Box Hill is one of the most iconic natural landmarks in Surrey. It’s extremely popular with hikers, cyclists, nature-lovers, and day-trippers from London. However, did you know it’s also one of the best places in Surrey to take kids for some free, outdoor fun? Whether it’s for a nature walk, kite-flying or crossing the famous stepping stones you’ll find something to interest the children. Here’s our pick of the 3 best family walks at Box Hill, Surrey.
Walking at Box Hill Country Park
Box Hill is an Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty near Dorking in the Surrey Hills. It is a beautiful area of woodland and chalk downland, which is part of the North Downs and managed by the National Trust. Admission to Box Hill is free, though parking charges apply.
It is a popular escape from the capital or for locals who want to enjoy the stunning scenery. It is easy to get to by car or train and since the 2012 Olympics has been a popular destination for cyclists, who love the challenge of the notorious Zig-Zag Road.
Nowadays, there are seven waymarked trails at Box Hill, ranging from 30 minutes to a full day. However, Box Hill is one of the highest peaks in Surrey and some of the walks may be too demanding for young children. In this post, we look at the three best family walks at Box Hill. These are all suitable for families, or walkers who don’t want a strenuous hike. Of course, I am sure they’ll appeal to everyone else too.
Many of the walks interlink so you can combine trails and design your own route. You’ll see below that on our last visit to Box Hill we did two of the 3 best family walks.
Box Hill Family Walk 1
The Stepping Stones Walk (2 miles/3.2 km))
The first of our best family walks at Box Hill is the Stepping Stones walk. You can start this walk from the top of Box Hill by the Visitor Centre (just head for Salomon’s viewpoint) or from the car park at the bottom.
We started by the Stepping Stones pub at the bottom and then crossed the A24 via the underpass. This took us to an open field, Burford Meadow. (This would be the same route if you were coming from the train station.)
From Burford Meadow you can see the steep chalk slopes known as “the Whites”. The side of the hill is covered in ancient Box woodland, hence the name Box Hill. Apparently, about 40% of the nation’s wild Box (a native evergreen) thrives here.
The meadow leads to a footbridge which crosses over the river. However, 200 yards to the right is a far more fun way to cross the river, over the iconic Box Hill stepping stones!
The children wanted to cross the stones several times before I nudged them out the way for a photo. If you have time, there are several areas along the riverbank where children can play or paddle. You might even be able to spot a kingfisher. However, we were on a mission to climb the hill.
From the river, head straight ahead and you’ll easily find the path leading to the summit. I won’t lie, it is a tough climb! 275 steps in total.
Not everyone thought so, and one jogger (who we renamed “the goat”) thought it was fun to run up and down. For those less fit amongst us, there are several benches, if you need to catch your breath.
The uphill path leads to the Salomon’s Memorial, the viewpoint at the top of the hill. This is one of the most popular spots at Box Hill and on a fine day, you can see for miles over the Surrey countryside.
From the viewpoint you can head over to the Visitors’ Centre for refreshments.
Obviously, you can also start this route at the top and begin by walking down. You can also extend the walk along the River Mole. Although the Stepping Stones trail is very popular because of the stones, it is not very accessible and would be extremely difficult with a buggy.
Box Hill Family Walk 2
The Natural Play Trail at Box Hill (2 miles/3.2 km)
Without doubt, the best walk to do at Box Hill with kids is the Natural Play Trail. This walk starts at the archway near the Visitor Centre. Here you have a choice of going under the arch or through a tunnel.
Box Hill’s Natural Play Trail is a flat, accessible, circular walk. Along the way you’ll find play apparatus made from trees. The play areas have logs for children to climb and balance on. There are loose branches for den-building, rope swings and plenty of trees to climb.
The Box Hill Play Trail is a fun walk for kids of all ages, even teenagers! Admittedly it was very quiet when we were there, so I took the opportunity to brush up on my balancing skills too.
As well as the climbing equipment, the Box Hill play trail is ideal as a nature walk, especially in Autumn. Younger children will love kicking through leaves, squelching in the mud, and searching for wildlife.
The route is way-marked and easy to follow. The walk is about 2 miles in total but expect to stop a lot to wait for kids. When you get back to the car park, there’s a large grassy area, Donkey Green, which is perfect for picnics or games.
We took a slight detour to visit Broadwood Tower, which is on the Happy Valley Walk. The Tower is a listed building, built from flint as a folly in 1815. It is often called Broadwood’s Folly.
Disappointingly the National Trust had to remove the oak tree that was previously growing up the inside of Broadwood’s Folly, as this was a rather unusual sight. However, the kids still liked trying to peer inside and you can get great views from here down into Juniper Valley.
Box Hill Family Walk 3
Hill Top Stroll at Box Hill (1 mile/1.6km)
Another short circular walk starting at the summit is the Hill Top Stroll. This is a short, easy gentle walk which will lead you to several points of interest at Box Hill. The first landmark is Swiss Cottage, the home of John Logie Baird, the inventor of the television. The trail also leads to the Salomon’s Memorial Viewpoint, though as you can see it was overcast on our last visit.
Whilst on the Hill Top stroll keep your eye out on the right for the gravestone of Major Peter Labillière. Although it’s not much to look at, kids will love the story of the eccentric who was buried head down. In his last wishes, he instructed that he was buried upside down on Box Hill. He claimed that “the world was topsy-turvy, and he wanted it to be right in the end”.
Finally, the walk will take you to the ruins of Box Hill Fort, one of 13 mobilisation centres built to protect London from invasion in the 1800s. The Fort takes advantage of Box Hill’s perfect defensive site. You can’t go inside, as it now home to a family of bats.
Other walks at Box Hill
There are several other walks at Box Hill, but they may be too challenging for younger children. We have completed some of the Happy Valley Walk, but this does have a sharp ascent. There is also Box Hill Hike, a more demanding walk of 8 miles.
Click here for route maps for all the Box Hill walks.
Refreshments at Box Hill
There is a National Trust café at the Visitors’ Centre, which serves light meals, cakes, and ice-cream. There are also toilets and a gift shop.
There are several pubs within walking distance of Box Hill; the Stepping Stones and the Running Horses in Mickleham.
Getting to Box Hill by car
Box Hill is between Dorking and Leatherhead in Surrey, South-East England and is easy to get to by car. From the M25 take the A24 to Dorking and follow the signposts.
The address for Box Hill is The Old Fort, Box Hill Road, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7LB.
There are two National Trust car parks, one by the Stepping Stones and one near the Visitor Centre. Parking charges apply, unless you are a National Trust member.
Getting to Box Hill by train from London
Box Hill is a popular spot for day-trippers from London, looking to enjoy the Surrey Hills. The nearest train station is Box Hill and Westhumble. Direct trains to Box Hill leave from London Waterloo and London Victoria and take about an hour.
From here you can walk to the base of Box Hill (see walk 1).
Have you done any of the family walks at Box Hill? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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