Mountain Biking on the North Downs

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31 Mar 2014
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.5cm

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This guidebook covers 21 routes across the North Downs, an area boasting some of south east England's finest trails. Included is a 59km MTB route on the Downs Link which joins the North Downs to the South Downs at Shoreham-by-Sea. Rides are graded for difficulty, and illustrated with OS map extracts and height profiles.

Seasons Seasons
the North Downs are excellent for mountain biking all year round, though from late autumn to late spring some trails can be extremely muddy and claggy; popular trails are much busier during summer, especially at weekends
Centres Centres
Guildford, Peaslake, Abinger, Dorking, Reigate, Redhill, Bearsted, Wrotham, Ightam, Chartham, Chilham, Ashford, Elham, Temple Ewell
Difficulty Difficulty
routes are intended for mountain bikers with some experience and a reasonable degree of fitness; routes are graded 'moderate', 'hard' and 'very hard' with 'difficult' or 'technical' sections indicated; the profusion of tree roots, jumps and flinty tracks make full-suspension bikes a serious consideration; body armour and full face helmets may be advisable for 'downhilling' enthusiasts
Must See Must See
excellent woodland singletrack in the Surrey Hills; numerous challenging climbs and exhilarating descents on the North Downs' steep southern escarpment; stimulating routes on chalk, sand and earth trails criss-crossing the beautiful rolling, wooded downland of Surrey and Kent; picturesque villages, great country pubs and fine countryside at every turn
31 Mar 2014
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.5cm
  • Overview

    The North Downs offer superb mountain biking all year round. Some of the finest off-road trails to be found anywhere in the country are available in abundance amid the green, rolling chalk and sandstone hills and along the steep, wooded escarpments that comprise some of England's loveliest countryside.

    Straddling two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs – the North Downs are criss-crossed by hundreds of kilometres of well-maintained byways and bridleways, which can be easily mixed and matched to create almost endless route combinations. The area's excellent trails cover sinuous woodland singletrack, punishing steep climbs, seemingly endless rattling descents and hugely enjoyable rollercoaster rides along the Downs' spine.

    The 20 circular routes in this guidebook are day, half-day and shorter mtb rides along the length and breadth of the Downs. It also features a 59km route on the long-distance Downs Link, which joins the North Downs to the South Downs and leads on to the coast at Shoreham-by-Sea. From Farnham in the west to Dover in the east, the North Downs terrain is a mixture of chalk and sandstone downland, which is generally well-drained and provides superlative conditions for much of the year.

    Divided into seven chapters – routes around Guildford, Dorking, Reigate and Redhill, Maidstone and the Medway Valley, Ashford, Canterbury and Elham and Temple Ewell – the circular routes range from 18.5km to 47.5km, and each provides data including distance, difficulty, time and off-road percentage. The sheer number and variety of the North Downs' excellent trails make it a playground for mountain bikers, who will never be short of options here.

    • 20 mountain bike routes right across the region, including two AONBs
    • the 59km Downs Link, which joins the North Downs to the South Downs and the coast at Shoreham-by-Sea
    • routes graded by distance, difficulty, time and how much they go off road
    • practical information on gear, preparation, safety and accommodation and bike shops in the area
  • Contents

    About the routes in this guide
    Getting there and getting around
    When to go
    Tools and maintenance
    Rights of way and other users
    Using this guide
    Routes around Guildford
    Route 1 Puttenham Common loop
    Route 2 St Martha’s Hill–Abinger loop
    Routes around Dorking
    Route 3 Hackhurst Downs–Polesden Lacey loop
    Route 4 Gomshall–Westhumble loop
    Route 5 Leith Hill and Holmbury Hill loop
    Route 6 Surrey Hills Grand Traverse
    Routes around Reigate and Redhill
    Route 7 Oxted and Bletchingley loop
    Route 8 Box Hill–Banstead Heath loop
    Route 9 Warlingham–Biggin Hill loop
    Routes around Maidstone and the Medway Valley
    Route 10 Oldbury Hill and Mereworth Woods
    Route 11 Meopham–Wrotham loop
    Route 12 Bearsted, Detling Hill and Blue Bell Hill
    Routes around Ashford
    Route 13 Bilsington and Faggs Wood loop
    Route 14 Wye Downs loop
    Routes around Canterbury
    Route 15 Chartham Downs loop
    Route 16 Chilham and King’s Wood loop
    Route 17 Rough Common–Blean Wood loop
    Routes around Elham and Temple Ewell
    Route 18 Elham Valley loop
    Route 19 Alkham–Barham Downs loop
    Route 20 Temple Ewell loop
    The Downs Link

    Appendix A: Camping and accommodation
    Appendix B: Bike shops/bike hire/bike mechanics
    Appendix C: Useful contacts

  • Maps

    Ordnance Survey provide map coverage of the North Downs in 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scales (see

    Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer series

    • 137 Ashford, Headcorn, Chilham & Wye
    • 138 Dover, Folkestone & Hythe
    • 145 Guildford & Farnham
    • 146 Dorking, Box Hill and Reigate
    • 147 Sevenoaks & Tonbridge
    • 148 Maidstone & The Medway Towns
    • 149 Sittingbourne & Faversham
    • 150 Canterbury & The Isle of Thanet

    Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger series

    • 178 Thames Estuary, Rochester & Southend-on-Sea
    • 179 Canterbury, East Kent, Dover & Margate
    • 186 Aldershot & Guildford, Camberley & Haslemere
    • 187 Dorking & Reigate, Crawley & Horsham
    • 188 Maidstone & The Weald of Kent
    • 189 Ashford & Romney Marsh, Rye & Folkestone

    Harvey Maps publish two lightweight, waterproof 1:40,000 single sheet maps showing the whole of the NDW: North Downs Way (East) and North Downs Way (West):

    Digital Ordnance Survey mapping of the region is available from sources including and

    The most up to date 1:50,000 scale Ordnance Survey mapping is used for the routes in this guidebook. At the time of going to press, the information on the maps included in this guide was accurate. A note of caution: the status of some rights of way may be changed over time. Most often – although not always – cyclists have been granted greater access rights with footpaths and other rights of way being ‘upgraded’ to permissive bridleways. Older copies of maps may contain information that is at odds with what is included here.

    Roughly half of the 250km NDW National Trail is currently off-limits to bikes. However, at the beginning of 2013 the NDW National Trail’s Steering Group commissioned a survey to assess which parts of the trail and nearby rights of way that are currently off-limits could be made accessible.

  • Updates
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    We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our contact form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).

  • Reviews

    The North Downs is a paradise for mountain bikers, with a vast area of bridleways and tracks. Many people use Garmins and the like for routefinding these days but this book offers so much more, with practical advice and extra information, as well as OS map extracts.

    Cycle, November 2015

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Peter Edwards

Since moving to Scotland from the south of England in 2006, Peter has developed a passion for the Hebrides and takes every available opportunity to get out among the islands. He lives in Glasgow with his wife, Fiona, and Dougal the Labrador. Peter also writes about his walking and cycling trips on his blog site at

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