Hiking Hotspots Near London
Planning an escape out of the city and looking for an excuse to dust off those hiking boots at the back of your wardrobe? Now that January is in full swing, there’s no better time to hop on a train and embark on a long walk in the fresh air. There are many walking trails just outside of London to choose from, with stunning settings and views from woodlands and beaches to rural villages (with great pubs). Not to worry if you’re not a seasoned explorer, these hiking trails range in difficulty depending on your mood and endurance. Happy hiking!
1. The Seven Sisters Cliff Walk
For fresh air and coastal views, The Seven Sisters Cliffs Walk is a challenging yet rewarding 13.6 mile hiking route with consistent views of the ocean and stunning chalk cliffs along the English Channel. Walk along the grass-covered cliffs which droop beautifully into the cerulean sea, giving hikers plenty of opportunity to take a well-deserved respite on the seafront and, if the weather permits, go for a swim at the Cuckmere Haven pebble beach. From London Victoria, there are regular trains to Seaford which take roughly 90 minutes, and not to worry about hiking back, as there are also direct trains from Eastbourne to London.
Distance: 13.6 miles
Approximate Time: 6 hours +
Starting Location: Broad Street, Seaford BN25
2. Goring Gap and the Thames Path
Hike along the banks of the narrowest section of the Thames Valley, the Goring Gap is occupied by the River Thames and nestled in the rural Oxfordshire village of Goring in between the Chiltern Hills and the Berkshire Downs. Hop on the train from London Paddington to reach Goring & Streatley station which will take roughly 50 minutes; the route back to London is just as easy from Pangbourne station. The Thames Path is the only national trail in England which allows explorers to follow a river for the entirety of their journey. The footpath of this gentle five mile walking trail is marked with acorn symbols to let hikers know that they are on track while they pass wildflower meadows, woodlands, and the Hartslock Nature Reserve. For a post-hike refreshment, The Swan is a picturesque gastropub in Pangbourne with open fires and a riverside terrace.
Distance: 5 miles
Approximate Time: 2 hours
Starting Location: Gatehampton Road, Goring, Reading RG8
3. Epping Forest Oak Trail
Explore the dense ancient woodland area of Epping Forest which borders Greater London and Essex, a perfect escape from the city without going out too far. The circular Oak Trail is considered to be the best and longest walking trail that the forest has to offer, taking hikers through the northern area and the Buffer Lands which surrounds it. The trail can be challenging due to its often uneven terrain, but the rewards of passing the Deer Sanctuary and the historic Ambresbury Banks makes it worth the pursuit. Epping Forest can easily be reached from anywhere in London via the Central Line by travelling east to Theydon Bois Station in Zone 6. Happy trekking!
Distance: 6.6 miles
Approximate Time: 3 - 4 hours
Starting Location: Theydon Bois Station
4. Ashridge Estate Chilterns Walk
Ashridge Estate is a whopping 5,000 acres of woodland with special seasonal features including carpets of bluebells which blossom in the spring, rare butterflies in the summer, and fallow deer in the autumn. While there are countless footpaths and plenty of spaces to explore, the Circular Chilterns Walk is the most easy-going hiking route for those that are in need of a little serenity. The trail exposes incredible views of the endless countryside stretching into the horizon and takes you through the misty forest and into the Woodland Walk where you may be able to spot footprints dating back to prehistoric times. Whether you’re looking for a family outing, a dog-walking excursion, or just some time alone with nature, this walk will be one you’ll never forget. The best way to reach Ashridge Estate is by car, which will take 45 minutes, however regular trains from Euston to Tring will take you just a short bus journey away from the start of the walking trail.
Distance: 3.9 miles
Approximate Time: 1 - 2 hours
Starting Location: Stocks Road, Tring, Hertfordshire HP23
5. The Chess Valley Walk
Pass through the stunningly green scenery of Chess Valley and its surrounding historic villages with this lengthy linear hike. This area is considered to be the most visually pleasing in the Chilterns area for its breathtaking natural beauty, wildlife occupants, and rich history. While the hike begins and ends in towns, most of the trail will take explorers through the natural countryside, passing features including a Roman farm-villa, the 13th century Chenies Manor, and watercress beds. Once you’ve reached the river, keep an eye out for creatures such as water voles, kingfishers, and dragonflies. Getting to Chess Valley from London is surprisingly easy. Rickmansworth station can be found on the Metropolitan Line and also on the Chiltern Railways line from Marylebone.
Distance: 10.3 miles
Approximate Time: 4 hours +
Starting Location: Station Road, Rickmansworth, WD3
6. Box Hill
Looked after by the National Trust, Box Hill is most famous for its cycling trails which have been frequented by cyclists since the 1880’s. However, The Box Hill Hike is popular with explorers on foot who are looking for a bit of challenge and a location packed with history. This eight mile circular walk involves steep climbs and often descends into deep valleys, calling for the most experienced hikers with their grippiest shoes. Along the journey, you’ll be passing farmlands and ancient woodlands with a perfectly placed pub halfway through the trail for an indulgent respite. This area is also home to one of the best viewpoints in Britain; in amongst some bushes at the top of the hill, you will come across a small bench where you can perch, take a breather, and enjoy the scenic wonders. Box Hill Estate is roughly an hour’s journey from London with direct overground trains from Victoria station.
Distance: 8 miles
Approximate Time: 4 hours +
Starting Location: Box Hill station
7. Ankerwycke Park, Surrey
For a lazy afternoon stroll, the park at Ankerwycke is on gentle terrain and perfect for a family day out or a relaxing dog walk. On the surrounding fields, you may spot some cattle who graze on this land. They are non-aggressive but it’s advised to keep dogs under close control. Around halfway through this circular walking trail, wanderers will stumble upon a special surprise: an unusual yew tree has stood in this spot for 2,500 years and can be found not too far from the M25 and Heathrow Airport. Why not bring along a picnic and sit beneath this majestic tree that looks like it could be on the set of Harry Potter. From London Waterloo, Ankerwycke Park is only a 45-minute train ride away, stopping at Wraysbury station where there are direct bus routes to the beginning of the walking trail.
Distance: 0.6 miles
Approximate Time: 30 minutes
Starting Location: Magna Carta Lane, Staines, Wraysbury TW19
8. Bodiam Castle Walk
If medieval castles are your bag, you’ll love this five mile hike that’ll take you past the Kent & East Sussex Railway, Bodiam Boating Station, the Great Dixter House, and of course, Bodiam Castle. The opportunity to explore the castle is available from 10am to 5pm every day of the week with a fee of £11 for adults and £5.50 for children. Still with its original 14th century moat, this historic piece of architecture has a lot of character from its spiral staircases to rare portcullis and windows where arrows were once loosened. The ruins show a glimpse of what it was like to live in a castle during that time, a place where you can really let your imagination run wild. Hop on a train from London Bridge to Robertsbridge or Battle which will take approximately an hour and 15 minutes, you may want to book a cab in advance from either station to the castle to ensure a quick and easy commute.
Distance: 5 miles
Approximate Time: 2 hours
Starting Location: Bodiam Castle National Trust Car Park, Bodiam, Robertsbridge TN32
Can’t get out of London at the moment? Not to worry, the city has plenty of perfect spots for serene Spring walks including Kyoto and Kew Gardens.
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