UPDATED OCT 31, 2019
It’s hard to imagine there are hikes with beautiful, natural backdrops just outside the concrete jungle of London, but there are plenty. And you're in luck because we've put together a list of all the best ones — time to hit the trail!
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’re at the top of the hill, 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 from there.
About two hours southeast, right on the coast, sits Seven Sisters Country Park, 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, and livestock. 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. If you plan to hike the entire trail, bring a tent since 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 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 unique sculptures that you can’t help but stop and stare at. 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. You'll climb Ditchling Beacon, one of the steepest hills in the South East, so expect a workout! On the way, you’ll pass Butcher’s Wood, the Jack and Jill windmills, and an Iron Age fort at Ditchling Beacon. If you struggle with high grades, this is definitely a path to walk, not bike.
If you wish walking and wine could 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 the largest vineyard in the country: Denbies Wine Estate. If you get your timing right, you can step into a delicious and informative tasting. 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 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 5.9 miles of picture-worthy scenery in Hastings Circular.