If you want to cycle the Surrey Hills, this ride gives you a good introduction. It’s largely within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and takes in some of the area’s most lovely roads and villages, including Ranmore Common Road, Peaslake, Shere, Coldharbour and Leith Hill.
The route takes you down quiet, ancient sunken lanes, past wildlife-filled hedgerows, gentilly fading Victorian walls, honey-coloured churches, and tile-hung houses with mossy green roofs and white framed windows. Best of all is the deep sense of history and peacefulness.
It’s not a flat route (Ranmore Common Road and Broomehall Road (up Leith Hill) are the biggest hills), but by Surrey Hills standards, it’s pretty easy-going!
Route map and profile
Distance: 49 km
Elevation Gain: 710 m
Max Grade: 11 %
All metrics in this guide are approximate
We love the quiet, sunken lanes and pretty woodland around Shere and Peaslake.
It’s also hard to forget the climb up Leith Hill and descent down Coldharbour Lane. More on both, below!
1. Dorking to Shere: 0-15 km
The first climb comes as you leave Dorking on Ranmore Road, that winds up through woodland with glimpses of views down over the pretty town and valley. You pop out into the sunshine at the top of Ranmore Common, with wide green verges on either side of you.
It’s then back into woodland for about 4 km of easy rollercoasting, until you reach a speedy descent down Crocknorth Road (take care on the gravel at the bottom).
A mellow climb up Green Dene is followed by a potentially cheek-rippling descent down Combe Lane (watch out on the first 90-degree hairpin).
Crossing the A24, it’s into the chocolate-box village of Shere. Thatched cottages sit next to white-washed Victorian villas. There’s a stream kids paddle in in summer, at least three pubs plus cafés and small shops should you need a break. It’s all very quaint (and busy in summer).
2. Shere to Ockley: 15-36.5 km
You’ll probably have seen quite a few other road cyclists by this point, particularly if it’s a weekend.
This is where you leave them behind.
You climb out of Shere and find yourselves on ancient, wooded lanes, many of them sunken with tree branches forming an arch above you. You pass green mossy banks and lichen covered fences.
There are a few more lumpy hills as you head up Hook Lane and Lawbrook Lane, but at Ewhurst, the hills dissipate.
From here it’s 14 km of flatter riding. Perhaps our favourite section in this part of the ride is along Weare Street. Though the road surface could be better, it’s a lovely quiet lane through wood, past a duck pond. It feels lost in time.
3. Ockley to Dorking: 36.5-48.5 km
In Ockley, you turn right onto busy Stane Street. Fortunately, it’s not for long; after 800 m you turn off left for your climb to the top of Leith Hill. It’s a winding country road that takes you passed a farm, tile clung houses and into the Leith Hill Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
You see the honey-coloured stone church, and you’re at the top. A bit further on is the charming village of Coldharbour, complete with its cricket pitch (the highest ground in the south of England), country pub and village store.
The last descent, down Coldharbour Lane and into Dorking, is one of the fastest and most beautiful of the ride. The lane is well known for being one of the prettiest sunken roads in the area. Overhead, the trees form a canopy while either side of you, the gnarly tree roots are visible at eye level and seem to be the only thing holding up the precipitous banks.
Once back in Dorking, it’s time to choose one of the many independent pubs or cafes for a post-ride coffee.
The ride starts and finishes in Dorking. Happily, Dorking is an ancient market town that is home to a good array of shops, pubs, restaurants and coffee shops. Particular favourites with the cycling crowd are Burgundy and Black (more for the ease with which you can park a bike than the food/drink offering) and The Dorking Deli (great food and drink but much less room to park a bike).
Dorking also has a good bike shop: Head for the Hills.
En route, your best options for refuelling are:
- 15.5 km: Shere village stores, pubs and cafés;
- 24 km: Ewhurst village stores;
- 36.5 km: Village Greens farm shop (great cakes!);
- 41 km: Coldharbour pub and village stores.
All the roads are likely to have more traffic on them during the week. This is particularly true of Ranmore Common Road and Green Dene; take care.
This ride is on small, country lanes. There are likely to be pot-holes, mud, gravel and debris on the road. Take care throughout and particularly:
- - on the sunken lanes which remain damp and covered in leaf debris for much of the year;
- - at the bottom of Crocknorth road (lots of gravel and pot-holes); and
- - on the first corner heading down Combe lane; it’s a 90-degree bend, and the road surface is not ideal.
If you’re going to rely on one of the village stores for refuelling, check their opening times before you set out.
Watch out for other road users. Even though the smaller lanes are often quiet, they are narrow. This is a busy part of the world; always expect a car around the next corner. It’s also common to come across horses on the road.
Read our tips for cycling on the Isle of Wight before you set out; many of the tips are relevant to the Surrey Hills too.
Found this guide useful?
(A sneak peak at three of the toughest hills)
cycling Box Hill, Leith Hill and friends