If you are looking for a decent length walk to do just outside of London, then look no further than the Box Hill Hike. Located in the stunning Surrey Hills, this moderately challenging walk is the perfect day trip to escape the concrete jungle of the capital and stretch your legs.
It boasts beautiful views along the various hill peaks, providing the perfect backdrop for a picturesque picnic. Plus there are a few pubs on the way if you don’t want to carry food with you. More importantly, there is one at the end to treat yourself to that refreshingly cold pint, you have earned it!
Getting to Box Hill
The easiest way to get to Box Hill from London is to take a train from Waterloo or Victoria. There are various points across south west London where you can pick up a route that will take you here. We came from Tooting and returned to Streatham, both times changing at Sutton. The tickets are £8 each way or £5 with a rail card! It took us just under an hour from here, so a bit longer if you are coming in from Central. The station you need is called Box Hill and West Humble.
When you arrive it is easy to find the way to the foot of the Hill as there are plenty of other walkers and cyclists around doing so! It is around a miles walk under the subway and up the hill to the Box Hill viewing point. The walk starts just past here opposite the cafe.
If you have a car there are a few National Trust owned car parks at both the bottom of the hill by the stepping stones, or at the top of the Hill by the visitors centre and cafe. The car parks were all jam packed when we got there around 11 though so get there early if you plan to drive!
The stepping stones and Box Hill viewpoint
To walk up the hill, one has to cross the stepping stones. Or take a slightly longer path if stepping stones aren’t your thing. We were excited to go adventuring on some stepping stones, so we were a little disappointed to find them man made concrete stones. We expect once upon a time they were actual stepping stones. But health and safety probably ruined that.
The river runs pretty shallow here, and there were a lot of children and dogs playing in the water. There was a bit of a queue to cross due to parents trying to take very small children across the steps. Children who really were not grasping or enjoying the concept it seemed…
Once you finally make it across, you get to start your ascent of Box Hill. This is maybe a 10-15 minute walk up some pretty steep steps. Again it was overrun with children and families taking it slow as well as some kind of competitive trail run. Nevertheless we made it up easily and had a small sit down before the main viewing area to admire the view away from the crowds.
It really was a beautiful view of rolling countryside and little red roofed houses. Having grown up 5 minutes from the countryside I do miss it sometimes being in London. Especially having been stuck there for months on end during lockdown.
After some water, a couple of pictures and a good healthy appreciation of the view, we headed on to the main viewing point. This was predictably surrounded by picnicking families. It was a beautiful day with sunny cloud and 29 degree heat to contend with. We were in for a rather sweaty day!
The Box Hill Hike
Now for the logistics of the Hike. It begins, as I mentioned, by the National Trust visitors centre. You can probably normally get maps here, but it was closed because of Covid-19. The cafe however was open for outdoor refreshments, and the toilets were available.
After a little confused wandering at the top here based on the description of where the walk begins, we found the starting point. This is the starting point of a number of the walks you can do, including the family nature trail and the Happy Valley walk. We were here for the big one, the Box Hill Hike, which takes you in an 8 mile loop around the Surrey Hills.
There are plenty of sign posts along the route to help guide you. This is as well as a fairly good description of each of the 10 steps of the walk which are set out on the National Trust website – click here to take a look for yourself!
According to the National Trust, this is a 4-6 hour walk. Craig and I had 2 picnic breaks, one gin tin with a view and 2 pub stops and the whole thing took us about 5 and a half hours. So actual walking time was probably less than 4 for us so you can definitely get it done faster if you are an avid walker who isn’t distracted by village pubs.
The Hiking Route
Once you’ve successfully found the start, the map on their website has 10 stages with descriptions for the walk on each. This is good as it breaks things down into achievable chunks that don’t feel too intimidating.
The first leg is a beautiful woodland stroll. I would love to come back here in the autumn and see all the fall season leaves I would bet they are stunning colours. You come to a clearing where we stopped for our first picnic snack break and admired the view for a bit before heading onwards.
The next stage begins with a giant tower, which is apparently called Broadwood’s Folly. It is bricked up so you cannot go in sadly. Its a nice walk then down the valley to cross a small National Trust car park and over the road to some stairs. These stairs were steep! And felt pretty never ending, but we felt pretty awesome once we had got to the top. Plus we knew we weren’t too far from stage four, and that was where the pubs were!
You get to climb over a stile after another woodland path and then you find yourself in the village of Mickleham.
The walk takes you through the churchyard and then on through the village, however we decided we had learnt a pub break and headed to The Running Horses.
This turned out to be a really cute little village pub with plenty of tables out at the front. It was a beautiful day as I said so we parked ourselves up outside and ordered a local ale and a cider. It wasn’t long before we got to make friends with a dog that sat next to us either!
After refreshments we got back on the route (it is only a short detour round the corner to the pub!) and continued through the village. We passed parks and schools and eventually came to the second pub in the Village, the King William IV. This one was much busier with lots of people getting food, as well as fellow walkers stopping off. They had a very large beer garden that was surrounded by hedges, was very odd felt like being in our own secret garden! We definitely saw more walkers at this pub too, possibly because you walk directly past it on the route no detour required.
Time to get Lost
Second pub down it was time to move on. We headed up the hill as directed and were surprised to see an overturned old car in the trees given there didn’t seem to be a road nearby…
Anyway, this section is the only part of the walk that got tricky. The path is again through a wooded area, and instructions talk about crossroads and forks. However there were crossroads and forks everywhere. And this is frustratingly the only place where the signage seems to completely drop off.
I can only assume we missed one because there were none in sight and we were heading deeper into the woods into what seemed like the wrong direction. We consulted the phone map and decided to take a right and hope for the best, as the instructions say to take a right out and over the Roman Road.
We never did find the Roman Road sadly, but we did manage to pop out on to the open green space of the Mickleham gallops as we intended. I suspect just a bit further on than we had meant to. I am told that a friend who did this walk not long before us had this same experience, which made me feel better. But be warned, there may be a sign missing here! If anyone from the National Trust ever reads this, you need some more signs on this leg please!
This grass expanse seemed a good place for another picnic snack break. So we sat for a bit and watched the many other walkers pass us by before heading off again.
Next you leave the gallops in favour of a chalky path. It was then a pretty sharp descent down the hill and into the valley. Have to say I wouldn’t much fancy doing that in the wet weather as it was slippery enough! Knackering on the knees too.
After passing through a gate and some more woodlands, you come to a very big hill, surrounded by trees. Up we began to climb, looking around at all the wildflowers and trees surrounding us. We stopped at a bench near the top to enjoy the natural scene before us. It was really nice to stop and admire the surroundings. Again I reckon this bit would be particularly pretty during autumn with all the rich golden, rusty and vivid leaves. Was a nice place for a gin tin (what is a picnic without them!) and a little reflection on our trip out to the countryside.
You get to walk on through part of Headley Heath. There are lots of walks to do around here according to the info board as well as the Box Hill Hike running through it. Might be worth checking out more if you are staying in the area. It is also maintained by the National Trust.
After the Heath you walk along a road past some ridiculously nice looking houses with sprawling gardens, Wasn’t jealous at all… But then it is back to the rolling hills of the North Downs. You also get to climb a very cool forest staircase which felt like it came straight out of Lord of the Rings.
The end of the walk is just as stunning as the rest of it, with a beautiful view out over the Surrey Hills. We found a great little bench to stop and admire the view. It also made for a cracking photo spot! Then it’s through the fields and back on the ascent to the view point at Box Hill where you started!
After that you just head back down the hill (unless you parked up there of course) and back over the stepping stones. There was an ice cream van in the stepping stones car park so we grabbed lollies which lasted about 2 minutes given how hot we were! Well deserved if you ask me. Then of course we thought it would be rude not to have a drink or two in the Stepping Stones pub on the way back to the station. There was a private event in the beer garden with a very questionable band playing. Tables and chairs had been put in the car park for other guests but the atmosphere was good and the drinks nice and cold!
Completing the Box Hill Hike
I am so glad to have taken the time to research walks in the countryside that you can do on a day trip from London. The Box Hill Hike was a great first one to explore and I cannot wait to do some more! It really felt needed, some adventure after all this time stuck indoors/a very close radius of London.
Much as I adore living in London and appreciate that it has loads of fun things to do, it is necessary to escape every so often and immerse yourself in nature I believe. This was the perfect opportunity to spent a whole day breathing fresh country air. Like most hiking trails, as soon as you leave the main view point and actually get along the path, you lose all the people and have the place entirely to yourself other than the occasional fellow walkers. Can’t implore you enough to go spend some time exploring in nature after the year we have all had.
I would 100% recommend the Box Hill Hike to people, it is (mostly) incredibly well sign posted, has hills for a challenge, amazing views to reward you and of course excellent pubs! It was one of my favourite days out this year for sure. If anyone has any recommendations for our next walking adventure that you can do from London in a day please leave a comment!