London is filled with green spaces and some pretty spectacular city views. But even diehard city dwellers need to connect with nature, nowadays more than ever. Fancy something a bit more challenging and less urban? Take a hike beyond the city and discover rolling hills, chalky clifftops and ancient ruins. All of the featured hikes are within an hour or two’s travel time from London for weekend walking or ambitious daytripping.

You won’t need to be an expert hiker with tonnes of gear to do these either—you’ll just need decent footwear and enough stamina to walk more than five miles. For serious peaks and hiking challenges, you’ll need to travel much further afield and head to The Lake District, The Scottish Highlands, and The Welsh Mountains.

A cliff-top hike: Seaford To Eastbourne (Sussex)

Lighthouse below the coastal cliffs called Seven Sisters in UK
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Londoners frequently hit up Brighton at the merest hint of sunshine. But as lovely as it is there, Sussex has plenty of other, less-crowded spots for coastal trails and sea views from on high. One such hike is The Seven Sisters Cliffs Walk where you can marvel at the sea and nautical landmarks. Be very careful when walking close to the cliff edge; it’s a very steep drop.

It’s called The Seven Sisters because it’s a series of seven chalk cliffs, which part of the South Downs National Park.

This is one of the longer, more up and down routes that you can do in day trip from London. The steepest point is Haven Brown at 253 ft.

Along the undulating hike, you’ll be able to spot The Martello Tower, one of a chain of 103 fortresses that was built during the Napoleonic Wars. You’ll also see The Belle Tout Lighthouse, and you’ll end the trail close to the Beachy Head viewpoint.

  • Distance: 13.8 miles
  • Estimated walking time: 7 hrs
  • Walking difficulty: Medium
  • Getting there: Regular trains from London Victoria and Seaford stations (change at Lewes) to Eastbourne. It should take around 90 minutes. There are direct routes back from Eastbourne to Victoria though, which also take about an hour and a half. Note that trains are less frequent on Sundays. Tickets cost around £30.00 return.

Hills and valleys: Henley via Stonor (Oxfordshire)

Chiltern Hills Farmland Agricultural Field in Buckinghamshire
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The Chilterns span the counties of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire—so there’s no shortage of city escapism, rural rambling and nature to be found in this part of the country.

The Henley via Stonor Circular hike is a mix of woodland and farmland, where you’ll stumble upon quaint, Tolkien-esque hidden valleys, with some steep inclines. Look out for red kites too—birds of prey that circle above Chilterns.

There are a couple of country pubs along the hike too, including The Crown in Pishill, and The Rainbow Inn if you fancy a pint and a ploughmans before heading home.

  • Distance: 13.6 miles
  • Estimated walking time: 7 hrs
  • Walking difficulty: Medium
  • Getting there: The route starts and ends in Henley-on-Thames. Direct trains run hourly from London Paddington and take around 45 minutes. Tickets are around £21.00 return.

Towering over the home counties: Ockley to Leith Hill (Surrey)

Leith Hill tower and landscape on a warm sunny day
Photo by Piotr

If you want great views, but a shorter trail, then check out the Ockley to Leith Hill route in the Surrey Hills. You can pick up the trail close to Ockley train station and follow the public footpaths that lead you to Leith Hill via Greensand Way and you make your way up the hill from there.

If you have the energy when you get to the top, head up the 78 spiral steps to the tower of Leith Hill Tower, which is the highest point in South East England at 1082 ft (313 m). It’s worth it for the view, on a clear day you use the telescope to see the English Channel and even the Big Ben clock face.

To get back to the station, make your way back down the hill, head south through Leith Hill Place Wood and Jayes Park and then you’ll hit the same paths that lead back to the train station

  • Distance: 7.91 miles
  • Estimated walking time: 4 hours
  • Walking level: Easy–Medium
  • Getting there: Trains run regularly from London Victoria to Ockley, and takes around 1 hour and 12 minutes and costs £14.60 for a day return.

Wander through wine country: Mole Gap Trail (Surrey)

Vineyard with green hills in the background
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Another straightforward route to try out in the Surrey Hills area is the Mole Gap Trail (route info also avaialbe on the iFootpath app for iOS or Android). This walk is between the towns of Leatherhead and Dorking where you’ll also find Denbies Wine Estate, the largest estate vineyard in England.

Technically this might be more of a ramble than hike—there’s only one small steep incline, but there are a few obstacles to be aware of on this trail. You’ll have to pass through several ‘kissing gates’, which are far less fun and romantic than their name suggests. These are hinged gates that allow humans but not livestock to pass.

Paths can get pretty muddy too, so take decent, waterproof footwear—no one wants to get stuck in the mud! But, if it’s a sunny day, then you can break up the 3 hour walk across old bridges, fields and woods with some refreshments. There are plenty of options too. Stop for a picnic, have lunch at a country pub like The Stepping Stones, in Westhumble, or go for a wine tasting at Denbies.

Mole Gap Trail ends at Dorking train station, and the towns are only a 5-minute train ride apart, so you can easily return to the right station to get back to London.

  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Estimated walking time: 3.5 hours
  • Walking level: Easy–Medium
  • Getting there: Direct trains run regularly from London Waterloo to Leatherhead and take around an hour. Tickets cost around £16.00 for a return.

Clifftops, naturists and ruins: Hastings Circular (Sussex)

Hastings Castle ruins | Photo by

There are plenty of hills and interesting sites along the Hastings Circular hike. Like the Seven Sisters route, you’ll be walking along cliff tops, although there is a forested inland route at some points too. It starts at Hastings Station, and goes past the seafront before you get to the steep, coastal path.

Along the way, expect coastal views, including Fairlight Glen Beach, which is a nudist beach that you can wend your way down to. You don’t have to be a naturist to visit though. The Hastings Circular also includes woodlands, and the ancient ruins of Hastings Castle.

  • Distance: 5.9 miles
  • Estimated walking time: 3 hours
  • Walking level: Medium
  • Getting there: Trains run from London Charing Cross to Hasttings

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