There’s plenty of green space in London with huge parks for you to explore while you’re here. But, if that’s not enough for you and you’re craving some more challenging hikes, you can escape the city and spend a day walking in England’s beautiful countryside, coastal walks or terrain. You really don’t have to travel far from London to find some beautiful hiking spots. Here are our top 9 walking hikes close to London, how to get there and what kind of things you can find at each of them.
Our top 9 walking hikes close to London
Green Chain circular walk
This is one of the closest options for a hike. The Green Chain Walk spans a massive 50 miles and is a hiking route in southeast London which links the Thames to Chislehurst via ancient woodland, parkland and heaths. Don’t worry, you won’t need to walk the full 50 miles, there are many shorter walks along the way. The Crystal Palace to Nunhead Cemetry route runs alongside Beckenham Place’s flower gardens, ancient manor and green plains. It also avoids the main roads and high streets and passes through Crystal Palace – so it’s an incredibly picturesque walk to do over the summer. It ends by passing Nunhead Cemetery’s gates.
If you’re a museum lover, you might want to opt for this walk and make a pitstop at the Horniman Museum and Gardens along the way. It not only has blooming gardens but a collection of more than 350,000 objects of interest – musical instruments, natural history and anthropology.
Essex is within Greater London so this will be another close-by hiking spot to get to. The famous Epping Forest is found just on the edge of Greater London, just past the M25. You can choose to spend just a couple of hours here or there are trails that will keep you hiking the whole day. The leafy ancient woodlands host birches and beech trees, but the Oak trail is particularly beautiful and won’t take you too long to complete. It’s also very well signposted along the way. This trail takes the best advantage of walking through dense forest as well as the glades.
You can take the Underground the whole way to Epping Forrest. Just take the Circle Line to Theydon Bois.
Dover White Cliffs
The White Cliffs of Dover are one of the most iconic sights in the UK, so if you’re not here for long, get yourself there to take in the breathtaking views and get some pictures taken. The chalk cliffs start near Folkestone and stretch all the way until the Kingsdown area. In some places, the cliffs reach heights of 350 feet (110 m). The cliffs are approximately 8 miles (13 km) long, but the trail goes on for miles and miles along the coast so you can spend a lot of time hiking in this scenic area.
To get to the famous white cliffs of Dover, the best route is to get the train from St Pancras International to Dover Priory. It will only take you about an hour on the train. From the train station, it’s about 2 miles to get to the National Trust Visitor Centre which is the best place to start your hike from.
Viking Coastal Trail
Near Margate, there is a 32-mile (51.4km) circular hiking route around the Isle of Thanet, but you can do as much of it as you want. The route takes you mostly along the coast, so you can enjoy the sea views as you walk. If you’re a keen cyclist, this is a great choice and as it’s out of the busy city, you can take your bike on the train with you. The Ramsgate to Margate section of the route is particularly scenic, with small seaside villages and secluded coastal bays to enjoy on the way. If the sun’s out, don’t forget to bring your swimming costume and take a dip in the sea to cool off.
While you’re in the area, Margate town is worth spending some time in. There’s lots of great art to see, including the new Turner Contemporary art museum. And, a retro seaside amusement park called Dreamland where you can go on rides, dodgems and get yourself some candyfloss.
You can get the train from most main stations in London to Margate, so this is a really convenient option for a hike. Just be aware that as Margate is a seaside town just outside London, it gets incredibly busy over the summer months.
The Ankerwycke Park is a huge park in Surrey where you can do the Ankerwycke circular walk. This is probably a more leisurely option to choose from, with a gentle terrain that isn’t at all challenging. The main attraction here is the 2,500-year-old unusually shaped yew tree that you’ll find halfway through the circle walk. Under the tree is a perfect shady spot for a packed lunch. Just be aware that there are cattle grazing here at certain points throughout the year, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for them.
To get to Ankerwycke Park, it’s about 45 minutes on public transport. You can get the train from Waterloo to Wraysbury station, and then a bus to the Magna Carta Lane stop.
One of the more challenging terrains to choose from, you can climb the hills at Seven Sisters in East Sussex. Escape London life for a day and go here for a breath of fresh sea air as you trek the walks here. It’s a beautiful setting along the coast. You can walk from Seaford to Exceat, and while you’re there go for a dip in the sea at Cuckmere Haven beach. Seven Sisters is named after seven elms which were planted in a circle with a walnut tree at their centre on an area of common land known as Page Green.
To get to one of the beautiful coastal hikes here, you can get the train from Victoria to Seaford which takes about an hour and a half. You can choose to walk to Exceat or if you’re feeling a bit more energetic, you can go all the way to Eastbourne. From there, you can catch a train back to Victoria. Just be aware though that you’ll be walking for 5 to 6 hours, so bring plenty of snacks and water with you.
North Downs Way
Just outside of London, you can start this renowned walk from Farnham. The North Downs Way is a scenic walk you can take all the way to the sea at Dover. You can go from Leeds Castle to Charing which means you go cross country through fields and hills, with a few beautiful old churches to spot along the way. There are a few different routes you can take here that take two to three hours, so you can do a couple of treks or come back for more on another day. Look out for a small village called Lenham on your way – there are a couple of cosy cafes here where you can stop for a refreshment. The Bow Window coffee shop is a good choice.
You can get here on the train from Victoria. Just get off in Hollingbourne. If you’re coming back at the other end from Charing station, it’ll take you just a little bit longer.
Near Brighton, Lewes is a smaller, quainter town surrounded by lots of luscious green countryside with many trails to choose from. You’ll be going cross-country through fields and over hills in all directions, so be aware of cattle on your travels. Lewes is right in the middle of the South Downs National Park, so lots of walkers come here to enjoy the large spaces and scenic views. You can visit Lewes Castle while you’re here too.
An easy hike to choose is the circular walk to Glynde through Southerham Nature Reserve. The Jill Windmill in Clayton is approximately 2.5 km from Lewes station and it offers some great photo opportunities. Lewes town has lots of lovely pubs where you can get a bite to eat too after you’ve worked up an appetite. You can take the train directly to Lewes from London Victoria which only takes about an hour.
The New Forest is a good choice if you want to take your bike outside of London and make the most of some space. There are also horse-riding trails you can do, es well as plenty of walking trails for everyone else. Don’t forget your swimming costume if it’s a nice day as there are a few wild swimming spots to enjoy here too. If you happen to be a keen birdwatcher, head to the Lymington Nature Reserve.
This location is a little further outside of London than the others, but it’s really worth the trip. You can get the train from Waterloo to Brockenhurst station in about one and a half hours and you can set off to explore from Brockenhurst station.
While you’re in the area, it only takes about 15 minutes or so on the train to Bournemouth. Bournemouth town is famous for its sandy beaches that stretch for miles. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from here and you can go paddleboarding or kayaking from the famous Sandbanks, just along the coast a little from Bournemouth. Sandbanks is worth having a look around too. It once was the richest part of the UK in terms of property value, with a single line of mansions placed on the strip of land that sticks out to sea.
Our top tips before you hike:
It’s important to be comfortable so you get the best out of your trips outside of the city. Before you go off on your travels, there are a few things you should know about these hikes close to London so that you can be prepared and aren’t disappointed when you get there.
- Some of these walking routes are really popular and so can get very busy, especially in the summer months. For routes with smaller trails or fewer of them, it might be a good idea to avoid visiting them on bank holiday weekends when many people from London will be wanting to get out of the city and into nature too.
- If you don’t already own some sensible walking shoes, it might be a good idea to get yourself a pair of hiking boots – especially if you think you might be doing lots of walking while you’re here in the UK. You can get inexpensive walking boots in sports shops like Decathalon. Waterproof boots or shoes are a good idea. Your feet will thank you for it later.
- And, we all know the British weather can be temperamental, so don’t forget to bring a waterproof jacket with you unless it’s guaranteed not to rain. It will protect your valuable belongings like your phone in your pocket too.
- Don’t forget to bring a refillable water bottle with you on your walks so you can fill it up when you can. There will be springs and sometimes even water fountains along the way. The summers can be hot, so you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without anything to drink.
- Even confident ramblers bring a map with them on their walks, so do bring an OS map with you if you’re going off the beaten track. If you’re sure your phone’s battery will last for the whole day, it will do the job – just make sure you have offline maps available as some of these locations will have poor signal or no signal at all.
- Finally, beware of any cattle you meet on your way. There will usually be signs up to warn walkers where there are bulls or other potentially dangerous animals, but if you’re in the middle of nowhere, you’ll be in their territory. So, give them their space and leave them be. Make sure to close any gates behind you that you go through, so they don’t escape.