When you think of camping in the UK, you probably don’t think of Surrey.
Tucked against London and crossed by a large section of the M25, Surrey seems too close to the city for good campsites. Yet a quarter of the county falls within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a long stretch of the North Downs Way National Trail crosses it. Add in sites like the Thursley National Nature Reserve and the range of grand houses and family-friendly attractions close by and suddenly camping in Surrey doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all. In fact, it’s a great one as there are some fantastic camping and glamping sites in Surrey - and all within easy reach of London.
If you only know a few facts about Surrey, it’s probably that it’s within a commutable distance of London, that it’s often prefixed by the word “leafy” and that it’s a rather pricey place. While some of these things might make it an unaffordable place to move to - they also make it a surprisingly good place to go camping. If you work in the city, you can finish work at 5pm on a Friday and be stoking the campfire by sunset; it’s perfect for a weekend away. And, if you’re from further afield, you could actually use the short distance into the capital to enjoy a city break with a difference - camping in “leafy” surrounds by night and city sightseeing by day.
A quarter of the county is designated as the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This chalky ridge of hills marks the start of the North Downs which wend their way to the white cliffs at Dover in the neighbouring county of Kent. They offer fantastic walking, mountain biking and stunning countryside views; all things which make camping here an attractive proposition regardless of proximity to London. There are some great attractions for days out on a camping holiday too - from the theme park rides of Thorpe Park to the beautiful gardens at RHS Wisley. With all this in mind we’ve sought out some of the best campsites in Surrey to help you find your perfect place to stay.
Are you a camper or a glamper? Some people are firmly in the camping clan preferring to be as self-sufficient as possible: skilled at pitching tents and lighting fires and well-versed in the art of survival. Others love the great outdoors but appreciate the home comforts that come with glamping. Here at Hipcamp we embrace camping in all its forms but we’ve noticed that some places do camping better than glamping, some do glamping better than camping and some are all-round stars offering a healthy mix of the two. If Surrey were to choose sides - we reckon it would be cheering for glamping all the way. This well-to-do home county seems to do a fine line in great glamping accommodation providing romantic boltholes and glamping getaways in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Look out for bell tents, yurts, tipis and safari tents if you want an experience that’s closer to camping or plump for a shepherd’s hut, treehouse or glamping pod for something more solid.
All this is not to suggest that Surrey ain’t a good place for classic camping though. That’s the beauty of back-to-basics, pitch-your-own camping; it can take you anywhere. The classic campsites of Surrey might just offer the cheapest way to stay close to the capital as well as one of the most enjoyable ways to escape it. Rural Surrey is a beautiful county of rolling countryside and chalky downs and camping puts you at the heart of it.
One of the 46 designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK, The Surrey Hills are recognised as a landscape that’s worth protecting. It was, in fact, the second place in the UK to be awarded the designation (the Gower peninsula in Wales was the first - in case you’re wondering). It’s made up of woodland, heathland and farmland with 40% of the land covered by woodland and 40% designated as agricultural. Some of the most important and protected landscapes within its bounds are the chalk grasslands on the hillsides which are a great habitat for rare plants and insects.
The designated area of outstanding natural beauty stretches from Farnham in the west to Oxted in the east where Surrey meets Kent and south to the greensand hills at Haslemere. It includes lots of well-known beauty spots and viewpoints including Leith Hill, the second highest point in south-east England, Box Hill and its nearby stepping stones and Newlands Corner. The hills are a popular place for walking, cycling, horseriding and scenic drives - by car and motorbike.
Surrey has long been known as the place for fresh air and activity close to London. It’s the perfect place to go walking or cycling and the ups and downs of the Surrey Hills can get the blood pumping pleasantly. You can easily reach the AONB on a day trip - but camping gives you more time to explore its footpaths, cycle trails and country lanes. Walkers can set out on the The North Downs Way from Farnham with a plan to conquer all 153 miles to Dover - or, if that sounds a bit much, just join it for some of the most scenic sections during a weekend’s camping nearby. Sections of the trail are mountain-bike friendly and, for road cyclists, there are well-pedalled trails among the hills too. In fact it’s the location for many competitive running and cycling events.
Further south in Surrey, another national trail provides a well-signposted route. The Thames Path which starts way out west in the Cotswold Hills and ends up at the Thames Barrier in Greenwich, passes through Surrey on the banks of the River Thames. There are some fantastic campsites along the river which make an active camping holiday in this part of the county a tempting proposition. As many of them are riverside, you’re not limited to land-based exploration either. The long-distance path,The Greensand Way, also provides a great route for walking and running in the county.
There are plenty of stately homes and gardens in Surrey that are well worth a visit - with the real jewel in the crown, Hampton Court Palace where you can explore King Henry VIII’s banqueting hall, the haunted gallery, Tudor kitchens and magnificent gardens. Then there’s 16th-century Loseley Park or the Edwardian Manor, Polesden Lacey. Anyone interested in gardening won’t want to miss RHS Wisley, historians might want to visit Runnymede to see where the Magna Carta was signed and wine lovers should take a trip to Denbies Wine Estate.
If that all sounds a bit grown up, don’t worry, there are child-friendly attractions in Surrey too. How about a trip to Bird World? This attraction in Farnham combines a bird park, farm attraction and underwater world. Daily events include penguin feeding, falconry displays and the chance to meet farmyard animals. For yet more thrills and spills, there’s Thorpe Park with rollercoasters and funfair rides for all ages. If you’re camping in the south of the county or in neighbouring Sussex, the British Wildlife Centre makes for a good day out too.
If you’re camping in Surrey and fancy a mooch around a town or a village, there are plenty of places that might tickle your fancy. Historic Farnham with its elegant Georgian buildings, the lively market town of Dorking, Guildford with its iconic clocktower and riverside Godalming are some of Surrey’s best-known and best-loved towns. But if you’ve come out to Surrey to avoid the crowds how about visiting a village instead? The county is home to some quintessentially English villages. Abinger Common is said to be England’s oldest with some buildings dating back 7,000 years, while Cranleigh is the largest. Mickleham, Ripley and Chobham are considered to be among the county’s prettiest villages - home to historic buildings and welcoming inns that are just the place for a hearty lunch after a bracing walk in the beautiful Surrey countryside.
Close to London, yet blissfully rural in its own unique way, Surrey is an idyllic camping destination. Discover the best campsites in Surrey with this expertly chosen collection of sites, including tent-only campsites, waterside campsites, woodland camping, campervan camping and even luxury glamping destinations. Looking for the perfect Surrey campsite? You’ve come to the right place.