Salisbury Plain


Salisbury Plain is the largest area of chalk grassland in north-west Europe.
An area of approximately 20,000 hectares of grassland have been designated as a
Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation.

About the plain

Species supported within the grassland include butterflies now uncommon in Britain such as marsh fritillary, adonis blue and brown hairstreak. All have healthy populations in the area. Most parts of the Plain are also designated as a Special Protection Area for birds, such as the stone curlew where 10% of the UK population are found. Roe deer are numerous and are often seen by day.

The Army started land purchase on Salisbury Plain in 1897 and the total area of the current estate is just over 38,000 hectares. The Training Area measures 25 miles by 10 miles (40 km by 16 km) and occupies about one ninth of the county of Wiltshire.

Defence Training Estate Salisbury Plain (DTE SP) provides walkers with the opportunity to see an archaeological landscape, which is of unparalleled importance in Northern Europe. There are some 2,300 archaeological sites including features dating back to 4000 BC, along with more recent Roman settlements. Salisbury Plain has one of the most dense concentrations of ancient long and round barrows anywhere in Britain.

Access Opportunities

A variety of access is available on DTE SP including the Imber Range Perimeter Path, a waymarked route (see download below). The eastern third of DTE SP, the area shown as managed access on the OS Explorer map, is where the majority of access is available. The numerous rights of way remain open during military training, even when tanks are manoeuvring.

The Bulford and Larkhill Ranges are adjacent to the managed access area and are closed to the public during Live Firing. They are used extensively, normally five days per week, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and at least one weekend per month. Red flags are flown or lamps lit at night around the danger areas, at which time public access is prohibited. When the flags are down or lamps unlit at night you may enter this Danger Area. Access guidance and the bylaws relating to access to military land is available with supporting details are given in MOD literature in the Download Library.

As you can see, Salisbury Plain is a vast and sparsely populated area. Despite’s its great attractions, there will be those that seek to engage in criminal activity.

If you see anything suspicious, please call Plainwatch on 01980 674700 (a Ministry of Defence Police intelligence gathering project). The more information given the better e.g. time and place, vehicle registration, description of individuals and vehicles.

If a crime is taking place call 999 and do not challenge the offenders.

Defence Estates Newsletters

Each month, Defence Estates publishes a newsletter giving details of operational training activity, including live firing and aircraft movements. Click here to access the latest MOD monthly newsletter.

Further Information

For further information, call 01980 674763. An answer phone recording gives up to date information on areas open for public access.

OS Map References

OS Landranger (1:50,000) Sheets 183 & 184
OS Explorer Sheets (1:25,000) Sheet 130 (Salisbury and Stonehenge rev. 2009) & Sheet 143 (Warminster and Trowbridge rev. 2010).

Imber Range Perimeter Path

The Imber Range Perimeter Path (IRPP) is a 30 mile/48km long distance walk or a 32 mile/50km mountain bike ride or horse ride. The route is made up of mixed terrain, with some challenging sections. A full OS route of the IRPP can be found by clicking here.

All visitors should be aware that parts of the route are byways open to all traffic (BOATs) where you may come across vehicles. The entire route is signed and waymarked using the IRPP logo, but it is advised you have an Ordnance Survey Map. A downloadable GPX is available on the Ordnance Survey App.

Sections of the route are provided on a permissive basis and may be closed at any time.

Safety and Personal Responsibilities
For your safety and the benefit of our troops please respect and adhere to “No Entry” and “Warning” signs at all times.•

  • Please do not pick up any metal objects
  • Please keep your dog under effective control and clear up after it – pick it up and bin it
  • Do not light fires
  • No camping
  • Take your litter home

Whilst the MOD is committed to ensuring opportunities for public access are not unduly restricted, temporary or permanent restrictions will be required at times, particularly when military training is taking place.

Please follow any instructions given by military staff/training area wardens and give our soldiers space to train.

Public access to Imber is forbidden under the Imber Ranges Byelaws 1963.

Public access to Salisbury Plain Training Area is subject to the Salisbury Plain Military Lands Byelaws 1981.

Full copies of these Byelaws are displayed on site.

If you are cycling the route it is recommended that you use a well maintained bicycle suitable for off-road conditions. Horse riders should be aware that the IRPP varied terrain includes stoned tracks. Riders should be experienced in riding in remote areas and expect to encounter agricultural and military activities from time to time.

Horse boxing options are available at the Westbury White Horse or Tilshead Water Tower. However, please be aware that the Tilshead Water Tower is accessed by permission only and may be unavailable due to military training.

Imber Range

Sanctuary Magazine

The Ministry of Defence sustainability magazine “Sanctuary” is produced by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation which manages and develops the Salisbury Plain estate. Click here to keep up to date with the most recent issue of Sanctuary.