Heading towards newbury on the A34, you exit at the Highclere castle turning, and then turn left at the junction, taking you straight into the car park. It was a beautiful sunny day today.The hill itself is an Iron Age hill fort, and now an area of Special Scientific Interest.
You go through a kissing gate, and there's a picnic area on the right, but I'd suggest you stop and eat at the top, admiring the 360 degrees views of the downs.For the first half of the climb, you can utilise the wooden steps cut into the hill, most of which were in good condition but you still need to take care.
Then you come to another kissing gate, theres a notice here to make sure dogs are put onto the lead, as there are animals grazing in the fields. If you turn and look to the right you will see Highclere Castle, which in itself has many footpaths running through the grounds and is open to the public, though access is restricted when there are events on.
There are no more steps from here on in, its a straight climb and calf strain to the top, but keep going as the view really is amazing. When you reach the summit, you are now walking around the old hill fort. During the walk up we were both comfy in a short sleeved t-shirt and a vest jacket, but when you get to the top you'll need a hat and a jumper at the least cause its bleedin cold. The wind whips around you and you are pretty exposed. We stopped here for a breather, some water and to take pictures of a red kite and sparrowhawk who decided to enjoy the winds and the sun and play around here.
Once you are ready and refreshed, keep walking and you will come to the memorial to The 5th Earl of Carnarvon (who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun). It is fenced off with a white metal rail.
Then we continued to about half way round the hill fort, the ditches are clearly defined still and then retraced our steps back down.There is some lovely fauna around you, as well as butterflies and skylarks too. You can see all around the valley, and if you are lucky to have a panoramic camera, man would you get a great picture from this spot. Alas, I'm not so lucky but i do have some great views of the lush green countryside from here.
It is somewhat harder coming down, then the climb up. The gradient is harsh and our legs were aching by now. Both the dogs coped okay on the descent, but take care to maintain a slow pace as trying to curb your speed and slow down is so hard.
Date: 31st May 2011
Total walk: 1.29 miles
Average pace: 56.26 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave, branston and mustard