Uffington White Horse - History and Facts | History Hit

Uffington White Horse

Faringdon, England, United Kingdom

Harry Atkins

30 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Uffington White Horse

Britain’s oldest and most famous chalk-cut hill figure stretches elegantly across Whitehorse Hill on an escarpment of the Berkshire Downs. While the White Horse is probably best viewed from the air, such is its landscape straddling scale, there are several excellent vantage points from which to admire this vast, immaculately maintained prehistoric figure.

Uffington White Horse history

Given its potential to become overgrown and invisible when neglected (grass can quickly grow and obscure the exposed white chalk), the incredible persistence of the White Horse is testament to the continuity of local customs over the course of its long history.

This unlikely feat of maintenance seemed impressive enough when the White Horse was presumed to date back to the Iron Age, but tests carried out in the 1990s found that it was in fact, far older. We now know that the sprawling 110-metre-long geoglyph was carved into the hillside in the Bronze Age, probably around 1,000 BC.

Such distant prehistoric dates ensure that the origins and meaning of the White Horse are destined to remain mysterious. It’s not even clear that the figure was designed to represent a horse. Some believe that the figure might instead represent a dragon, potentially connecting it to the legend of Dragon Hill (which lies directly below the White Horse) where Saint George is said to have slain a dragon.

Uffington White Horse today

The meaning of the White Horse of Uffington may be lost in the mists of time but it remains a formidable and awe-inspiring physical presence. A visit is especially rewarding given the site’s proximity to Dragon Hill and the ancient Ridgeway Path, which starts just down the road from the famous Avebury stone circle and Silbury Hill, a mysterious Neolithic mound.

The Ridgeway is a wonderfully atmospheric Neolithic artery that intersects central England, cutting through surprisingly dramatic landscapes and connecting some of the UK’s most impressive prehistoric sites. If you’re into scenic walks and ancient monuments, the Ridgeway Path is hard to beat.

Getting to Uffington White Horse

As noted above, a complete view of this galloping geoglyph is hard to come by unless you’re lucky enough to enjoy an aeronautical vantage point, which can be achieved by booking a flight over the site.

Considerably cheaper views can be had by seeking out a more distant viewpoint that allows you to take in the horse in all its landscape dominating glory. You can visit the site itself – parking is signposted off the A420 Swindon to Oxford road, 9 miles from the M4 – but, while the views are beautiful, the horse itself is too close to be visible. Head across the vale, to Great Coxwell, Longcot or Fernham, for expansive views of the White Horse in all its glory.