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Best Walks Near London | 10 Mapped Routes

Fresh air options north, south, east and west of the city (and all within easy reach). Routes all chosen and described by outdoors writer, Matt Jones

The eighteenth-century writer Samuel Johnson famously said: ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’. Well, maybe – but even the most ardent lovers of city life feel the need to escape it once in a while, and Dr Johnson himself was no exception. Fortunately, there are some stunning walks within easy reach of England’s capital, and since travel is considerably quicker now than it was back in Johnson’s day, most of them can be reached in an hour or less. So, whether you hop in a car and head for the coast or jump on a train bound for the leafier parts of the home counties, we proudly present ten of the best walks near London. There’s plenty to go at too. From easy countryside rambles to more strenuous and challenging hill walks, the South East of England boasts a far greater variety of trails and landscapes than you might think.

As part of our latest collaboration with route planning app komoot to help them champion some of the best walking routes in the UK, we’ve whittled down our top 10 favourites within easy reach of London by car, train or bus. Of course, if you’ve got a little more time on your hands, then you might want to consider roaming farther afield and heading to South Wales for our Best Walks in the Brecon Beacons or even our guide to wild camping in the Brecon Beacons.

New to komoot? For a free regional bundle (worth £8.99) simply follow this link to and create your free account today.

Best Walks Near London: The Top 10

  1. Leith Hill, Surrey Hills (Surrey)
  2. Ditchling Beacon and Jack & Jill windmills, South Downs (East Sussex)
  3. Bewl Water from Wadhurst station via Three Legs Cross (High Weald, Kent/Sussex border)
  4. London Loop – Cockfosters to Enfield Lock (Greater London)
  5. Margate to Ramsgate via Botany Bay (Kent coast)
  6. Chiltern Hills from Wendover (Buckinghamshire)
  7. Otford to Ainsford on the North Downs Way (Kent)
  8. Henley-on-Thames to Tilehurst on the Thames Path National Trail (Oxfordshire)
  9. Epping Forest (Essex/Greater London borders)
  10. The Pilgrim’s Way (Hampshire, Surrey and Kent)


Walk 1: Climb Up To South East England’s Highest Point

Pick any walk in the Surrey Hills and you’ll soon see why they fully merit their ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’ status. However, this route showcases a particularly stunning slice of the local landscape, taking you along stretches of the Greensand Way before climbing up Leith Hill to reach the striking 18th century Gothic Leith Hill Tower. Climb the stairs to the top of the tower and you’ll be at the highest point in South East England, with far reaching views all the way back to London. You might even spot the distinctive landmark that is the London Eye or, further north, the swooping arch of Wembley Stadium. The route then takes you down through woodland to the sleepy hamlet of Friday Street, before walking through wooded Abinger Common and Pasture Wood to return to Holmbury-St-Mary, where the Royal Oak Pub often has a roaring fire ready to welcome weary walkers.

Matt Says: “I spent fifteen long years living and working in London, and the Surrey Hills was a regular and very welcome weekend escape from the city. This route is a particular gem.”


Walk 2: Visit A Working Windmill On The Spectacular South Downs

The Iron Age hillfort of Ditchling Beacon is one of the highest points on the South Downs, with spectacular views out over chalk grassland. A walk along the lofty ridge brings you to the picturesque 19th century Jack and Jill windmills, which perch atop the downs. You’ll enjoy their charm and the setting, looking out across the pretty Sussex Weald. The next highlight on the route is the atmospheric Chattri, a memorial to Indian soldiers who died between 1914 and 1918.  From here you’ll roam the hills of the downs, gently undulating your way back to the start point.

Matt Says:Jack is privately owned, but Jill is a traditional working corn windmill, whose doors are sometimes open to visitors, and if the conditions are right, might even be milling local Sussex wheat to make stoneground wholegrain flour.”


Walk 3: Take A Waterside Wander Around Beautiful Bewl Water

Bewl Water is not to be missed. This vast reservoir, which holds 31 million litres of water, is the largest inland body of water in the South East of England and offers up a varied circular walk along forest paths and down country lanes. The scenery is beautiful and you’ll often have long stretches all to yourself. Various sections of the route hug the lake shore, giving plenty of opportunity to find a picturesque spot for a rest and to dip your toes in the cold water.

Matt Says: “Whatever you do, don’t visit the Bull Inn at the start of this route, because it’s far too easy to get waylaid by its inviting armchairs, roaring open fire and delicious pub grub. Save it for the end instead. You won’t regret it. In fact, this is probably my favourite Kent pub – and as a Man of Kent, I’ve been to a fair few!”


Walk 4: Soak Up Centuries Of History On The London Loop

This walk from Cockfosters to Enfield Lock is chock-full of history. You’ll pass Trent Park, once the home of the Sassoon family, later requisitioned by the government to become an interrogation and bugging centre for captured military personnel during the Second World War. You’ll stroll through Enfield Chase, a 12th century royal hunting forest, and pass the Camlet Moat, a small island that was thought to have been the seat of Geoffrey de Mandeville during the reign of William the Conqueror. The Jubilee Path will lead you through a working farm estate, before walking through the beautiful Hilly Fields Park, which was once home to the many glasshouses that produced tomatoes and cucumbers for the nation. The Grade 1 listed Forty Hall is another highlight along the route and is said to be where Sir Walter Raleigh spread his cloak over a puddle to spare Queen Elizabeth I from getting wet feet. You’ll leave the greenery behind as you head down Turkey Street, picking up Turkey Brook to the finish point at Enfield Lock.

Matt Says: “As its name suggests, the London Loop is a giant circular circumnavigation of  London that has been described as the ‘M25 for walkers’. While some sections are very urban, others are surprisingly rural, like this tranquil stretch.”


Walk 5: Walk ‘The Nose Of Kent’ To Visit Chalk Stacks And Rock Pools

On a map of Kent, the Isle of Thanet protrudes like a nose, pointing towards France and the Low Countries. In the past it was separated from the mainland by the Wantsum Channel. Although it is no longer an island, it still boasts some fabulous coastline, including the sections that link the three historic coastal towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. It’s a great option for anyone travelling by train, as there’s a station at either end with frequent trains to and from London. The route broadly follows the Viking Coastal Trail, taking you along low chalk cliffs, with dramatic, sweeping views out across the channel, or along stretches of promenade. The real highlight of the route is Botany Bay, a sandy cove with impressive chalk stacks and rock pools. Try and time your visit for low tide, so you can really explore this gem. If you look hard enough, you might even find a fossil.

Matt Says: “I don’t know if anyone else calls Thanet the nose of Kent, but it’s how I’ve always thought of it. Threading your way through the chalk stacks at Botany Bay is a unique experience and it’s the reason why this is one of my favourite coast walks.”

Walk 6: Follow Ancient Trackways In The Charming Chiltern Hills

Although only a short train ride from London’s Marylebone station, the Chilterns are a charming, unspoilt corner of English countryside that make for a delightful day trip from the capital. This route from the picturesque market town of Wendover takes you up and over five hills, offering panoramic views of the quiet wooded valleys below. You’ll follow parts of the ancient Ridgeway, the Icknield Way and the Aylesbury Ring, leading you across Bacombe Hill, Coombe Hill, Whiteleaf Hill, Pulpit Hill and Beacon Hill. At 852 feet above sea level, Coombe Hill is the highest point in the Chilterns and is topped by a striking monument dedicated to the men from Buckinghamshire who lost their lives in the Boer War.

Matt Says:Look to the skies on this route, as you’re sure to spot red kites. The Chilterns is one of the best places in the UK to spot them overhead, thanks to a successful reintroduction project.”


Walk 7: Get Back To Nature In The ‘Garden Of England’

They call Kent the garden of England and this walk certainly highlights its greenery, heading through stunning countryside packed with wildlife, along the banks of the pretty River Darent, through fields and bluebell-filled woods in spring. You’ll visit the gorgeous Kentish villages of Otford, Shoreham and Eynsford, which all have pubs and places to eat – there’s even a vineyard on the way if you fancy a glass of English fizz. The route is rich in history too. You’ll pass the impressive Lullingstone Castle – a manor house and gatehouse built in 1497 and home to the Hart Dyke family, which was frequented by Henry VIII and Queen Anne. It now holds ‘The World Garden’, an impressive collection of plants from around the globe sourced by Tom Hart Dyke, a modern day plant hunter, who is part of the 20th generation of the Hart Dykes to live at the castle. You’ll also pass Lullingstone Roman Villa, and Eynsford Castle, which is an interesting and rare example of an early Norman enclosure castle.

Matt Says: “Although I’m biased, I do think Kent is one of England’s most beautiful counties. There’s far more to it than suburban commuter belt, as you’ll see if you explore its green countryside.”


Walk 8: Trace The Mighty River On The Thames Path National Trail

The beauty of the Thames Path is that each stretch is so varied. You can go from walking among some of the capital’s most famous sights, bustling with tourists, to strolling through glorious meadows with the river meandering alongside you and not another soul in sight. This stretch from Henley-on-Thames to Tilehurst is one of the most scenic, and makes you feel as though you are a million miles from London. It’s the perfect escape when you’ve had enough of the hustle and bustle of city life. From the pretty town of Henley-on-Thames you’ll soon leave the town behind you and enjoy a peaceful stretch of the river as you head towards Shiplake, home to the pretty Shiplake College Boat House. From here you carry on to the picturesque village of Sonning, which Jerome K. Jerome described as “the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river” in his book Three Men in a Boat. Before long you’ll be heading through Caversham Lock, which despite being very close to Reading still has a very rural feel. Here you can choose to head to Reading station or continue on to Tilehurst.

Matt Says:I walked almost the whole of the Thames Path National Trail in little sections when I lived in London – in fact, for a while I worked in a riverside office and the route went right past my window. It’s such an accessible trail, and this bit is a particular charmer.”


Walk 9: Lose Yourself In Ancient Oak Forest On The Edge Of Essex

Just a short hop from London, Epping Forest is an obvious choice for an autumnal woodland stroll. But with a total area of 6,000 acres, it can be hard to know where to walk. The Oak Trail is a great option, taking you through pretty countryside from Theydon Bois, before heading to Bell Common and into the forest. You’ll soon leave behind the sounds of civilisation to surround yourself with trees and nature. Autumn is the perfect time to visit, as the colours are spectacular. The Oak Trail takes you to Ambresbury Banks, the remains of an Iron Age hillfort. Legend has it this was the site of Boudicca’s last stand against the Romans. Today it is an atmospheric spot, where if you are lucky you might still come across old pottery, or even an arrowhead. From here, head to the deer sanctuary, following the fence line to stand the best chance of glimpsing a stag. Back in Theydon Bois, you’re spoilt for choice for a post walk pub.

Matt Says: “I used to work on the edge of Epping Forest and regularly escaped the office for lunchtime walks in the woods. This is a superb trail that visits the forest’s most majestic oaks.”


Walk 10: Follow Famous Footsteps Along The Pilgrim’s Way

If you have a bit of time on your hands and really feel like you need to stretch your legs, jump on the train to Winchester and walk the 136-mile Pilgrim’s Way, which makes a great multi-day adventure. Once an Iron Age trading route, the trail acquired pilgrim status after Henry II walked barefoot to Canterbury due to his guilt over the murder of the Archbishop Thomas Becket. You’ll be walking in the footsteps of many famous pilgrims, including Louis VII of France, Alexander II of Scotland, and Anglo-French writer Hilaire Belloc. But history aside, it is a route that deserves to be walked, because it weaves its way through some incredibly pretty countryside, chocolate-box villages, past vineyards and manor houses. It also has many a cosy pub to revive a weary walker along the way. And even if you don’t have time to walk the whole thing, there are plenty of opportunities to cut the walk short and hop on the train back to London.

Matt Says: “Just like the famous Camino de Santiago that stretches across northern Spain, this route follows in the footsteps of Christian pilgrims. It really is a walk imbued with a fantastic sense of history.”


All of the above routes were planned using komoot. If you’ve not already heard of this, it’s an app that lets you plan out routes quickly, easily and efficiently and that also lets you follow them accurately.

Imagine you want to work out how to get from one end of the Brecon Beacons to the other, all on hiking trails. With komoot, all that takes is just a couple of clicks. Best of all, you can then easily tweak the route if you want to stop at particular places along the way – like a pub or two perhaps.

When it comes to following the route, you can either use the komoot app on your phone or you can link the app with Garmin and other GPS devices for data syncing over their proprietary smartphone apps. You can even save planned routes offline so you can adventure in the wilderness without worrying about losing signal or your battery dying.

Finally, there’s the community aspect. Using the komoot app or website, you can create your own Highlights by saving special places or segments of the route that you think other people would want to know about – you can even upload pictures of your route to showcase it to others.

For a free regional mapping bundle (worth £8.99) simply follow this link to and create your free account today.


For More Like This:

Best Walks In The Lake District | Top 10

Best Walks In The Peak District | Top 10


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