Cycling in the Surrey Hills
The Surrey Hills is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that offers all the beauty and tranquility of the English countryside despite its proximity to London . The rolling chalk downs boast rich grasslands replete with wildflowers. The area’s ancient woodlands are abundant in wildlife and it is possible to spend hours in the hills without hardly seeing another person. The Surrey Hills are home to various market towns and picturesque villages many with traditional country pubs awaiting the thirsty, or hungry, traveller. The area has long been a favourite destination for Londoners escaping the city and is extensively used for recreation by the residents of Surrey and other visitors to the area. Cycling is an ideal way to enjoy the Surrey Hills and has been a favoured mode of transport for visitors for well over one hundred years.
Fortunately for the cyclist the Surrey Hills are criss-crossed with a network of quiet country roads as well as an ever-increasing number of designated cycle lanes, bridleways and single tracks. The area is one of the most densely wooded areas of England and this makes for some of the best on or off-road cycling you’ll find in the South East of England.
Leith Hill , situated just south of Dorking, is very popular with cyclists. The darkly forested slopes of Leith Hill can be seen from Dorking which, with it’s direct rail link to London and the south coast, is a great place to arrive at to start your ride. As you head out of Dorking southbound and pick up the Abinger Road towards the village of Coldharbour the gradient soon begins to pick up - this is not a route for those who haven’t yet found their cycling legs! When you pass the summit, where you’ll find one of the highest cricket pitches in England, the road splits off. Take the right fork (Leith Hill Road) and you’ll head down towards Abinger Common. When you arrive at this tiny village, look for Pasture Wood Road to the left. This lane runs along a winding ridge before it drops you down into the beautiful village of Holmbury St Mary, with its old well, church and village green. The village is home to a couple of fine country pubs, the Kings Head and The Royal Oak , and so is an ideal spot for a lunchtime rest up.
From Holmbury St Mary the suitably equipped (and fit) traveller is advised to make the effort to climb Holmbury Hill by the way of the various single tracks that snake up its slopes. The view from the top of Holmbury Hill, where the summit is marked by a cairn, is considered one the very best available anywhere in Surrey. Looking north on a fine day you’ll see the high rise towers of London, including those at Canary Wharf. Looking south you can sometimes see as far as the English Channel at Shoreham .
If you have arrived in the area via Dorking, or Leatherhead , you’ll also be perfectly placed for a ride up Box Hill. This has long been a favoured destination for cyclists, and there are a number ways to make your way up or down Box Hill . Tracks and lanes criss-cross the hill and you could spend hours just exploring the trails in the woods at the summit. You’ll find a National Trust cafe at the top offering the perfect place for a break and somewhere to take on some ‘fuel’ in the shape of tea and cake. The view here can only be described as stunning. The old Box Hill and Westhumble railway station also make for a great place to start any ride taking in Box Hill or the surrounding area. The station is ideal for a tour that takes in the trails running through Ranmore Common, Polesden Lacy , Norbury Park, Mickleham Downs, Headley Heath and of course Box Hill.
There are just so many cycle paths, tracks and routes packed into these few square miles of the Surrey countryside that it is impossible to even begin to list them all here. Fortunately, there are some excellent resources available to help you plan a route, or why not just take a good map and see where the track takes you? The great advantage of riding here is that you’ll always come out somewhere near a village or a town. You are not going to end up hopelessly lost on a windswept moor in fear of your life!
Accommodation in the Surrey Hills includes some local pubs that have Bed and Breakfast facilities. These can be an ideal way of integrating with the locals and getting some local knowledge for the next day’s ride. The Inn On the Green in Ockley near Dorking, Surrey is an ideal place to stay. It provides superb ensuite bed and breakfast accommodation with substantial continental breakfast. The Inn dates back to the 15th century. Probably the best known hotel in Dorking is the White Horse Hotel , a coaching Inn dating back to 1750. This 3 star hotel is complete with old oak beams, log fires and has 78 en suite rooms. Wotton House on the Guildford Road in Dorking offers ta taste of modern, luxurious accommodation in a stunning setting surrounded by original features. Wotton House has an extensive range of leisure facilities that include swimming pool, spa bath, tennis court and well equipped gymnasium. There’s even a beauty salon on site! If you prefer to self-cater on your stay then the contemporary spacious accommodation that’s on offer at the Hill View Apartments in Dorking may appeal. This low rise apartment building is set on a broad, tree-lined road with landscaped surroundings with private parking available. Denbies Wine Estate , on the London Road out of Dorking offers fantastic four star accommodation right in the heart of the hills.
Wherever you go in the Surrey Hills on your bike you’ll always be rewarded by tranquil beauty, fantastic local pubs and some astounding views. Be sure, though, to go properly prepared with the correct safety equipment and a well maintained bike. Don’t forget to take some water or energy drinks and some cereal bars or fruit to help you maintain your energy while riding up those steep climbs.
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