It is likely that for most people, London car hire is about finding a solution to the need to get around the capital on four wheels. But urban journeys are not the only thing you can do once you have the key in the ignition.

Many people whose focus is on life in a busy city and whose main source of peace and greenery comes through visiting one of London’s many parks (and wonderful parks they are too) might miss out on seeing the fine countryside that lies surprising close to the metropolis. You need not be one of them.

The first thing to note is that there are designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in the Home Counties and just beyond, offering some glorious scenery and lots of lovely fresh air.

If you head northwards, the Chilterns are you likely port of call, with their lofty chalk downs offering great views over the fields and meadows below and providing plenty of haunts for wildlife. It offers superb walking and horse riding opportunities and some fascinating historical elements like Grim’s Ditch. 

To the south are the beautiful, wooded Surrey Hills, which include Leith Hill, at 294 m (965 ft) the highest point in the south-east of England outside London. You can add a bit of extra height by climbing the 74 steps of the tower for an even better view.

Across the border, the upland south of the capital continues with the Kent Downs, which stretch all the way to the Channel Coast. These two AONBs host the North Downs Way, a national trail that offers a challenging but rewarding way to explore this area.

The south east of England also has two national parks just a little further out. The South Downs National Park stretches across from Hampshire to Sussex, with features ranging from Cissbury Ring, one of England’s largest ancient hillforts, to the spectacular Seven Sisters on the coast. The other is the New Forest, based entirely in Hampshire. 

All this goes to show that if you drive beyond London, there are some wonderful natural treats in store.


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