As Britain’s leafiest county, there’s no excuse not to head outdoors in Surrey. It’s home to the beautiful Surrey Hills AONB which provides a wealth of outdoor activities and scenic views. Whether you fancy a bit of history, a dip in the lakes or a stroll amongst colourful blooms, you’re bound to find something to pique your interests. Here is our guide to the best things to do outdoors in Surrey.
Even though Surrey is landlocked, that doesn’t mean you can’t get out onto the water. The Surrey Hills AONB is home to the tranquil river valleys of the Wey, Tillingbourne and Mole. If you head to Frensham Little Pond and Great Pond, you’ll find an even larger expanse of water, complete with a sandy beach and plenty of wildlife. If you can’t resist a swim, the river valleys and ponds within the Surrey Hills AONB are perfect for wild swimming. If you want to have a go at paddle boarding, The Lagoon in Buckland is a well-loved spot amongst keen paddle boarders. The site has a 2.5km course which is organised by the Surrey Hills Adventure Company. Prefer something a little more leisurely? How about hiring a boat and paddling along the many waterways.
Cycling is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Surrey. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, a fan of mountain biking or road biking, there’s something for everyone.
A nice and easy route that the whole family can enjoy is the Ockley TT route. This 17.7km route is a lovely way to see rural Surrey, and covers flat main roads and country lanes. There are also plenty of restaurants and pubs along the way. A medium level route is the Puttenham to Godalming loop. Covering 26.5kms, this track goes through the farmlands and forests of Surrey Hills AONB and the pretty town of Godalming. For those of you who are hardcore cyclists, the Haslemere Circular is a 30km loops which goes along country lanes, steep hills and through the scenic South Downs. If you’re looking for more action off-road, the Surrey Hills AONB offers a superb range of single track trails that wind through ancient woodland and high peaks.
Enjoy views over Surrey
There are plenty of fabulous viewpoints within the Surrey Hills AONB. After a long stroll, be rewarded with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. One of the best viewpoints is Box Hill. Full of scenic walks and panoramic views, Box Hill is a popular place for ramblers. There are walks for every level, including the Box Hill Hike, the Box Hill Happy Valley circular walk and the Box Hill Stepping Stones walk. Another scenic spot is Leith Hill. It’s the second highest point in South East England, so it goes without saying how impressive the views are! At the top of Leith Hill is the Leith Hill Tower. Feeling fit? Climb all 78 steps and you may even see as far as the London Eye through the telescope. Holmbury Hill is another amazing viewpoint. History nerds will love this place, as it’s home to an Iron Age hillfort thought to date back to the 1st century AD.
Take a step back in time and visit Waverley Abbey, the very first Cistercian abbey in England. It was founded in 1128 by William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester. During the first century of its establishment, the abbey founded six monasteries and saw visits from the likes of King John and Henry III. However by the end of the 13th century, the abbey saw itself becoming less important, and by 1536 the abbey was suppressed. Today, the ruins are managed by English Heritage and are open to the public. Surrounded by the River Wey, the ruins and surrounding land are part of a conservation area, and are perfect for a short, peaceful stroll.
Surrey is home to a wonderful variety of parks and gardens. One of the most well-known is the RHS Garden Wisley. Spread over 240 acres, you’ll find Mediterranean terraces, flower gardens, an alpine meadow, an orchard and a vegetable garden. There are also several glasshouses with various climate zones, home to a wide display of tropical and desert plants. Another superb garden is the National Trust’s Claremont Landscape Garden. This grade 1 listed garden is a lovely place to get away from it all, and was once a retreat for aristocracy and the royals. See how some of the best landscape designers of the 18th century have designed the lake, the amphitheatre, the Camellia Terrace and the Belvedere Tower. Another National Trust site is the Winkworth Arboretum. Set over 46 hectares, the garden reflects the colours of each season, and has a fascinating display of impressive trees. Meanwhile, the award-winning Ramster Garden is an enchanting woodland garden spread over 25 acres. As you stroll down the winding paths, keep an eye out for its famous collection of rhododendrons and azaleas.
Thursley National Nature Reserve
At 325 hectares, the Thursley National Nature Reserve is one of the largest remaining areas of heathland in the county. It’s a great place to relax in, with open dry heathland, peat bogs and pine and deciduous woodlands. If you’re a keen wildlife watcher, then this is the place to be. The nature reserve is home to 20 species of dragonflies and damselflies, as well as an impressive range of birds like Dartford warblers, gold crests, white throats and long-tailed tits. With over 13kms of boardwalk and viewing platforms, it’s never been easier to navigate your way around the reserve.