Britain’s first ever public country park, Box Hill (224m) so commands the land around it that John Logie Baird rented a solitary house there and sent experimental radio waves down to a pub far below.


"I like this place very much,” noted poet John Keats during his stay by Box Hill – who are we to disagree? This National Trust site, named for the box trees on its flanks, has long been popular as a fresh-air escape. Even Jane Austen’s Emma day-tripped here.

Today the hilltop is popular with walkers for its ravishing views of the Weald. On a clear day, you can even see Devil’s Dyke, 25 miles away on the South Downs.

This circular walk takes in the choicest viewpoints and passes through woodland in which beech, box, yew and holly predominate, giving all-year-round colour. Come in summer and enjoy a wide range of butterflies too.

Aerial view of Box Hill
Box Hill sits on the North Downs ridge/Credit: Getty

Box Hill walk

1.9 miles / 3km | 1.5 hours | moderate | 144m ascent

1. Box Hill Fort

From the exit of the main National Trust car park, cross the road carefully and head right, almost immediately turning left at a bridleway fingerpost to pass Box Hill Fort. This was one of 13 forts proposed by the British government to defend the approaches to London in the event of invasion. The grand project began in 1899 but was abandoned just six years later.

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2. Major Peter Labillier's grave

At a fork, turn left to pass between two hurdles, then shortly afterwards take a sharp left at a T-junction to go uphill and into woods. On this path you’ll find the grave of local eccentric and mystic Major Peter Labilliere who was buried upside down at his own request (curiously, the gravestone gets both the spelling of his name and the month of his burial wrong).

Bear right at the next fork and continue on this path out of the woods and steadily down the open hillside, with your first views of the Weald to the south.

Where the path swings sharply right at the bottom of the field, carry straight on along a narrow track.

Box Hill and surrounding countryside
Traditional English field cows farm lovely sunny day Surrey England/Credit: Getty

3. Box Hill Road

Emerge onto Box Hill Road and turn left.

When the road ends at a driveway to a house, take the footpath on the right-hand side. This soon begins to arc steeply uphill through woodland.

4. Salomons Memorial

Just short of Zig Zag Road, turn left along the North Downs Way. This will convey you through a narrow band of trees parallel to the road.

You’ll eventually break out onto open grassland and drop down slightly to Salomons Memorial. This viewpoint was built in 1920 in memory of Leopold Salomons. The financier purchased 230 acres of Box Hill to stop developers from getting their hands on it, then donated it to the National Trust.

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5. Swiss Cottage

After taking in the stunning panorama, leave the North Downs Way and follow the path that leads up to the road, continuing alongside it past Swiss Cottage (the house John Logie Baird rented) on your left.
Very soon you’ll be at the National Trust Café opposite the car park where you began.

Box Hill map

Box Hill - OS Maps walking route

Box hill walking route and map

Useful information

Starting point

The National Trust main car park (KT20 7LB) is free to members (but otherwise you’ll have to pay). Alternatively, take the frequent 21 bus ( up from Dorking Deepdene railway station.


Box Hill’s chalky ground drains well, though some of the paths through the wood can become muddy after prolonged rain. The route contains a descent and ascent steep enough to get the pulse racing.

Eat and drink

There’s a National Trust café opposite the start/end of the walk and, in summer, an ice cream outlet too.


OS Explorer 146



Try Chart House, a b&b below Box Hill set in four acres of gardens and fields (on which alpacas graze).


Dixe Wills is the author of a shelf-wearying host of books about Britain including The Z-Z of Great Britain, Tiny Islands and Tiny Churches.