Watlington Hill and the Wormsley Estate – An Emblematic Chilterns Walk

Walking trail

This is a 8.4 miles (13.4 kilometres) walk taking you around the National Trust’s Watlington Hill site, Pyrton Hill, Cowleaze Wood and the Wormsley Estate, with opportunities to see rare and endangered chalk grassland and woodland habitats, fine views and the grounds of the former home of the philanthropist Sir Paul Getty. The walk offers spectacular views over Watlington and the Vale of Oxford, and along the Chiltern Escarpment.

We strongly recommend using the local 1:25 000 Ordnance Survey map in addition to these instructions.


Watlington & Wormsley walk map


Start at the National Trust car park at Watlington Hill. Grid. Ref. SU709935.


From the National Trust carpark take the path between the large signboards in the car park into an area of woodland. Cross a track to a private property and then continue straight ahead on the wide path through scrubland to a gate.

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View from Watlington Hill


Go through the gate to an area of open, closely cropped grassland. Continue on the grassy path ahead of you. You will soon see fine views on your right towards Pyrton Hill and Shirburn Hill further to the northeast along the Chiltern Escarpment. Continue straight ahead along the ridge of Watlington Hill. After 400 metres the path heads more steeply downhill and slightly to the right. Keeping to the right, head downhill towards the White Mark. There’s a bench here with lovely views towards Watlington and the Oxford plain.

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White Mark Watlington Hill


From the White Mark, continue steeply downslope heading for a gate in the lower right-hand corner of the National Trust’s Watlington Hill site. From the gate head down a short track to meet a road. Ignore the footpath opposite to Watlington Chalk Pits. Instead follow the roadside path for about 30 metres and then cross the road and turn right into a track signposted as the Ridgeway long distance footpath, which at this point follows the route of the ancient Icknield Way.

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The Icknield Way


Continue along the Ridgeway between a set of concrete blocks, following the wide track for just over 750 metres until you reach another two sets of concrete blocks either side of a crossing lane. Here, turn right onto the lane (Station Road), which is part of the Oxfordshire Way. After 350m, you pass through some white wood fencing. After a further 100m look out for a concealed path on your left, marked as path PY16.

Shirburn Hill from the Oxfordshire Way


Follow this clearly marked path along the edge of Pyrton Wood and Shirburn Wood, through woodland and grassland. At a fork, keep left on path SH3 with open fields on your left and woodland on your right. After 1.3 km, you will reach a gate at the bottom of an area of Access Land at Shirburn Hill.

Shirburn Hill chalk grassland in Oxfordshire


Follow the obvious footpath uphill across the chalk grassland at Shirburn Hill. On reaching the top of the Access Land, go through a gate and continue uphill to reach a stile. Cross the stile and continue diagonally across a field towards a second stile in the opposite corner of the field just left of a house. Cross the stile to reach Christmas Common Road. Cross the road with care and turn left on the road in front of a large water tower in a fenced off enclosure. At the end of the fenced enclosure, join a footpath on your right into Cowleaze Wood that runs parallel with the road. Follow this for about 200 metres until you reach the car park. Walk through the informal car park until you are opposite the road entrance. Here turn right into the woodland, away from the road.

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Chalk Grassland at Shirburn


Take the waymarked footpath that heads between wooden bollards away from the road, past a noticeboard about the 51 Squadron Memorial and follow signs towards the memorial. At a wide crossing avenue, head straight across and slightly to the left, following a waymarked footpath and a white arrow painted on a tree. The path soon curves to the left and heads gently downhill through an area of woodland. On reaching a gate you enter the Wormsley Estate. Continue straight ahead and downhill across a field to a second gate. Continue straight downhill towards a gate in a small gap in a hedge. Go through the gate to reach a lane.

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Cowleaze Wood


Turn left, following the lane for 60 metres towards Vicar’s Farm, looking out for a tall wooden gate on your right with a painted white maker to path L23; it is easy to walk past it. Turn right through the gate and follow the path that skirts around the grounds of Vicar’s Farm to another gate. Go through the gate and head half left uphill across a small field to a stile and a path that leads into woodland. Cross the stile and continue in more or less the same direction uphill through the woodland. The path eventually curves right to meet a crossing track. Turn right onto path L19. (Look out for the painted marker on a tree.) Follow this clear, wide path gently downhill until you reach a road at Wellground Farm. Ignore the footpath opposite and turn right onto the road, which takes you through the Wormsley Estate. Soon, through the trees on your right, you catch glimpses of Wormsley Park House, then the Opera Pavilion and then the cricket ground. Where the road turns sharp right, towards Wormsley Park House, bear slightly left ahead on a track.

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Ox-eye daisies on the Wormsley Estate


Continue along the track ahead, which follows the bottom of the valley. Where the path splits, keep right, following the narrow path along the valley bottom. Pass through a narrow area of woodland and then continue on the path, with a fence on your left and a hedge on your right, until you reach a crossing path, which is part of The Chiltern Way.

The Wormsley Estate


Turn right, through a wooden gate next to a metal field gate, onto the Chiltern Way. Follow the path across a field to another gate that leads to a lane. Cross the lane to a further gate and then continue half left across another field towards a gate in the corner. Go through the gate onto another lane. Turn right onto the lane then, after about 30 metres, turn left onto footpath SH4, which is also the Chiltern Way. (There is a way-marker, and a painted arrow, on a telegraph pole on your left as you enter the footpath.) Follow this footpath, with a flint and brick wall on your right. After 200 metres, bear right at a Y-junction, leaving the Chiltern Way and following path SH4 across a rough lawn and past an ornamental urn on a plinth. Continue on this path gently uphill ignoring crossing paths for 1.8 km, through the mature beech woodland of Shotridge Wood, until the gradient flattens out at a crossing track.

Painted Lady Butterfly


Here turn right on path SH4, and then, after 80m, left onto path PY3. The pockmarked ground to your left is the remains of old chalk pits. You emerge onto a wider track. Turn left towards a house and pass it to the right of a wattle (hurdle) fence. Follow the path round to the right to join a path from the left, putting you between a fence on your left and a hedge on your right. At the next junction, turn left and follow the path between some paddocks to reach a road by a junction.

Red Kite


(If you wish to visit the Fox and Hound Public Houses, cross the road and then turn left into Christmas Common Road. The pub is 100m on your right.) To continue the walk, turn right, following Christmas Common Road for 120m and then turn left into a lane signposted to Watlington. Follow Hill Lane for 420m, ignoring the first footpath sign on your left, until you reach a second footpath sign. Turn left and then immediately right to return to the National Trust carpark at Watlington Hill where you started the walk.


End at the National Trust car park at Watlington Hill. Grid. Ref. SU709935.

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Watlington Hill and the Wormsley Estate – An Emblematic Chilterns Walk


The walk is mainly on soft footpaths. There are several short but steep descents and ascents. There are stiles and a number of gates on the route and you will need to cross quite a busy country road twice. Some paths can be muddy and slippery after prolonged or heavy rain. Stout walking shoes or walking boots are recommended in wet conditions or after heavy rain. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept under strict control to protect the wildlife that may be encountered along the walk route. On paths crossing the Wormsley Estate, dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.

Please note that parts of the route from point 3 onwards are not on National Trust land. As such, the National Trust does not check for hazards on these sections of the walk. Walkers therefore follow this route at their own risk.


Watlington Hill and the Wormsley Estate – An Emblematic Chilterns Walk

Contact us

If you need to report anything or have any suggestions about the route then please do contact us. chilternscountryside@nationaltrust.org.uk

Watlington Hill and the Wormsley Estate – An Emblematic Chilterns Walk

How to get here

Watlington Hill car park, Hill Rd, Watlington, Oxfordshire. OX49 5HS
By road

Leave the M40 at junction 6 and take the B4009 south-west into Watlington. Take the first turning left uphill towards Christmas Common. The National Trust car park on Watlington Hill is on the right.

By foot

Watlington Hill is a short walk from Watlington town centre. Please see OS map 171.

By bus

There are local bus services to Watlington from Thame, Reading, Oxford, Henley-on-Thames and Wallingford. Please contact local bus companies for details.

By bicycle

Please see OS map 171. The path is just off the Chilterns Cycleway, very close to Christmas Common. From Christmas Common, turn down Hill Road (sign-posted to Watlington). The National Trust car park is 470 metres on the left.

Watlington Hill and the Wormsley Estate – An Emblematic Chilterns Walk

Facilities and access

  • Parking is available at Watlington Hill. Grid. Ref. SU709935. Charges are £1 per hour or £3 all day, and free for National Trust members. Payment is via PayByPhone or cash.
  • Alternative Parking at the Forestry Commission’s Cowleaze Wood at SU725956
  • There are no public toilets on site. The nearest public toilets are in Watlington.
  • Refreshments: The Fox and Hounds in Christmas Common. Alternative refreshments may be found in Watlington.
  • Benches and other places to picnic can be found on Watlington Hill. Please take your litter home with you.