Location:

Barbury Castle is about five miles south of Swindon and the M4, on the northern edge of the Marlborough Downs within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Other than a couple of nearby farms, there is no current settlement near the site.

By road the site can only approached by a single road ascending the scarp slope of the downs from midway along the B4005 between Wroughton and Chiseldon. More options are available by foot or horseback, including the Ridgeway, which runs west to east along the edge of the downs, and a byway south across the downs to Marlborough.

Position: grid reference SU149762

Nearby towns and cities: Swindon, Marlborough

Nearby villages: Wroughton, Chiseldon

Recommended by Peter Struve

Hackpen Hill

Hackpen Hill is accessed by taking the A4361 south out of Wroughton, in the direction of Avebury. The turning for Hackpen is almost opposite the second signpost for Broad Hinton, taking a left to Hackpen rather than the right to Broad Hinton. A typical brown tourist signpost points the way. After turning off the A4631 you will see the hill (as shown in the illustration opposite) about a mile ahead of you (only it will be dark!), and once you drive up the winding part of the hill there is a car park on the left.

Viewing Options

Once at the car park there are a number of choices for viewing. On a quiet night when there are very few or no other members of the public around the car park itself has a good hardcore surface from which to view.

Alternatively you may wish to walk along the path a little, away from the road and away from view.

You can walk in either direction, using the historical Ridgeway Path, and looking predominantly north, west or east you get terrific views and skies towards the vale of Lynham, Wroughton, and in the direction of Marlborough. Swing round and you have great views to the south!

Recommended by Ray Byrne

Photos courtesy of Google Maps

Avebury

Avebury is the site of a large henge and several stone circles in the English county of Wiltshire surrounding the village of Avebury. It is one of the finest and largest Neolithic monuments in Europe dating to around 5,000 years ago. It is older than the megalithic stages of Stonehenge, which is located about 32 kilometres (20 miles) to the south, although the two monuments are broadly contemporary overall. It lies approximately midway between the towns of Marlborough and Calne, just off the main A4 road on the northbound A4361 towards Wroughton. The henge is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a World Heritage Site. Avebury is a National Trust property
Viewing Options

The advantage of Avebury is that you get really dark skies there. The field opposite the Red Lion pub is a great spot to view from and easily accessible, always great for a little refreshment and warming the bones afterwards!

The disadvantage is that you have to be really careful where you go, bearing in mind that this is a National Trust property. Walkers of course are allowed at most times (the car park is closed at night), however, you must be ultra-careful about what equipment you use as you are not allowed to stick anything in the ground or disrupt the site in any way, so a good pair of binoculars or a light, unobtrusive refractor is really the order of the day.

But this is a great site for viewing, and you get fantastic views and great dark skies, great for observing nebulae and deep sky objects. Shooting stars are also frequently seen here, so a great spot, but do take care!

Recommended by Robin Wilkey

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia
If you have any ideas on viewing sites and would like to share them with others
please contact: Robin Wilkey

East Kennett - Borham

Travel through Avebury, and after turning the double-bend at the Red Lion head for the A4 instead of turning right towards Devizes. Once you get to the A4 turn left for less than a quarter of a mile then right to East Kennett. Drive through East Kennett until you get to what appears to be a staggered junction (see second picture below). In fact it is a T-junction only and what appears to be the wider road almost opposite the T-juction is a hard-standing access road, very erroded, which gently rises with a good wide parking area and a good place to set up telescopes. The access land belongs to Wiltshire County Council, and leads to thick woods atop the hill (and a telephone mast). Clay pigeon shooting takes place beyond the woods!

Viewing Options

Viewing can be carried out in the area shown below. Further up the hill the road is single track and so it is best to go no further than 150yds, ample space for a couple of cars and telescopes etc.

As I say, the road gets narrow further up so don't block the access road, there's no need to as there's ample space!

Recommended by Robin Wilkey

Photographs courtesy of Google Maps & Google Earth
Viewing area
X

Uffcott, near Wroughton, Swindon

Take the A4361 out of Wroughton towards Avebury for about a mile, at the second sign for Uffcott take a left turn towards the village, on the corner is an open aspect farmyard and it will feel like you are driving into the farm complex, but continue driving along the country lane for about half a mile and on the left you will find a layby which is our viewing spot. If you accidently take the first turning to the village then just drive through the village and out again and you will arrive at the same spot, but it will be on your right.

Recommended by Michael Partridge and Pete Chappell

Photographs courtesy of Google Maps & Google Earth
Viewing Area
Ashbury Hill - Ridgeway
A good site for viewing is near Ashbury, where the B4000 crosses the Ridgeway (Google Maps) which is basically at the top of Ashbury hill on the Ridgeway. There is plenty of parking and there are fairly unrestricted views, it takes about 20 mins drive out of Swindon. There is occasional traffic at night, but if this bothers too much you can always walk a little way along the ridgeway. (Mark Ackland)

Aerial Photo: Courtesy of Google Maps

Recommemded by Mark Ackland

Viewing Area
Photo: Rob Slack
Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve
The reserve is signposted off B4040, Malmesbury Road, between Minety and Cricklade, adjacent to the village of Leigh. From Cricklade drive about 1.3 miles from the edge of town. The reserve entrance is on the left about 100 yards after entering Leigh. From Minety drive about 3.2 miles. Reserve entrance is on right about 0.5 miles after the Forester’s Arms pub. For the car park follow the signs from the new vehicle access road.

For Sat Nav users enter SN6 6RA (My Sat Nav said I was there but I needed to go on a couple of hundred yards where there is a large brown sign (Wiltshire Wildlife Trust) and then another hundred yards to a smaller brown sign indicating the access point.)

The site is well signposted at quarter of a mile and then at the entrance (see above)
Courtesy of Google Maps

More Info: Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve

Recommended by Swindon Stargazers Committee

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Barbury Castle

Barbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort situated in Wiltshire. It is one of several such forts found along the ancient Ridgeway route, and is now managed as a country park by Swindon Borough Council. It is situated on Barbury Hill, a local vantage point, which, under ideal weather conditions, commands a view across to the Cotswolds and the River Severn. It has deep defensive ditches. The Old Ridgeway runs close by and the modern Ridgeway crosses through the castle.
We are doing everything we can to organise viewing sessions at Barbury Castle Car Park. This will be an excellent place to meet and set up our scopes, and explore the universe.