While the Big Smoke may feel like the be-all and end-all of humanity, it’s important to sometimes escape the concrete jungle and immerse yourself in green. From massive, all-day treks, to jaunts that only take a couple hours (did someone say picnic?), we’ve scoured the countryside for the best walks around, all within easy transport from London. Go, breathe in the oxygen-rich air, and try to pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
Eastbourne Distance: 13.8 miles Balance along the edge of the cliffs on this jaw-dropping hike in the southeast. Take in the famous white cliffs while climbing up and down to get the best view. It’s all hills along the path, but you’ll pass along The Seven Sisters, Beachy Head (where you can totally go swimming in the sea if you’re feeling up for it), and Cuckmere Haven before finishing off at the seaside town of Eastbourne.
Mole Gap Trail
Dorking Distance: Six miles If you like a bit of wine with your walk (and who doesn’t?), this one’s for you. You can amble along the River Mole between Leatherhead and Dorking and take in the countryside for a while, before stumbling upon the manor house at Norbury Park, which was built in the 18th century. Next, you’ll find yourself at the largest vineyard in the country: Denbies Wine Estate. If you get your timing right, you can step into one of its delicious and informative tastings, to give you that little extra liquid courage to make it home.
Box Hill Circular
North Downs Distance: 9.3 Miles When you’re looking for something to test your mettle while still offering a few decent rest stops along the way, hop the train to the Box Hill park in Surrey. Rolling hills bring you up and around the park, with a convenient restaurant halfway through the trail, perfect to grab a pint after working up a sweat. Soak in the sites and views of Broadwood’s Tower and Salomons Memorial viewpoint, and finish up at yet another cafe that’ll serve you up a proper cuppa as a reward.
Chiltern Hills Distance: 13.6 miles While you may only know the picturesque riverside town of Henley from the Regatta, the surrounding areas are filled with equally gorgeous countryside filled with hidden valleys, farmlands, wooded glens, and beautiful views. The full trek is a pretty long day out, with only one pub along the way, so be sure to pack a lunch.
Epping Forest Oak Trail
Epping Distance: Seven miles In all its leafy splendor at the end of the Central line, Epping Forest feels like a million miles from busy city life. Filled with wildlife, including hares, skylarks, and a whole herd of black fallow deer hanging out in their own dedicated sanctuary, this hike is ideal for when you don’t want to commit to a whole day’s walk. The Oak Trail takes you along plenty of beautiful sights, like the Ambresbury Banks -- which is left over from the Iron Age -- plus historical beech pollards and woodland pastures.
Hampstead Heath Circular
Hampstead Distance: 4-6 miles We sometimes forget that right in (almost) central London we have 320 hectares of stunning greenland, most of which teeters on the edge of wild and overgrown. Starting with a viewpoint at the top of Parliament Hill, delve deep into the Heath itself, passing by the Highgate and Whitestone Ponds before ending up in charming Hampstead Village. There’s an extension that leads you up some steeper hills and through Highgate Cemetery if you want to work up a further sweat.
Richmond Park Circular
Richmond Distance: 7.4 miles Richmond Park is hands down one of the most beautiful spots inside London. Created in the 17th century as a deer park, it still lets you catch sights of the herds throughout the space, through any of the paths that cut across. The circular walk takes you along most of the main sites, including Pembroke Lodge, Isabella Plantation, and the main deer-sighting spots.
Ockley Distance: Seven miles When it comes to bang for your buck, this one is short, sweet, and has one hell of a reward at the end. The walk itself is super-pretty, winding through plush green meadows and past Disney-esque cottages, and only really goes into a proper incline for the final push. Thankfully, there are super-handy steps built into the rock face, to help you ascend to the summit, from which you can see pretty much forever, including 14 counties, Big Ben, and the English Channel -- if you’ve got binoculars, at least.
Chiltern Hills Distance: 10 miles Loaded with historical landmarks, a walk through Chess Valley means you get to pass through the 1,000+-year-old town of Rickmansworth, and past one of the oldest schools in the country (the Royal Masonic School), not to mention that this place is teeming with wildlife -- it’s practically like walking through an English Eden. Catch sight of water voles, dragonflies, trout, and cygnets while cutting through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And yes, that is its official name.
Hurst Green to Oxted
Kent Distance: 4.7 miles This walk is best during autumn months, when the leaves are changing colours and making the whole landscape look like a watercolour painting, complete with super-cute cottages tucked here and there for effect. Only 40 minutes from Victoria station, this hike feels ages away from the city, but it’s completely accessible from the land of civilization.
Camber Castle Walk
Hastings Distance: 4.5 miles Nice and easy, this short(ish) walk ticks a lot of boxes: you start in the historically rich town of Rye before winding through the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, where you can take in all kinds of wildlife before continuing on to the ruins of Camber Castle, built by Henry VIII to protect the coast from invasion. Keep walking along the path, and the final trek takes you along the route of the former railway.
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While it’s possible to convince Haley Forest to go hiking, she would certainly appreciate it if a picnic and flask were involved. Follow her on Twitter @HCForest.