When I lived in London, my weekdays were spent planning how to get out of London. It wasn’t that I didn’t like London (although admittedly a lot less than I like Vancouver). It’s just after 5 days commuting on the tube, living in noisy Brixton and being surrounded by London’s pretty toxic air, I needed to get out of the city and find some fresher air. Despite the fact that day trips out of the city aren’t always the easiest, there are some that are. A day trip to Box Hill from London is one such example. Box Hill in Surrey is just 40 minutes away from London by trail from Vauxhall to Box Hill and Westhumble station. If you’re looking for a nice walk near London then be sure to check out this guide to some Box Hill walks!
About Box Hill, London
Box Hill is the perfect place for a countryside walk near London in the Surrey Hills. Box Hill makes up part of the North Downs and has views across the surrounding countryside. It’s also a popular place with London’s cyclists who race up and down the hill where the London 2012 Olympic cycling race was held.
Box Hill, Surrey gets its name from the box woodland that’s found on the west-facing chalk slopes. This part of the hill in the west is owned and managed by the National Trust. At its highest point, Box Hill is 224m. However, the most popular Box Hill viewpoint, the Salomons Memorial which overlooks the town of Dorking, is a little lower at 172m.
It’s estimated that around 850,000 people visit Box Hill every year! On summer weekends you can expect the hill to be full of people picnicking. However, leave the main viewpoints and things get instantly quieter.
Where is Box Hill?
Box Hill lies within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a summit of the North Downs in Surrey. It’s approximately 30km south-west of London.
Getting to Box Hill
Getting to the Box Hill train station from London is very easy. The closest Box Hill station is the appropriately named ‘Box Hill and Westhumble Train Station’.
At the time we lived in South London and caught the train from Vauxhall to Box Hill and Westhumble Station which takes about 45 minutes. You can also get the train from Victoria Station.
Box Hill walks
There are lots of different walks in Box Hill you can do. You can go from the station straight up to the “summit”, or you can take one of the longer, circular routes. We chose to do a longer, circular route broken up with a pub lunch. The route is covered in more detail below:
Box Hill Circular Route
If you’re planning to spend a day in the area and are looking for a good moderately difficult Box Hill hike then try this Box Hill circular route. There aren’t any of the stairs you’ll come across on the summit route, there are fewer people and there’s a fantastic pub two hours into the walk which makes for a great pit-stop!
This walk at Box Hill crosses a series of hills in a clockwise loop north and east of Box Hill and Westhumble Station. You’ll walk through Norbury Park, Mickleham Downs, Headley Heath and then reach the top of Box Hill itself.
There’s a gentle gradient up around the hills with nothing too steep as you pass through the Nature Reserve of Norbury Park. Keep your eyes open for butterflies as the Box Hill area is famous for being home to around 40 species of butterfly!
On reaching the top of Box Hill grab a spot of grass or a bench to sit on. The view from up here is pretty impressive and you can see the planes taking off and coming to land at Gatwick, as well as miles of rolling hills everywhere else.
Finishing the loop you have the choice of looping back round to Box Hill and Westhumble Station or heading straight to Dorking. There isn’t too much difference in terms of distance.
Box Hill summit
Hiking to the top of Box Hill from the train station means you’re in for a steep climb. It’s less than 2 miles to the top. Unless you’re really short on time and just want to walk to the top I’d say skip this and do the circular route.
Box Hill Stepping Stones walk
This walk starts from the Box Hill visitor centre at the top of the hill. Follow the surfaced path from the visitor centre and continue walking parallel to the road. Soon you’ll come to an impressive view from Salomon’s Memorial.
From here you’ll walk through Yew woods and see glimpses of the river Mole before coming out at the Stepping Stones across River Mole. There are two choices: you can take a bridge or you can tackle the Box Hill Stepping Stones and jump your way across the River Mole.
After this, you’ll walk through Burford Meadow and see the wooded chalk cliffs known as the Whites before ending up by Box Hill Fort and the visitor centre where you started.
This is a good walk for families since it’s not too long and has a fun bit in the middle for kids.
Box Hill restaurants and Box Hill cafes
There are lots of restaurants and cafes near Box Hill which are perfect for refuelling after, or during, a nice walk. We went to The Tree on Box Hill during our Box Hill circular walk and came out absolutely stuffed on a Sunday Lunch Carvery! – Highly recommended
The Tree, Box Hill is where we stopped as we were two hungry hikers in need of a BIG Sunday Lunch. Nothing quite fits the bill like a carvery and, as you can see in the video, the Tree on Box Hill delivered the goods.
One of the popular Box Hill pubs, this is another good lunchtime spot on the Box Hill circular walking route. It has a good selection of local beers as well as home-cooked food. It served food until 2 pm Monday-Saturday and all afternoon on Sundays. There’s also a terraced garden if the weather is nice.
Another of the popular pubs in Box Hill, this is a good alternative if the above is full and pretty similar in terms of food, drinks and pricing. Does a good Sunday lunch.
National Trust Visitor Centre Cafe
Good option if you’ve done the Stepping Stones walk at Box Hill or are just in need of some cake and ice-cream! There’s lots of seating both indoors and outdoors.
This cafe is open until 6 pm on weekends and serves lots of different food and drink. It’s popular with motorbikes and you’ll pass it on the way back to the station on the circular route.
Has a bicycle shop with a cafe and is a great spot if you’ve just missed the train!