Find a Walk
A South Downs ridge walk ... maximum view for minimum effort, with historic Lewes to finish.
East Sussex TOCW Book 1, Walk 29 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This is an exhilarating walk along the South Downs Way, a ridge of South Downs chalk grassland with panoramic views inland and out to the sea by Brighton.
On the way up to the ridge, the route passes Butcher's Wood and visits a church in Clayton and a still-working Clayton Windmill. The friends of Jack and Jill windmill sometimes serve tea on weekends.
On the South Downs Way you pass medieval dew ponds and an Iron Age fort at Ditchling Beacon. After lunch, down below in Plumpton, you climb back up onto the downs, before a final walk into Lewes along the River Ouse, then up to the Norman castle and through its gateway into the ancient High Street.
This is an easier walk, with far fewer ups and downs, than Walk 25 from Winchelsea to Hastings.
Its a great picnic walk, as the pub is at the bottom of the ridge, and it would save you descending from the ridge to the pub, then climbing back up again afterwards
A pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral via the Great Stour River, hop fields and orchards
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 28 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (18 km)
This particular pilgrimage to Canterbury starts beside the Great Stour River and its attendant lakes, visits the church and green at Chartham and passes through hop fields and apple orchards to the suggested lunch pub in Chartham Hatch.
In the afternoon the way is through Church Wood and Blean Woods Nature Reserve to the parklands of the University of Kent, with fine views down over Canterbury Cathedral. The entrance to the city is along the River Stour, through the Norman Westgate and down the medieval high street and alleys, entering the cathedral precincts through its ornate Christ Church Gate.
Leave early to give yourself time for site seeing at the end. Also, there's not much shade on this walk on a hot day
Open views and a wooded ridge before lunch. A short afternoon passes a large organic farm (wildflowers) and the Leather Bottle pub (of Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers) in Cobham
Kent SWC Walk 35 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This is an exploration of the very pretty and little known area of the North Downs just to the east of the Medway Towns. The morning is nicely contrasted, with a mix of open views and woodland, then a longer wooded ridge which has extensive bluebell woods in late April or early May. You then cross open fields and downs to the village of Luddesdown, which is surrounded by an organic farm, which is rich in wild flowers in spring and summer - particularly poppies in early June. Afterwards there is one more lovely ridge crossing to bring you to lunch in Henley Street. In the afternoon, a loop of the walk takes you up to the pretty village of Cobham, where you can stop at The Leather Bottle, a pub that features (briefly) in Charles Dicken's Pickwick Papers.
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. The route takes you past the Otford Solar System, a scale model showing the relative position of the sun and planets at the start of the millennium. The village has many interesting old buildings and the full route takes you past the ruins of the Archbishop's 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...
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.
A moderately strenuous stroll in the North Downs, taking in the pretty village of Shoreham
Kent SWC Walk 37 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 3 miles (6 km)
This walk approaches the familiar walking territory around Shoreham and Otford in Kent from an unfamiliar angle, passing at first over wooded hills, then climbing up and over a steep ridge to get down to Shoreham. In the first 3km/2 miles of the walk there is some traffic noise from the M25, but how much depends on the way the winds are blowing and other atmospheric factors. As you approach Shoreham this fades.
In the afternoon the route largely reverses the morning of the Otford Circular walk (Book 1, walk 43 on this website), though with one twist that introduces the lovely hidden valley of Magpie Bottom, now a nature reserve, with fine downland flowers and butterflies in the summer.
The walk also has several nice bluebell woods, particularly (but not exclusively) in the latter part of the walk, and in autumn there are lots of beech and sweet chestnut woods to provide colour. In winter the walk is not over-afflicted with mud, but the descents into Shoreham and Otford can be a bit slippery.
A tranquil walk along the North Downs
Kent SWC Walk 1 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 8 miles (13 km)
A large section of the walk is to the north side of the North Downs Way and passes along some little used footpaths, making for a tranquil walk. Its attractions include the pretty hamlet of Stalisfield Green for lunch and the historic village of Charing for tea. Some of the stiles along the route are poorly maintained and consequently this walk is not suitable for the less able walker. In summer the footpath across a couple of the rape seed fields can become very overgrown.
Pretty Ridge Walk along the North Downs Way with lovely views. Nice pubs for lunch and tea
Kent SWC Walk 24 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This lovely walk follows one of the finest sections of the North Downs Way (NDW) along the edge of the North Downs escarpement – in many ways it feels more like the South Downs - with fine views for nearly the whole walk. There is just one 3km (1.8 mile) section mid afternoon when you are away from the escarpment edge.
While the North Downs Way is waymarked, it is not always comprehensively so, and in places the waymarks are confusing or missing. The path is not always as obvious as one might expect from such a major long distance footpath. Hence the directions in the pdf version of this walk - see the DOWNLOAD WALK button above. While they for the most part follow the North Downs Way once it has climbed from Sandling up onto the ridge, the creation of access land has also opened up some escarpment sections that were formerly off limits to walkers, and where these improve the walk they have been included in the walk directions.
There is also a map-only version of the directions (see bottom of this page) for those that prefer this.
While downland can be relatively dry in winter, this walk does have several sections on shady tracks that look potentially very muddy between November and March. In late spring there can be intense displays of buttercups on this walk.
Quite short, but views, forest, a pretty village, a welcoming pub, and a short train journey, so good for a late start.
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 43 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
This would make a good, brisk, shortish autumn or winter walk, with a late start possible. 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 and twelfth-century church (the station building houses the Shoreham Countryside Centre, run by volunteers and open on some weekend afternoons).
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 North Downs, hilly with views after lunch, and tranquil Luddesdown for tea.
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 17 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 8 miles (13 km)
Don't be put off by the rather industrial nature of the train ride to the start of this walk. As soon as you leave Snodland it becomes rural and peaceful with good views and a surprisingly away-from-it-all feel. The majority of the walk is over the North Downs, mostly through wooded areas and across open fields and is hilly at times. Some paths may be overgrown with nettles in summer, so shorts aren't recommended.
Soon after lunch at Harvel, the views open out before you descend into tranquil Luddesdown, with its historic church and what may be the oldest continually inhabited house in the country.
In summer, you're likely to encounter Kent's favourite sport - cricket - both on the green behind the lunchtime pub stop - which comes half-way round the walk - and in Luddesdown behind the Victorian school.
Real-ale lovers will enjoy the tea stop - the Cock Inn at Luddesdown.
Out over the North Downs with breathtaking views to lunch in Sole Street. Back up over the Downs, then returning along the Great Stour river. Muddy in winter.
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 53 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This walk goes high up on the Crundale Downs (“crun” in Old English meant chalk, and ‘dala’ meant dell or valley), with breathtaking views. The walk comes to an isolated Norman church at Crundale, then on to a fifteenth century inn for lunch (though sadly this pub now insists on advance booking: if you are not eating at the pub you can save 2km off the route by a shortcut). The walk then passes Crundale House and the manor of Olantigh, crosses the River Great Stour and returns to Wye through its churchyard, for tea at a teashop at the bottom of Church Street or at a pub next to the railway station.
Beware that parts of the route can be very muddy in wet weather, so be prepared.
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.
Short, 2 steep climbs and the view from Box Hill in the morning, and a gentle river valley after lunch
Surrey TOCW Book 1, Walk 49 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
This is a short but hilly walk that's close to London. A strenuous morning with Box Hill (views!) and White Hill before lunch in a pretty hamlet. After lunch, gentle fields, or a rural or hilly options.
The route starts by crossing the River Mole on stepping stones (or detouring if these are under water), before going steeply up steps on the North Downs Way to the top of Box Hill (NT, Visitor Centre, and lots of Box trees!), to enjoy views out over the valley. The route then follows Box and Yew woods before you drop down Juniper Top, which also enjoys fine views.
There is then a second very steep climb up White Hill onto Mickleham Downs and down to lunch in the pretty village of Mickleham at one of its two pubs. The 2 steep climbs can be slippery at times.
After lunch, the route has a very different character. It is flat, along the River Mole valley, through Norbury Park, into the centre of Leatherhead.
For a more rural feel, there are 2 highly recommended options below.
Polesden Lacy (dramatic NT country house) for lunch, steep woods opening out onto the North Downs Ridge, and an English vineyard for tea
Surrey TOCW Book 2, Walk 14 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
The idyllic estate of Polesden Lacey, a fine country house nestling just behind the North Downs escarpment, is the highlight of this walk - a landscape of hidden valleys, pretty woodland, and gentle pasture that seems lost in a golden yesterday. The walk has something to offer at almost any time of the year. In spring, it passes through a number of fine bluebell woods, in autumn there is plenty of fine golden colour in the woodlands, while in winter the bare branches open up new views and vistas. In summer, the walk offers several fine spots for a picnic, and despite being relatively close to London, a deep rural tranquility. The long evenings also make this the best time to come if you want to also make a detailed visit in the afternoon to the house and grounds at Polesden Lacey.
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.
Historic Shere, then a walk through a broad wooded valley, then along a canal to historic Guildford
Surrey TOCW Book 1, Walk 14 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
There is much that is ancient, beautiful and surprising to be enjoyed on this walk.
It starts in Gomshall, passing some of the pleasant buildings on its outskirts, before crossing fields to the interesting church and village of Shere on the Tilling Bourne stream, a place packed full of fifteenth and sixteenth-century timber-framed buildings. Then the walk continues past massive gnarled trees in Albury Park and through the pine woods of Blackheath Common.
From there, the route follows the Downs Link path. There's an optional detour to visit Chinthurst Hill Tower, a folly with a view.
The final stretch is along the River Wey into Guildford for tea at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.
Short stretches of the Downs Link can be muddy.
The lunch pub on this walk has closed. The 'Various Options' page (link above) has 2 suggestions for a longer morning route, to have lunch at the remaining pub earlier in the walk.
A river valley, gentle pastures, Watts Gallery, woods, remote heathlands and heather covered moors.
Surrey TOCW Book 2, Walk 12 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
Think Surrey, and you probably think of pretty villages, gentle green pastures, and the country houses of retired stockbrokers. The first part of this walk conforms to that image, but the second, after lunch, takes you into the suprisingly wild and uninhabited Surrey Heathlands - a vast area of woods, sandy grassland and heather-covered moors which at times feels more like southern Spain or Portugal than England.
The lack of habitation in this area means that it was either taken over by the army for exercises or bypassed by the railways, and so to visit it requires a long walk: the afternoon of this walk is 13.9 km (8.7) miles, or four hours thirty minutes walking time, as long in itself as some of the walks in this book: this is thus a walk for a long spring or summer day. The good news, however, is that there is no rush to get to tea: the excellent Bush Hotel in Farnham serves cream teas in a lounge crammed with comfortable sofas well into the evening.
Historic Guildford, The North Downs Way and St Martha-on-the-Hill Church, picturesque Shere. Option to continue along the NDW to Dorking
Surrey TOCW Book 2, Walk 13 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk explores the lovely ridges and valleys leading eastwards from Guildford - the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It starts with a short steep climb out of Guildford which leads straight to the dramatic viewpoint of Pewley Down. Then it joins the North Downs Way to climb to the hilltop church of St Martha-on-the-Hill. From there the route passes through follows the Pilgrims Way along the foot of the Downs to lunch in the pretty village of Shere. Climbing up onto the downland again and following first a wooded section and then a more open one, it finally descends to the valley again where you have a choice of two village tea rooms and a riverside pub to refresh you at the end of your walk.
This is a good walk at any time of year, with the sandy soils around St Martha's Hill providing a relief from mud in winter, and some fine bluebell woods in early spring. In summer the mixture of open country and woodland provides relief from the heat and the walk is also a good one for autumn colours.
Happy Valley and Farthing Down, close to London (Zone 6)
Surrey TOCW Book 2, Walk 15 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
Considering that it starts in the suburbs of London (and within the boundaries of London Transport Travelcard zone six), this walk passes through some remarkably unspoilt countryside. Farthing Down, Kenley Common, Riddlesdown and Cousldon Commons are all ancient grazing lands, lovingly preserved as part of the London Greenbelt, and offering a delightful series of woods and open spaces. In spring the area is famous for wild flowers, including several bluebell woods, while in autumn it is a riot of golden colour. This is also a fine walk for a brisk winter's day, and in summer offers numerous idyllic spots for a picnic.
Over the North Downs ridge to Watts Gallery, then a ramble to historic Godalming
Surrey TOCW Book 1, Walk 2 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 8 miles (13 km)
This short but lovely walk crosses open fields, passing Wanborough Manor and its tiny church. It soon goes over the Hoggs Back (the North Downs ridge) to descend into remote woodland, passing Watts Gallery, tea room, and Chapel. The Chapel (free) is worth the slight detour. A little further is The Withies Inn, an excellent country pub. Later, after more woodland, the walk is along the River Wey, followed by tea, or a pint in the ancient town of Godalming.
The original walk author was enchanted by this walk, above all, by Watts Gallery and Chapel, the monuments left by Mary Fraser-Tytler to honour her husband George Frederick Watts, a Victorian painter and sculptor, 'England's Michelangelo' ('though that's a bit rich,' a visitor was overheard to comment). Since then, the Gallery had a Lottery makeover, and is no longer free. Its enchanting tea room has also changed hands.
The paths shortly after the start of the walk, and along the River Wey at the end, are often waterlogged in winter, so don appropriate footwear.
On top of the Hoggs Back, you have to cross the A31 dual carriageway, but there is a safe place to wait in the middle.
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.