Take a delightful walk, passing through some idyllic English countryside to Farleigh Hungerford Castle – an impressive 14th century castle not far from Bath with hidden treasures and sinister past… You’ll see manor houses and medieval barns, ruined castles and restored canals, chocolate box cottages and a White Horse carved into the hillside beneath an Iron Age camp.
It’s perfect for nature lovers – when I did this walk on a warm July day, the hedgerows were alive with butterflies and bees, the meadows bright with wildflowers and the undergrowth crackling with the sound of rabbits. It’s a real treat.
- Start/Parking: The walk begins and ends at Bradford on Avon railway station. Pay and Display parking is available.
- Distance: Six miles/three hours.
- Maps: OS Explorer 156/142
- Terrain: The route is a little muddy in places, so sensible footwear is definitely recommended, especially after wet weather. It’s mostly off-road, but does follow quiet lanes and roads at times – please take care.
- Food and Drink: Farleigh Hungerford Castle has a small shop selling snacks and hot drinks. There are pubs and cafés in Bradford on Avon, Lower Westwood and Avoncliff and a tearoom at Iford Manor which is open on weekends.
Directions are in bold
Leaving the railway station car park, head right along the main road until you see a signpost for the Tithe Barn. Walk through the park or alongside it to reach the barn. Bradford on Avon Tithe Barn is a huge 14th century structure with a spectacular timber cruck roof, and it’s one of the best examples of a medieval barn in the country.
It’s well worth a visit and entirely free to enter. It’s usually open between 10:30 and 16:00 every day – check the website for details, because it’s sometimes closed for events.
To The Canal
Go left to join the Kennett and Avon Canal and walk right, continuing along the tow-path to reach a wooden footbridge. The 87-mile long Kennett and Avon links London with the Bristol Channel. It was completed in 1810, but was never a huge success. Its income halved when the Great Western Railway opened in 1841. It fell into decline and disrepair, and eventually closed in the 1960s.
But after being restored, today it’s busy with holidaymakers and people who’ve made these boats their home. There’s an eclectic collection of vessels bobbing along the towpath. Some are tatty and tarp-covered, but others are freshly painted, with gold-rimmed portholes and blooming hanging baskets that add colour to the brown-green background of the canal’s murky water.
To Lower Westwood
Cross the canal and go right, crossing a small footbridge and going through a kissing gate into a field on the left. Continue through the field, keeping the field edge to your right to reach a stile at the far end of the field. Cross this stile and walk up the steep hill to reach a stile at the far edge of the field. Cross this stile and go left, uphill to a kissing gate on the edge of woodland on the far side of the field. Don’t go through the gate, but go left and follow the field perimeter back on a path to reach a stile in the fence on your right.
Cross the stile and go uphill to cross a stile to the left of a metal gate. In the same direction, with the field edge to your right, cross another stile then reach a further stile in the corner of a wall.
Some of these fields have livestock in them, so keep dogs on leads. I had a brief standoff with some horses in front of a stile, was stared at by a herd of cows who watched my every move, and was loudly clucked at by some hens – I think they could tell I was a city-dwelling day tripper.
You’ll now be on an enclosed path, and you’ll emerge into someone’s back garden – don’t panic, you’re on a public right of way. But it’s probably best not to stop here for a picnic. Walk along the drive and open (and close) the gate.
Cross the road, go briefly right and cross a stile on your left into a field. Head to the opposite corner of the field, and look out for two stiles close together on your right. Cross the first of these and keep walking with the field edge on your left.
The tower of Westwood Church will be in front of you, and on a clear day, you can see a white horse cut into the hillside far to the south east on your left. This is the Westbury White Horse, cut into the chalk in the late 17th century. It had to be scoured regularly to keep it looking white, although in the 1950s it was concreted over and painted. It’s now under the care of English Heritage as part of Bratton Camp and White Horse.
Cross three stiles before reaching a road. Walk along it carefully to the T junction, and cross the road to pass through a kissing gate. Walk along the lane, and take the path on the left, keeping the wall on your left. You’ll emerge into the churchyard at Westwood.
Westwood Manor is tucked behind the church. It’s a National Trust property with 15th century origins and peaceful gardens. There’s also a pub in Westwood, the New Inn – this can be reached by heading left on the road from the churchyard.
To Farleigh Hungerford
Leave the churchyard on the opposite corner to the one you entered, cross the road and cross the stile opposite into a field. Go right and follow the edge of the field around, until you pass through a small clump of trees and rejoin the small road.
Follow the quiet lane down the hill, listening out for cars and tractors. It’s a narrow road, so please be careful. Step onto the verges to let vehicles pass.
When the lane meets the main road, head right and cross the bridges. Be very careful here, making sure you’re walking on the right hand side of the road. After crossing the second bridge there’s a pavement on your left, which takes you up the hill to the entrance of Farleigh Hungerford Castle.
Farleigh Hungerford Castle was once a splendid castle, home to the remarkable Hungerford family, who lived there for 300 years. They were involved in some of the most important events in English history, including the Wars of the Roses, the Hundred Years’ War, the Reformation, the Civil War and the Restoration. Hear their stories – full of intrigue, scandal, betrayal, heroism, incompetence and excess – on the castle’s free audio tour.
The castle has a shop selling hot and cold drinks and snacks, and is the perfect place for a picnic.
Leave the castle the same way you entered it. Follow the footpath sign to the left, down some steps to the River Frome. Follow the path with the river on your right, and when the track turns sharply to the left, go right at a footpath sign to join the Macmillan Way. Cross a small footbridge and a stile. Walk through the meadows, passing through the kissing gates until you come to a road. Go right into Iford, crossing the bridge.
Iford is a gorgeous village. The manor has terraced Italianate gardens, designed by Harold Peto in the early 20th century. Peto is also responsible for placing the 18th century bronze statue of Britannia perched picturesquely on the bridge. The gardens are open from April to October, but check the website for details. A tearoom is open at weekends.
Turn right at the manor, following the road uphill until you reach the T-Junction at the top. Walk left along the road, keeping to the verges as much as possible until you reach a sign for a bridle path to Upper Westwood on your left. This bridle path was muddy and overgrown on my visit, so be warned! Follow it into Upper Westwood and go right, following the road through the village.
Immediately after passing a nursery school on your right, go left, downhill on a narrow lane, and join a footpath on your right. The path forks here, but keep to the one on the right. Go downhill through the trees until you reach another road junction. Walk straight across and keep heading downhill to reach Avoncliff and the canal.
Avoncliff is a lovely little hamlet, with a train station, a tearoom, a pub and, rather impressively, an aqueduct for the canal, taking boats above the river and railway below.
Pass beneath the aqueduct and go right to rejoin the towpath with the canal on your right. Follow the path all the way back to Bradford on Avon.