Britain is renowned for its stunning countryside, complete with rolling hills, picture perfect fields, and fantastic views. This landscape makes the perfect backdrop for the many hill figures which are dotted all over the country, which can often be seen from many miles away.
Hill figures are usually made by cutting into the hillside and revealing the ground underneath, which is usually chalk or limestone. White horses are particularly common in the UK, and some date back as far as the prehistoric era.
There are currently over twenty well known hill figures that are visible in the UK, although many have been lost over the years due to changes in the landscape. Here at Parkdean Resorts, we’ve picked out some of Britain’s most famous hill figures, so you can look out for them on the way to our holiday parks.
Uffington White Horse, Oxfordshire
Located on the upper slopes of White Horse Hill in Oxfordshire, the Uffington White Horse is the oldest hill figure in Britain. Formed from deep trenches, the horse has been shown to date back 3000 years to the Bronze Age, and Iron Age coins have also been found with an image of the horse on them.
The Uffington White Horse is highly stylised, and is widely considered to be a piece of minimalist art. Although it has been debated as to whether the chalk figure is actually a figure of another animal, it’s been labelled as a horse since at least the 11th century. The original purpose of the horse is still unknown, and some say it was perhaps the emblem of a local tribe. It could have also had a religious or political significance.
The Uffington White Horse inspired the creation of the other white horse hill figures which are dotted all over Britain. If you’re into your history, there are other sites to explore in the area, such as Wayland’s Smithy, which is a Neolithic tomb, and the Iron Age Uffington Castle.
This fascinating hill figure can be seen from up to 20 miles away in good conditions, but is best seen from around three or four miles away. If you want to break your journey to one of our holiday parks and give your legs a stretch, there’s convenient parking nearby at Woolstone Hill and White Horse Hill.
Video sourced from Chris Brookes
Osmington White Horse, Dorset
Carved into limestone hills North of Weymouth in Dorset, the Osmington White Horse is the only example of a hill figure in the UK where a person is riding the horse. The rider is actually a representation of King George III, who was a regular visitor to Weymouth, which is just nine miles away from Warmwell Holiday Park.
The horse was created in 1808 to commemorate the royal visits to the local area, and the prosperity they brought with them. Legend has it that George was unhappy that the figure was shown riding out of Weymouth, as this suggested he wasn’t welcome, so he allegedly never returned.
This particularly elegant figure is 280 feet long and 323 feet wide, and is best viewed from the A353 road if you’re heading to one of our holiday parks in Dorset. There are also many footpaths and walking routes around Poxwell, Osmington, and Preston which offer great views of the horse.Video sourced from osmingtonwhitehorse
Long Man of Wilmington, East Sussex
Situated on the steep slopes of Windover Hill on the South Downs in East Sussex, the Long Man of Wilmington is one of the only remaining human hill figures in the UK. The figure is 235 metres tall and holds a large “stake” in each hand. Although the Long Man looks to have been carved from the underlying chalk on the hillside from far away, the figure is actually formed out of breeze blocks and lime mortar.
There is much confusion surrounding the origin of the Long Man, although archaeological work suggests it dates back to the 16th or 17th century. Until recently, the earliest record of the figure was a drawing dating back to 1766 by artist William Burrell. However, in 1993 a new drawing by surveyor John Rowley was discovered, which was created in 1710.
The drawings suggest that the original figure was a shadow or indentation in the grass with defined facial features, rather than just the outline like it is today. The lack of historical evidence surrounding the Long Man has led to many theories about when and why he was made. Whilst many people in Sussex think the figure is pre-historic, some believe it’s the work of an artistic monk from a nearby priory in between the 11th and 15th centuries.
If you’re travelling to one of our holiday parks on the South Coast of England, the Long Man of Wilmington can be found six miles north-west of Eastbourne. It’s signposted from the A27 and there’s a public car park, as well as a footpath, that offers excellent views.Video sourced from PRAK14
Kilburn White Horse, North Yorkshire
If you’re driving on the A19 in Yorkshire on the way to one of our parks in the North, then you won’t be able to miss the Kilburn White Horse. Located to the south of Thirsk in the North York Moors National Park, this majestic horse is said to be the largest hill figure in England, covering around 1.6 acres.
Designed by a local native called Thomas Taylor, The Kilburn White Horse was originally created back in 1857. He was inspired by the famous chalk hill figures in the South of England, and wanted to make something similar for his own village.
The outline of the horse is believed to have been marked out by the village schoolmaster John Hodgson and his pupils, along with local volunteers. The figure was then cut into the limestone underneath the turf, where the naturally grey rock was whitened with around six tons of lime. Since the limestone is naturally the wrong colour, it used to be artificially lightened with whitewash. More recently, chalk chippings have been used to keep the horse looking white.
If you’d like to see the Kilburn White Horse up close, there’s a car park just below the figure, between Kilburn village and the Sutton Bank National Park centre on the A170 road. There’s a footpath around the horse which offers scenic views, which is perfect for a stroll if you fancy a break from driving.Video sourced from Frank Evans
Have any other hill figures caught your eye before? If so, we’d love to hear about them on our Twitter page.