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Walk the Pilgrims' Way with a Cicerone guidebook - Introduction

Cover of The Pilgrims' Way
2 Feb 2017
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
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The Pilgrims' Way

To Canterbury from Winchester and London

by Leigh Hatts
Book published by Cicerone Press

This guidebook describes an ancient pilgrimage route in southern England from Winchester in Hampshire, or Southwark, London to Canterbury, a 133 mile walk through wood and farmland, with views across the Weald. Divided into stages of about 10 miles, with route summary and information on public transport, accommodation and places of interest.

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Cover: Paperback - Laminated
Size: 17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
Weight: 230g

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This guidebook details the Pilgrims' Way, an historic pilgrimage route to Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, home of the shrine of the martyred archbishop, St Thomas Becket. The route is described both from Winchester in Hampshire (136½ miles) and London's Southwark Cathedral (90¼ miles), with an optional spur to Rochester Cathedral.


With relatively easy walking on ancient byways, the route from Winchester is presented in 15 stages of 4¾-13½ miles: it can be comfortably completed in under a fortnight. It follows a major chalk ridge through scenic countryside, taking in characterful towns and villages and historic churches. The route from Southwark is described in 10 stages and includes a visit to the ruined Lesnes Abbey.


Detailed route description is accompanied by 1:50,000 OS mapping, advice on making the most of a trip and information on the historical background to the pilgrimage, key historical figures and local points of interest. Accommodation listings and details of facilities and transport links can be found in the appendices.


Pilgrimages to Becket's shrine began within a few years of the saint's death in 1170, although Canterbury was a popular destination even before this time due to the nearby shrine of St Augustine. The route has featured in literature, drama and film, and forms the setting for Geoffrey Chaucer's famous Middle English work, The Canterbury Tales.

  • Activities
    walking, trekking, pilgrimage
  • Seasons
    Medieval pilgrims were hardy and often undertook the walk in winter but summer and autumn offer the chance of seeing hops, hillside vineyards, lavender fields and orchards bursting with growth.
  • Centres
    Winchester, Alton, Farnham, Guildford, London, Dartford and Rochester, with plenty of accommodation and easy transport on the two routes.
  • Difficulty
    The first pilgrims always sought the easiest route so while there are unavoidable rises in ground and sometimes steep hills there are also long flat stretches. No special equipment is required beyond a water bottle and sandwiches in case progress is slower than expected. The ancient rutted path can be partly flooded in wet winter months.
  • Must See
    The Pilgrims' Way is often along a shelf on the side rather than the top of the North Downs but still high enough for long views. The downs are broken by valleys marked by chapels, castles and river crossings.

November 2017


Chartham Hatch, page 159
The Chapter Arms pub has closed.

Harbledown, page 160
The parish church is called 'St Michael & All Angels', not All Saints.

June 2017

On page 74 the second sentence in the last paragraph should read: “Near the top of the hill go left by Southbrooks Farmhouse.”

On page 78 the second sentence in the last paragraph should begin: “At a second bus stop go left…”.

On page 80 remember to start counting the flights of steps as soon as you leave the stepping stones. At the turn off point there is an arrow on the left pointing to the right.

Appendix B Shooters Hill, page 201
Rose Cottage bed & breakfast has closed.

May  2017

Seale, page 62
Totfield Lane should be Totford Lane.

St Martha’s Hill, page 70
After St Martha’s Church look out for purple waymarks which are a good guide as far as the kissing gate opposite the post box at Albury Street (page 71).

Hackhurst Downs, page 75
Once through the kissing gate onto Hackhurst Downs note that the National Trust sign calls the spot 'Blatchford Down'.

Appendix B Wouldham, page 202
Wouldham Court Farm bed & breakfast has closed.

April 2017

Bishop's Sutton, Page 40
At the bottom of the page: note that the road runs downhill followed by a slight incline before going further downhill. The stile on the left is a little further along the road than maybe expected and is seen at the last moment.

Ropley, Page 42
The "unusual corrugated iron gate" has been replaced with a kissing gate.

Woodside Hill hamlet, Page 44
Start of last paragraph: At the bottom of the hill you pass Lower Woodside Farm (left) before the road double bends. After 0.25 miles turn left when the road goes sharp right.


History of the Way
Renewed interest
Historical figures along the Way
Variations to the Way
Walking the Way
When to walk
Where to stay
Using this guide
Winchester to Canterbury
Stage 1 Winchester to Alresford
Stage 2 Alresford to Alton
Stage 3 Alton to Farnham
Stage 4 Farnham to Guildford
Stage 5 Guildford to Box Hill
Stage 6 Box Hill to Merstham
Stage 7 Merstham to Oxted
Stage 8 Oxted to Otford
Stage 9 Otford to Wrotham
Stage 10 Wrotham to Halling
Stage 11 Halling to Aylesford
Stage 11a Peters Village to Rochester
Stage 12 Aylesford to Harrietsham
Stage 13 Harrietsham to Boughton Lees
Stage 14 Boughton Lees to Chilham
Stage 15 Chilham to Canterbury
London Route
Stage 1a Southwark to Shooters Hill
Stage 2a Shooters Hill to Dartford
Stage 3a Dartford to Otford
Appendix A Itinerary planner
Appendix B Accommodation
Appendix C Further information
Appendix D Further reading


The Pilgrims’ Way (PW) is a route to Canterbury Cathedral that begins in Winchester with an alternative starting point at Southwark in London. These ancient paths, which eventually merge, became famous around 1200 when pilgrims first started making the journey (on horseback and on foot) to the tomb of martyred St Thomas Becket in Canterbury.

The route from Winchester follows part of a major landscape feature of southern England, a chalk ridge extending from the Ridgeway in the west to the white cliffs of Dover in the east. From Farnham to Canterbury the ridge is part of the North Downs, which act as a barrier on the approach to London and to the Thames valley from the south coast.

The main towns along the way are found where the ridge is broken by rivers such as the Itchen at Winchester, the Wey at Guildford and the Mole at Dorking. The PW for the most part follows a terrace on the south side of the ridge, along the spring line, where the villages, churches and pubs are to be found.

Scenic: The Pilgrims’ Way passing the River Itchen (Stage 1)

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