The Pilgrims' Way

To Canterbury from Winchester and London

By Leigh Hatts

This guidebook describes an ancient pilgrimage route in southern England from Winchester in Hampshire, or Southwark, London to Canterbury, a 138 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.



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.


Winchester, Alton, Farnham, Guildford, London, Dartford and Rochester, with plenty of accommodation and easy transport on the two routes.


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.
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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.
2 Feb 2017
16 Oct 2018
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
  • Overview

    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 (138 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.

  • Contents

    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

  • Updates
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    Be notified by email when this book receives an update or correction

    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.

  • Reviews
    Very accurate, very up to date, very interesting and a good pocket-size guide.

    I have just used Leigh Hatts' guide to the Pilgrims Way and found it very good indeed. Very accurate, very up to date, very interesting and a good pocket-size guide. No need for any updates at all !

    David White, by email

    This guide book is first class - it has everything

    The Pilgrims' Way is an ancient 141-mile route from Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire to Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. Canterbury Cathedral houses the shrine of St Thomas Beckett, who was murdered by knights loyal to Henry II in I 170 after a major and very public split with the king. The route follows ancient byways and scenic countryside but should not be confused with the North Downs Way, the 156-mile National Trail from Farnham in Surrey and which has a Canterbury loop, although both routes do often Coincide.

    This is the second guide book by Leigh Hates to be published by Cicerone, following his Thames Path and Lea Valley Walk guides, and it has everything - an extremely thorough step-by-step route description with maps; distances from the various stops; detailed information on places to see en route and background on Becket; transport details and recommended pubs, hotels, guest houses and other accommodation.

    There are also full details of the other Pilgrims' Way, a 90-mile route from Southwark Cathedral in London which links with the main route at Otford and which was immortalised by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales.

    This guide book is first class, but the only problem with the Pilgrims' Way - as Leigh Hatts tells us - is that waymarking on the route is rare and often non-existent, and that's such a shame on a trail so rich in heritage. 

    Graham Smith, Strider

    I bought a copy of the new Pilgrims Way guide and am wowed by it. Leigh Hatts has made a cracking job of it, and your team in Milnthorpe has once again came up trumps in putting together another attractive guide that scores on every count.  You’ve all done a great service to pilgrims of the future.
    By email, Feb 2017

    It’s a 136-mile route packed with interest and history, and Leigh Hatts, creator of the Thames Path, is an entertaining and knowledgeable guide.
    Outdoor Focus, Summer 2017

    "An excellent guide to this English Camino"
    The Catholic Herald

    "Another great Cicerone publication, in their tradition of producing attractive and accurate walking guides...

    Pocket size - but the contents are certainly not pocket size. Inside, on glossy paper, we find a huge amount of information backed by excellent colour photos. There are clear directions [and] the practical things... are all clearly and succinctly presented.
    Hatts includes the historical, spiritual and literary background, which makes this book much more than just a guide to walking a footpath. In his introduction and inserted into the walk at strategic points, is fascinating and relevant information about saints, historical figures, churches, writers and artists - enriching the walk both at the planning stage and as it is undertaken. this amount of material makes it also very readable for anyone doing some armchair travelling.
    This must be the definitive guide to the Pilgrim's Way... a pleasure to browse, dip into, use for a local walk, or study before or during the walk - highly recommended."
    Helen Willson, the Confraternity of Saint James

    "Clear descriptions and maps for people seeking to make the pilgrimage in the 21st Century"
    The Great Outdoors

    "It's a bonus for two routes to be included so you can choose the most relevant one for you. All vital info is included, such as advice on when to walk [the Pilgrim's Way], where to stay and refreshment at each stage. It's the definitive guide for anyone wanting to walk the Pilgrim's Way.
    Outdoor Enthusiast

    "This guidebook is first class, but the only problem with the Pilgrim's Way - as Leigh Hatts tells us - is that waymarking on the route is rare and often non-existent, and that's such a shame on a trail so rich in heritage.
    [This guidebook] has everything - an extremely thorough step-by-step route description with maps; distances from the various stops; detailed information on places to see en route and background on Becket; transport details and recommended pubs, hotels, guest houses and other accommodation."
    Graham Smith, the Long Distance Walkers' Association
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Leigh Hatts

Leigh Hatts has been walking the Thames towpath and exploring the river and Docklands since 1981, when he worked on the feasibility study that resulted in the decision to establish the route as a National Trail. He worked as a reporter with the walkers' magazine TGO and as arts correspondent of the Catholic Herald. He is co-founder of Bankside Press.

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