ancient trade route from Cornwall now known as Long Lane. Look for the orange waymarker and steps on your left. Go up the steps and over the stile. Follow the footpath diagonally across the field towards the terraced cottages, to a path on the right side of the cottages.
Carefully cross Stourton Lane and go up the track to Home Farm, following the waymarkers skirting around the farm to the right. Once you have passed Home Farm Cottage (on your left), leave the track to take the narrow grass path on your left, between the fence and the hedge. Cross two stiles and follow the fence to Terrace Lodge, where you will meet a track (part of the 18th-century carriage ride).
Turn left and follow the ride back to Stourhead House, going down the drive and 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.
End: Visitor Reception, grid ref: ST 77838 34024
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- 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
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