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Exploring the estate at Leith Hill

View of the steps to Leith Hill Tower surrounded by heather and trees
The steps to Leith Hill Tower | © National Trust Images/Gary Cosham

Go for a hike through parkland, stroll through the woods or sit peacefully with a picnic as you look out for wildlife. Leith Hill has been a place of leisure since the 19th century for good reason; with views reaching to the London skyline and the South Downs, you're so close to the hustle and bustle of the everyday, and yet miles from it at the same time.

Walking at Leith Hill

Escape to Leith Hill and explore the many footpaths and woodland walks on offer in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), perfect for short strolls and longer hikes. You can download a trail leaflet before you visit or pick one up from one of the car parks: there are four walking trails to help you get the most from your visit.

Bring a picnic

Picnicking around Leith Hill Tower has been popular since the 19th century when Victorian day-trippers would bring large spreads to enjoy on the slopes as they took in the sunny views. Follow in their footsteps and find one of the many benches around Leith Hill Tower, along the footpaths and in the Rhododendron Wood.

A male chaffinch singing in a tree at Leith Hill, Surrey
A male chaffinch singing, Leith Hill | © National Trust Images/Sam Bayley

Wildlife on Leith Hill

Leith Hill is home to a variety of wildlife and diverse habitats. No matter what time of year you're here, there's always plenty to see.

During the warmer months you can spot plenty of butterflies in the wooded glades, from commas to silver-washed fritillaries, purple emperors and white admirals. For the best chance of seeing these butterflies, visit Etherley Copse in the height of summer and keep an eye on the tree canopy.

Bird-spotting paradise

Wherever you are on Leith Hill, look out for birds of prey. Buzzards and red kites are often seen high in the sky. Goshawks are also thought to breed in the woods on the hill, but they are very secretive birds and spotting them is particularly difficult.

The heathland on Duke’s Warren Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is home to some very special wildlife; the open, scrubby habitat is perfect for ground-nesting birds such as the nightjar and woodlark. They arrive on the heath in April and normally leave in August once they have reared their young.

Hazel coppicing on Leith Hill

The woods around Leith Hill Place, which once formed part of the historic estate, are worked by a local hurdle maker. He uses hazel coppice to make unique and sustainable hazel hurdles. Managing the woodland in this way also creates homes for one of our rarest small mammals, the hazel dormouse.

A bench beside the flowers in bloom in the Rhododendron Wood, which was planted around 1900 to create an attractive vista from Leith Hill Place, Surrey
The Rhododendron Wood, which was planted around 1900 to create an attractive vista from Leith Hill Place | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The Rhododendron Wood

The Rhododendron Wood has far-reaching views across the Leith Hill estate and was planted around the 1850s whilst the Wedgwood family lived here. There are many meandering paths through the wood for you to explore.

As well as the many varieties of rhododendron, which bloom in May and June, many notable trees were also planted including a magnificent tulip tree in the parkland and several giant redwoods.

Rhododendron Wood audio guide

Artist Alison Carlier developed an audio guide to lead you through the Rhododendron Wood and to reflect on your surroundings and pause to mindfully examine your environment. The audio guide features music by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who grew up at Leith Hill Place. You can listen to the summer or the winter version of the guides.

Darwin's ‘worm stone’ at Leith Hill Place

Charles Darwin often used to visit his sister, Caroline Wedgwood, at Leith Hill Place. He noticed that that earth had started to bank up against the sides of a particular stone in the grounds, and that the stone itself had begun to sink into the earth.

He concluded that parts of the stone became buried by the action of earthworms excavating soil from beneath and depositing it above the surface. He also believed that this was the same way that ancient ruins eventually became buried in the ground.

Darwin’s ‘worm stone’ still sits within the grounds of Leith Hill Place today – you can find it next to a waymarker for the orange trail below the house.

Visitors at Leith Hill Tower, Surrey. Two people are sitting on a bench with their dog and two bikes.

Discover more at Leith Hill

Find out when Leith Hill is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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