Surrey Hills AONB

Dorking from the West, Surrey Hills AONB, England
Dorking from the West, Surrey Hills AONB ©

Surrey Hills – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in the county of Surrey in south east England. The area was first designated a AONB back in 1958, the area covers over just over 400 square kilometres and area offers an oasis of calm and tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding towns and cities. The Surrey Hills are well known for the landscapes, hills, woodlands, tranquillity, wildlife habitats and market towns.

The local population of approx 27,000 live in local villages and towns located across the AONB such as Peaslake, Mickleham and Chiddingfold, with a further 1.5 million people living within 6 miles of the AONB. The area covered under the AONB designation covers an area starting from close to Farnham in the west to Oxted in the east to Leatherhead in the north to Ockley in the south. The area is of national importance for nature conservation and includes of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI), Scheduled Ancient Monuments and National Nature Reserves.

The key features and special qualities of the Surrey Hills AONB include the rural landscapes, range of wildlife habitats and landscapes including chalk downs, grasslands and woodlands, cultural heritage and historical sites and settlements. The area is important for wildlife and habitats with a number of protected sites. The key features combined with the tranquillity and largely unspoilt nature of the site and open and extensive views makes the area special. The area is popular with visitors attracting in excess of 10 million visitors per year.

The main industries in the AONB include craft industries, farming, agriculture and tourism. The scenic area is a popular place for visitors and attracts visitors for day trips, short breaks, holidays and for a number of recreational activities. There are a number of scenic historic villages and towns located in the AONB, including Peaslake and Mickleham. Main settlements located close by include Leatherhead, Farnham, Godalming, Dorking, Reigate & Redhill.

The area is popular for outdoor activities wildlife watching, walking and cycling with a range of routes and trails to explore. Visitors can enjoy the tranquil environment, scenic hills and landscapes offering some of the finest natural beauty in England.

Quick Facts

Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1958

Population: 27,000 (approx)

Size in square kilometres: 419

Highest Elevation: Leith Hill (965 feet/294 metres)

Main Settlements close by: Guildford, Leatherhead, Farnham, Godalming, Dorking, Reigate & Redhill.

Located in: Surrey.


The Surrey Hills AONB is located along the county of Surrey in south east England. The AONB covers 25% of the county of Surrey and includes 40% woodland cover making it one of the most wooded AONBs in the UK. The location of the Surrey Hills in the south east of England provides visitors with a scenic haven away from the traffic and congestion of the built up south east, visitors can discover some splendid views, attractive market towns and enjoy the natural environment.

The AONB is known for the beauty of the hills that incorporate a range of landscapes including grasslands, heaths, commons, woodlands and more; each of which has its own landscape character. The AONB is located close to London and other population centres in southern England making it a very popular day trip and short breaks destination.

The AONB includes a number of settlements, the AONB area itself does not include any major towns or cities falling within the AONB boundary, local settlements include as Peaslake, Mickleham and Chiddingfold; visitors can discover a number of charming, historic market towns and villages.

The Surrey Hills AONB has a rich history and is one of the closest AONBs to London; the area is of national importance for its landscape, ecology and geology. Local towns located close to the AONB border Dorking, Reigate, Guildford and Reigate. The local towns provide convenient places from which visitors can tour the Surrey Hills AONB and surrounding areas in Surrey and southern England.

The Area of Outstanding Beauty area enjoys a similar level of protection given to National Parks meaning commercial development in the AONB area has been limited in order to help protect and maintain the special qualities of the area. The area offers plenty for visitors to enjoy, the proximity of the Surrey Hills and The Kent Downs means time permitting visitors could explore both in a trip to southern England.

The location in the south east of England means the AONB is easily assessable from across the south east and south west England, the Midlands, East of England and Wales. From Newcastle, Durham and much of north east England the area is 5.5 to 6.5 hours by car, from Leeds it is 4 hours by car, from Birmingham and much of the Midlands it is 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 30 minutes. From Liverpool and Manchester it is approx 4 hours to 4 hours 45 minutes.

From Cambridge and much of the East of England it is 2 to 3 hours by car. From South Wales it is 3 hours to 3 hours 45 minutes by. From London and much of southern England it is 1 hour to 2 hours 30 minutes drive by car.

Tourist Information Centres and information points are located at various locations close by to the Surrey Hills AONB. There are centres located in Guildford, Farnham, Dorking and Haslemere in Surrey close by to the Surrey Hills AONB. The tourist information centres can provide visitors with useful information, help, advice and tips on the AONB area and the surrounding areas.

Each of the tourist information centres has knowledgeable staff with valuable local knowledge with information on local attractions, places of interest, things to see and do, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres provides a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the local area. At the centres visitors can find out about local events, public transport options and accommodation facilities.

Local Accommodation includes a range of hotels including historic and contemporary, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, holiday homes and cottages. Local accommodation is available in Chiddingfold, Peaslake and Mickleham. Towns located in the area including Dorking, Leatherhead, Godalming and the county town of Guildford, provide good access to local facilities and accommodation from which to explore the AONB and the surrounding local areas in Surrey and southern England.

The Surrey Hills AONB is a place where visitors can explore beautiful landscapes with inspiring natural scenery and far reaching views where it is possible to get away from it all. There are a number of small dispersed settlements in the AONB, many of the towns and villages in the AONB have preserved their history, traditions and heritage and include a number of local attractions and places of interest.

Local Towns and Villages include Farnham located next to the AONB area, 11 miles to the west of Guildford in Surrey. The historic old English market town has plenty of charm and character with its narrow streets and Georgian architecture. The Georgian town has a rich history and there are buildings in the town dating back to the Stone Age, Roman and Saxon times.

Local attractions include Farnham Castle, dating back to the 12th century, the castle overlooks the town and was once the residence of the Bishops of Winchester. Farnham Museum is located inside an 18th century townhouse; showcasing the history and times of the town, the museum includes a number of displays, exhibitions, artefacts, artworks and costume collection. The town is still an active market town hosting an interest Farmers; Market on the forth Sunday of each month.

The town includes a number of shops and amenities, there are a number of local independent stores and boutiques along with well known high street names. There are a number of options for dining with a choice of English pubs, wine bars, cafes, bistros and restaurants serving a choice of international cuisines.

Guildford is a picturesque town located 11 miles to the west of Dorking in Surrey. The historic county town of Surrey dates back to Saxon times and is noted for its historic architecture and its historic cobbled streets and alleys, history and tradition have been well preserved. There are a choice of shops, amenities and local facilities including independent shops specialising in books, crafts and clothing along with a choice of well known high street names. Visitors can a range of options for food and drinks with a wide choice of pubs, bars bistros, cafes and restaurants catering for a wide variety of tastes.

Local attractions include the 11th century Guildford Castle, once used as a royal residence, visitors can go to the visitor platform on the roof to enjoy a stunning 360 degree view overlooking Guildford and the surrounding countryside. The castle includes gardens noted for their horticulture colour and character. The castle grounds are used for music concerts and open air theatre in the summer months, the scenic grounds provide visitors with a scenic place to enjoy a relaxing stroll. The castle includes a gift shop for gifts, souvenirs and mementos.

Guildford Museum is located at the old gatehouse of Guildford Castle; the museum is a local history and archaeology museum noted for its collections. The museum includes in excess of 75,000 objects that date from pre-history up to the present day. The collections inside are made up of the sections of art, archaeology, local history and needlework and the museum hosts a programme of constantly evolving temporary exhibitions. A visit to the museum provides a fascinating insight in to the rich local history of Guildford and Surrey.

The proximity to London and the nearby Surrey Hills along with a choice of local attractions, amenities and accommodation facilities and transport links makes Guildford a popular place for visitors to base themselves from when exploring the Surrey Hills and the surrounding areas.

Haslemere is located 15 miles south west of Guildford at the western edge of the AONB. The historic market town is located close by to both West Sussex and Hampshire; the town is noted for its tilehung and timbered cottages and houses. The town includes a rich array of shops including a number of independent stores, cafes, restaurants and local amenities.

Local attractions include Haslemere Educational Museum is house inside a historic building, here visitors can find a range of fascinating exhibitions, displays and artefacts covering geology, natural history and human history. The museum included artefacts and specimens from all over the world. There is an extensive reference library along with fine art and textile exhibits.

Haslemere Hall is a concert venue that plays a central role in local cultural life in the town. The hall hosts a number of shows, films, plays, opera productions, music concerts and theatre performances.

Dorking is located 13 miles to the east of Guildford in Surrey. A historic market town, Dorking is located next to the AONB and is surrounded by the scenic wooded Surrey Hills. The town includes a number of shops and is noted for its art and antique stores, there are a choice of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants offering a choice of eateries and cuisines. The town hosts the Leith Hill Music Festival in April for local choral societies; established for over 100 years, the competitive festival lasts for thee days.

Local attractions include Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre where visitors can learn more about the history and heritage of the town. Collections in the main galleries include the permanent exhibition space that looks at Dorking and the surrounding areas through history; the painting collection that includes an extensive and impressive collection of watercolours and oils. Whilst the temporary exhibition space hosts exhibits for a few months.

The close proximity of Dorking to both London and the surrounding Surrey Hills AONB and the local facilities, shops, amenities and accommodation facilities make Dorking a popular destination for visitors to base themselves from when exploring the area. The town is well located for exploring both Box Hill and Leith Hill in the Surrey Hills AONB.

Box Hill is located within the AONB area, it is 15 miles to the east of Guildford, a few miles from Dorking. Visitors can enjoy a free guided walk over Box Hill and learn more about the area, the area offers a number of breathtaking views of the Surrey Hills, there are plenty of plants and wildlife to stop too including the bee orchid and the Adonis blue butterfly.

The Box Hill Shop offers visitors a range of local products including books for children, hand crafts, sweets and truffles. The Box Hill Cafe is a place visitors can enjoy a choice of food and drinks including cream teas, scones, cakes and more.

Leith Hill is located within the heart of the Surrey Hills AONB, 12 miles east of Guildford. It is famous as being the highest point in south east England, the site is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is an important wildlife site. The tower is gothic in design and from the top visitors can see for miles around towards London in the north and towards the English Channel in the south. Historically Leith Hill has been popular since the Victorian era.

Things to see and do include being a great spot to enjoy picnics, Leith Hill Tower dates back to 1765, the tower is the highest point in south east England. Leith Hill Place; once the home of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and was regularly visited by Charles Darwin. Leith Hill Place offers some great views over not only the Surrey Hills but the Weald and further to the South Downs. Visitors can enjoy a number of walks in the area taking in the fine natural scenery and rich wildlife.

Polesden Lacey is a country manor located 11 miles to the east of Guildford. The historic Edwardian building is located in Great Bookham in Surrey and is under the care of the National Trust. Visitors can enjoy some splendid views over the Surrey Hills and the surrounding countryside. Located on a substantial estate of 1,400 acres, the historic house dates back to the early 20th century; guided tours of the house are available with highlights including the dining room, billiard room, tea room and picture corridor.

Visitors can enjoy a number of waymarked trails and walks through the woodland and the rolling hills. The gardens offer something new each season in winter visitors can see yellow aconites, whilst roses are visible in June, the gardens offer a fine place to enjoy a relaxing stroll in a scenic countryside setting. The Cafe offers a umber of dishes using seasonal and local ingredients, choices including snacks, light bites, salads, sandwiches and main meals. The gift shop is one of the largest in a National Trust property offering a choice of gifts, souvenirs, mementos, home accessories and more.

Walking offers visitors the most cost effective and environmentally friendly ways to discover the AONB and the surrounding areas, there are a number of popular walks in the area for visitors to try. The Surrey Hills AONB includes a choice of landscapes and terrain, offering shorter and longer walks for walkers of all abilities. The area includes some of the most scenic and assessable countryside in southern England; there is an extensive footpath network where visitors can explore the local market towns and villages up close.

Walks include the Chilworth Walk, a 5 mile walk, Churt Mills and Hills Walk is a 9 mile walk whilst the Horsley Jubilee Trail is a 9 mile circular walk primarily on public footpaths and bridleways.

Cycling provides both a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to explore the Surrey Hills AONB. There are a number of quiet country lanes, bridleways, tracks and more challenging terrain making the area suitable for cyclists of all abilities. There are a number of cycle routes in the area these include; the Box Hill Cycling Circuit, a scenic 12 mile road route. The Olympian Cycling Route is a 10 mile scenic road route and includes inspiring views from the summit of Box Hill.

Visitors to the Surrey Hills AONB in the south east of England will find a quiet, scenic coastal area that retains its historic character and charm. Visitors can explore a number of historic villages, market towns in and around the AONB. A visit to the Surrey Hills AONB offers visitors some of England's most scenic and assessable countryside whilst enjoying the natural environment and landscapes.

How to Get There

Surrey Hills AONB is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The county town of Surrey, Guildford is located close by to the AONB area; providing a convenient located from which to explore the area with a choice of accommodation, facilities and local amenities. Located approx 40 miles from central London. From London take the A4 then take the M4 motorway up to junction 4B. At junction 4B of the M4 take the exit for the M25(S) until 10. At Junction 10 of the M25 exit on to the A3 towards Guildford. From the A3 take the exit for Burpham/Merrow and continue along the London Road/A3100 that goes to Guildford. The approx journey time is 1 hours 15 minutes to 1 hours 45 minutes depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

From London Waterloo station there are regular services to Guildford train station. The journey time is approx 40 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes, depending on service, connections and time of day. There are also services from London Waterloo and London Victoria stations to Dorking train station in Surrey, the journey time is approx 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on service, connections and time of day. From Dorking there are bus services to the Surrey Hills AONB via the Surrey Hills Explorer Bus that offer the Rambling Bus tour an the Heritage tour taking in visitor attractions.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular coaches available from London Victoria Coach station to Guildford. The approx journey time is 55 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes depending on connections, time of day and traffic. Coach services to Guildford are provided by National Express

Contact Details

Surrey Hills AONB
Warren Farm Barns
Headley Lane

Telephone: +44 (0)1372 220653

Website: Surrey Hills AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: Surrey Hills (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Surrey Hills AONB in the south of England ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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