The circular walk from Friday Street to Leith Hill, Surrey
Who loves a winter walk in the Surrey Hills? Me!
You really can’t beat a winter’s walk in the Surrey Hills for blowing away the cobwebs and even better if a pub lunch is involved! I’m talking about wrapping up warm and immersing yourself in some of Surrey’s finest countryside.
So, where better than to the highest point in the county?
Regular readers will know that I love a feature on our hikes, so I wasn’t disappointed to discover a trail with a secret waterfall, cosy country pub and Gothic tower all in one route. Plus, the walk leads up to Leith Hill, the highest point in Surrey, so stunning views are guaranteed!
In fact, it was one of the kids who chose the walk. Partly because he was training for his DofE expedition and partly because he adores a pub lunch. Who was I to argue?!
It’s a fantastic walk and I’m sure you’ll love it too. We went in the winter, but you could do it any time of year.
In this guide, we’ll tell you what you can expect to see and give all the information you need for our Leith Hill circular walk.
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Contents: click to jump to a section
Highlights of the circular walk to Leith Hill
The first of the Surrey landmarks on our Leith Hill walk is the Tillingbourne Waterfall. Tucked away in the woods of the Wotton Estate, this natural beauty is one of Surrey’s hidden gems. It is off the beaten track, and it would be easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there.
The Tillingbourne Waterfall is the tallest waterfall in Surrey. The water cascades down the rocks into a small pond. You have to admire from afar, as the waterfall is fenced off and there is no access to the water.
However, you can get a good view of it as you walk down the bridleway. The road is marked as private, but the public are allowed access to this track.
Tilling Springs Pond
Opposite the waterfall is the Tilling Springs Pond, a throwback to the area’s industrial days. It’s hard to imagine, but from 17th to mid-20th centuries the Tillingbourne Valley was a significant industrial area.
The River Tillingbourne used to power several mills in the area.
It’s worth a visit to see the disused gunpowder mills on a different walk at Chilworth. See here for details: A walk to St Martha’s Church, Surrey
This cute hamlet of Coldharbour strikes me as quintessential Surrey. As we arrived several riders on horseback arrived and a team of Lycra-clad cyclists whizzed past.
It seems that Coldharbour was not always so quaint. Many years ago, it was regarded with fear by the inhabitants of Dorking, who worried about the nefarious activities of local smugglers. However, the days of boot-leggers are long gone and Coldharbour is now the epitome of English country village.
The Plough Inn
One of the main focal points of the hamlet of Coldharbour is the Plough Inn, a classic country pub. It serves a good choice of food, using seasonal, local produce. It is the perfect stop for a pub lunch on our Leith Hill walk.
If you’re a real-ale connoisseur, you’ll love this pub! Out the back of the pub is a beer garden and microbrewery, the Leith Hill Brewery. They’ve created four of their own real ales (Tickety-Boo, Crooked Furrow, Beautiful South and Tallywhacker). However, now is not a good time to try them all, as you’ve still got to climb Leith Hill!
Next door to the pub is a village shop, selling an array of local produce, such as chutneys, jams, and cakes. They also sell hot drinks, cakes, and warm sausage rolls.
The next section of the walk is the climb up Leith Hill.
Leith Hill is the tallest of the Surrey Hills and is a popular destination for cyclists and walkers. It is one of Surrey’s top beauty spots and provides a fantastic viewpoint for the surrounding countryside. I’ve been visiting Leith Hill since I was a child, when I made an annual Easter outing here with the Brownies!
The ascent from Coldharbour is not too challenging, as you are not starting from the base of the hill. There is one steep incline, but it is not too strenuous.
There are several benches at the top of the hill and lots of trees to climb, if you’re with kids. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic on a sunny day, though can get a bit windy!
Leith Hill Tower
At the summit of Leith Hill is the iconic gothic tower.
At 1,029 feet Leith Hill Tower is the highest point in South East England. It is owned by the National Trust and visitors can climb the spiral staircase for panoramic views over Surrey. On a clear day, you can see as far as London to the north and the English Channel to the south.
This 18th century folly was built in 1765-66 by Richard Hull from nearby Leith Hill Place. He built the tower to make up the shortfall, as Leith Hill didn’t quite reach 1000 ft.
A Latin inscription claims that he wanted to provide a “place for people to enjoy the glory of the English countryside”. Unfortunately, he died shortly after in 1772, but loved his tower so much he was reputedly buried underneath it.
The tower later fell into disrepair and was bricked up until 1864 when they built the side tower staircase. It then remained closed until 1984, when the National Trust fully restored it. On the second floor of the tower, you can find an exhibition with a collection of exhibits about
Leith Hill Tower is open every weekend, Bank Holidays, and school holidays from 11am – 3pm. There is a small charge to go inside the tower, but admission is free to National Trust members.
Another popular attraction at Leith Hill is the servery at the side of the tower. Here, you can buy a selection of delicious home-made cakes and hot drinks.
The Victorian drinking fountain and cattle trough
As you descend Leith Hill, look out for the Victorian drinking fountain and cattle trough on the right.
Moved from its original setting in Roehampton, it was placed here in 2018 to provide drinking water for visitors. If you get your timings right, you can take an excellent photo of the tower reflected in the water.
From here you can continue down the hill and return to Friday Street car park.
Circular walk to Leith Hill - essential information
Where do I park for the Leith Hill walk?
The walk starts from Friday Street car park on Abinger Common in Surrey. Friday Street is a small hamlet, just south of Wotton near Dorking. The postcode is RH5 6JR.
Parking is free.
How long does the Leith Hill walk take?
This circular walk takes about 3 hours, plus time for lunch or refreshments.
Is the Leith Hill walk difficult?
It is a moderate challenging trail, which is steep in sections. The terrain is uneven and would not be accessible to all.
However, the route is reasonably easy to follow.
What to take on your Leith Hill walk
Is it dog-friendly?
Dogs will love this walk and the pub is canine-friendly, so they can join you for lunch. They even sell doggy ice-cream in the shop.
Is the Leith Hill circular walk worth doing?
Yes, this is a scenic, invigorating walk. It leads to one of Surrey’s top beauty spots, taking you past several natural landmarks along the way. The Leith Hill circular walk is ideal for nature-lovers.
We'd love to hear from you.
We’d love to hear from you. Have you done any walks to Leith Hill? We’d love to hear your questions or comments below.
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