Starting just an hour from the centre of London, this four-day hike explores the amazing and unexpected beauty of the rolling chalk hills south of the Capital. Explore secret valleys and rolling pastureland; discover atmospheric traditional inns and rambling vineyards, walk through shady sylvan glades and along lofty chalk ridges offering stunning views of London’s breathtakingly beautiful green belt.
Beyond the city limits, London’s leafy suburbs radiate for miles into England’s home counties, yet history is never far beneath the surface. The route follows the line of an ancient pilgrimage route connecting the cathedral cities of Winchester and Canterbury, where Thomas Becket was murdered by Henry II’s knights within the cathedral precincts – elevating its status to one of the most important shrines in Christendom. The route passes through picture postcard villages complete with historic churches and country inns, densely wooded hills and chalk downland carpeted in drifts of beautiful wild flowers. Make your own pilgrimage along the undulating ridge of the Hogsback as it winds eastwards through the Surrey Hills and out to the border with Kent. Visit vineyards, distilleries and breweries along the way and unearth a rich seam of literary connections from the brave new world of Aldous Huxley to the mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie. Follow ancient paths across greensand and chalk and marvel at the expansive views from the many viewpoints along the 200m scarp which this delightful route follows
History/Food and Drink
Rolling Countryside/Connecting Villages and Towns/ City
Starting from the rail station at Farnham – just an hour from London – this four-day itinerary strikes out east through dense woodlands of Surrey to Guildford before scaling the chalk ridge of the North Downs. Passing though the huge vineyard at Denbies, it then scales iconic Box Hill and follows the lofty scarp of the Downs to Merstham before continuing along the ridge to Oxted.
Accommodation options are many and varied to suit all budgets – from budget hostels and glamping to luxurious upmarket inns and hotels. Excellent public transport connections make it feasible to walk this itinerary from a single base, but it’s less suitable for back-packing.
1hr drive from Gatwick/ Heathrow. Eurostar to London or Ashford International. Trains from central London and Ashford approx. 1hr. By Ferry to Dover or Portsmouth, then train. 1hr drive from Brighton area/ Central London. Train stations at Guildford, Shalford, Chilworth, Gomshall, Box Hill & Westhumble & Dorking. Local bus services.
This route is moderately demanding with some short steep climbs every day. The paths are generally well maintained and way-marked and you are never far from civilisation or transport if you want to cut a section short.
Expect a wide choice of food and drink along the way as this prosperous corner of the London commuter belt offers comprehensive hospitality options. Explore vineyards at Denbies and Godstone, gin distilleries, craft breweries and upmarket inns, cafes and restaurants in most of the villages and towns along the route. You are unlikely to go hungry, but eating out in these parts can be expensive.
The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.
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