Our 9 best walks in the Surrey Hills

by Jan

The Surrey Hills is an area of outstanding beauty that covers a quarter of Surrey in the South-East of England.  With its ancient woodland, chocolate-box villages, and stunning natural landscape it is an area that is ideal for walking.  Whether you live nearby or are looking for an escape from London, you’ll find a walk that suits you.  Here you’ll discover some of the best things to see in the Surrey countryside with our 9 best walks in the Surrey Hills: –

The Devil’s Punchbowl, Hindhead

Start point:           National Trust Car Park (GU16 6AB)

Nearest station:   Haslemere (3 miles)

Celtic Cross on Gibbet's Hill, Devils Punchbowl, Hindhead, Surrey, UK

The first of our best walks in the Surrey Hills is at the bizarrely named Devil’s Punchbowl.  This is a popular beauty spot in Hindhead, near Godalming in Surrey.  This gigantic natural amphitheatre, created by years of water erosion on the clay, offers a varied landscape of open heathland and ancient woodland.

You’ll find 5 walking trails at the Devil’s Punchbowl, which all start at the National Trust Café.  The walks vary in length and difficulty.  Most are family-friendly, but can be quite steep in places.  However, from the café there’s an extremely easy, flat walk to the viewpoint, which will give you uninterrupted views over this giant natural bowl.

We chose the longest walk, the Hidden Hindhead Trail, which follows in the path of bygone highwaymen.  There are plenty of points of interest on the way, such as the Sailor’s Stone, commemorating the events of a murder in 1786 and the Celtic Cross, marking the place where the gibbet once hung.

The trail leads to Gibbet’s Hill, the second highest hill in Surrey, where we had panoramic views over the Surrey countryside.   Keep an eye out for artwork from the Inspiring Views Sculpture Walk and the ruins of the Temple of the Four Winds.

The Devil’s Punchbowl is abundant in wildlife and our walk returned across Hindhead Common, where we saw wild ponies grazing in the heather.  There are also several natural play areas near the café area.

Click for a map and details of the Hidden Hindhead walk.

Leith Hill, Dorking

Start point:           Starveall Corner Car Park (RH5 6LU)

Nearest station:  Holmwood

Leith Hill Tower, Surrey Hills, Surrey

If you want to climb the highest hill in Surrey, head for Leith Hill.   This is a fantastic, wooded hill and was a childhood favourite of mine (thanks to an annual visit with the brownies!).

At the summit of Leith Hill is an 18th-century Gothic tower,  now owned by the National Trust.  For a small fee, you can climb to the top of the tower to be at the highest point in South-East England (free for National Trust Members).  From here, you’ll get magnificent views over the countryside in all directions.  On a clear day, you can even spot the Wembley Arch in London!

Now, there’s plenty of trees for kids to climb and make dens and many hiding places for hide and seek.  Alternatively head to the side of the tower, where you’ll find a servery selling drinks and delicious homemade cakes. There are a row of picnic benches to sit and admire the panoramic views from Leith Hill.

A word of warning, it can get very windy!  It can also get busy, as it is a popular stop for cyclists and hikers.

If you want an easy walk, park at Starveall Car Park and follow the signposts to the Tower.  It is only ¾ miles and simple to navigate.  However, if you want to explore more of the countryside around Leith Hill, you’ll find details of four longer walks below.  It’s definitely worth a visit and rates highly in our best walks in the Surrey Hills.

Read more:  A circular walk from Friday Street to Leith Hill, Surrey

St Martha's Church, Albury

Start point:           Guildford Lane Car Park (GU5 9BQ)

Nearest station:   Chilworth

St Martha's Church, Albury, Surrey Hills, UK

St Martha’s Church is a popular landmark which sits atop St Martha’s Hill.   This 19th century Surrey church is only accessible by foot.  However, it’s an easy, scenic walk and worth the effort for uninterrupted views across the North Downs and Surrey Hills.  You’ll also come across a WWII pillbox and some fantastic trees for climbing.

The original St Martha’s Church was built in the 12th Century.  Historically, pilgrims used this route on their way to Canterbury or Winchester and used the church as a stopping point.  Travellers preferred this safer, hillside walk on the North Downs to the perilous roads of the High Weald.

You can start the walk at St Martha’s Hill car park in Guildford Lane or from Newlands Corner Visitor Centre.  The route follows the North Downs Way on a wide, sandy path.

You can walk to St Martha’s Church as an out and back walk or extend it to 6 miles to include a visit to the mysterious Silent Pool in Albury.

We did an alternative circular walk which took us across the Albury Downs to the Heritage Trail at the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills (see below).

The Heritage Trail, Chilworth

Start point:           By Chilworth C of E School (GU4 8NP)

Nearest station:  Chilworth

Old derelict buildings at Chilworth Gunpowder Mills, Surrey, England

The Heritage Trail at Chilworth Gunpowder Mills is an ideal walk for children of any age, even toddlers.  The walk follows the route of the old tramway between Tillingbourne River and New Cut canal, where the old gunpowder mills once stood.

It’s a flat, level walk that takes you to explore the remains of the former gunpowder works.  It’s hard to imagine that the 17th century Mills at Chilworth were originally one of England’s most important sites for gunpowder manufacture.  Nowadays the riverside ruins sit in a very tranquil, natural setting.

As well as its historical importance, the Heritage Trail is great for spotting wildlife, especially if you like toads.  They were everywhere!  The stream is very shallow and safe, so if you take wellies is a great place for paddling.  There is a wooden snail sculpture by the water, but he’s definitely starting to show his age.

If you want to stop for a picnic, there’s a grass area with picnic tables.

Click here for a map of the Chilworth Heritage Trail and details of the mills.

Box Hill, nr Dorking

Start point:           Box Hill Visitors’ Centre (KT20 7LB)

Nearest station:   Box Hill & Westhumble Station (1.5 miles)

Kids on stepping stones, Box Hill, Surrey, UK

Probably the most famous of our best walks in the Surrey Hills is at Box Hill, near Mickleham.  We’ve been here many times and tried most of the trails. The easiest option is to start up by the Visitors’ Centre and take a hilltop stroll to the viewpoint.

Alternatively, if you’re with younger children,  they will love the natural play trail, which leads round the top of the Box Hill Country Park. They’ll find logs to climb on and plenty of areas to make dens.  The play trail is about 2 miles and fairly flat.  It can get muddy though.

However, if you’re feeling energetic follow the trail down to the stepping stones.  These iconic stones cross the River Mole at the base of Box Hill.  There is a bridge if you don’t want to risk falling in.  From here, you can take a riverside stroll or stop at the Stepping Stones pub, before making the steep ascent back up the chalk trail to the top.

When you get back to the top, remember to stop in at the Visitor Centre for some delicious homemade cakes and drinks.

Click for full details of our 3 best family walks at Box Hill

Winkworth Arboretum, Godalming

Start point:          Car park at the Arboretum (GU8 4AD )

Nearest station:   Godalming (2 miles)

Autumn Colours at Winkworth Arboretum, Goldaming, Surrey

With its unique combination of trees, Winkworth Arboretum is one of the best places for a family walk in the Surrey Hills.  We visited for the first time this summer after becoming National Trust members, but returned later to see the magnificent autumn colours.

You’ll find 3 colour coded trails at Winkworth.  We chose the longest red one which takes you to all corners of the arboretum.  It’s not too challenging and on our first visit we decided to do the trail twice to extend our walk.

Winkworth Arboretum was created by Dr Fox in 1937, when he bought the woodland near his house.  He spent many years introducing new trees and shrubs to the area and Winkworth Arboretum now has one of the finest collections in the Surrey Hills.

The waymarked trails will lead you through a varied landscape of woodland and on boardwalks across wetlands.  Eventually you’ll come to the picturesque lake and its charming boathouse.  However, you don’t have to stick to these routes.  If your little ones want to explore the trees you can veer away from the path and rejoin later.

There is a natural play area for children and some animal carved benches, which are ideal for a picnic stop.

Winkworth Arboretum is a great place to escape for some fresh air and nature.  With over 1000 trees, the landscape is stunning throughout the year.  However,  Winkworth Arboretum is particularly beautiful in autumn when the leaves of the Canadian Maples turn red.

Click here for a map of Winkworth Arboretum and the 3 walking trails.

Newlands Corner, Albury

Start point:         Newlands Corner Visitor Centre (GU4 8SE)

Nearest station:  Chilworth or Guildford (4 miles)

Two Boys walking in field at Newland's Corner, Surrey Hills, UK

Another popular place to start a walk in the Surrey Hills is at Newlands Corner on the A25 near Guildford.  Here you’ll find several self-guided trails that all start from the Visitor Centre.

You can walk in either direction.  One route will lead you down to Silent Pool or the picturesque village of Shere.  However, in the other direction you can head for St Martha’s Church, which is atop St Martha’s Hill.  The trails are colour coded and fairly easy to follow.  Several link up with the North Downs Way.

The trails follow a varied landscape of ancient woodland and open chalk downland.  It’s truly beautiful countryside and you’ll get sweeping views across the Surrey Hills.

For refreshments after your walk, the Visitor Centre offers a good choice of burgers, hot dogs, and hot chocolate.  You’ll also find outside picnic tables and public toilets.

A word of warning – In winter, it can get very muddy on the main path leading out of the centre, so wear practical shoes.

Click for a map and full details of 3 walking trails at Newlands Corner.

The Inspiring Views Walk, nr Cranleigh

Start point:          Winterfold Donkins Car Park 5 (nearest postcode is GU5 9EN)

Sculptural bench, Contour, Surrey

Now this is probably the most challenging of our family walks in the Surrey Hills, both in terms of hills and navigation.  However, this self-guided walk leads to three special sculptures from the Inspiring Views art project.  These unique artworks were commissioned to celebrate the area and blend into their natural environment.

Expect some steep climbs, an impressive windmill, and spectacular views over the South Downs.  There’s an option to climb up Pitch Hill near Ewhurst or to pop into the Windmill Pub for refreshments.  Just don’t leave your money in the car like we did!

Find out how we got on with the Inspiring Views walk.

For full details and a map of the Inspiring Views Walk, please click here.

Frensham Ponds, Farnham

Start point:          Little Pond Car Park (GU10 3BT)

Nearest station:  Farnham (then bus no 19)

Children at Frensham Pond family walk, Surrey

Finally, head to Frensham Ponds if you’re looking for a serene, nature walk around a beautiful lake.  There are two ponds, Great Pond and Little Pond.  Both are popular tourist spots in Surrey, especially in the summer when you can swim in larger one.

Originally, the 13th century ponds were built to provide fish for the Bishop of Winchester, when visiting Farnham.  Today Frensham Ponds are havens for wildlife and offer a great choice of walks at any time of year.  The walks are flat and even, so ideal for little legs.

The walk around the Great Pond is about 1.5 miles and takes 30-45 minutes.

The walk around the Little Pond is about 2 – 2.5 miles and takes 1 hour. The pond is a designated SSSI as it has special wildlife habitats.  Keep an eye out for the many water birds that live and breed there.

We went on a longer circular walk from Frensham Ponds to Churt, which is about 9km.  This started at Frensham Ponds, but then took us over heathland and the three hills, known as Devil’s Jumps.  If you have time, you can visit the quirky Sculpture Park in the woods.

For full details of the family trail at Frensham Little Pond, click here.

Have you tried any of our best walks in the Surrey Hills?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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