Limited daylight and wintry weather doesn’t mean your hiking plans have to go into hibernation. With a little forward planning and an early(ish) start, the following hikes can easily be completed from London in a day.
For the Coastal Hikers – Birling Gap, the Seven Sisters and Exceat London Day Hike
Salty sea air and cold winds are the perfect remedy to sweep away the cobwebs after too much time indoors. While this route might require hikers to leave earlier in the morning (depending on where you live in London) to make the most of daylight hours, this walk is one of the prettiest stretches of the English coast in any weather. While the Seven Sisters attracts droves of visitors in the summer, it is quieter in the winter, giving you more space and quiet to appreciate its rugged beauty.
For the Lazy Sunday Hikers – Ham House from Richmond Walk London Day Hike
For those that like their walks with detours to cosy pubs and roast dinners, this route is ideal. This circular walk begins and ends handily at Richmond station, and if you’re lucky you might spot one of Richmond Park’s famous inhabitants. King Henry’s Mound still offers beautiful panoramic views of London, and there’s always the option to warm up with coffee and cake at Ham House, or The Dysart for those with deeper wallets. One of my favourite spots along this trail however is closer towards Richmond’s centre, along the Thames. Pubs line the riverfront, and in winter there’s a good chance you can stretch out and have a portion to yourself on a Sunday.
For more information and to download the trail guide, check The National Trust website.
For the History Buff Hikers – Balcombe Circular Walk London Day Hike
Located approximately 40 minutes away on the train from London Bridge, this walk takes London hikers through some of the prettiest sections of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The forests and walkways of Nymans gardens easily lull hikers into multiple detours around its stunning landscapes. The ruins of Slaugham Place, a 16th-century Elizabethan manor house, are also a beautiful place to stop for a breather. At the end of the walk in Balcombe is the quaint and hiker-friendly Half Moon Inn pub, to toast a successful walk.
To try this hike yourself, check out the Saturday Walker’s Club route directions.
For the ‘Tree Huggers’ – Mole Gap Trail Day Hike
While the Mole Gap Trail is famous in the summer for the fact that it includes a pitstop at the largest vineyard in England, hiking this in winter showcases the sheer variety of ancient trees located along this trail. Starting at Leatherhead station, the route meanders along the river before gradually climbing through forests, where old yew and box woodlands dwell. Towards the end of the trail hikers are treated to views from Box Hill after a lung-busting climb.
If the thought of exploring hills and forests has you ‘leaf’ing the comfort of your sofa, check the route instructions from the folks at Explore Surrey or check out more things to see and do around Box Hill via my guide.
For Historic House Hikers – Sevenoaks London Day Hike
For some strange reason, Sevenoaks is not featured too often in London guides. Despite being only a short distance from London and featuring Kent’s only deer park (think Richmond Park, but quieter), two expansive historic National Trust houses, not to mention an adorable high street with multiple lunch stops, it never attracts the same level of attention.
This is all the more benefit for hikers that venture on this route, as you can roam the deer park in search of its four-legged locals, admire the unusual architecture of Knole House and Ightham Mote, or count the number of oast houses (those houses with white caps on the pointy roofs that only seem to exist in Kent) you spot along the trail.
One of the benefits of hiking around Sevenoaks is the sheer number of footpaths in the area. Check some of my recommendations for extending hikes around this area, or follow through to the handy Saturday Walkers Club for route directions.