When you travel to London, most people think about museums, shopping, and pubs – not hiking. But Europe is a hiker’s paradise, and England has an abundance of nice spots to spend an enjoyable day walking in the woods, too.
Next time you’re in London, why not leave your London apartment, and head for the great outdoors? Here are three of the top places for hiking in or near London. Spend a day out on the trails at one of these lovely places, and you’ll be rejuvenated to hit the city sightseeing again.
Epping Forest is an ancient woodland on the northeast edge of Greater London. There are still traces of iron age settlements here, and in the 12th century, this was a royal forest of Henry III, reserved for his private hunting pleasures. In the 1800s, Queen Victoria graciously decided to dedicate this “to the use and enjoyment of my people for all time”.
Today, many folks do indeed enjoy the “People’s Forest”, exploring it on foot, bike, and horseback. There are woodlands and ponds, and you can see the Iron Age embankments too. There are numerous trail options you can take, ranging from a short, leisurely stroll to a challenging 15 mile trek on the Epping Forest Centenary Walk. As you hike, you can imagine the king’s royal hunting party riding through these very woods, centuries ago.
For information, see Epping Forest
Lee Valley Regional Park
London’s largest park, Lee Valley is 26 miles long and covers 10,000 acres. Within that area are rivers and lakes, expanses of meadows, countryside walks, historic sites, and nature reserves. Several of the venues from the 2012 London Olympics are located in this park. With lots of options and activities, this is a good place for a family outing.
There are numerous trail choices. For a country trail with plenty of charm, the Locks and Lakes loop is a 4 mile route along a river and towpath. If you’re looking for a longer trail, the Lakes of the Riverloop covers 7.5 miles, passing Seventy Acres Lake, and offering magnificent views.
One trail that combines a couple of unique experiences is the Monks and Meadows trail. Over the 5 mile route, you get to explore the Waltham Abbey Gardens (a historic site, and one of the largest Augustinian abbeys in the country), and a special habitat for dragonflies.
For information, see Lee Valley Regional Park
New Forest National Park
New Forest is a bit further away, but it’s an easy train trip from London’s Waterloo Station. This extensive park offers a unique landscape, with the largest lowland heath in Europe. You will also find ancient woods, rolling pastures, coastal marshes, and picturesque villages. It makes a lovely day trip from London, and a chance to escape the hubbub for a few hours of tranquility.
This was another royal hunting ground, created by William the Conqueror over 900 years ago. The areas where he chased after deer and wild boar are now open to the public for more peaceful pursuits.
For a leisurely day, you could do a 1-mile loop through the peaceful arboretum, followed by a picnic under magnificent oak trees. At the other end of the spectrum, 20 miles of the famous Solent Wayare in New Forest. This long distance walking route traverses the coast, passing shoreline, marshes, and yacht harbors.
For information, see New Forest National Park
Let your abilities and your mood guide you in selecting your hiking destination, along with the weather and seasons. One thing’s for sure – there are great hiking opportunities around London. After a day in the fresh air, you can get back to the museums feeling relaxed and renewed.
If your European vacation is going to take you to Italy or Poland, there are excellent hiking opportunities there, too. Depending on your itinerary, for lodging, you could consider an apartment in Krakow’s center, or a Rome apartment.