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South East - Oxford and Oxfordshire

top 10 places

Top 100 places to visit in south east england

2. White Horse Hill

Top 10 ten places to visit in South East England - Oxford and Oxfordshire

White Horse Hill


The internationally-renowned Uffington White Horse can been seen from miles away leaping across the head of a dramatic dry valley in the Ridgeway escarpment. But this is only part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading out across the high chalk downland.

The stylised form of the White Horse, an icon of the English landscape, has been a subject of discussion since the 17th century. Written records date back to the 12th century but do not give proof of the Horse's age or why it was there.

Until recently theories on its age centred on two periods - the Iron Age, as its shape is similar to those found on coins from the period; or Anglo-Saxon, as it was believed it may have been constructed to celebrate King Alfred's victories over the invading Danes in 871AD. New testing methods on soil samples from the base of the trench showed that the Horse was much older than had been thought and was in fact about 3000 years old (late Bronze-Age).

During the early 1990's archaeologists dug a series of trenches around and just touching the Horse figure. These confirmed that the Horse had been constructed by digging a trench to shape and then backfilling with chalk blocks. It also proved that the Horse was in the same position and roughly the same shape as when it was built.

Below the horse is the dramatic sweep of a steep sided dry valley, known as the Manger. Ripples in the eastern valley side are known as the Giants Stairs and are a reminder of how the valley was created by scouring melt-water during the retreat of the last Ice Age. A terrace along the lower edge of the western slopes is thought to be the remains of medieval farming practice.

To the east of the Manger lies a small roundish hill with a flattened top. This is Dragon Hill and is said to be the site where St. George, England's patron saint, slew the dragon. The blood from the dying dragon so poisoned the ground beneath that grass never grows there leaving the chalk scar we see today.

Uffington Castleand Pillow Mound
Crowning White Horse Hill is the Iron Age hillfort known as Uffington Castle. A simple design of one rampart and ditch the castle at 857ft (262m), it forms the highest point in Oxfordshire. The original west entrance remains, whilst smaller entrances through the south and north-east ramparts were created by the Romano-British during their occupation of the site.

Between the castle and the Horse lie a number of burial mounds, the most obvious being the Pillow Mound. These date from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and are unusual in that they were reused for Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon burials. 

Address:
White Horse Hill
Near Uffington
Oxfordshire,
England, UK

Opening Times:
All year round

Admission:
Free

Map of Uffington, near White Horse Hill

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