Find a Walk
The Ridgeway, lovely views and the Chilterns.
Buckinghamshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 52 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
The Chilterns: the Ridgeway Path over an open ridge, returning by peaceful and secluded valleys.
Buckinghamshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 2 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk through a peaceful part of the rolling Chiltern Hills has one or two steep hills, but otherwise gradients are gentle and there are many fine views out over the valley and plain. The first part of the walk follows the valley bottom before following the Ridgeway to lunch at Bledlow. In the afternoon you pass through a series of secluded valleys before reaching Radnage and then over Bledlow Ridge and back along the valley to Saunderton.
Dramatic coastal scenery, Lulworth cove, hidden beaches, a cliff arch, and a ghost town. Travel by car only.
Dorset SWC Walk 54 • Toughness: 10/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This is a very beautiful and dramatic coastal walk, which takes in the iconic Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door (an arch), Purbeck's dramatic coastal scenery, and the abandoned coastal village of Tyneham.
The walk is a 'dog bone' shape, centred on Lulworth Cove by the Castle Inn (lunch pub)
The Tynham Loop
The Tyneham loop starts at Povington Hill, a ridge with a 360° view of Purbeck (and a car park). It then descends into the abandoned village, which is worth exploring (church, museum), and climbs the other side of the valley to the cliff edge. It then follows the rollercoaster South West Coast Path (SWCP) along the cliffs to a beach, and more dramatic viewpoints. It then steeply re-ascends the Povington Hill ridge to Flowers Barrow, a stunning viewpoint (and the link point to the coast path 'in between' to Lulworth Cove)> Finally, there's a gentle ridge walk back to the to the start.
The Coast Path in between.
This part of the walk is done twice to link the 2 loops. This is a lovely walk over Bindon Hill with stunning coastal views (and Lulworth Cove) in one direction, and a cliff side path for the return. The killer though, is the steep descent to sea level and equally steep re-ascent back up to the ridge at Arish Mell beach.
The Durdle Door Loop
The Durdle Door loop is much gentler. It follows the SWCP west along cliffs to Durdle Door (an arch) and a nice beach below. The return is slightly inland, on a higher path (with less ups and downs) over open grassland, with fine views of the coast.
This is a 'car walk', as its not very suitable for public transport. There is a rare bus service from Wool Station, about 4 miles away. See below for details. For groups, there are reasonably priced taxis.
Lulworth Army Range
The eastern half of this walk (around Tyneham), and the coast path in between, is through a Danger Area (Army Tank Training Area). It is sometimes closed - check the opening times before travelling. If closed, you can always do the Western part of the walk from Lulworth...
Lovely Coastal walk starting with a busy prom, then a short ferry crossing to start the South West Coast Path along Studland Bay (a sandy beach), past Old Harry (cliffs) to Swanage, a seaside resort. Optional ridge walk ending to Corfe Castle. Return by bus.
Dorset SWC Walk 73 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This walk follows a hidden valley to the sea, a sandy beach to Sandbacks for a short ferry over to Purbeck, the start of the South West Coast Path (SWCP) along Studland Bay (a long sandy bay great, for swimming, with an official naturist area), a cliff-top pub in Studland village, a cliff top walk out to Old Harry point, a climb up to a ridge, and either a descent along the SWCP into Swanage, or a longer ridge walk inland to Corfe Castle, before catching a bus back to Wareham station
This walks starts with a slow descent to the sea along a path through a forested chine (a steep sided valley).
It then follows the seafront, a sandy beach along a mixture of promenade or for a few short stretches, the sandy beach itself. This stretch is lined with cafes and beach huts, and can be quite busy in summer.
Soon expensive Sandbanks is reached, where there is a short 'chain ferry' crossing (every 10-15 mins, takes 5 mins, 2013 fare: £1.00, free to return) across the entrance to Poole Harbour to South Haven Point. Lunch is at a small cafe just after the ferry with views over the harbour.
South Haven Point also marks the start of the SWCP. After lunch, the walk follows the SWCP / beach path for 4 km. First along Shell Bay to a point (a good picnic spot), which marks the start of the National Trust's Studland Bay, a sandy beach backed by sand dunes. While any part of this walk is good for swimming, the start of Studland Bay is particularly good as there is a sandbar offshore which keeps the sea shallow, and so, quite warm. The middle of Studland Bay is a well known official naturist beach, which is quite busy on a warm summer's day. There is an alternate "heather path" through the NT's Nature reserve behind the beach.
At the end of the bay, there is a cliff top pub in Studland village, with an idyllic location. A bus follows the route of this walk to this point, joining it at the ferry, Studland Village (and Swanage), so it is easy to cut short this walk if you'd prefer to swim or...
A reservoir, then the South Downs Way past pretty villages (Jevington and Wilmington) and a ridge walk.
East Sussex TOCW Book 2, Walk 27 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This South Downs walk heads from inland Sussex to the coast, taking in a variety of scenery along the way. From Berwick the walk cuts across to the peaceful birdwatchers’ paradise of Arlington Reservoir before crossing farmland towards Wilmington, then ascends to the huge chalk figure of the Long Man. From here the route continues to the historic smuggling village of Jevington, then ascends the South Downs to follow ridges of chalk grassland with views in all directions, before descending to the seaside resort of Eastbourne and the possibility of extending the walk to the dramatic heights of Beachy Head.
Note that this walk involves one busy road crossing (A27) at Wilmington.
The best walk in the book! A South Downs ridge, picture postcard Alfriston, Cuckmere Haven (beach), and cliffs with views of the Seven Sisters. Long but worth it.
East Sussex TOCW Book 1, Walk 31 • Toughness: 8/10 • Length: 14 miles (23 km)
Everyone's favourite walk in the book. It starts with a South Downs Ridge walk. Lunch is in the picturesque village of Alfriston. After lunch there is Cuckmere Haven (a pretty river valley), and a coastal cliff walk into Seaford. You can swim at Cuckmere Haven or Seaford.
Near the start, the route goes through Firle Park and then follows the South Downs Way for much of the day, with not as much climbing as Walk 25's arduous route into Hastings, and with marvellous views across the lush valleys to the north and down to the sea. There are three lovely villages to enjoy during the course of the day, all with open churches: West Firle, West Dean, and (the suggested lunchstop) the old smuggling village of Alfriston, which likes to call its church a cathedral.
There is slightly further to walk after lunch than before it. From Alfriston the route follows the riverbank through the Cuckmere Valley and through Friston Forest down to Exceat, an extinct village on the edge of the Seven Sisters Country Park, where there is a Visitors’ Centre. The Vanguard Way then leads through the Seaford Head Nature Reserve – hoopoe, bluethroat and wryneck have been seen here – to the beach at Cuckmere Haven. This is in season a good enough place to take a dip or just to enjoy a front-stalls view of the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters.
Finally there is a walk along the coastal path and down into Seaford, a seaside town with a long esplanade and reconstructed shingle beach.
Seaside Hastings, a hilly cliff walk with 4 steep climbs and a remote naturist beach. Gentle afternoon to historic Winchelsea and Rye via a noted viewpoint.
East Sussex TOCW Book 2, Walk 29 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This rewarding walk starts with a fine clifftop coastal walk with steep climbs along the way. This section is the most strenuous part of the walk. Lunch is at Pett Level, after which the terrain levels out, before leading up through the New Gate into Winchelsea for tea. After tea and just east of the town, you reach The Look Out, offering panoramic views across the whole of Romney Marsh and the Kent Downs beyond. From there it is down and along to Ferry Bridge, following an easy flat route north east to Rye.
An energetic walk over the South Downs with great views, 3 hills, 3 pubs, and a ridge.
East Sussex SWC Walk 47 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This is an energetic walk (550 metres or 1,600 feet of ascent) over three distinct downland ridges, with magnificent views throughout. One of the pleasures of the walk is that the entire route is in view for much of the walk, so you can look back at the terrain you have already done or ahead to the delights to come. Navigation is easy, the walking is over wide and distinct paths, and while there are three substantial climbs, most of the walk is flat, gently undulating or downhill.
As well as plenty of grand downland walking, the route includes a start and finish in historic Lewes, quaint corners of which you see both at the start and end of the walk, an optional detour to Mount Caburn (Iron Age fort) with its dramatic viewpoint of the whole circuit, and the pleasant small village of Glynde. You also pass the remote station of Southease, with its YHA cafe nearby.
The walk passes 3 good pubs, and 3 train stations on the way (between the 3 hills, so if you want to drop out, its quite easy). You can do the walk either clockwise or anticlockwise, and directions are given for both in the attached pdf
The best walk in the Southeast! A dramatic cliff walk passing Cuckemere Haven, the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head as the South Downs meets the sea. Ends with Eastbourne's promenade and pier.
East Sussex TOCW Book 2, Walk 28 • Toughness: 9/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
This classic cliff-top walk – one of the finest coastal walks in England – affords stunning (and very famous) views of the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, and the renowned Beachy Head, before ending in the elegant seafront town of Eastbourne. There is quite a lot of climbing and descending on the walk – indeed, apart from the section around Cuckmere Haven and the finish along the Eastbourne seafront, almost none of the route is flat – but somehow in the grandeur of the scenery the effort is not noticed.
In summer, the walk also offers numerous opportunities for a dip in the sea: which is best will depend on the tide. Seaford and Eastbourne beaches can be swum at any state of the tide. At Cuckmere Haven and Birling Gap, however, there are awkward underwater rocks that are well covered at high water and exposed when the tide is out, but covered by shallow sea for a period in between; nonetheless, if you catch these beaches at the right time, they make a wonderfully scenic place for a dip.
Take care near the cliff edges on this walk, as they are crumbly and liable to collapse: the official advice is to keep 5 metres from any cliff edge (advice regularly ignored by summer tourist: but don’t copy them!).
This walk follows the Sussex Border path to Bewl Water, then follows its banks back to Wadhurst for tea. Gentle gradients but never flat.
East Sussex SWC Walk 5 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
Apart from at the very end, this is a completely different route from the Wadhurst short and main walks in Time Out Country Walks Book two. It follows the Sussex Border Path to the large reservoir of Bewl Water, and then follows its banks back to Wadhurst village for tea. This is beautiful country, full of hidden valleys and picturesque farms. Being the Weald, the route is almost never flat, but the gradients on this route are always gentle.
The hardest walk in the book. A gentle start with the 1066 Path and a great pub for lunch. After lunch, a great coastal cliff walk with 4 steep climbs, Fairlight Glen naturist beach, fish and chips on Hastings seafront, so one for summer.
East Sussex TOCW Book 1, Walk 25 • Toughness: 9/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
This is a delightful walk with lovely coastal views is the hardest in the book - it has a very hilly ending, and is best done in summer if you would like to swim, otherwise in spring when the woodland floor is covered in bluebells and other wildflowers and, in early May, the gorse is bright yellow. The inland start from Winchelsea is flat to begin with, with just 1 climb for lunch at an excellent and very pretty pub. After lunch the route heads to the coast and follows the coastal path, and there are 4 steep cliffs to climb (with the Fireheights lookout, and Fairlight Glen beach in the middle). Hastings has a 'working beach', a resort beach, and a quaint old town.
Starting below Winchelsea (once a coastal port, but storms have since stranded it 2km inland), the walk follows the River Brede and canals to an early lunch at a 17th century pub near the church in Icklesham. The pub is quaint, and its beer garden has a lovely view, but don't dawdle, less than 5km of this walk is before lunch, and the ending is strenuous.
After lunch, the route crosses two relatively clear streams, both with ill-fitting names: Pannel Sewer and Marsham Sewer, to the coast at Cliff End.
From here, the walk follows the hilly coastline, with sea views. A detour off the coastal route through the houses of Fairlight is required, as a result of severe coastal erosion (an average 1.4 metres of cliff-face is lost annually in these parts). Thereafter you follow the coastline through Hastings Country Park, with 3 steep climbs out of the wooded Warren, Fairlight and Ecclesbourne Glens. The first summit is Fireheights, a coastguard lookout, with excellent views of the coastline. from here on, there are many side paths worth exploring to secluded viewpoints.
The very picturesque Fairlight Glen has a nudist beach where you can drip-dry in fine weather, if you don't happen to have a towel. The path down to it is officially closed due to landslips, but (at your own risk) duck under the fence by the 'closed'...
Farnham Park, Caesar’s Camp, Beacon Hill, Bourley Reservoirs, Gelvert Stream, Fleet Pond, Foxlease Meadows and Hawley Common
Hampshire SWC Walk 160 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
The walk crosses Farnham Park to Upper Hale then enters remote MOD land (careful navigation needed) including a steep climb to Caesar’s Camp and equally demanding descent from Beacon Hill, overlooking a network of water channels and reservoirs. After lunch at The Foresters you follow Gelvert Stream to Fleet Pond, get your feet wet in Foxlease Meadows, dry out over a cuppa watching cricket at the Crown and Cushion and view the boats from the sandy shores of Hawley Lake, before crossing Hawley Common to Blackwater station.
After Upper Hale the walk is largely within or close to MOD land until the outskirts of Blackwater. The area is designated on the OS maps by clear rather than red triangles, signifying managed access subject to the displayed by-laws, as opposed to danger areas. In practice this means that you are free to roam and the paths are clear on the ground, but there are no footpath or bridleway signs. The section through Foxlease Meadows is also not marked and is usually ‘spongy’ underfoot, so a drier alternative is given in the text.
Special thanks are due to the excellent www.fancyfreewalks.org website for kind permission to draw on their route directions for the MOD section of the walk.
Easy coastal walk along the Solent Way with views towards the Isle of Wight. Return by bus.
Hampshire SWC Walk 62 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
A delightful and varied coastal walk starting at the attractive seaside town of Lymington in the New Forest. Passing by the colourful Quay and yacht basin, the route joins the Solent Way which winds through tranquil salt marshes and a nature reserve where many different types of birds and wildflowers can be spotted. After lunch there is a short amount of esplanade walking followed by a very gentle cliff top path with fine views of the Needles and the Isle of Wight. Tea is at the Beachcomber café which has a lawned outside seating area overlooking the sea. This is an easy, fairly flat walk and the directions are straightforward and consequently minimal.
Easy cliff walk following the Saxon Shore Way along the 'White Cliffs of Dover' to historic Deal
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 30 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This simple walk (it should be impossible to get lost if you keep the sea on your right hand side) is nevertheless one of the finest coastal walks in England, taking you right along the top of the famous White Cliffs of Dover. On a clear day, you get stunning views of the English Channel, and the ferries buzzing in and out of Dover Harbour, and the French coast from Boulogne to Dunkerque. On hazier days, the dramatic (though dangerously crumbling) cliffs afford exciting views of the inaccessible beaches below.
Surprisingly for a walk that seems to spend much of its time on the airy heights, not much exertion is involved. There are only two significant climbs, one out of Dover and the other out of St Margaret's Bay. Otherwise the terrain is level or gently undulating. The last quarter of the walk, indeed, is totally flat, along a tranquil coastpath behind the pebble beach of Deal. Though less dramatic than the White Cliffs this section of the walk is full of historical and natural interest, passing Walmer and Deal castle, and – in late May and June – a stunning display of coastal flora on Deal’s shingle beach.
When using mobile phones on this walk, check they haven’t switched to a French network, as happens routinely at St Margaret’s Bay, for example
A contrast between hidden valleys in the North Downs and the Darent Valley Path through three interesting villages.
Kent SWC Walk 59 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
Some of this walk will be familiar from the two Book 1 walks which start in Otford, but most of it covers new ground. It starts along a country lane through the secluded Austin Lodge valley, climbing to the isolated settlement of Romney Street. It continues on an undulating section to a ridge with fine views of the Darent valley, from where you descend into Otford, passing its scale model of the Solar System. The village has many interesting old buildings and the full route takes you past the ruins of Otford Palace, a rival to Hampton Court in Tudor times.
There are two possible routes back to Eynsford. The longer takes a similarly undulating route along the western side of the Darent valley, weaving in and out of Book 1 Walk 23 (Otford to Eynsford) on its way to Lullingstone Park, an attractive landscape of chalk grassland and ancient woodland with an internationally important collection of veteran trees. The route into Eynsford goes past Eagle Heights, one of the UK's largest Bird of Prey centres which is open daily to 5pm from March to October, 4pm on winter weekends. Admission (2016) is £9 but you might be able to see something of the afternoon flying displays from the public footpath.
The shorter return route mostly follows the Darent Valley Path, with some stretches alongside the river itself. The route goes through the attractive Kent village of Shoreham where The Mount Vineyard is sometimes open for tastings, and later passes extensive lavender fields at Castle Farm.
There are several interesting buildings in the valley near the end of the walk:
- Lullingstone Castle (01322-862114) is a historic manor house with limited opening hours, but its grounds contain an unusual parish church (open to the public at all times) and a World Garden with plants from around the globe which is open Fri–Sun afternoons between Easter Saturday and end-October (Sun only in October); admission (2016) is £8.
- Lullingstone Roman Villa (0322-863467) has two well-preserved mosaic floors...
Coastal Walk along the cliffs to Dover, with options also taking in The Warren.
Kent SWC Walk 13 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This is a highly scenic coastal walk with fine sea views throughout. It introduces you to some of the quainter sides of Folkestone, a town which like many south coast seaside towns is undergoing something of a renaissance. You then climb up past two Martello Towers (Napoleonic-era fortifications) onto a high clifftop, following the North Downs Way. This path is easy to follow, has fine Channel views, and passes the Battle of Britain Memorial and then a fascinating series of World War II installations, including a rare sound mirror (an early form of aircraft detection that was superseded by radar), and some large gun emplacements.
The only downside on this latter section of the route is noise from the A20 dual carriageway just inland, though this is muted when the wind is blowing from the sea (ie, from the south or south west). In compensation there is a dramatic approach to Dover – a narrow (but not difficult) ridge between an inland valley and the sea. The walk finishes by crossing the town’s Western Heights, passing deserted 19th century forts and with wonderful views of the town and port.
Kent Orchards, then follows the Greensand Way to Igtham Mote (NT), One Tree Hill, Knole House and deer park (NT)
Kent SWC Walk 41 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This walk follows the Greensand Way all the way from Yalding to Sevenoaks. The route is fairly well waymarked, and so you may find that for whole sections you can dispense with these directions altogether. Note that some signposts can get overgrown by vegetation in summer, however, and at whatever time of year, the waymarking disappears for crucial sections.
In late April and early May the walk passes a series of bluebell woods, and also a couple of commercial apple orchards near Hill Hoath which blossom around the same time. Otherwise for the first half of the walk you follow the Greensand Way across undulating Kent farmland. There are no less than three lunch pubs on this section.
Later the way becomes hillier and the Greensand Way climbs up to the lovely moated manor house of Ightham Mote (pronounced “Eye-tam”), a National Trust property whose tea room can be accessed without paying the entrance fee. From there you embark on a particularly lovely section of the Greensand Way, which climbs slowly up the escarpment. The final stretch is across the grounds of Knole House, another fine National Trust property with a tea room.
Greensand, incidentally, is a type of sandstone, that runs in a ridge south of the North Downs and north of the Weald. Some of the greensand rocks actually do have a greenish tinge, though others are a more predictable brownish red. The soil produced is particularly suitable for growing fruit, which is why this part of Kent was a traditional area for growing apples and hops (for making beer), though none of the latter are in evidence now.
A dramatic ridge walk along the North Downs Way, overlooking the English Channel.
Kent SWC Walk 93 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk follows the waymarked North Downs Way (NDW) along the edge of an escarpment with views over the English Channel for almost the entire route. Apart from 2 steep climbs near the start, the route is level and easy going.
The walk starts with a steep climb up Tolsford Hill, with views over the English Channel, to pick up the waymarked North Downs Way (NDW). Heading east, the NDW descends into a valley and under a disused railway line. There's a second steep climb up the other side. Navigation along this stretch is a little tricky in places, so do take / print out a map.
The rest of the walk is easy, along a level, well maintained path along the side of the hill with spectacular views out over the coast, the English Channel, and later Folkestone, and the Channel Tunnel rail terminal. For the rest of the walk, you can see Folkestone, and either of the stations you are aiming for!
Just past the viewpoint over Channel Tunnel, by an ancient hill fort, there is an option to cut the walk short to Folkestone West. Note that this involves a long pavement walk to the station.
The main walk continues, contouring around the summit of a hill, high above Folkestone, with views out over the channel, until it reaches the coast at the start of the White Cliffs of Dover. Here there is a choice.
- Finish in Folkestone. Turn right and follow the coast path down to Folkestone's seafront. You can catch the train from Folkestone Central, but if you have time, continue along the elegant cliff top promenade a little way to have tea at the Folkestone Grand - a faded Victorian era Grand Hotel.
- White Cliffs of Dover. Turn left and continue the cliff top walk along the White Cliffs for a little way with views over the Channel and the Warren (an undercliff), passing the Battle of Britain memorial, to reach a nice cafe with sea views. Either retrace your steps (recommended) and take the path down into Folkestone, or continue to Dover.
- Finish in Dover Turn left, and continue along the White Cliffs,...
A short walk packed with variety and fine views, bluebell woods in season, a pretty village and a short train journey
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 43 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
Being short in length, this walk makes a good, brisk, autumn or winter walk, although the walk is also delightful in bluebell season as the route passes through lots of bluebell woods during the morning. The route at the outset is steeply uphill, for a time following the North Downs Way, with views back over Otford and the valley, then going through Greenhill Wood, with a glimpse of Oak Hall, before heading north to Romney Street.
In the afternoon, Shoreham village is worth visiting, with its four pubs - for your late lunch option - and twelfth-century church.
The route onwards is the Darent Valley Path into Otford, which offers a tearoom, a palace (in ruins), a church and many ancient buildings. It also contains the Otford Solar System, which claims to be the only scale model of its kind in the world; it shows the relative position of the sun and planets at the start of the new millennium.
The Eden valley, Penshurst Place and a rural pub for lunch.
Kent SWC Walk 92 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
The walks described here have been transferred and expanded from Extra Walk 78 (Cowden to Hever), with much of the sections to and from Leigh being taken from Book 1 Walk 19 (Hever to Leigh) and Book 1 Walk 15 (Leigh to Tunbridge Wells). Some of the Wealden territory around the Eden and Medway rivers will therefore be familiar, but these new routes are judged to be worthwhile because they take in a classic rural pub at lunchtime and some excellent tearooms.
Starting from Penshurst station (almost 3 km away from its village), the Main Walk goes through low-lying farmland in the Eden valley, crosses the river at Vexour Bridge and continues on an undulating route through typical Wealden countryside to the tiny settlement of Hoath Corner. After lunch in its rural pub the walk loops round to the north and east, crossing the outward leg at Wat Stock before descending to the village of Penshurst for tea. The main attraction here is Penshurst Place, a well-preserved medieval manor house with an attractive formal garden, the home of the Sidney family since the 16thC. It is open weekends from mid-February to March, and daily from April to October; admission (2016) is £10.80. The final part of the walk is a shortened version of Book 1 Walk 19.
The Wealden soil does not drain well and parts of the walk can be muddy even after moderate amounts of rain.
The start of the Main Walk has been changed to avoid a somewhat unappealing route into Chiddingstone and so only the Reverse Walk now goes through this pretty village (although it does feature on several other walks). One result of the revised design is that the routes from Penshurst and Leigh now merge in mid-morning, simplifying the earlier version's bewildering set of route sections.
This walk no longer has a Penshurst Circular option, although in practice you could do this by switching to the Reverse Walk and retracing your outward leg from Vexour. A more satisfying circular route is included as an option in Extra Walk 235 (Tonbridge to...
Easy coastal walk with fine cliff top views, 3 classic seaside resorts, and a number of stunning sandy bays and coves that make it a great swimming walk
Kent SWC Walk 101 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This is a gentle coastal walk linking 3 historic coastal towns (Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate) on the Isle of Thanet (NE Kent). Much of the walk is along low chalk cliffs with views over the channel, with several secluded coves. At low tide, you can walk along the beach between them.
The farthest corner of the Isle of Thanet is arguably where the east coast of England meets the south coast, though the gently curving coastline makes it hard to identify a precise turning point. This gentle walk along the coast passes 3 historic seaside towns and many bays and beaches.
For much of the way it is possible to choose between walking on top of the 20-30 metre high chalk cliffs ("cliff top level"), or at low tide, walking along the beach or promenade below ("beach level"). Although this stretch of coast is largely built-up, there is a wide strip of open grass along most of the cliff top. The beaches are sandy and flat - the tide goes out a long way.
The walk can be done "clockwise" (starting in Margate) or anti-clockwise (starting in Ramsgate or Broadstairs). Clockwise allows 2 possible endings, so you can choose between a medium and a longer walk. Anticlockwise give you 2 possible starts.
These notes, and directions below, assume "anticlockwise". The start of the walk is best done at low tide. It is a series of bays which are joined together at low tide. At high tide, you need to use the cliff top path between them. The last part of the walk has a concrete promenade at beach level (OK at high tide). If starting at Margate ("clockwise"), its the middle and end which are best at low tide.
Apart from the small part to/from Ramsgate station, the route is pretty easy - just follow the coast, swapping between the cliff top path and the beach as you wish and the tide dictates!
Ramsgate and Broadstairs have interesting old town areas to explore around their harbours. Margate, while not so historic/pretty, has many bars and cafes
These 3 resorts are very busy on sunny days, but the rest...
Out via the National Trust's Knole Park, House, and Igtham Mote. Back by the Greensand Way along the escarpment of the Kent Downs.
Kent SWC Walk 21 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This is an absolute favourite Sunday outing of mine, passing two National Trust properties (Ightham Mote and Knole House) and traversing gentle countryside on the Greensand Ridge that somehow seems quintessentially English. In early spring it has interesting wildflowers - wood anemones, bluebells and wild garlic - and in the afternoon there is a fine (but gentle) climb up along an escarpment with magnificent views.
A quiet coastal path with wide beaches, sand dunes, salt and freshwater marshes, nature reserves, barrier islands, and lots of birds.
Norfolk SWC Walk 70 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 45 miles (76 km)
The North Norfolk Coast path is a national long distance trail that, as its names suggests, follows the north Norfolk Coast.
The path follows a mixture of low cliffs, sand dunes, very wide sandy beaches, salt and fresh water marshes. It is great for birds and, in one place, seals. The beaches are very wide with firm sand, and the sea goes out a long way, making great beach walking. There are barrier islands that can be explored at low tide. There are a few inland sections that can be bypassed by bus, or at low tide, by following the coast. There are many small harbours, which are 'sea' at high tide, and mudflats at low tide. The eastern end of the walk is quite different - gentle cliff top paths, or coastering at low tide, and some seaside resorts.
There is a regular bus service (1/2 hourly in summer) that follows the entire route, making day trips, or returning to your car very easy
Given the distance, this would be a good weekend trip from London
The coast path suffered in the December 2013 storm surge, but now seems back to normal. There is even a new re-routed section of the coast path at Beeston (near Cromer), and an extension south east beyond Cromer. See Griffmonster's blog for the latest news.
The Thames Path in the morning, historic Hambledon for lunch, and back via the hills above Henley in the afternoon. Short but pretty.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 1 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
This is a very pretty walk, out along the Thames, and back via the hills above. Its mainly flat morning follows the Thames path to the quaint and well preserved hamlet of Hambleden with its brick and flint red roofed buildings. The return is via the wooded geological terrace above river. Historic riverside Henley, with many tea rooms and pubs, is a nice place to finish
The walk starts in Henley (famous for its rowing regatta in late June or early July) and goes along the Thames towpath, with rowing instructors on bikes shouting instructions to their crews, past Temple Island with its neo-folly, to the 250-metre footbridge over the weir at Hambleden Mill, where canoeists practise in the stormy waters. Route finding is easy! From there the route is northwards to the suggested lunchtime pub in the well-preserved hamlet of Hambleden, which has a huge church out of all proportion to the population.
After lunch, the walk for the next 2.5km is through the Great Wood, the endlessness of which gives an inkling of how most of Britain must once have been. From the village of Fawley with its church and mausoleum, the walk returns along the Oxfordshire Way, past the manor of Henley Park, to Henley for tea.
Another lovely country ramble, and the perfect pub crawl. Starts and finishes by the Thames, via forests and several country pubs.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 51 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
A lovely walk, starting and finishing by the Thames, and passing through many woods and pubs en route, so perfect for a day long pub crawl. However, a bit long for mid-winter unless you start early.
The walk starts beside the Thames in Henley, goes down one of Henley's most ancient streets, out into a broad valley, to the church and first pub at Rotherfield Greys. It then goes to the church at Rotherfield Peppard, and thereafter it is fields, beech woods and small villages.
This walk does not suffer from a shortage of refreshment stops and includes three pubs ideally located for the lunch stop, plus others. The walk also includes an alpaca farm just outside Whitchurch where you can watch hundreds of alpacas grazing in the fields, a true highlight towards the end of the walk.
On the final leg the walk then carries on to the Whitchurch parish church beside the Thames, to the toll bridge over the Thames, and finally into Pangbourne for a last refreshment stop.
Alice Holt Ancient Forest, Surrey Hills, Scotch Pine Forest, and remote heather filled heathland, Frensham Great and Little Ponds (swimming)
Surrey SWC Walk 184 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 14 miles (25 km)
This is a varied walk taking in the Surrey hills' ancient forests, heather-filled heathlands and a swimming pond, and on the main route going via the Devil's Jumps to reach the remote Scots Pine and heather-covered Kettlebury Hill and Hankley Common.
The start : Alice Holt Forest and Frensham Ponds
The walk starts from Bentley, a rural station on the Alton line, and enters the ancient Alice Holt forest. In the middle of the 4km walk through the forest is a Visitor Centre (with pay car park), suitable for a morning coffee break.
Next is some farmland (2 km), and a walk beside a stream (1km) leading to the next highlight.
Frensham Great Pond is nearly 1 km wide - it's big enough for its own sailing club. It is surrounded by forest and heathland, and it is usually possible to swim in it from the sandy beach on the north shore. Algae blooms sometimes prevent swimming in late summer (see the Country Park link below for current water status). Do not ignore the warning signs if they are up as algae blooms have been linked to dementia.
After walking around the pond and its beach (1km), you cross Frensham Common via a low hill with views (1km) to the equally picturesque Frensham Little Pond (NT). The Frensham ponds were artificially created by a 13th Century Bishop of Winchester to provide fish for his supper when visiting nearby Farnham Castle.
The middle : Devil's Jumps and Hankley Common (or a shortcut to Tilford)
If you have been swimming, a short cut follows a broad track through woods to the lunch stop at Tilford, otherwise.
The main route from Frensham Little Pond takes you south across the heather-filled common (2 km) to climb one of the three Devil's Jumps (small hills with some local mythology - apparently, the Devil used to amuse himself by leaping from one to another).
From the summit is a short but highly recommended "out and back" option to visit a woodland Sculpture Park. If you visit it however, you won't have time to complete the walk, so will need to take one of the...
A fairly strenuous walk in a beautiful part of the North Downs
Surrey SWC Walk 64 • Toughness: 8/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
Although they share the same station, this short but strenuous walk takes in a different area from Book 2 Walk 14b (Westhumble Circular). It climbs up a series of hills in a clockwise loop north and east of Box Hill & Westhumble station: Norbury Park, Mickleham Downs, Headley Heath (on the Main Walk) and finally Box Hill itself.
There are many fine viewpoints on this circular walk and in several places you can see your earlier route from a new perspective. This part of the North Downs is deservedly popular and the famous sites are likely to be busy on fine weekends, but there are some quieter places in between.
Norbury Park Nature Reserve is described by Surrey Wildlife Trust as a ‘working landscape’ which includes a sawmill and three farms. The prominent house at its centre (in private ownership) was built in 1774 and has had several famous owners and tenants, including Leopold Salomons, who donated Box Hill to the National Trust in 1914, and Dr Marie Stopes, the family planning pioneer.
Box Hill and Headley Heath are both owned by the National Trust, which has introduced special breeds of sheep and cattle to restore more of the downland to its original ‘unimproved’ condition; unfertilized land is richer in wild flowers. This diversity also supports many butterflies: 40 of the 58 British species have been found on Box Hill.
A long but pretty walk with gentle hills via a nice mixture of river valley, forest tracks, and many beautiful country houses.
Surrey TOCW Book 1, Walk 12 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This is a lovely walk, one of my favourites. The North Downs Way, the Greensand Way, a secluded forested valley, (ruined) Waverley Abbey, remote woods, and historic Godalming which has nice pubs.
This walk starts and ends along the River Wey. It follows the start of the North Downs Way through a narrow forested valley. It passes close to the ruins of Waverley Abbey (English Heritage), and goes through woods to The Donkey, the suggested walker friendly lunchtime pub in Charleshill (booking advised).
After lunch, there are further sandy bridleways through woods before entering the open parklands of the Peper Harrow estate which has its own church and cricket pitch.
Then along a narrow wooded valley beside the River Wey to tea in Godalming's ancient centre.
Chantries Hill and the North Downs Way to St Marthas Church (viewpoint). Albery for lunch, returning via mixed woods and the tranquil Wey navigation to Guildford.
Surrey SWC Walk 57 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
The walk explores pleasantly hilly scenery in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It starts on the tranquil River Wey Navigation, briefly follows the North Downs Way, and then veers off up to climb the wooded Chantries Hill for fine escarpment views at the top. The hill has extensive bluebell woods in late April/early May, and glorious golden beech colours in autumn. You then rejoin the North Downs Way to climb to the hilltop church of St Martha’s, and descend from the escarpment to lunch in the pretty village of Albury.
In the afternoon, you are in somewhat different terrain – sandy heathlands and woods around the village of Blackheath. Finally you descend by an easy track through Tangley Manor for a further stretch along the River Wey into Guildford.
While it is not mud-free, the sandy soils in the first two thirds of this walk mean that it is drier underfoot in winter than many other walks.
Viewpoints on the North Downs to start, a pub lunch in Mogador, and a London panorama from the Epsom Downs to finish.
Surrey SWC Walk 4 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
The Main Walk starts along the North Downs Way and soon reaches Gatton Park, which was landscaped by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. A choice of routes through this attractive parkland ends with a steady climb through woods to a popular viewpoint at Reigate Hill and the chance for a mid-morning snack.
The fine views continue as you progress along the North Downs ridge, where Reigate Fort is a reminder that these hills were once seen as a defensive line protecting the capital. At the end of this section the open expanse of Colley Hill would make a good picnic spot. A little further on you cross the motorway to the suggested lunchtime pub in the isolated village of Mogador.
In the afternoon there are many possible routes aross Banstead Heath (part of Banstead Commons) to Walton-on-the-Hill, then a further choice of routes for the final section. At the end of the walk you get a panoramic view of the London skyline as you cross the famous Epsom Downs Racecourse.
The public footpaths across the racecourse used to be kept open even on race days, but in 2016 there were prominent notices saying that the crossings are now closed for events (and for several hours before and after). Sadly, it is no longer possible to do the full walk on Derby Day.
Its surprising how remote Surrey can be, pretty lakes, heathland, and Devil's Punchbowl as well.
Surrey TOCW Book 1, Walk 27 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This is a lovely walk, one of my favourites - remote heathland with some pretty lakes in the morning, and Devil's Punchbowl and Gibbet Hill in the afternoon. Good in high summer, as there're lots of trees for shade.
A long walk along a road out through Milford is rewarded by the beauty of the landscape beyond. Bagmoor Common Nature Reserve’s heathland of purple moss grass and heather, and woodland of oaks and Scots pine, leads on to the lakes of Warren Mere and across to the village of Thursley which has a fine old church and your lunchtime pub, the Three Horseshoes. Mainly you are walking through National Trust land, sandy bridleways through ancient established woodlands and the heather, gorse and bilberry of the heathland. Thursley Common suffered from a major fire in 2006, leaving a burnt-out moonscape. Thankfully, the Common has recovered very well, with the return of heather and gorse, although evidence of the devastating fire can be seen to this day by the burnt bark on some trees which survived.
After walking through the Devil’s Punch Bowl, now wonderfully devoid of traffic noise since the A3 Hindhead tunnel opened in summer 2011, you ascend to its café, for a late lunch or an early tea stop. From there, if not taking the recommended out-and-back option to Gibbet Hill and Sailor’s Stone, you follow the Greensand Way with fine views out towards the South Downs, with finally a footpath into the High Street in Haslemere for tea.
The heathland just after the pretty lakes with (in spring) water lillies can be a bit hard to navigate, but keep heading vaguely south west (230°), and you'll be fine.
By late summer, the vegetation near the start, which dies back during the winter, is quite high (but you can get away without long trousers), and the woods are full with bracken, and the heathland a carpet of purple heather. At point  in the directions, there is a 300 metre long fenced path where nettles in summer make you grateful for long trousers.
Close to London, this walk combines stretches of both The North Downs Way, and the Greensand Way.
Surrey SWC Walk 2 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk is only just outside the London boundary and yet the first part through the open valleys and woodland of Marden Park feels completely rural. There are several places on the North Downs Way between Oxted Downs and Gravelly Hill which would make good picnic spots; the fine views just about compensate for the incessant grumbling from the M25 below.
The section along the Greensand Way from Godstone to Oxted is quite different, with attractive villages and greens. The landscape here is dotted with ponds, interesting churches and plenty of pubs.
There is a long but gradual ascent at the start, followed by several up and down stretches along the ridge of the North Downs before the descent into Godstone. The early sections along the ridge can be muddy, but you can avoid much of this by taking the morning short cut. The afternoon section along the Greensand Way only has a few gentle inclines.
The start of the Main Walk was changed in 2015 to take advantage of a new permissive path between the two parts of Marden Park Woods, reducing the stretch along the North Downs Way which overlooks the M25. However, the original directions have been retained as an alternative route.
A classic horseshoe walk of the Brecon Beacons (Pen y Fan, Corn Du, Fan y Big) around a glacial valley, with an extension to Waun Rydd
Wales (Brecon Beacons NP) SWC Walk 278 • Toughness: 8/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
The ridge linking the four table-top peaks traversed on this walk (Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn, Fan y Big) forms the majestic core of the Central Brecon Beacons and contains the three highest tops in South Wales. As a result, this classic horseshoe walk around a steep sided glacial valley is amongst the best ridge walks in South Britain, featuring some spectacular views in all directions in good weather.
From a remote reservoir north of Merthyr Tydfil you climb steeply to reach the ridge, from where the gradient is mostly fairly gentle over good engineered paths as you follow a sequence of steep escarpments to Corn Du and Pen y Fan. Pen y Fan is the southern-most mountain in Britain and a large glacial grassy mound with steep glacial sides.
Continuing along the ridge up to Cribyn (which requires a steep ascent and descent, but it can easily be circumvented).
Descent to a col, and either take a good gently downhill track back to the start, or make a final ascent to Fan y Big to complete the horsehoe. An out-and-back extension further along the fairly level ridge – to Waun Rydd alongside an upland bog – offers more superb views, lastly along the Usk Valley.
Route finding is easy (in clear weather), as the whole of the horseshoe route is visible at all times. Despite some steep drops this walk is not scary or dangerous, but it is exceptionally exposed to the elements.
As the horseshoe walk starts from a remote car park, 8 more accessible ascents to the ridge are described.
Note: Corn Du and Pen y Fan are very popular peaks as they can be (relatively) easily accessed from car parks on the A470. Expect lots of walkers (experienced and not) on that short stretch, in any weather.
Out through NT pine forest with salt marsh views to a lighthouse, back along sand dunes and a remote beach.
Wales (Gower) SWC Walk 89 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 7 miles (11 km)
This is an unusual but stunningly beautiful walk.
It starts in Llanmadoc, a small village on the north west corner of Gower, and heads into a NT Nature Reserve through a very pretty pine forest with salt marsh views on one side, and sand dunes on the other..
At the the end of the pine forest are lovely views over the sea / estuary to Pembrokeshire and the remains of a lighthouse (follow the tide out, don't stay long - dangerous tides!)
Return along the long secluded beach backed by sand dunes (or through the sand dunes). This area is discreetly used by naturists. Walking along the beacj is easy going, even at high tide.
Return through the pine forest along the base of a small hill, or walk a little further arouns the hill, and back over the headland.
There is a gastro-pub in the village
For a longer walk, climb Llanmadoc Hill, to the south of the village.
A gentle walk, up to then along he downs overlooking a stunning beach, and back along the beach itself.
Wales (Gower) SWC Walk 87 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
Rhossili is a truly stunning beach, regularly on best in the world lists
This easy walk starts in Rhosilli, a small village at the south west end of the Gower Peninsular, and climbs Rhossili Down (a treeless hill) behind the beach for a ridge walk parallel to, but above, the beach to Llangennith (pub). The route back is along the beach itself.
Tea is on the terrace of a pub with a truly stunning view.
A ridge walk along the South Downs Way, passing Chanctonbury Ring.
West Sussex SWC Walk 26 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This walk, which can be done in either direction, follows the South Downs Way (SDW). The route follows the crest of South Downs Ridge with good views in both directions, It passes Chanctonbury Ring, a ring of trees planted on the remains of an ancient Hill Fort. This spot has a beautiful 360° views, and is the recommended picnic spot.
Apart from the endings in Lancing or Shoreham, the route is very well way-marked. All the paths are wide, easy to walk on, and easy to follow. The route is almost entirely over an open, treeless, chalk ridge, which is very exposed in bad or windy weather.
At the half way point, there is a break in the ridge, where the route crosses a busy A Road. There is a longer 'via Washington alternative' which avoids this crossing, and passes a walker friendly pub.
This walk can be done with the help of an OS map (or by printing the map segments), but the instructions below alone are sufficient.