It’s hard to imagine there are hikes with beautiful, natural backdrops just outside the concrete jungle of London — but there are! We’ve put together a list of walks that are accessible, picturesque, and will leave you revived and ready to get back on the grind.
Better yet, all the walks are doable in a day, so no tents necessary. Lace up your hiking boots and grab some water; you’re going to have a bit of adventure.
Prepare to pass through heartland and woodland when you tackle the highest point in southeast London — Leith Hill. On the walk from Ockley to the bottom of the hill, you’ll pass through open green spaces (keep an eye out for roaming deer) and cute old cottages (that are somehow still standing). Once you’re at the top of the hill, be sure to head up the Leith Hill Tower. From there, you can see the clock face on Big Ben, 14 counties, and the English Channel (on a good day!).
About two hours southeast, right on the coast, sits Seven Sisters Country Park, which is home to loads of trails and tracks. You’ll feel a million miles from away the hustle and bustle of London amid 280 hectares of chalk cliffs, grassland, livestock, and very few people. Pick a trail when you get there, or if you’re a planner, check their site before you head out. Fitt Tip: the park is a working farm, so your four-legged friends will need to keep close by.
The South Downs Way National Trail stretches for 100 miles from Eastbourne to Winchester, and if you’re game, feel free to hike it all (bring a tent, as it takes a week or more). If you’re not feeling up to the whole trek, you can pick chunks of it to walk; we recommend going over the Seven Sisters cliffs. Be aware that the trail isn’t flat for long and can also be fairly wide open at times, so try not to get caught in bad weather!
You’ll need a good set of shoes and some packed snacks for this one. The 14.5-mile walk starts at the historic town of Lewes (specifically, at the railway station), and passes through valleys, fields, and over one quad-burning hill before you end up at the doors of The Ram Inn in West Firle. Set up camp here for lunch then loop back to Lewes (don’t worry — the way back is flat!). The views are stunning, so if you’re more of a “packed lunch” kind of walker, practically any spot is great to stop.
Any of the trails that wind their way through Lee Valley Park are a safe bet; the area is a well-known outdoor oasis in East London. On the art trails (choose either the two- or six-mile walk), you’ll pass sculptures, which you can’t not stop and stare at. And be sure to check out Musicality (a giant xylophone in the park) and give it a whirl. Another popular route—River Lee Trail—is a four-mile path that circles on the Hertfordshire and Essex borders.
An 11.2-mile walk along the South Downs Way (a ridge of the South Downs) from Hassocks to Lewes will take you over five hours and will see you climbing Ditchling Beacon, one of the steepest hills in the South East, so expect a workout! On your way, you’ll pass Butcher’s Wood, the Jack and Jill windmills, and an Iron Age fort at Ditchling Beacon. If you’re struggling with the high grades, just be thankful you’re not on a bike!
If you wish walking and wine could go hand in hand, this one’s for you! Covering a little over six miles, you’ll amble along the River Mole, only to find yourself at the largest vineyard in the country: Denbies Wine Estate. If you get your timing right, you can step into a delicious and informative tasting, and if you don’t mind a bit of added weight, bag a few bottles to take home.
The 9.2-mile Box Hill Circular hike is a good shout for anyone after a steep incline (with decent rest stops available along the way) not too far from London. Take the train to Box Hill Park in Surrey, where you’ll most certainly see others making use of the rolling hills that take you up and around the park. There’s a convenient restaurant halfway along the trail, so after working up a sweat, a pint is definitely on the cards.
East Sussex makes the list again with another iconic walk needing a mention. The trail goes from Hastings Old Town, along the seafront and then takes to the cliffs where you’ll get views for days and pass through ruins. All up, you’re looking at 5.9 miles of picture-worthy scenery.