day hikes outside London
April 5, 2011 5:29 AM   Subscribe

Metafilter, what is the best day hike in the British countryside, accessible by public transport from London?

I've been in London for the past few weeks, and in the few moments that I've had free from work, I've seen pretty much all of the major tourist attractions, quite a few smaller museums/random things and have eaten quite a few amazing meals (Joel Robuchon=win).

I've got one last full Saturday before I fly out on Sunday mid-day, and am trying to figure out what is the best use of my time. Right now I'd like to do a hike or long walk somewhere outside where it is properly green/muddy/not a park/slightly more wild.

I haven't seen much of the British countryside, and have been toying with the idea of visiting Stonehenge, visiting the sea, or somehow getting to the Vale of the White Horse to see the chalk horse. However I am constricted to public transport, and don't know
what is the best use of my last day in the UK. I don't mind traveling 2-3 hours to get there, but would like to have a destination worth it.

I have a fairly generous budget to get where I need to go, but am not willing to rent a car and drive on the wrong side of the road.

Metafilter, what is the best day trip/hike in the British countryside?

(and yes I've see this question and it is making lean away from stonehenge and the white horse as both of those are probably best seen from air/not very fun to visit/not worth the trouble. Also I'm not really attracted to castles/mansions/estates.)
posted by larthegreat to Travel & Transportation around London, England (16 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Time Out Walking Club site is all day hikes, all accessible from London via public transport. Many of the walks have photo galleries as well.

They have organized walks every weekend. Or you could take any walk by yourself.

You could, for example, go to the village of Berwick, walk the South Downs and out to the chalk cliffs on the sea, a walk I've done and which is beautiful.

For wildness, I really enjoyed walking through the New Forest.
posted by vacapinta at 5:44 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Well, it's always going to be subjective, but I love the South Downs way. There are dozens of suggested walks on the internet, all within an hour or so of London.

My suggestion, if you're reasonably fit, is Hassocks to Lewes. Here's a track from my own version of the walk on Google maps. It's about 13 miles, with some stunning views of the downs, Ditchling Beacon as a high point, and the beautiful Lewes at the end. The detour through Plumpton took in the splendid Half Moon pub for lunch.

Trains to Hassocks leave from Victoria, and Lewes trains get you back there.
posted by londonmark at 5:50 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

A shade under three hours would get you on the train to Hope or Edale in the Peak District (halfway between Sheffield and Manchester), and there's a spectacular walk along the ridge which divides the valleys the two sit in, between Mam Tor and Lose Hill. Nearer to London, an hour and a half would get you to Ashurst in the New Forest, as vacapinta suggests (there are other stations in the New Forest too).
posted by nja at 5:56 AM on April 5, 2011

Don't go to stonehenge - seriously its not worth it .

Unfortunately, I can only suggest The Lake District, The Peak District which are both really nice and proper countryside walks. But I drove

But driving is really not too hard. I'm Australian and have driven quite a bit in USA and MainlandEurope where they also drive-on-the-wrong-side* and honestly you get used to it really quickly.
posted by mary8nne at 5:57 AM on April 5, 2011

You could also start at Lewes, climb up onto the South Downs and then walk to Alfriston via Rodmell, which is where Virginia Woolf's house is. I've done that walk as well.

The details are in a book called Walks in London and Southeast England. These books and other walk books available at Stanford's or Foyles bookstores in London.
posted by vacapinta at 5:58 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Lakes and the Peaks are lovely and hilly but neither of those is a day trip from London.

You could just about manage the Peaks if you came up on Friday night and stayed in Sheffield. MeMail me if you are interested, I live in Sheffield and can help out.

However I suspect you can find what you are looking for much closer to London.
posted by emilyw at 6:24 AM on April 5, 2011

Normally I would recommend somebody living in London and wanting to contrast this with the wilds that the British Isles can offer to go as far north and west and they could in their time available (for example: take the sleeper train up to Rannoch Moor and go hiking up there). But you don't have time for anything this remote.

So I would change tactics and look for something that is right under your nose: the Thames Path: you can start right in town or you can head further out into the country. Equally importantly - you can get to pretty much any point easily by public transport.
posted by rongorongo at 6:57 AM on April 5, 2011

Hampstead Heath is pretty good. It's not as groomed as some of the London parks, so it may satisfy your need for some outdoor exposure.

Oxford is a short bus or train trip away, and the surrounding countryside is also pretty good. Bonus: you get to see Oxford.
posted by gauche at 7:14 AM on April 5, 2011

Vacapinta offers excellent advice, but if it were me I think I'd go with londonmark.
posted by Segundus at 8:04 AM on April 5, 2011

From Vacapinta's linked site, the variation from Lewes that takes in Charleston Farmhouse is a good option for a bit of culture.

Another good walk is from Guildford up over Pewley hill and over the Downs to Shere. On a Saturday (but not a Sunday) there are buses from Shere either back to Guildford or on to Dorking, where you can get a train back to London. The White Horse in Shere is a lovely old pub. It's run by a pubco, but with a good menu and decent range of ales.
posted by sagwalla at 8:21 AM on April 5, 2011

Response by poster: Oh man, Rannoch Moor looks spectacular- I really wish I had the time to visit that sort of country. Is there anything that wild and amazing closer to London? (I'm ok with 4+ hrs each way on a train/bus if it gets me someplace that cool).

The Chalk Cliffs near the South Downs do look quite pretty, and will probably be my destination so far, as it's winning the "you don't have this at home" points. I'm in decent shape, and do quite a bit of hiking back in the states, so a 12 mile journey isn't that intimidating- and LondonMark's suggestion does look pretty decent. (granted I have been sitting at a desk for 14 hrs a day for 5 weeks straight)

I've already done a good portion of the Thames Path within London. (Didn't know it had a name- I just wanted to see how far I could get along the Thames!)
posted by larthegreat at 8:39 AM on April 5, 2011

Ooh, tough choice! There are a ton of good options on that Walkers Club site but my standby postcard-England walk is Hever to Leigh. Castles, pubs, half-timbered villages, the whole lot.

But Lewis area would be an excellent option too.
posted by Erasmouse at 9:05 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whoops, just saw that you're not into castles.. Still a stunning walk though! If you like prehistory there are walks around the Avebury stone circle, though can't vouch for it personally!
posted by Erasmouse at 9:26 AM on April 5, 2011

Stonehenge is impressive as A Thing, but there isn't actually much else to do there except Stonehenge. And you can't get very close to the stones any more.

Avebury and West Kennet Longbarrow are more interesting prehistory. The stones themselves at Avebury are smaller than Stonehenge, but the pattern is much larger and you get more of a sense of how the landscape shaped the monument and vice versa. Plus you can go inside the longbarrow.

Not sure about public transport there, you'd probably be looking at train + local buses.

The South Downs are probably more spectacular scenery and more directly accessible from London.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:43 PM on April 5, 2011

Best answer: Seaford to Eastbourne is a winner. Clifftops, sea views, the works.
posted by oneaday at 4:00 PM on April 5, 2011

Response by poster: Did the Seaford to Eastbourne hike (all 13 miles of it) in about 5 hrs, with a break for tea at Birling Gap. It was pretty spectacular, although I definitely wished I had a walking stick and hiking boots at more than one point though. I left Canary wharf at 8am, and made it back by 6pm, so it was a pretty efficient day trip.

It was the perfect way to end a trip to London. Thanks for the recommendation.
posted by larthegreat at 6:14 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

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