The North Downs

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 The North Downs include the Surrey Hills AONB (seen here from Holmwood Common) and the Kent Downs AONB  (SuxxesPhoto/Shutterstock)

The North Downs include the Surrey Hills AONB (seen here from Holmwood Common) and the Kent Downs AONB (SuxxesPhoto/Shutterstock)

Looking for some Great British adventure inspiration? You're in the right place. Here you'll get an independent, ad-free lowdown on Britain's top 50 adventure locations - the online yin to the paper yang of our Joyously Busy Great British Adventure Map.

Why Go To The North Downs?

The North Downs, a range of hills spanning much of Surrey and Kent, provide one of London's closest escapes to the countryside. Just some of things you can do in the North Downs that you can't do anywhere else...

  • Enjoy some of the finest scenery on London's doorstep, courtesy of two AONBs - the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs
  • Walk one of Britain's great long-distance routes, the North Downs Way - 153 miles from Farnham, Surrey to the white cliffs of Dover (where in good weather you can see France, only 21 miles away)
  • Take in the views from the highest point in south-east England, Leith Hill (294m)
  • Witness some classically eccentric British events such as the Dorking Wife Carrying Races or the World Custard Pie Championships

Want to find out more? Read on for great photos, articles, videos, top tips and other content to fire up your adventure appetite. Got a question? Ask away.


Tell Me More

The South Downs may be better known, thanks to their national park status, but the South East's other major hill range is closer to London and encompasses two lovely AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, no less). The Surrey Hills, to the west, cover a quarter of the county, and include the highest point in south-east England, Leith Hill (294m). The Kent Downs, stretching from the Surrey border to the white cliffs of Dover, epitomise the Garden of England - orchards, hop gardens, oasts, cobnut platts and other things with funny names you might have to look up.

 An essential British journey: the North Downs Way  (Rich247/Shutterstock)

An essential British journey: the North Downs Way (Rich247/Shutterstock)

 Leith Hill tower in the Surrey Hills  (Becky Malacorda/Shutterstock)

Leith Hill tower in the Surrey Hills (Becky Malacorda/Shutterstock)

The essential journey in the North Downs is the surprisingly-named North Downs Way, a 153-mile walk taking you - rather scenically - from Farnham in Surrey, through the best bits of the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs all the way to the white cliffs of Dover. It goes via Betsom's Hill (Kent's highest point, at 251m) and, if you fancy the detour, Canterbury, just to the east of the Kent Downs.

 

A post shared by Eder Freitas (@ederfre) on

 

One thing they're absolutely mad for in the North Downs, particularly in the Surrey Hills, is mountain biking...

An uplifting ode to mountain biking in the Surrey Hills

Other forms of transport are also allowed...

Say cheese! It’s a promo video from the Kent tourist board.

Within the Kent Downs AONB there are also some great cliffs and beaches, including two stretches of heritage coast and mind-boggling wartime relics like this, at Abbots Cliff...

 

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Getting To The North Downs, Maps & Guides

Getting there: Pretty simple if you're already in the south-east (from London you can be there in around an hour).

Travel times from where you are: See the North Downs on Google Maps.

Maps: Find the right Ordnance Survey maps and / or get a month's free subscription to their excellent OS Maps app.

Guidebooks: Rough Guide to Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Walking route guidance: North Downs Way national trail.

Tourist board: no such thing, but there are visitor sites for the two main parts of the North Downs, the Surrey Hills AONB and Kent Downs AONB.


More North Downs Adventure Inspiration

The Kent Downs and Surrey Hills seem to be in competition. The Kent Downs have opted for quality, with their 40 Special Places. Not to be outdone, there are no less than 60 Places To See In The Surrey Hills. Kent have brought their A-game, however, in the form of an alluring sound effect.

The North Downs have featured a few times on the BBC's Ramblings podcast:

For busy urban microadventurers, this blog post from Anna McNuff will fire you up to make the most of your limited free time with a few good Kent and Surrey suggestions. For road cyclists, the London 2012 Olympic road cycling route on Box Hill is one of the South East's classic rides.

Which is all good and well, but to understand this part of England properly, it's worth seeking out the enjoyably eccentric events of the area, such as the Dorking Wife Carrying Races. As the organisers put it: "Wife carrying can be a dangerous activity, which can lead to any one or more of the following injuries: slipped disk, broken legs and arms, spinal damage, facial injury, skull fracture, hernias, and other sundry injuries and illnesses, and potentially including death. But please don't let this put you off."

There's also the World Custard Pie Championships in Coxheath... and the Oxted Pram Race.


What Next?

Click here to see 49 other Great British adventure locations and tell us about your adventures, plans and suggestions for these pages.


Britain's Best Outdoorsy Bits... Mapped!

Liking what you see, but fancy keeping it old school with an actual paper map? Our Joyously Busy Great British Adventure Map features all of Britain's best outdoorsy bits (including the Top 50), plus some enjoyably random and vaguely useful stuff too. Available either as a 2-sided fold-out map or a framed wall map (office furniture and fake plants not included).