Living with the White Horse
A professor from Oxford University guides you through the latest research and excavation in one of England’s most significant ancient landscapes, where history and prehistory are etched into the soft, green, downland hills of a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.
- The Uffington White Horse, one of England’s most iconic ancient landmarks.
- The hidden history of the Ridgeway’s spectacular hillforts.
- An expertly informed perspective on the Iron Age, with special access to archaeological sites.
- Stay in the picturesque Thames-side town of Abingdon, near Oxford.
- Get off the beaten track into an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Discover the Ridgeway
See the ‘Itinerary’ tab above for full itinerary details.
“Of all the earthworks that are such a notable feature of the landscape in England and Wales, few are more prominent or more striking than the hillforts built during the centuries before the Roman conquest.”
(James Forde-Johnson, archaeologist, 1976).
This tour focuses on the Iron Age hillforts associated with one of England’s most famous landmarks, the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire. This striking figure of a horse was cut into a chalk hillside thousands of years ago and was a prominent feature in the Iron Age landscape. It is still visible from miles away and has become a symbol of England’s heritage. The hillfort above it, known as Uffington Castle, was one of a number of hillforts quite regularly spaced along one of the oldest trackways in Europe – the Ridgeway.
Enjoy panoramic views and a strong sense of England’s past in a landscape of monuments which have ancient Celtic, Romano-British and Saxon histories, and have retained significance ever since. Your tour leader, Gary Lock, is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford and an expert on the Iron Age. He has directed excavations at three of the hillforts you visit on the tour, so this is a unique opportunity to gain inside information on these spectacular and enigmatic monuments spanning England’s transition from prehistory to history.
Dates & Prices:
12 – 15 May 2021. Only £745. Last few places.
15 – 18 September 2021. Only £745. Open for booking.
Single supplement £150.
Early booking is recommended.
- Three night’s hotel accommodation at the Cosener’s House Hotel, Abingdon.
- All breakfasts and a 3-course evening meal on the first night.
- Daily excursions with all transport, entrances and expert guiding by Professor Lock.
- Additional support from a local guide/manager.
This tour requires a good level of mobility and reasonable fitness to reach the hillforts by walking on rough paths for a mile or so over open ground with uphill and downhill sections. The pace is always gentle and stops are frequent. Please feel free to ask us for more details.
More on what to expect
Your Tour Director
Gary Lock is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, where he has taught and researched for many years. He specialises in the Iron Age, has carried out fieldwork in the UK, Spain and Italy, and co-directed the recent ‘Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland’ project. He has directed excavations at three of the hillforts you visit on the tour, so this is a unique opportunity to gain inside information from an expert on these spectacular and enigmatic monuments spanning England’s transition from prehistory to history.
Make your way to the picturesque Thameside town of Abingdon, near Oxford. See the ‘Location’ tab above for more details.
How To Book
Reservations & Enquiries: To reserve your place or enquire further simply enter your details in the form on this page, or call us on (UK) 0121 444 1854. There is no commitment and no payment at this stage; reservations are purely provisional until we have confirmed availability and proceeded with booking and payment.
Booking & Payment: Once you have checked availability and reserved your place, we will require your full details and a deposit of £100 per person to secure your booking. This can be done with a credit/debit card over the telephone (0121-444-1854) or by sending us a completed booking form and cheque. To print a booking form click here.
See our booking conditions for further details.
All Hidden History’s tours include a host of fully guided excursions and interesting talks to create an enriching travel experience. They also include some luxury and leisure by choosing great hotels and keeping the itineraries fairly relaxed and varied. More about What to Expect…
Other UK Tours
- Departure Time12 May 2021 and 15 September 2021.
Day 1: Arrivals.
Make your way to the historic town of Abingdon, near Oxford. Check-in at The Cosener’s House Hotel and meet your tour director, Professor Gary Lock, for an introductory lecture followed by an included 3-course evening meal.
Day 2: Cherbury, Segsbury, White Horse Hill and Uffington Castle.
We begin our exploration of the Vale of the White Horse with Cherbury Camp, on the northern edge of the Vale. We have special access to this hidden gem which is normally closed to the public and is off the beaten track, a 20-30 minute walk from the road. Unusually for Iron Age forts, it is sited on low-lying ground and is larger than many forts on the Ridgeway. A short drive then takes us up onto the Ridgeway and, first, to Segsbury Camp, also called Letcombe Castle, where excavations by your tour leader revealed evidence for a substantial Iron Age settlement and communal centre.
Stop for lunch in the village of Woolstone, where the White Horse Inn has been serving local fayre since Elizabethan times, and then enjoy the afternoon walking on White Horse Hill in the company of your tour leader, who excavated here. Explore the famous chalk-cut figure, the Dragon Hill and the summit hillfort known as Uffington Castle, with great views in all directions. To end the day we have arranged special access to the local museum in Uffington, which has displays on the history and archaeology of the area. It is housed in the schoolroom of the book ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ by Thomas Hughes, who was from the village.
Day 3: Alfred’s Castle, Liddington Castle and Barbury Camp.
Just off the Ridgeway, on lower ground, Alfred’s Castle is a small enclosure where excavations by your tour leader showed intensive Iron Age occupation, and re-use in Romano-British times as a farm-villa. There is also evidence for Saxon period activity and, indeed, King Alfred is thought to have defeated the Danes in battle near here, hence the castle’s name.
Liddington Castle is perched on some of the highest ground on the Ridgeway, with extensive views across the Thames Valley and the Marlborough Downs. Like Uffington, its ramparts were begun early in the Iron Age and it was occupied for many centuries. It is often regarded as the site of the Battle of Mount Badon, c.500 AD, where the Saxons were defeated by the Britons, possibly led by King Arthur. After stopping for a pub lunch we visit our final hillfort, Barbury Castle, undoubtedly one of the most impressive with its double ring of ditches and ramparts and spectacular setting on the Ridgeway.
Day 4: Abingdon and Departures.
To complete your tour we include a final morning’s guided walk around the historic Thames-side town of Abingdon, discovering its delightful architecture and many centuries of intriguing history before dispersing for home.
Abingdon is located about 10 miles south of the city of Oxford. The Oxford Bus Company operate a regular bus service (every 10 minutes) between the two, with a journey time of about 20 minutes. There are equally regular train services to Oxford from London Paddington and Marylebone stations with a journey time of about 1 hour, and Oxford is also well served by rail from other parts of the country. The Cosener’s House Hotel is in the centre of Abingdon, a short walk from the bus stop.
Use the + and – buttons on the map below to zoom in and out.
The Cosener’s House Hotel occupies a picturesque Thames-side position in the grounds of the medieval Abbey of Abingdon, just 8 miles from Oxford. It takes its name from the Cuisinier or Kitchener (the official responsible for providing food for the Abbey). The oldest part of the present building is the central portion which dates from the mid-eighteenth century.
The hotel is one of the hidden gems of Abingdon with 50 bedrooms and a restaurant with beautiful views overlooking private gardens and the River Thames.
The Cosener’s House, 15 – 16 Abbey Close, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 3JD. Tel: 01235 523 198