Advice for Overseas visitors

The south east of England offers excellent territory for country walking, and the Saturday Walkers Club website has many free walks ready prepared for you to try out. In particular Kent and East Sussex – the counties of England that face France and Belgium - offer beautiful countryside, ancient villages, historic sites and traditional villages, all linked by a dense network of public footpaths

The countryside

The South East of England is one of the most beautiful parts of England and has many areas of pleasantly hilly countryside – for example the North Downs and Weald – where the terrain is a mixture of woodland and pasture, and modern large-scale agriculture has been kept at bay. In places there are also orchards, or open “downland” – a very English type of hilly grassland. On the coast, you can find the famous white cliffs – both at Dover and near Eastbourne - and other fine coastal scenery

Walking is on public footpaths that cross fields, pass through farmyards, and sometimes even take you through the estates of large country houses. These ancient “rights of way” have been jealously guarded by English people over the centuries, and today allow you to get a much more intimate view of the countryside than is possible in many other parts of the world.

The area has plenty of historical interest – churches, castles, ancient aristocratic houses which are often open to the public, and peaceful, unspoilt villages. Nature lovers will find plenty of birdsong and wildflowers in spring and summer, and one can also sometimes see wild deer and other wildlife.


The English weather lives up to its unpredictable reputation. It can be cool in summer or sunny in winter, and forecasting it in advance is almost always difficult. At any time of the year it is a good idea to bring a rain jacket. But temperatures are rarely extreme – typically 6-10 degrees in winter, 18-25 degrees in summer, and t he south east corner of England in fact gets much less rain than the west of the country.

For up to the date weather forcasts see the BBC website

When to come

There is something to see all the year round in the countryside of the south east, but it is particularly beautiful in spring and early summer when woods, fields and roadside verges have fine displays of wildflowers. Later summer also has its particular flowers, and the more adventurous can swim in the sea on some of our walks (sea temperature is about 18 degrees by mid August). For the best autumn colours late October and early November are the best time, and while the countryside is at its most bare in winter, crisp sunny days can bring their own beauty. Lack of foliage also open up some views that are hidden in summer.

Our walks

This website has more than 350 walks in the south east of England, all starting and finishing at a railway station. For many walks, complete and detailed directions are provided, meaning you do not even have to have a map to follow the walk. If you are more technologically-minded, or if you do not have enough English to understand our written directions, many walks are also available as a GPX download – look for the GPX button at the top of the home page for that walk.

To find the walks on our website, see the ‘Walks’ section at the top of the menu on the left-hand side of the website. Click on "300+ Walks" in the drop-down menu and you will get a list of all our walks, which you can sort by region or alphabetically using the arrows next to the column headings. Nearly all the walks have directions for you to print off, though some are described as ‘map-led’ – that is they suggest a route you can follow using a map, and provide some brief pointers - and usually also a GPX file - to help you do that. Note that "Book 1" or "Book 2" in the numbering of a walk refers to the two volumes of Time Out Country Walks near London, authored by SWC walkers, where these walks originated - but these books are now out of print: full directions for all these walks are now on our site.

Food and drink

Nearly all the walks on this website have a traditional English pub as a lunch stop. Many of these are historic buildings which still retain many ancient features. These days nearly all pubs serve food, and you may well be surprised by the high standard of the cooking, even in small rural pubs. Most will also have a good selection wines by the glass or the bottle, as well as traditional English beers.

Once at the pub, you will find some almost exactly like restaurants, with table service, but in most you order your food and drinks at the bar, but it is then brought to your table. Many pubs have gardens where you can eat outside in summer, and despite the unpredictable weather you will find this is very popular with the English.

Many of our walks also feature a traditional English tea room near the end, serving not just hot drinks but also home-made cakes. In those cases where a tea room is not possible, there is a pub stop for tea instead. Usually these will not serve cakes, but both tea and coffee is available. Nearly all of them also serve food in the evenings, enabling you to end your day with a rural meal.


Though maps are not necessary to follow most of our walks (except ‘Map-led’ ones: see ‘Our Walks’ above), they can be a useful companion to have on the walks. The best maps for walking in the UK are the Explorer maps of the Ordnance Survey (the official government mapping agency). These not only give details of every field boundary and building: they also clearly mark using green dotted lines all rights of way – that is public footpaths that are open to anyone to use – as well as ‘Access Land’ – areas where the public may roam freely

Useful expressions

When using our written directions there may be some words you are not familiar with. Here are a few:

Getting to the walks

All the walks on this website start and finish at railway stations, so we particularly recommend travelling by this method. The walk directions give details of the trains you have to get from London, but you can get information on trains from any point in south east England by using the National Rail website Note that there is a different timetable for weekdays (Monday to Friday), Saturdays and Sundays, with Sundays having a more limited service than other days of the week. When checking train times, make sure that none of the options listed has a bus symbol against it, which is a sign of a replacement bus to get around weekend engineering works. Such services are best avoided.

If doing a day walk, the cheapest ticket is an off-peak day return, which is valid anytime at weekends or on public holidays, but only after 9.30 or 10.00 Monday to Friday. If you are in a group of three you can save money by asking for a Groupsave ticket, which allows three to travel for the price of two. For families various discounts are available, but you would need to ask at a ticket office about these.

If you are planning a longer stay in the south east, or to do more than one visits in a year, it can be cheaper to buy a Network Card, which costs £30 for a year and gives you 30 percent discounts on train tickets off-peak. From Monday to Friday there is a £13 minimum fare on these cards, however, so for a short visit they are probably not worthwhile.

It is possible to park at the start of most of our walks, but note that not all of them return to the same starting point. If you are travelling by car, it is therefore best to choose a walk with the word ‘circular’ in the title. However, on many (though not all) other walks it is relatively easy to get from the end of the walk to the beginning by train, and the walk directions often give details of how to do this.

Selected walks

1) Starting from Ashford, Dover, Canterbury, Folkestone or Rye

If you are coming over from France or Belgium by Eurostar or cross-channel ferry, Ashford and Dover are convenient points of entry into the UK. Ashford International is a stop on Eurostar trains from Paris, Lille and Brussels, though only two or three trains a day call there. P&O ferry services from Calais to Dover still allow foot passengers.

Neither Ashford or Dover is particularly attractive to stay in, however. Ashford is a perfectly pleasant town, but has little of interest to tourists, and Dover, despite having a scenic location and an imposing castle, is a somewhat rundown, and not particularly cheerful at night.

Alternative places to stay in the area include Canterbury – heavily touristed but a charming historic town; Folkestone – a pleasant seaside resort, especially if you stay the area known as The Leas; and Rye – a pretty hilltop town surrounded by the flatlands of Romney Marsh.

From all of these places you can conveniently reach the walks below. Train times are given from Ashford, as this is a key rail junction, but Ashford itself can be reached by train from Canterbury in 20 minutes, Dover in 25 minutes and Rye in 25 minutes.

2) Walks near Gatwick

Of the four London airports, Gatwick is the best situated for walkers. Its railway station is a key hub, with short railway journeys to many attractive places.

3) Walks from London

If you are staying in London, then you can choose from the full range of walks on our website, nearly all of which are designed to be done in a day by train from London (the exception being some walks in Wales and Norfolk, which require a longer stay).

Here are a few of our favourites. Transport details for these can be found in the relevant walk documents.