View from the Ridgeway

The Ridgeway Off-Road to Marlborough – naturally Stunning

Cycle along the Ridgeway off-road with this route description. Most of the route is off-road with some climbs and descents that the average rider will find challenging. If you are not too proud to push going up or to use the brakes coming down, it is within the abilities of most riders. If you are carrying your kit, you’ll need a bit more strength or a few lower gears!

This section forms part of the the Lowestoft to Lands End coast-to-coast route, Englands most Easterly and Westerly mainland points, nicknamed #LowLE. It is an adventure bike ride off-road through some of England’s finest places. We rode this section in a day. A full day off-road with inexperienced teens gave me some concerns but we agreed this was our favourite section of the journey. In high summer it is simply stunning. A stretch of track I will never forget want to ride many times and really wish was closer to home.

Streatley to Marlborough or Avebury, 46 miles 4100ft ascent

The route from the Streatley Youth Hostel heads north along the A417 for half a mile or so. Take the left turn to Rectory Road Golf Course which is marked as a dead end. The road steadily climbs and narrows until it comes to a red letter box where you bear right on the the unsurfaced Ridgeway. A further steep 300ft climb is followed by an equally steep off-road descent. Navigation is very easy for this section around Uffington Castle with excellent waymarking along a single track road, a 3000 year old road! Crossing the M4 motorway involves about a mile on the road, but it is not hugely busy, there is a tricky right hand turn across the traffic to rejoin the Ridgeway off-road.

Uffington Castle
Uffington Castle, the White Horse in just visible in the top right.

From there there is another steep climb to Liddington Castle and more glorious views. From Ogbourne St George the Ridgeway off-road loops around the north of Marlborough. If time is short or legs are tired NCR 482 will take you into Marlborough avoiding the busy A346. It looks like an old railway line and it is nice and flat!

For the fit there is another climb to another ancient hill fort (Barbury Castle), then a flattish stretch along the ridge to to Overton Down. Here the Ridgeway heads west to Avebury and becomes the becomes Wessex Ridgeway. For more accommodation options turn east into Marlborough. The route into Marlborough passes through gallops and equestrian farms. We took NCR 403 but there are other bridleways marked on the map although signage is poor on the ground.

Elevation along the Ridgeway off-road - Streatley to Marlborough
Elevation (ft) along the Ridgeway off-road – Streatley to Marlborough (miles)

Ridgeway Off-Road Essentials – be prepared!

Very dusty bike after a ride on Ridgeway
Very dusty bike after a ride on Ridgeway – the bags were deep blue when we started!

If the navigation is straightforward, this route is not to be taken unprepared. Most roads go through towns, the Ridgeway off-road doesn’t. You must carry all the food and drink you need for the day, there is nothing on route without a detour and a climb back to the Ridgeway. There are a few stand-pipes which you can use to fill a water bottle but treat these a a bonus – some worked and some didn’t. The descriptions of where water taps are were hit and miss, they aren’t signed on the track. Just carry it, admittedly this was a challenge in 30C heat!

In the dry it is suitable for all types of bike that can handle British bridleways. We enjoyed it on hybrid, gravel and mountain bikes. When wet the chalk has a slippery reputation so extra care will be needed. The churned mud was hard as concrete but would be hard going when soggy. Tyres & pressures will help, I didn’t miss suspension on my gravel bike, but did have big 2.1inch tyres on 700 wheels. We rode from Lowestoft on pretty hard tyres but the rocky tracks were too wearing on the level and too skittish on the descents, so we let out quite a lot of air after the first few miles. Tyres that squished a little when we bounced them from the saddle gave us better comfort and control and made the miles more enjoyable. There is a bike shop in Goring if you want to make some changes or change tyres before heading out. Make no mistake this is hard on the bikes and one needed a new bottom bracket by the time we got to Marlborough. The other 2 bikes had brand new bearings when we set off!

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