Epping Forest, Essex
Distance: 10.2 km
Walking Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes
Once home to a royal hunting ground in Tudor times, Epping Forest straddles the border between London and Essex, with more than 6,000 acres of vast woodland and bursting with wildlife. There are several dog walking routes to follow, but one of the most scenic has to be the Oak Trail which starts at Theydon Bois underground station. From there, the signposted route is easy to follow and passes through beautiful surroundings, including fields, babblings brooks and a deer sanctuary. A great option whatever the weather, Epping Forest can be reached in just under an hour from central London.
Leith Hill, Dorking
Distance: 2-4 km
Walking Time: 1-2 Hours (depending on route)
Located in the picturesque town of Dorking in Surrey, Leith Hill has a great selection of dog walking routes for those looking to escape the city. With several trails to choose from, your four-legged friend will be spoilt for choice. The Woodland Trail, which takes around two hours to complete, looks particularly beautiful in the autumn – just be aware that it’s steep in parts, so it’s best to wear proper walking shoes. When the weather is good, make an afternoon of it and climb the 78 steps of Leith Hill Tower for a panoramic view before rewarding yourself (and your dog) with a refreshment at the nearby Tanhouse Farm Shop.
Chess Valley, Buckinghamshire
Distance: 4-10 km
Walking Time: 2-4 Hours (depending on route)
If you’re after a more challenging trail, head to the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire for the Chess Valley Walk. Just over an hour’s drive from London, the area is home to one of the most stunning vistas in the south east, making it the ideal choice during the summer. The main route follows the River Chess from Rickmansworth to Chesham and passes through stunning scenery and several charming villages. The walk is signposted throughout, so it’s easy to follow, but excitable dogs should be kept on their lead from the start as the river is fairly deep. The Chess Valley walk is also steeped in local history, so look out for 13th century ruins along the way, as well as local wildlife including water voles and dragonflies.
Ashridge Estate, Berkhamsted
Distance: 16 km
Walking Time: 4 Hours 30 Minutes
Ashridge Estate in the Hertfordshire town of Berkhamsted is bursting with dog walking routes. The National Trust area is renowned for its beautiful forest and variety of local wildlife, too. There are four marked walkways, all of which are easy to follow, though one of the best is the Foresters’ Walk. There, you can spot wild deer herds grazing in open fields, take in views of the famous Bridgewater Monument (a historic column), and walk along a famous tree-lined avenue knows as Prince’s Riding. If you fancy a longer outing, follow the Ashridge Estate circular route which takes around three and a half hours to complete.
Cliveden Estate, Berkshire
Distance: 3.7 km
Walking Time: 1 Hour
Just over an hour’s drive from London, Cliveden has some of the most beautiful views of the River Thames and the Berkshire countryside. The National Trust site, which is open for most of the year, is a lovely spot for dogs to explore the woodlands and stunning landscaped gardens. The main trail, which is clearly sign posted with green markers, begins at the woodland car park and passes Cliveden House, a stunning countryside viewpoint, and a section of distinctive tall Californian trees. The walk takes an hour to complete, with the leisurely route serving as a good option for families or those with young kids in tow. Make a day of it and stop at Cliveden House for afternoon tea, or explore the historical town of Marlow, just a short drive away.
Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
Distance: 3.25 km
Walking Time: 1 Hour
Once a deer hunting forest in Norman times, Ashdown Forest is now one of the largest green areas in the south east, with over 6,000 acres of land. The charming forest inspired the Hundred Acre Wood in AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books – so it’s no surprise the area attracts thousands of visitors each year. There a several walking routes suitable for dogs, but for a charming day out, follow the Pooh Walk which begins at Gills Lap car park and follows a circular route around Wrens Warren Valley. There, beautiful countryside views can be appreciated year-round, though the pine trees in the forest look particularly majestic during the autumn. There are several dog-friendly country pubs in the area too, so make a beeline for one once you’ve completed the walk.