UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
Have we hiked at Seven Sisters Country Park just for the Insta photo op? You betcha. But there’s more than this fitfluencer fave to explore. Here are the best hiking trails to hit up in and around London.
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 quaint old cottages. Once you've reached the top, be sure to head up the Leith Hill Tower. On a good day, you can see the clock face on Big Ben, 14 counties, and the English Channel.
About two hours southeast is Seven Sisters Country Park, a 280-hectare expanse of chalk cliffs, grassland, and livestock. You’ll feel a million miles from away the city as you explore the area's coastal trails and scenic tracks. For the best view of the park's famous cliffs, take the Seaford Head path to the overlook.
The South Downs Way National Trail stretches for 100 miles from Eastbourne to Winchester. Hiking the entire trail takes about a week or more. So if you’re not feeling up to the whole trek (we get it), pick chunks of it to walk at a time — we suggest starting with the River Ouse to River Chuckmere & Alfriston route. Be aware that the trail isn’t flat for long and can also be fairly 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 Ram Inn in West Firle. Set up camp here for lunch then loop back to Lewes — 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.
Lee Valley Park is a well-known outdoor oasis in East London and any of the area's trails are a safe bet. On the Artworks Routes (choose either the two- or six-mile walk), you’ll pass unique sculptures and installations like the Musicality, a giant xylophone that you're allowed to play. We also love the River Lee Trail, 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. You'll climb Ditchling Beacon, one of the steepest hills in the South East, so expect a workout! On the way, you’ll also pass Butcher’s Wood, the Jack and Jill windmills, and an Iron Age fort at Ditchling Beacon.
If you agree that walking and wine go hand in hand, then check out Mole Gap Trail! Covering a little over six miles, you’ll amble along the River Mole and eventually find yourself at one of the largest vineyards in the country: Denbies Wine Estate. Enjoy a tasting before heading back, and if you don’t mind a bit of added weight, bag a few bottles to take home.
The eight-mile Box Hill Circular hike near London is a good shout for anyone after a steep incline (with decent rest stops available along the way). 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 in the cards.
East Sussex makes the list again with another iconic walk warranting a mention. This 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, there are about six miles of picture-worthy scenery in Hastings Circular.
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