A summer picnic on the hill, a challenging hike, a chance to spot orchids and butterflies? With numerous different walks, beautiful countryside views and abundant wildlife, there’s something for everyone at Box Hill. Box Hill is located in the North Downs of Surrey, South East England, within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Brief History of Box Hill
There is historical evidence at Box Hill that dates back to the Stone and Bronze age including barrows (mounds), flint and remnants of the Harrow Way (an ancient track crossing the south of England). Roman coins and streets were also found in Box Hill’s vicinity.
Box Hill has been a popular leisure destination for the last few centuries partly due to its proximity to Epsom Spa. It was also featured in Jane Austen’s famous book, Emma, as a fabulous picnic spot. The arrival of the railway opened up access to Box Hill further and Londoners took advantage of a day trip in the fresh air.
Since 1914, Box Hill has been owned and managed by the National Trust who conserve the landscape and wildlife for thousands of year round visitors from all over the world. The famous Salomon’s Memorial, named after Mr. L. Salomon, who gave Box Hill to the National Trust, stands at the panoramic viewpoint at Box Hill’s summit.
Where Does the Name Box Hill Come From?
A vast woodland of box trees and shrubs can be found on the chalk slopes of Box Hill. They are an ancient slow growing evergreen tree but it is not known exactly when the box wood originated on Box Hill.
Some say it has been there since the 13th Century due to the names of the estate’s owners at the time whilst others say it was planted in the late 18th Century. However, the wood from the box trees has been used for timber in the past, especially for carving, until cheaper imports made them redundant.
Top 7 Walks to do in Box Hill
From just wandering carefree to a planned challenging hike, there are many enjoyable walks of varying lengths and difficulties in this stunning countryside. You can find the full trails and maps to the walks below on the National Trust website. The walks below are ordered in terms of how long they are in miles, from the shortest to the longest.
1. The Hilltop Stroll Walk at Box Hill
This is an easy half an hour walk circling the top of Box Hill. It is about a mile long and you will see 3 of Box Hill’s fascinating spots. Starting and ending at the Visitor Centre, you’ll pass:
- Salomon’s Memorial taking in the breathtaking view,
- Peter Labilliere’s grave stone who was an eccentric army Major in the 18th Century and wanted to be buried upside down as he thought the world was upside down and he wanted to be the right way round ‘up’ when he died and,
- Box Hill Fort, part of the London Defence Scheme built in the 1800s.
Picture of the Hilltop Stroll map from Box Hill
2. Box Hill Stepping Stones Walk
This is a fairly moderate two mile walk, taking roughly an hour and a half, going down to the River Mole and back up again from the Visitor Centre. Heading down 275 steps, through the Yew tree wood, you’ll start to see the River Mole and its iconic stepping stones.
This is the perfect place to stop and take in the tranquility by the riverside. You’ll then cross through Burford Meadow, passing Box Hill Fort and back up to the Visitor Centre.
Photo of Box Hill Stepping Stones and Riverside walk map
3. Box Hill’s Natural Play Trail
This is a really easy 2 mile walk on fairly level ground. It’s about an hour’s long walk but really depends how much you want to play on the way! Both adults and children will find this walk fun! Starting at the Visitor Centre, cross the road and the stepping stones to walk under the Natural Play Trail archway.
As you follow the path, you’ll come across lots of trees and different sized tree stumps to climb, places where you can make dens with long loose branches and plenty of ropes to climb and swing on. This is a circular path so just keep following it while taking time to explore the fun features along the way.
Photo of Box Hill Natural Play Trail map
4. Box Hill Happy Valley Circular Walk
This is a moderate walk of 2.7 miles, taking about 1 ½ hours to complete. Starting at the Shepherd’s Hut Visitor Centre, you will need to follow the red Box Hill Hike signs to Broadwood’s Tower. Once there, keep following the signs down to Happy Valley (or Juniper Bottom).
You’ll come across some steep steps as you climb up Happy Valley. Once you reach the top, go along the path to the Smith and Western restaurant, cross the road and head through the woods to Salomon’s memorial. You can then make your way back up to the Cafe and Visitor Centre.
5. Box Hill Butterfly Walk – Long Route
This is a hard 3 mile circular walk taking around 4 hours. Box Hill is one of the best places to see over 40 species of butterflies. Starting at the Old Fort servery and shop, go past the Learning Space and vehicle barrier on your left to head down a stony path in between grassy banks and woodland.
This is a great spot to potentially see speckled wood, marbled white, meadow brown and common blue butterflies. Follow the steps down through the Yew woodland and chalky grassy slopes. When you reach the bottom of the valley, you may be able to spot small blue and dark-green fritillary butterflies as well as red and black day-flying burnet moths.
Heading uphill, follow the track to the road, over some steps, whilst trying to spot dingy and silver-spotted skippers, common blue and marbled white butterflies. You may also see day-flying moths, the rare straw belle moth and chalk carpet moth, local to the box Hill area. If you’re lucky, in August and September, you may come across a clouded yellow butterfly.
The paddock heading towards The Tower is where you could find chalkhill blue, brown argus and silver-spotted skipper butterflies. As you come to the grassland of Juniper Bottom, before heading back to the cafe and car park, the glades here are the best area in Box Hill to see butterflies – dingy and grizzled skippers, dark-green and silver-washed fritillaries, white admirals, commas and even purple emperor.
6. Box Hill Juniper Top Circular Walk
This is a 2 hour, 4 mile walk with amazing views of the North and South Downs. It’s a fairly moderate walk so walking shoes are recommended. Starting at Salomon’s Memorial, looking out onto Dorking and Brockham, head down the steps on the left towards the woodland.
Follow the purple signs towards Juniper Top Trail. You’ll come across beautiful views of Leith Hill as well as lots of Yew trees and Holly and Ivy in the woods. If you do the walk in the springtime, you’ll see a blanket of bluebells as the woods open up. Keep following the purple markers until you reach the grassy Juniper Top. The view here is stunning so take a moment to soak it up.
You’ll also see three old grand houses – Norbury Park, Juniper Hall and Cherkley Court. Head down the hill and go through the gate to the left through Happy Valley. Keep an eye out for a variety of trees and shrubs – Yew, Juniper, Box, Holly, Hazel, Oak and Beech trees. At this point you’ll see the purple markers again so follow these back to Salomon’s Memorial and the car park and cafe.
7. The Box Hill Hike
This is a challenging 8 mile walk with steep steps, climbs and descents. The walk will take 4-6 hours and you’ll need sturdy walking shoes and supplies for the day.
Walking through the woods, you’ll reach Lodge Hill and then on to Broadwood’s Folly tower. As you come to Mickleham Down and Village, this could be a good place to take a rest in the village pub.
You then continue through the open grassland of Mickleham Gallops, through parts of Headley Heath and on to Box Hill Road. Following a few more paths through Dukes Meadow, you finally come back uphill to the Box Hill cafe and visitor centre.
Box Hill Opening Times
The Box Hill countryside is open from dawn to dusk every day.
Box Hill Cafe is open from Monday to Sunday, 9am – 4pm.
The Servery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am – 4pm and Saturday and Sunday 8am – 4pm.
Box Hill National Trust Shop and Discovery Zone is open from Monday to Sunday, 9am – 4pm.
Facilities at Box Hill
The Box Hill Cafe is a perfect place for a sit down and recharge after a good walk, or even before it to build up your energy. It serves hot lunches, salads and sandwiches as well as delicious sweet treats.
The Servery is a great stop for quick take away snacks. Choose from hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, soups, cakes and other sweet bites. There are also a number of picnic tables outside the Servery.
Whilst deciding what to eat in the cafe, enjoy browsing through the Box Hill National Trust shop selling a variety of products from jams and biscuits, to outdoor ranges and books.
You can also peak the interest of young children in the Box Hill Discovery Zone where they can learn about Box Hill’s different plant and wildlife species and habitats.
How to Get to Box Hill
Box Hill’s address is The Old Fort, Box Hill Road, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7LB.
Getting to Box Hill by Car
The postcode is not always found on all SatNavs so it is best to check it against Google Maps.
You can use the following GPS co ordinates for the car park – 51.24892093310184, -0.31218200092042453
Box Hill Car park map
Parking is free for National Trust members. For non-members, it is £1.50 per hour for the first 2 hours then £4 for upto 4 hours and £6 for 5 hours or more. You can pay using the PayByPhone app and it is recommended that you download this before arriving at Box Hill.
Getting to Box Hill by Bus
You can get the Metrobus 21 (Epsom, Leatherhead, Dorking, Crawley) to the Box Hill car park or the Arriva 465 (Kingston to Dorking) to the bottom of Box Hill and it is then a 1½ mile walk to the top.
Getting to Box Hill by Train
Box Hill and Westhumble train station is 1½ miles away from Box Hill which you can walk to via the ZigZag Road.
Box Hill is a fantastic day out for children and adults alike with so much to offer at any time of the year. I hope you have found this post useful giving you an in depth overview of the types of activities you can do there. Thanks and speak soon!