If you are an outdoor enthusiast stranded in London, having a few day hike plans for weekend getaways is a must. Packed tube trains, unbearable car horns, and endless sights of looming skyscrapers can drive a person insane.
Luckily, there are many gorgeous hiking routes near London that can offer you an escape from the hecticness of city life. You can reach most of the following routes by train within 90 minutes.
The Seven Sisters Cliffs Walk
The trail stretches for around 14 miles and is nearly all either up or down. It’s quite a steep drop too, so you have to be careful around the cliffs. Make sure to wear a solid pair of hiking shoes. The Seven Sisters Cliffs Walk is undoubtedly a fair trek, but the experience is incredibly rewarding. For the majority of the way, you’ll be able to enjoy magical chalk cliffs and ocean views.
The drops often lead hikers to the beaches. Weather permitting, this scenic route also offers great wild swimming opportunities. Obviously, the route is famous for its natural landmarks—most notably the Cuckmere River and the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs that were formed in the Ice Age. However, the route will take you along some man-made wonders as well, such as the Martello Tower and the Eastbourne Pier By train, it takes an hour and a half to get from London Victoria to Seaford.
You do need to make a switch at Lewes, and the trains run less often on Sundays, so make sure to plan ahead. There’s a direct train from Eastbourne to London, so getting back is a bit easier. The ride also takes roughly an hour and a half.
The Stonehenge Landscape Walk
But, it’s not the only thing worth seeing in the area. By exploring the surrounding area on foot, you will get to see the lesser-known gems of the landscape. The Stonehenge Landscape walk may be the best option for those who want to go on a hike that’s short and easy but packed with beautiful sights and landmarks.
You can start your walk from the English Heritage Visitor Centre in Salisbury. When you get to the visitor center, simply head east to Stonehenge on foot. The hike is 3.5 miles long and takes about 2 hours to complete. If you are really short on time, you also have the option of taking the visitor shuttle and then starting your walk at the later stage of the trail. The trail will lead you to the Curcus monument. The Curcus enclosure is around 5 centuries older than Stonehenge itself.
It’s a great place to stop and take in the views. Then, the trail will take you to the Monarch of the Plain—a large Bronze Age burial mound located in the Fargo woodland. In fact, the Stonehenge landscape has the highest concentration of Bronze age burial mounds in the country. This part of the Stonehenge landscape is also known for its wildlife. The roe deer which uses the woodland for shelter and food make for a lovely sight. The next stop is the crown of the trail—the world-famous neolithic circle of Stonehenge.
Once you’re done marveling at this ancient monument, you can go back the same way you came or you can take the shuttle bus to the visitor center. You will need to get a ticket from the visitor center if you would like to visit the stone circle up close. The train ride from Waterloo Station to Salsbury takes about 90 minutes.
The tour bus that goes from Salsbury rail station to Stonehenge departs on an hourly basis. It runs on a hop-on, hop-off principle, allowing you to easily organize your walk. However, it takes around half an hour to get to the visitor center by bus. If you’d like to spend less time in transport and more time exploring the Stonehenge landscape on foot, you can simply take a Stonehenge tour from London.
Ockley to Leith Hill
If you are looking to get a quick and sweet bang for your buck, get yourself to Victoria Station and hop on a train to Ockley. The train runs hourly and the ride takes 1 hour and 10 minutes on average.
The route starts and ends at Ockley station. The scenic hike to Leith Hill is fairly moderate. It offers fantastic panoramic views of London. You can even pick out Big Ben on a clear day. The route passes along old cottages and goes through green meadows. If you are up for a little detour, Vann Lake is a remarkable gem that’s just a short stroll from Ockley.
It is surrounded by a beautiful ancient woodland that boasts 100 bird species, including woodpeckers and kingfishers. It’s also home to 17 species of damselfly and dragonfly. The end of the ascent is a bit steep, but the well-made steps make it much easier. When you get to the top, you’ll be greeted by the stunning Leith Hill tower.
Of course, you can head back the same way. However, most hikers prefer to head down via the Rhododendron Woods for a change of scenery.
The Epping Forest Oak Trail
Epping Forest feels like it’s a million miles away from the concrete jungle of London, even though it’s a stone’s throw away from the city centre. Depending on where you are in London, it takes an hour to an hour in a half to get there by train.
If you are looking to immerse yourself in the woods, Epping Forest is the place to be. Epping Forest is massive, and it offers many trails, but the best one starts and ends at the Theydon Bois tube station. Before you get to the forest, the trail will take you past some beautiful English countryside. Then, the trail will lead you through its eponymous oak trees—where the worries and stresses of urban living melt away.
Following the route is really easy once you’re in the forest. As long as you follow the yellow arrows, you won’t have to worry about getting lost. About 30 minutes into the forest, you’ll reach an Iron Age hill fort called Amesbury Banks. It’s a great spot for a picnic. Chances are you’ll come across shards of black, grey, and red pottery in this part of the forest.
You might find a Roman arrowhead lying somewhere on the ground if you’re lucky. There are many blackberries bushes along with the path, so you’ll be rewarded with some sweet treats if you walk the Oak Trail in the summer. The trail also runs through a deer sanctuary, so you can expect to see herds of deer from the fence as you complete the last few miles of your hike. When you get back to Theydon Bois, be sure to have a refreshing pint and a bite eat in one of the homely pubs nearby.
Box Hill Circular
If you are up for a bigger challenge, the Box Hill circular is one of the more strenuous hikes near London.
However, if you prefer an easier hike, there are other Box Hill routes you can explore. The circular trail is about 9 miles long and starts from the Saturday Walkers Club. Even though you can expect a lot of huffing and puffing, the views you’ll get are more than worth it.
The trail offers hikers a chance to see a different side of rural Surrey. The area is home to 40 of 58 species of butterfly found in the U.K. The Salomons Memorial viewpoint is the best-known spot on the trail. Every year, nearly one million people visit the Salomons Memorial to enjoy its breathtaking vistas. Towards the end of the route, there are a few nice pubs where you can take a well-earned rest. Some sections of the trail can get muddy, so bringing a pair of trekking poles is a good idea.
On average, it takes 4 hours to complete the Box Hill Circular. You can get there by train from London Waterloo or London Victoria. The journey time is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes.
The Chess Valley Walk
This 10-mile route follows the River Chess from Rickmansworth to Chesham. The river is famous for its incredibly clean, clear water and the surrounding countryside.
The route passes through picturesque villages and heaps of beautiful scenery. It’s an excellent trail for inexperienced hikers who are less familiar with using compasses and maps as it is waymarked all the way. Along the way, you will encounter many breathtaking sights. At Latimer, there’s a Roman farm-villa that dates back to the first century.
There’s also a nice garden bar in the village—perfect for a lunch break. Further down the trail lies the Chenis Manor House. The historic manor and its beautiful, award-winning gardens are open to the public, so make sure to pay it a visit. Along the route, there are points where you can see dragonflies, orchids, water voles, watercress beds, and kingfishers rare to the U.K. You can begin your hike from either Chesham or Rickmansworth Stations—the trail goes either way.
The London Underground can take you to both places. You’ll be there in an hour (tops). Roughly, it takes 4 hours to complete the Chess Valley Walk. Some segments of the trail can get pretty wet, so make sure to wear waterproof trousers.
Hampton Court to Staines
Hampton Court is the starting point of a gorgeous Thames Path as well as one of London’s historic places.
The walk from Hampton Court to Staines is just one leg of the Thames Path—a 184 trail that follows the River themes from its source to the Thames Barrier. Beyond Hampton Court, the Thames becomes much more rural.
The gaps between towns become more noticeable, the houses become larger and there are fewer bridges. The trail will take you past quiet fields, small Surrey towns, boat clubs, and locks. It even includes a quaint ferry crossing. The fare is £2 each per head. If you’d rather not take it, you can avoid it by a detour.
The trail is 12 miles long and takes about 5 hours to complete. The train from Waterloo to Hampton runs every half an hour and the ride takes about 40 minutes. The train from Staines to London also runs frequently and the average journey time is about half an hour.
Hassocks to Lewes
The Hassocks to Lewes trail is a gorgeous section of the larger South Downs Way. It’s the easiest to access. The walk covers 10 miles and takes about four and a half hours to complete.
This hilly trail starts in a delightful West Sussex village named Hassocks. You need to be well-prepared for this hilly trail of ups and downs because it starts with a steep hike on gradients of 10-20%. Until the final descent, there will be a few more notable steeps. Despite these ups, the trail is relatively easy. The trail passes along the Clayton Windmills. Locally known as Jack and Jill, the windmills date back to the 18th century.
Along the way, you’ll find many spots to enjoy panoramic views. You’ll also be able to see Lewes castle on the horizon, and you’ll even get a glimpse of the sea. The serene meadows around the path are often dotted with lazy sheep and cows, so be prepared to have some company on your hike. You don’t need to worry about them coming at you—these fluffy locals are as chill as they get.
The hike ends in the historic town of Lewes. You can end your hike with a visit to the aforementioned 11th century Lewes Castle. It is open Saturdays and Sundays. For even more stunning panoramic views, be sure to climb to the top of the castle. Trains to Hassocks go from London Bridge Station and London Victoria.
It takes about 50 minutes to get there. The return train from Lewes goes to Victoria and the average journey time is one hour. If you are up for some longer hikes around the UK, have a look at some of these great routes:
And in Scotland:
- West Highland Way
- Southern Upland Way
- Rob Roy Way
- Great Glen Way
- Ayrshire Coastal Path
- Arran Coastal Way
- Annandale Way
- Fife Coastal Path
- St Cuthbert’s Way
- Speyside Way
Most of these routes take from 5 to 10 days, but you can usually walk sections and use a travel company or public transport to get back to your car.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.