With its soft, golden Cotswold stone weavers’ cottages, medieval church and packhorse bridge, Castle Combe demonstrates all the credentials needed to play the quintessential sleepy English village in many films and TV series – from Dr Doolittle, Dick Turpin and Robin of Sherwood to the 2007 fantasy adventure film Stardust.
So it’s no surprise that producers chose the village as the backdrop to one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. In this memorable episode, Poirot attempts to escape the wickedness of the city and retires to sleepy King’s Abbot (Castle Combe) to cultivate his garden and grow the perfect marrow. But Poirot’s peace is shattered when his friend Roger Ackroyd is killed and the great detective is drawn back into the world of murder and intrigue.
From the free car park north of the village, turn right and walk downhill. Spend some time exploring the village, often described as ‘the prettiest village in England’.
Turn left at the Market Cross and walk down The Street. You’ll soon cross a packhorse bridge – after which there is a beautiful photo opportunity looking back into the village. Pick up a path running left, signed Long Dean.
The path goes over a stile and weaves alongside and above the brook, with views opening up as you climb higher. Cut through woodland and climb several stone stiles. When you reach a junction of paths and a lane at Long Dean, turn right on a bridleway signed to Ford. Carry on along the main path and, when you come to a mill, pick up a path
to the right under trees.
Go through a gate (look out for The Macmillan Way marker), and keep on the upper path above a paddock. When the track goes right, turn left over a stile, and follow the path through a field. Climb a stile to the road and walk left towards Ford.
1. TWO AND THREE QUARTER MILES
Turn right at the main road, then right along Park Lane, following a track past Church Farm House and a series of cottages. Turn left at a new build in Cotswold stone, go through a wooden stile and carry on into a wooded avenue. You soon reach an open meadow called Danks Down, a botanically rich limestone grassland and area of Special Scientific Interest. Keep your eyes peeled for marsh tits, green and great spotted woodpeckers, little owls and buzzards.
Continue along the path and cross a stream. Head right, uphill on a clear track. As you climb, views open up over the valley to your left side. Carry on alongside the fence. Pick up a path following the contour, and keep to the lower path, walking along a grassy bank above trees. Climb a stile and follow the path as it passes through the trees.
2. THREE AND THREE QUARTER MILES
When you come to a road, stay on a path that runs parallel then, after 30m, turn right over a stile and cross the road. Don’t take the stile opposite, instead walk left up the road for a further 10m and take the next path right. After this, follow a footpath through trees. When you reach a Y-junction, turn right and descend towards the road. Turn left and follow the road back to Castle Combe.
Public footpaths and bridleways through woodland and fields. May be muddy in places and there are some stiles.
HOW TO GET THERE
There is a free car park at the top of the hill north of the village, and there are strictly enforced parking regulations throughout the village itself.
By public transport:
The nearest train station is Chippenham, from which there are regular buses that make the 13-minute journey.
The Castle Inn
Castle Combe, Wiltshire
☎ 01249 783030
The White Hart
Castle Street, Castle Combe, Wiltshire SN14 7HS
☎ 01249 782295
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 156.
Grid ref: ST 846777
Castle Combe Circuit –
Motor racing track
Castle Combe, Chippenham Wiltshire SN14 7EY
☎ 01249 782417
The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk