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Walking St Helena

Well off the beaten track

Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.{b}

You can see a lot of St Helena from a car, but finding the best places involves a bit of walking…

The World Health Organisation has defined physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally. Regular moderate intensity physical activity - such as walking, cycling, or participating in sports - has significant benefits for health.

Walks for all tastes

If you like walking you couldn’t come to a better place. There are walks for all tastes, from those who like their walking to be beautifully scenic but not too difficult, right the way through to walkers whose preference can best be described as ‘intrepid’!

Don’t worry about the weather. For most of the year you need to take plenty of water and some sunscreen with you because the sun can be hot. In the winter it can be wet and at times it can be windy but it’s never cold - take a good waterproof and you’ll be protected against anything the weather is likely to throw at you. (More weather information on our page Weather and climate.)

Some suggestions

Here are some suggested walks:{c}

Flagstaff from Deadwood Plain with path clearly visible
Flagstaff from Deadwood Plain with path clearly visible
Great and Little Stone Top
Great and Little Stone Top

Flagstaff is a great walk to get used to the Island with a clear track to follow. Starting from a small green at Deadwood, it is a straightforward stroll across Deadwood Plain, past wind turbines, and up through scrub and a small forest. What seems a gentle slope reveals sheer sea cliffs when you reach the summit. The walk allows you to often see the rare endemic Wirebird, and it passes the site of one of the Boer PoW camps. This is a perfect walk for families, or for an afternoon, with great views across the Island. Allow 1,5 hours.

Diana’s Peak is the highest point on the Island (818m), and on a clear day offers stunning views right across the Island. The walking is not difficult, but it can be slippery when wet. The walk starts from a parking lay-by on Stitch’s Ridge on the road towards Sandy Bay that leads off the ‘W’ road. Walk back a short distance and the start of the walk, up Cabbage Tree Road grass track, is clearly marked. Following this track brings you on to a ridge, where you bear right towards the Peaks (left here takes you to Halley’s Observatory). On reaching a cannon, bear left then right, following the stepped path onto the Peaks themselves. The first peak reached is Mount Actaeon, and has a large pine on the summit. Continuing on, the path drops slightly and then climbs back up to reach Diana’s Peak itself. This is part of the cloud forest of the Island and has many endemic plants and insects, including massive tree ferns. From Diana’s Peak the walk continues to the third peak along the ridge which is Cuckold’s Point. Carry on from Cuckold’s and down a path through the tree ferns. At the bottom turn left along a broad track and follow this below the peaks, rejoining the outward path below Mount Actaeon. Then retrace your steps back along Cabbage Tree Road. Allow 2-3 hours.

Great Stone Top is reached from Levelwood, at the site of the Bellstone. The route follows a forestry track that descends through eucalyptus forest into acacia woodland leading down to an expanse of creeper scrub. From here on the footpath skirts around Boxwood Hill and Little Stone Top before ascending Great Stone Top. At the summit, spectacular views back to the Central Ridge and across Prosperous Bay Plain can be enjoyed along with magnificent sea cliffs. Great Stone Top offers a good observation point for seabird watching.

Sandy Bay Barn is a moderate walk, with spectacular views, and walking across some brightly coloured eroded areas. The walk starts at Green Hill, where there is a picnic site. Walk back along the road and bear down the gravel track on the bend. Turn right immediately before the track enters a house and follow the grassy track. Continue straight on where the fence ends, and along the ridge up to the summit of White Hill. Enjoy the views across Sandy Bay to Lot and Lot’s Wife. Keep straight on from White Hill, dropping down onto the eroded ground with its stripes of colours. Bear right around the bottom of the next hill, and follow the ridge to the base of the Barn itself. It is possible to climb straight up the rock, or alternatively follow the gravelly path to the right, at the foot of the cliffs. This brings you round up to the Barn and a short stroll to the cliff edge. The views along the coastline are spectacular, and whales can sometimes be spotted in the sea below. Allow 2-3 hours.

More challenging walks include The Barn and Powells Valley. A new circular walk from Jamestown is being developed that will take in High Knoll Fort and the Heart Shaped Waterfall. And, of course, every walker should walk Jacob’s Ladder - 699 steps (600ft) - up the side of Ladder Hill from Jamestown to Ladder Hill Fort.

Some popular walks are shown on the map below (green dotted routes):

Post Box Walks

Walkers (!) and the post box on Diana’s Peak
Walkers (!) and the post box on Diana’s Peak
Forest path, Scotland
Forest path, Scotland{d}

Green Flag Trails logo

Nothing to do with the postal service, they are so-named because of the ‘post box’ situated at the end or summit of each walk, which contains a unique ink-stamp and a visitors’ book where you can leave your messages and thoughts for future walkers.

The walks are graded by difficulty and take you to places of outstanding beauty and interest around the island, providing an ideal opportunity to access, explore and enjoy the wide variety of landscapes, natural and man-made heritage of the island.

A booklet describing the post box walks of St Helena is available from shops on the island and from the Tourist Information Office. It provides detailed descriptions, maps and points of interest for all St Helena’s post box walks. You can also buy the Nature Conservation Group’s book of Post Box Walks.

All 21 of the island’s post box walks have Green Flag Accreditation.

Walking Tips

Experienced walkers on the island contribute the following tips:

Please remember to stay safe when walking and be respectful of other walkers{e}.

While strolling you will encounter many wild plants. It may interest you to know that many mostly-older Saints still make use of ‘traditional remedies’ based on plants growing wild around the island. Some of these are documented on our page Edible Wild Plants.

Festival of Walking

The Tourist Information Office organises a periodic ‘Festival of Walking’ with guided walks to various parts of the island{1}. Contact them to find out forthcoming dates.

Walking Festival logo

The St Helena festival of walking is now in full swing. Chanell Marais and Paul Cherrett came into SaintFM to update us on the event’s progress. It’s certainly heating up, it’s been very hot and we’ve had some hot walks as well said Chanell there are lots more opportunities for people to get involved. The event runs for three weeks and only one third of the walks have been completed. The participants have ranged from experienced walkers to novices, families, small children and dogs. It’s been really good, everything has been well attended.

Chanell said The weekend walks have been very well attended and we’ve had lots of interest; people looking at the program and asking about the different walks.

Paul spoke to us about the charity walk for the Nature Conservation Group that took place on Sunday. It went fantastically well, we had fifty six people walking, I was blown away by the response we had, he said. It was tough in places but I think everyone enjoyed it. In terms of the fund raised by this event they have not got a final tally but they are looking at around £1,000.

There will be another sponsored walk on Saturday through Plantation Forest. We are promised that I will be an easy walk and that people of all ages and abilities are encouraged to take part. The event will take place at 3:00pm and all funds raised will go towards caring for the elderly population on St Helena. If that’s not motivation enough then hot soup and rolls will also be available.

We have the whole program at the Tourist Information Office and if you fancy a more challenging walk, on Sunday, there is also the Gill Point and King and Queen Rock walk Chanell told us, We have to get permission to get into that area so it might be a very good reason to get yourself signed up. The program says we can accommodate eight people but that has been extended to fourteen. There are still a few places available if you’re interested in that one.{f}

Walks around Plantation House

There are a number of walks around Plantation House which pass the many features of the area: the tortoises; the Ladies’ Bath (a natural spring); the Butcher Graves and the Big Rock viewpoint. The map below shows a short route (in Red, about 1Km), medium route (in Green, about 1.3Km) and longer route (in Yellow, about 3Km). The start point is the gate used for viewing the tortoises, where there is a small car park. The yellow walk can also be joined at Scotland.


Take a hike day image

According to www.daysoftheyear.com, 17th November is ‘Take A Hike Day’. Very often these ‘days’ only make sense in the northern hemisphere (it’s an Americann website), but actually November is quite a good time to go walking on St Helena - it’s spring, before the heat of summer kicks in. So on 17th November, do indeed ‘Take A Hike’, if you can.

Read More

Below: Green Flag AccreditationPersonal hiking diaryTourism BrochureArticle: A Journey to Lot’s Wife’s PondsArticle: Opening of Heart Shaped Waterfall Trail

Green Flag Accreditation

the first place on earth to have all its walks Green Flag accredited

Green Flag Trails logo

Published by South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS), 3rd February 2020{2}

St Helena might soon become the first place on earth to have all its walks Green Flag accredited.

The Green Flag Award scheme assesses the quality of walking and hiking trails worldwide. Green Flag’s Senior Auditor, Gerhardt, is now on-island for three weeks. During this time he’s completing more than 30 walks: all our 21 Post Box Walks and nine other footpaths. His assessments of these walks should be complete by the end of February.

If all walks gain accreditation, it could potentially mean that St Helena would become the first place in the world to have all of its walks accredited.


As at 25th June 2020 all St Helena’s 21 ‘Post Box Walks’ are Green Flag accredited. Accreditation means all walks are deemed safe and properly maintained. More at greenflagtrails.org.

A personal hiking diary

A visitor to the island in 1986 described his experiences hiking on St Helena in the book Across Islands and Oceans. Read the full chapter here.

Tourism Brochure

See also the Tourist Information Office brochure on Walking St Helena.

Article: A Journey to Lot’s Wife’s Ponds

By Andrew Turner, SAMS, published in The Sentinel, 23rd March 2017{2}

Everybody has told me how beautiful Lots Wife Ponds are but I’ve always been put off by the difficulty of the walk. The Festival of Walking was the perfect opportunity for me to get over my fear and finally see this amazing spot for myself.

I clambered out of the taxi and met with Aaron Legg who was the guide for the day. The morning sun was peeking over the hills causing the gentle waves at the beach to glisten. Four other people, all visitors to the island, joined the walk. Aaron took us through the safety procedures and noted that there would be sections where we would need ropes. For me as an inexperienced walker who is afraid of heights, I became very nervous.

As we set off up the steep hills it became obvious that the walk was going to be a challenge. The loose surface combined with the harshness of the slope saw me lose my footing more than once and go flat on my backside.

Masked Booby birds make their nests right next to the footpath. The birds are larger than chickens and have massive beaks. Although they are not generally aggressive, if they did choose to bite the sharp beaks might easily do damage.

Sure enough, after traversing more slopes and valleys we could see solid white patches by the path. The smell that followed left no doubt that we were in bird territory. Soon enough two of them blocked our path and they were not keen to let us pass. In the end they gave up and flew off leaving the path clear.

We were on the last leg of the walk, descending towards the ponds, when we came across the most incredible sight. There were patches of white sand that looked like they could have been on a postcard but were instead perched high on the cliff. Aaron explained to us that while the island was still forming the sea levels had been higher and that these sands were calcified remains of the life that the sea had brought up.

With all these incredible sights I had forgotten the part that was going to cause me the most fear. The descent towards the ponds was nearly over and the last part involved using a series of ropes to scale down the cliff face before finally reaching the ponds.

As I started to clamber down I could feel the surface slipping and breaking under my feet causing me to grip on the rope for dear life. The first rope was tricky but then came the task of switching to the second. With the surface still breaking and sliding away I let myself look down. That was a mistake. Perched on the edge of a steep drop you have to let go of your first lifeline and quickly grab the second rope so that you can finish the scramble down. There are only a few inches where you can place your feet and I ended up nearly losing my footing between the ropes. Thankfully the second rope was much gentler. With my heart still pounding I looked around and this time lost my breath for an entirely different reason.

The ponds were beautiful. Jagged rocks had formed a wall between the sea and the ponds making this secluded area that had deep pools of water so clear - revealing every fish, crab and sea snail. There were stacks of rock that jutted out from the ground which must have formed over thousands of years of sea erosion. It was an amazing spot and I would put my neck out to say it’s one of the most beautiful on the island.

We took time while we were there to explore the sea life. With shoes off and trousers rolled up I examined several rock pools to see what could find. The entire area was coated with sea snails. Large red crabs could be seen feeding off algae and there were tiny starfish all over the place.

All too soon it was time to leave. For some reason the climb up the ropes felt easier then coming down. The walk back went by surprisingly fast. Even the birds that had previously blocked our path were happy to let us go.

As we reached the crest of the final hill, the midday sun was beating down and I could feel my skin beginning to burn. Overall it was an incredible experience. There was the perfect mix of adventure, danger and beauty. Before now I have never done walking like this but now I know that I will be doing it again.

Article: Opening of Heart Shaped Waterfall Trail

Published in the St Helena Herald 7th January 2011{2}

A special event to mark the official opening of the St Helena National Trust’s new footpath to the Heart Shaped Waterfall was attended by over 120 people on Wednesday 22nd December.

There was a short opening ceremony before Miss St Helena, Stacey Thomas declared the Heart Shaped Waterfall Trail officially open. She paid tribute to all the hard work put into building the new footpath and said that everyone involved should be proud of themselves.

Most of the crowd then walked up to the waterfall, enjoying the new 1km long footpath. On the way they were shown the new endemics area, where St Helena species such as Bastard Gumwood and Ebony have been planted, and the old agricultural terrace walls that have been rebuilt. At the top of the walk people relaxed on the new viewing platform and took photos of the Waterfall.

Many Saints who had grown up near to the Waterfall attended. On the walk they talked about their experiences of the Valley, including hunting pigeons on the cliffs, picking red dates and collecting horse beads. Some of their stories will be included in the new interpretation panels which will be installed early in 2011.

During the opening ceremony St Helena National Trust Director Jamie Roberts gave special thanks to all those who had worked on the Waterfall project:

Building the new trail was a real challenge. Because of the steep Valley sides there was no way we could use machinery or even donkeys. All the materials - even the bridge beams which weighed over half a ton each - had to be carried up the Valley by humans. The quality of the walkways, bridges and staircases is down to the hard work of many people. I’d like to pay particular tribute to Brian Davies, who showed amazing stamina and never gave up, and Tom Wortley who managed to keep up with him. The project couldn’t have happened without Andrew Darlow, who battled through the wild mango and found a route for the path. They were supported by St Helena National Trust staff Hensil and Keith and many volunteers. The project succeeded because it was a real team effort.

The Trust Director highlighted that the new trail wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of the French Consul, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, who donated the Heart Shaped Waterfall land to the St Helena National Trust in 2007.

Thanks were also expressed to the Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP) which funded the project.


{a} Tourist Information Office{b} Albert Camus{c} Information taken from Where2Walk and other sources{d} sthelenablog.wordpress.com{e} St Helena’s Nature Conservation Group (SNCG){f} St Helena newspapers, 20th March 2015{2}


{1} For 2015, 10th March to 30th March.{2} @@RepDis@@