January 26, 2024 5 min read

Whether you’re a local Londoner or a seasonal visitor, you likely spend your free time in London, exploring all that the bustling city has to offer. It's easy to forget about green spaces when surrounded by concrete ones, but don’t discount opportunities to explore the natural wonders that lie within a stone’s throw of this vibrant metropolis. The outskirts of the city offer both tourists and locals the opportunity to seek a refreshing escape without venturing far beyond London’s doorstep. Either by train or by car, there are a variety of beautiful outdoors destinations to explore. You don’t even need to stay overnight, here are 10 micro-adventures to inspire some escapism away from the city, all within an hour journey from England's capital.

1. Hiking in Chiltern Hills

Distance from London: 1 hour by train or 1.5 hours by car.

Chiltern Hills is an Area of Outstanding National Beauty and comprises a range of chalk cliffs. There are paths to follow, ranging from easy to challenging, that cover four counties and have an abundance of rewarding views and lush greenery. Popular routes include Whiteleaf and Chequers, Ivinghoe Beacon, Chess Valley, Christmas Common and Bridgewater Monument. As you wander through the timeless countryside, you'll meander past charming villages, meadows, woodlands, and the tranquil Thames River. A visit to the renowned Warburg Nature Reserve promises an opportunity to witness the beauty of rare butterflies and even the occasional elusive lizard.


Images: @chilternsaonb and @chilternsociety

2. Cycling in Surrey Hills

Distance from London: 50 minutes by train or 1.5 hours by car.

Surrey Hills, another Area of Outstanding National Beauty, is a prime cycling destination. Within Surrey, the town of Dorking has been proclaimed by some as the cycling capital of England, with a history of cycling dating back to 1860’s. The 8 mile Box Hill route dates back to the 2012 Olympic race and features impressive views from the top. There are trails for all abilities which take you through the vast woodland and winding countryside roads; the Cycle Surrey Hills Network is made up of 50 miles, split into 5 interconnecting routes.


Images: @cyclist and @surreylifemagazine

3. Rock Climbing in High Weald

Distance from London: 1.5 hours by car.

Southern Sandstone, a destination renowned for rock climbing and bouldering, is actually a lot closer to London than you may think. Near Turnbridge Wells, Harrison’s Rocks has over 350 routes available for all abilities, as well as opportunities to take lessons from an instructor. Bowles Rocks is not far away and sports over 200 routes just a short walk from the Eridge town station. These looming boulders and natural cliffs are a part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ensuring both an adventurous and aesthetic trip.


Images: @bowlesrocks and @highweald

4. Cliffside Hiking at Seven Sisters

Distance from London: 1.5 hours by train or car.

This path along the southern coast of England begins at Seaford and ends in Eastbourne, taking hikers up and down the Seven Sisters cliffs. These cliffs stretch from Cuckmere Haven to Birling Gap and the hike offers stellar views of the white cliffs and the sea. The main trail is 14 miles long but there are shorter alternatives of around 3 or 8 miles. One top recommended viewpoint is at the Belle Tout Lighthouse, which was built in 1832 and featured in BBC programmes as well as the James Bond movie, The Living Daylights.


 Images: @bozena_poz and @thetravelbunny


5. Mountain Cycling in Swinley Forest

Distance from London: 1.5 hours by car.

Swinley Forest is spread over 2,600 acres in the county of Berkshire. It is part of the Windsor Estate’s Great Park and was formerly a royal hunting ground, at one point, serving as the home of a group of hunting dogs. The evergreen forest features over 15 miles of mountain biking routes, and you’re free to explore the forest through clearly marked easy, medium and hard trails. You can easily rent a bike from the Swinley Bike Hub and take training classes or join a social community ride.


Images: @swinleybikehub 

6. Stargazing at South Downs National Park

Distance from London: This trip takes slightly longer to get there, with high reward if you do- 2 hours by train or car.

South Downs National Park recently obtained status on the International Dark Sky Reserve, so it’s one of the six best destinations across the UK to view the night sky. You can join local stargazing events at various locations across the park, including the Dark Skies Festival in February. Bignor Hill is a popular spot at one of the park’s highest points, and in late summer or mid-winter, you may be able to see the Milky Way.


Images: @stargazingexperiences and @southdownsnp

7. Walking Amongst Ancient Trees in Epping Forest

Distance from London: 45 minutes by train for 1 hour by car.

Epping Forest sports around 55,000 ancient trees, more than anywhere else in England. It’s the largest open space bordering London and stretches from Manor Park in north London to Essex. Walking paths take you past ponds and through rampant woodland and grassland. You can even find the remains of two Iron Age forts nestled among the trees, one likely being constructed in 700 BC. The area surrounding Epping Forest is buzzing with opportunity for adventurers, with Nuclear High Ropesjust outside Ongar and the chance to go white water rafting at Lee Valley White Water Centre. For a more chilled-out day trip or a bit of family-fun, there's chances to get up close and comfortable with the animals at both Lee Valley Farms and Redwings Ada Cole Horse Sanctuary (The UK's largest horse welfare charity).


Images: @shutterstock and @visitlondon 


8. Wild Ponies and Horseback Riding in the New Forest

Distance from London: 1.5 hours by train (or slightly longer, 2 hours by car.)

The New Forest National Park in southern England is home to about 3,000 wild ponies. The Forest covers part of Hampshire and Wiltshire and was first established almost 1,000 years ago by William the Conqueror. While you aren’t able to go near the ponies, the park is home to a variety of riding schools offering tours of the New Forest from horseback–or if you fancy a treat, you’re welcome to ride in a horse-drawn carriage throughout the park.


Images: @nt_newforest and @acornsandscapes

9. Deer Spotting in Richmond Park

Distance from London: 1 hour by car or train.

Richmond Park is a National Nature Reserve and happens to be London’s largest royal park. It has been home to over 600 freely roaming deer for almost 400 years since Charles I fled London to escape the plague. Take a walk through the vast woodland and keep your eye out for the two types of deer, Red Deer and Fallow Deer, as well as other small critters. The well-trodden Tasmin Trail is 7 miles long and runs along the park’s perimeter.


Images: @shutterstock and @fbimages, www.felixbelloin.com

10. Explore Prehistoric Sites in the Cotswolds

Distance from London: 1 hr 50 mins by car.

The Cotswolds are a range of hills in central England which cover over 800 square miles. While you could easily spend days hiking throughout the quaint villages and rolling countryside, there are a few trails worth a day trip. Located in Oxfordshire, one 8 mile path takes you past the Rollright Stones, a variety of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments. Another path called Belas Knap near Wichcombe features a Neolithic barrow and four ancient burial chambers.


Images: @shutterstock and @countrylife


We hope we've given you some inspiration for escapism from the hustle and bustle of city living, and shown that there are more adventures to be had on London city's doorstep than you may have realised... Be sure to use #everydayadventures so that we can see what you get up to on your ventures!

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