Ancient routes explored




In his famous book about  the Pilgrim Road to Canterbury, The Old Road, Hilaire Belloc made the observation that the topography of Central Southern England is dominated by six ranges of hills, all of which, more or less, emanate from the Salisbury Plain, where is to be found the great Temple of Stonehenge. This was the map he produced to illustrate the concept:

He went on to describe how these ridges became the first roads used by the early settlers of the country, when climate improvements made the county habitable, around 11,000 years ago. The other key route was The River Thames whose centrality to the region and navigability meant it was able to supplement the high routes. He also explained why the North Downs, linking the channel crossing at Dover to Central England became the most important road of all, and this was the subject of his book.

As a keen walker, I was intrigued by this idea; when I first read his book, I had already walked much of all six of the hill ranges and I wondered if could make this a more unified project. Essentially, I set out to use existing trails to build a network of paths that start at the Salisbury Plain and follow each the six ranges to the sea, adding in the River Thames as well, as this was the other critically important geographic feature.

What I came up with was an Integrated Network of Southern English Paths or INSEP, if you prefer. And here it is:







  Path From To



gpx file



1.  The Greater Ridgeway

        (aka The Great Chalkway)

    Link Link  
  Wessex Ridgeway Lyme Regis Avebury* Link  Link 125
  Ridgeway Path Avebury* Ivinghoe Beacon Link Link 91
  Icknield Way Ivinghoe Beacon Nr Thetford Link Link 101
  Peddars Way Nr Thetford Hunstanton Link Link 45
GREEN 2.  Pilgrim's Way     Link Link  
  St Swithun's Way Winchester* Farnham   Link 34
  North Downs Way Farnham Dover Link Link 126
PINK 3.  South Downs Way Winchester* Eastbourne Link Link 100
BLACK 4. Mendip Way Weston Super Mare Frome* Link Link 49
PURPLE 5. Cotswold Way Bath* Chipping Campden Link Link 95

6. Great Stones Way

       (passing through Stonehenge) 

Salisbury * Avebury* Link link 38
RED 7.  Salisbury Link Path      


       Clarendon way Winchester* Salisbury* Link Link 27
       Shaftesbury Old Drove Salisbury* Donhead St Andrews*   Link 16
       Wessex Ridgeway (part) Donhead St Andrews* Warminster* Covered in 1 above  
       Colliers Way (part) Warminster* Frome* Link Link 9
       Mostly Macmillan Way (small part) Frome* Bradford on Avon Link 9
      Kennet and Avon Canal (part) Bradford on Avon Bath* Link 9
BLUE 8.  Extended Thames Path       Link  
  Cotswold Canal Walk (part) Framilode, Severn Estury Cirencester Link Link 20
  Thames Path Cirencester Thames Barrier Link Link 181
  Thames path extension Thames Barrier Dartford Link 13
  Darent Valley Path (part) Dartford Otford* Link Link 12
* = intersection point            
                                      TOTAL MILES 1,325

The Cotswold Way does not of course end anywhere near the sea, but otherwise the network developed much in line with my original idea. Nearly all of the routes use established paths, often National Trails, the exception being the Salisbury Link Path which, I readily concede, is something of a contrivance, designed to join several routes together. I have sometimes taken small liberties with start and finishing points to make certain routes join up precisely.

I have walked all of these routes and recommend them as a wonderful tour of Southern England as well as an exploration of its most ancient routes. 

I would like to offer my thanks to these two excellent sites, both of which I have made much use of in building this page.


I would greatly appreciate any comments.


John Price

July 2022