Find medieval monuments and green spaces right on the edge of London.
Suburban life meets rural pleasures in Surrey, the commuter county of choice for affluent Londoners. Crossed by a large section of the M25, Surrey may seem too close to the city for good campsites, but 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. Fringed by sloping woodlands and wildflower meadows, this is the place for country strolls and leisurely bike rides, followed by lunch at a gastropub. Add in family-friendly attractions and the Thursley National Nature Reserve, and camping in Surrey doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all. If you work in the city, you can finish work on a Friday and be stoking the campfire by sunset—it’s perfect for a weekend away. Spring through autumn is best for camping and caravanning, so time your arrival to see Surrey’s famous flower gardens in bloom or walk against a backdrop of fall foliage.
Royal parks, riverside pubs, and golf clubs pepper the banks of the River Thames, which flows through West London and North Surrey. Spot deer in Richmond or Windsor parks, visit Hampton Court Palace, or take a cruise along the river itself. Or, up the pace with a day out at the Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park theme parks.
Once you’ve explored Guildford’s medieval streets, head out into the Surrey Hills to walk, cycle, or horseback ride amid flower-filled meadows and forested valleys. This is where you’ll find some of Surrey’s most varied camping, from peaceful back-to-nature caravan parks surrounded by woodland to luxury glampsites with hilltop farm views. The AONB stretches from Farnham in the west to Oxted in the east, where Surrey meets Kent, and south to the greensand hills at Haslemere. Some of the most important and protected landscapes are the chalk grasslands, a great habitat for rare plants and insects.
Quiet rural towns and open countryside make eastern Surrey a safe bet for those looking to escape the crowds. Head to the Mole Valley, where you can visit the market towns of Dorking and Leatherhead, go wine tasting at a local vineyard, and enjoy easy access to the Surrey Hills.
Hampshire’s regal landscapes unfold west of Surrey, leading the way to England’s south coast. Stop at the market town of Winchester en route to the New Forest National Park, where herds of ponies roam freely through miles of native forest. Further south, there’s beachside camping at Milford-on-Sea, or you can hop on a ferry to the Isle of Wight.
South of Surrey, the vast landscapes of the South Downs National Park stretch all the way to the coast. Hikers have options from river valleys to coastal walks, but the most spectacular view is the white-chalk cliffs at the Seven Sisters. To the east, Brighton is one of England’s most popular seaside resorts with its pretty pebble beach, buzzing nightlife, and some fun choices for glampers.
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, as the ups and downs of the Surrey Hills can get the blood pumping pleasantly. The AONB is easily reached on a day trip—but camping gives you more time to explore its footpaths, cycling trails, and country lanes. Walkers can set out on 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 of camping nearby. Some sections are mountain-bike friendly, and, for road cyclists, well-pedalled trails can be found among the hills, too. In fact, this is the site of 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. Some fantastic riverside campsites are perfect for active camping holidays in this part of the county. Plus, the long-distance Greensand Way provides another great route for walking and running.
Plenty of stately Surrey homes and gardens are well worth a visit, but the real jewel in the crown is Hampton Court Palace, where you can explore King Henry VIII’s banqueting hall, the haunted gallery, the Tudor kitchens, and magnificent gardens. There’s also the 16th-century Loseley Park and the Edwardian Polesden Lacey. Anyone interested in gardening won’t want to miss RHS Wisley, while historians might want to visit Runnymede to see where the Magna Carta was signed. 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 Farnham site combines a bird park, farm, and underwater world with daily events like penguin feeding, falconry displays, and the chance to meet farmyard animals. For yet more thrills and spills, there’s Thorpe Park’s roller coasters 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 village, plenty of spots might tickle your fancy. Some of the best-known and most-loved towns include historic Farnham with its elegant Georgian buildings, the lively market town of Dorking, riverside Godalming, and Guildford, home to its iconic clock tower.
For less crowded options, Abinger Common is said to be England’s oldest village with some buildings dating back 7,000 years, while Cranleigh is the largest village in the area. Mickleham, Ripley, and Chobham are among the county’s prettiest, home to historic buildings and welcoming inns that are just the place for a hearty lunch after a bracing walk in the Surrey countryside.