How to Plan Awesome Day Hikes from London
Hereʼs how to plan a day hike from London without joining a sect, planning weeks ahead, or having completed a wilderness course. Living and working in London is exhausting stuff, and sometimes we need a bit of fresh air to revive us without the hassle of planning an overnight weekend break. Day hikes are just that! Hereʼs an easy and fail-safe way to plan your perfect day in the glorious outdoors.
1. THE MAGICAL WEBSITE
Yep, there's a dead easy trick to finding walk instructions that include everything you need to know before and during the hike. Go to the amazing Saturday Walker's Club (SWC) website. It has walks all over the (mostly) south of England mapped out for you that you can do without a car from London in a day, and itʼs totally free. The website includes PDF walk instructions that are precise and easy to follow, features a pub lunch stop (hello zero guilt burger) and even train times you get from London and back. A round of applause everyone.
Most walks are about 4–6 hours walking time. Youʼll usually get the train out of a central London station around 8–9am and after most walks youʼll be back in London, tired, muddy and rather smug, around 7pm.
A lot of walks have shortcuts and if youʼre not sure about how far you can or want to go itʼs worth choosing one with these options. All walks are checked regularly by the good people from the Saturday Walkers Club, who also organise cute weekly group walks which you can pop along to without signing up or giving advance notice.
2. CHOOSING YOUR WALK
First consider a couple of things you want to do or see on your walk. The key things you want to think about are:
1. How hard do you want your walk to be?
The SWC website has difficulty ratings from 1 to 10 and let me tell you they are BANG ON. A small hint from your humble author: do not attempt a 9 graded walk when you are hungover and/or have a dodgy knee. Equally, if you have four Hungarian Vizlas you walk 8 hours a day and can run a marathon pretty ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, a 2 might be a bit of a snooze for you. As a first walk Iʼd suggest going for a level 3-5 so you feel like youʼve done something but donʼt need professional help getting off the tube on Monday.
2. What kind of landscape do you want to be in?
From coastal walks along cliff edges to East Sussex rolling fields, forest paths or ridge walks, the British countryside within a 2-hour train ride from London seriously has a lot to offer. Visualize yourself standing on a field/ridge/tree stump/massive cliff with the wind blowing in your hair and whichever setting fills you with the most fuzzy feelings thatʼs the one to go for.
Once you have an idea what youʼre looking for go on the map section of the site. Click around the icons to find a walk that suits what you're after. It can help to look at the photos under each walk to give you a better idea, but generally DO NOT overthink it. Donʼt stress about finding the one with the best pub ever, or the most rectangular field: chances are youʼll be doing more of thesein the future so donʼt sweat the selection.
3. BEFORE YOU GO
You're almost there! Last but not least print off the Walk Instructions to check while you're walking. They're really detailed so it's pretty hard to get lost, but just in case I like to also download the route to my phone and use a GPS tracking app. I use maps.me for this and love it. As a final icing on the cake you might want to book your (usually open return) train tickets in advance to get the best deal. Now put on those boots and have an amazing time!