The Surrey Hills are an Area of Outstanding National Beauty about 30 km south-west of central London. Cycling the Surrey Hills takes you along steep-banked country lanes, through ancient woodland, past pretty villages and well-kept pubs. It’s a top choice for London-based cyclists looking to escape the city.
One of the main towns in the Surrey Hills is historic Dorking, which calls itself the cycling capital of England. The area has had a long association with cycling: from the Dorking ironmonger who was one of the first British people to buy a velocipede ‘boneshaker’ in 1868, to the 2012 Olympic road race that sped through town and the annual Prudential Ride London 100.
The most famous climb in the area is Box Hill, which is just a couple of kilometres down the road from Dorking. Cycle Box Hill on a Sunday morning and it’s difficult to dispute Dorking’s cycle capital claim: you’ll find yourself surrounded by hundreds of lycra-clad roadies sipping tea and checking out each other’s carbon dream machines.
In some circles, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Box Hill was the only notable climb south of London. While cycling Box Hill is a good introduction to the Surrey Hills, it’s not difficult, and we prefer the quieter, lesser-known Surrey cycling routes. In an area as densely populated as the Surrey Hills, you can’t expect car-free roads - but pick the right route, and you can escape a lot of the southeast’s congestion and find yourself an epic ride. Check out our Road Rides section below for more!
Want to get cycling the surrey hills?
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan unforgettable Surrey bike rides: detailed information on the best road rides plus where to stay, when to visit and information on bike hire in Surrey too.
Read on and plan your next cycling adventure.
Surrey Hills CyclE routes
The Surrey Hills are our playground! We live here to ride the challenging climbs and country lanes. Within easy reach of London, the area is a mecca for road cyclists and mountain bikers alike. Whatever the time of year, it’s an oasis of woods, sweeping vistas and winding roads where you can escape the monotonous suburbia of London and clear your lungs and your mind.
As locals, we know the area like the back of our hand and we’re fussy about when and where we ride! Don’t get us wrong, we love Box Hill. We were desperately cheering on the Zig Zag Road as Mark Cavendish gradually slipped out of contention in the London 2012 Olympic road race. The views are stunning, the cake is good, but let’s be honest, it can get a little busy at weekends and variety is the spice of life!
Below you’ll find some of our favourite cycle rides in Surrey. They give a nod to the classic Surrey Hills climbs - the likes of Leith Hill, White Down and Ranmore. But we’ve also given you the connoisseur’s routes - the quieter roads and short sharp climbs of West Sussex and Kent, our favourite trip to the seaside over Ditchling Beacon and Devil’s Dyke, and other lesser known gems where you’ll see fewer cars and bikes.
We’ve chosen Dorking main train station as our base. Of course, many people ride out from London. If you want to maximise your time in the saddle or get the miles in your legs then absolutely, but we recommend hopping on the train or parking up and getting more smiles per mile.
Tough climbs of the Surrey Hills:
Box Hill, Leith Hill and friends
- Distance: 95km
- Elevation: 1,530m
- Epic rating:
Highlights of the Kent and East Sussex hills by bike
- Distance: 142km
- Elevation: 1,720m
- Epic rating:
Cycling the lost lanes of Surrey and Sussex: Lurgashall loop
- Distance: 121km
- Elevation: 1,290m
- Epic rating:
Country lanes of the Surrey Hills loop
- Distance: 49km
- Elevation: 710m
- Epic rating:
Ride to the beach:
cycling to Brighton
- Distance: 127km
- Elevation: 1,390m
- Epic rating:
Family cycle routes in the Surrey Hills
The best Surrey cycle routes for families are on off-road trails that aren’t suitable for road bikes.
The Downs Link is a disused railway cycle route that follows two old lines between St Martha’s Hill (in the Surrey Hills) and Shoreham-by-Sea. The best information on the Downs Link is found here.
If you need to hire bikes for the Downs Link, it would be worth checking out Southwater cycle hire at Bonnington Farm, Drungewick Lane, Loxwood, Billingshurst RH14 0RS, +44 (0)1403 701002.
Adventure trail, Box Hill
At the top of Box Hill, tucked away near the car park (the other side to the viewpoint), is a two-mile nature trail loop. Along the way, you will find logs to climb on and forts and camps to play in and build. It’s primarily a walking trail but our four-year-old son has enjoyed cycling the loop. Beware it gets very muddy after rain!
Click here for the National Trust’s leaflet on the play trail.
Alice holt forest, Farnham
About 50 minutes drive west of Dorking is Alice Holt Forest. It is perfect for children as there is an all ability cycle track and a three-mile family trail too. Cycle hire is available on site.
This section includes details of hotels and villas we have either stayed in or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a booking, we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy for further information.
If you want to cycle the Surrey Hills and need somewhere to stay, we’d suggest looking in and around Dorking. This will mean you’re well placed to ride the best routes the region has to offer.
As we live in the Surrey Hills, we haven’t stayed in any accommodation here. However, we have heard good reports about the places to stay listed below. We have also visited each of them for reasons ranging from using their sports facilities to afternoon tea.
The information below includes what hotels have told us about bike storage facilities. Please check that these policies haven’t changed when you book.
OUR CHOICE: De Vere Wotton House Hotel, Dorking
Wotton House is a four-star country house hotel about 10 minutes from Dorking train station. You approach the 17th Century mansion house down a sweeping driveway that takes you to the impressive redbrick, three-sided courtyard facade that is complete with turrets and gryphons. There are 13 acres of landscaped gardens that include two Roman temples and a walled garden. A 2017 refurbishment means the hotel’s 127 bedrooms and public areas have all been sympathetically restored and are on trend with soft colours and quirky touches.
What we love
- - There are some great outdoorsy features to this hotel: bicycles are available in season, there are cycling and walking maps in the bedrooms plus you can borrow wellies, umbrellas and walking sticks.
- - The sports facilities are good and include a gym, indoor pool, sauna, steam room and tennis courts. Even in its unrefurbished state (that comes in phase 2 of the refurbishment project), the pool is pleasant and very warm. Children are allowed in the pool during certain periods.
- - The gardens are beautiful and a wonderful place to relax.
- - There are four family rooms available.
- - The hotel confirmed they would be happy to securely store our bike for us.
Things to know
- - The hotel is a popular wedding venue, particularly at weekends. During the week there are often conferences.
- - Some of the rooms (including the new junior suites) are housed in the main mansion house; others are in the more modern extension.
As long as you’re happy with the fact you’re likely to be sharing the hotel with a conference or wedding party, this would be a great choice for a weekend cycling the lanes of the Surrey Hills.
Other hotels in/around Dorking
- - A four-star, listed 17th Century hotel at the foot of Box Hill. It has been refurbished with a palette of soft neutral colours spiced up by stronger blues and greys, button back detailing, stripes and tartans.
- - Extensive lawns at the back of the hotel with Box Hill towering above.
- - Lovely outdoor heated swimming pool.
- - Well-regarded restaurant.
- - Choose a room facing the gardens to ensure you aren’t disturbed by road noise.
- - Be aware that the Tithe Barn at the hotel is a popular wedding venue.
- - We were advised that we could either keep our bike in our room or a locked car park hut.
- - A four-star, Elizabethan (16th Century) hotel full of heavy oak doors, wooden panelling and small-paned windows.
- - The hotel is about 13 miles south-east of Dorking and about the same distance to Leith Hill. A good warm-up over flatter terrain until you hit the hills!
- - Rooms are modern and well-styled with luxurious wallpapers, heavy curtains and roll top baths.
- - Come in summer and play croquet on the lawn followed by afternoon tea at a pretty white table in the garden. In winter there are roaring log fires at enormous stone fireplaces.
- - We were advised that the hotel could lock our bike in their store room or garden shed.
The Surrey Hills are not a major tourist destination, and so there are a limited number of bike shops with bike hire in Dorking and the Surrey Hills. We’ve listed some options below, but we can’t vouch for them, as we haven’t used them for bike hire.
This information is offered as an indicative guide only: we periodically update it, but prices, services and bike brands may change. Please let us know if you find anything that is incorrect.
Bikes and Services
Dorking bike hire
Head for the Hills, Dorking
43 West Street, Dorking RH4 1BU
+44 1306 885007
Head for the Hills is our local bike shop in Dorking. We use them for all our bike servicing and repairs.
They don’t offer a formal bike hire service, but they do have some demo bikes you can take out for the day. If you call them, they may be willing to allow you to use a bike on this basis.
Reigate and Redhill bike hire
Maison du Vélo bike shop Reigate
31 Lesbourne Road, Reigate, RH2 7JS
+44 (0)1737 241 188
This two-shop chain (the other store is in the village of Cranleigh), offers Scott and Storck hire bikes.
They run shop rides and also Box Hill demo days; not exactly Box Hill cycle hire, but you can try out various road bikes and styles on Box Hill.
C and N Cycles bike shop Redhill
32 Station Rd, Redhill, Surrey, RH1 1PD
This long-established bike shop is about 15 km east of Dorking and offers a range of Trek and Cannondale road bikes for hire.
Box Hill Bike hire
There are several bike shops at Box Hill, but unfortunately, they don’t offer road bike hire:
2 Green Tiles, Box Hill Road, Box Hill KT20 7JE
+44 (0)1737 844576
This Surrey Hills bike shop is at the top of Box Hill in the heart of the village (it’s about 2.5km on from the National Trust coffee shop). They don’t hire bikes but offer bike servicing, fitting and sale of bikes and accessories. They also serve good coffee and cake.
The Old Booking Hall, Box Hill & Westhumble Station, Westhumble Street, Westhumble, RH5 6BT
+44 (0)1306 886958
Located at the foot of Box Hill, in the little hamlet of Westhumble, this quaint shop calls itself Surrey’s cycle touring specialist. It offers sales, servicing, repairs and a cafe. It also has a few hire bikes available though they are hybrids rather than road bikes.
Other bike shops in the Surrey Hills area
Surrey Hills cycle works
26-30 Church Street, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8DW
No bike hire, but they offer sales, bike fitting and servicing.
They also run an active bike club.
218 London Road, Guildford, Surrey, GU4 7JS
+44 (0)1483 302210
No bike hire, but they offer sales, bike fitting and maintenance.
They also have a branch in Petersfield, Hampshire.
- Given this is not a prime tourist destination, the number of suitable hire bikes is likely to be limited. Book your bike in advance, particularly in summer.
- Remember to bring your own pedals, shoes and helmet. This packing list may help!
- Check which way around your brakes are set before you ride away. The front brakes may be on the right hand (as is usual in the UK) or on the left (as is usual elsewhere in Europe). Also, take a look at our list of things to check before hiring a bike.
Undecided on whether to hire a bike or bring your own? Read this now.
WHEN TO GO
Whether you’re based near the Surrey Hills or are coming from further afield, bear in mind that a lot of sportives ride through the area. Generally, the roads remain open (the exception is the Prudential Ride London), so you won’t be prevented from riding if your trip coincides with an event. However, if you are looking for quiet roads, you might want to check this list of sportives in the area before visiting.
In terms of weather, it’s possible to ride in the Surrey Hills throughout the year, though it’s not the Mediterranean and you’re likely to encounter rain and, in Winter, possibly snow/ice. To enjoy Autumn and Winter riding, you’ll need to layer up and wear the right kit. In cold spells, during December to March, it’s wise to wait until mid-morning before setting off to make it more likely any icy patches on rural roads have melted.
Temperatures are in the low teens and rainfall is quite likely. In January and February, there may be snow.
Temperatures rise and rainfall reduces, though you could get rain at any time of year.
Autumn sets in and, while riding through Surrey’s wooded lanes can be beautiful at this time of year, it’s time to wrap up warm again and dig out the waterproof.
TIPS AND ARTICLES
This section includes details of products we have either used and liked or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy (which includes our Amazon Associates disclosure) for further information.
100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, A road cyclist’s guide to Britain’s hills by Simon Warren: this best-selling book includes Box Hill, Leith Hill and White Downs, all in the Surrey Hills very close to Dorking. The pocket-sized book gives a one page summary of each climb together with a photo, rating, start and finish map and basic fact file. You can find our full review of the book, here.
Alternatively, consider Warren’s Cycling Climbs of South-East England, a road cyclist’s guide, especially if you’re planning to spend any length of time cycling in Surrey and the south-east. This regional guide is in the same format as the all-Britain version. The content overlaps with the original, but this regional guide includes more options - for example, Box Hill, Leith Hill and White Downs are all found in both the original book and in this book, but this book also contains Barhatch Road and Coldharbour Lane.
Ordnance Survey Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate Map is the best map to buy if you like to have a physical map for route planning. It is at 1:25,000 scale and also comes with a digital version - best of both worlds!
Alternatively, if you want a map that covers a greater area, try Ordnance Survey Landranger 187 Dorking, Reigate & Crawley Map at 1:50,000 scale. It also comes with a digital version.
Good to know
De Vere Wotton House have produced this rather good little guide of things to do in Dorking (and surrounds). It’s a useful starting point for anyone visiting with a cyclist/a cyclist trying to work out what to do when you’re not cycling.
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(A sneak peak at three of the toughest hills)
cycling Box Hill, Leith Hill and friends