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29 October 2014

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You are in: Southern Counties > Features > General Interest > Walking the Dog > The Devil's Punchbowl

The Devil's Punchbowl

The Devil's Punchbowl

The Devil's Punchbowl is a large hollow of dry sandy heath to the west of Hindhead. The hollow is overlooked by the 894 feet Gibbet Hill, the second highest hill in Surrey.

The Devil's Punchbowl Icons

TIME: 1 -2  hours

The nearest station is Haslemere 3 miles away. Take the Stagecoach bus, route 71, Haslemere to Aldershot.

There is limited wheelchair access to this site.

The pay and display car park and cafe are situated on the London Road, at Hindhead.

Take the path that veers off to the right of cafe, and head towards the first viewing point.  Take the left hand route and join the bridleway, keeping the fence to your left.
At the next path junction turn right onto the common, crossing over the cattle grid. 

Follow this path, past the second viewing point, turning right at the next junction and head towards the third viewing point at Highcombe Copse, where you will find a stone memorial.

Plaque at The Devil's Punchbowl

The memorial reads: "Highcombe Copse. This land was purchased for the National Trust from funds bequeathed by WA Robertson in memory of his brothers Norman Cairns Robertson Capt. 2nd Batt. Hampshire Regt. who died 20th June 1917 at Hanover Germany and of Lawrence Grant Robertson 2nd Lieut. 2nd Batt. King's Own Scottish Borderers who was killed in action in France during the battle of the Somme in or near Delville Wood 30th July 1916."

The memorial is one of eight, placed, at the request of a William Alexander Robertson who left a lot of money in his will to the National Trust to commemorate his brothers. The money he left, was to used to buy land or buildings of interest, within reach of London.

The areas bought include four in Surrey and William specified that at each site a memorial must be erected, specified as to size and form, stating its location and details of his brothers.

The Devil's Punchbowl

The path drops downhill here and you need to follow the right hand path, when the paths cross, into the ancient sunken lane into the woods.  You will pass the gorgeous Keeper’s Cottage which dates from the 1650's. Try not to let your pooch do what Alvie the BBC SCR hound did....hare round and round the cottage's garden before being caught by some very red faced owners! 

Continue along the bridleway which bears left downhill, passing the cottage and down to the stream. Cross at the footbridge and climb up the sandy wooded bank on the other site, going through the gate and back onto the common to your right.  

The Devil's Punchbowl

Follow the uphill path turning right at the next path junction, passing the bench, over the cattle grid and follow the path as it curves right and down into a second dell. 

As you re-emerge from the dell you will see a pond and Gnome Cottage c.1730 on your left.  Just before Highcombe Farm there is a turning to your right. Go through the gate towards the Youth Hostel Accomodation. At the next gates, take the right hand footpath and follow it down to the stream.

Cross the footbridge and climb up through the dell (you may need your wellies for this bit!).  Go through kissing gate (feel free to smooch your fellow walker, at this point) and turn left into Sailor’s Lane, named after the unfortunate fellow mentioned below.

The Devil's Punchbowl

Trot along the bridleway and through the next set of gates (smooching optional), following the path through another wooded dell, as it curves to the left. Continue ahead and through the next gate.

This is where you will wish you did this walk in reverse.... The path starts to climb
uphill in a rather cruel manner until you are practically on your knees and wishing you had volunteered to stay behind and wash up after Sunday lunch! 

Halfway along this lovely (grrrr) hill, you will spot the Devil’s Punch Bowl spring at the bottom of a dell. Only to be visited if you think you will make it back up the bank again....

At the top, stagger to your right, onto the main path, and make your way, gasping, through the gates, where you will find the first viewing point and a bench to collapse on, until you can feel your legs again.

Your dog, however, will almost certainly be prancing about as fresh as a daisy, and wondering why you are sitting down!

Logs at The Devil's Punchbowl
  • The Punchbowl has a long history and tradition. Legend has it that the devil spent his time tormenting the god Thor by pelting him with enormous handfuls of earth, leaving the great bowl that visitors can see today. In reality the large depression was created by erosion as water percolated down and hit an impervious layer of clay. A large number of small springs sprung up across the area as the water pressure built up.
  • Look out for the cobbled tracks in the Punchbowl which were given a hard surface in WW2 for bike and tank manoeuvres!
  •  Hidden away off the beaten track, behind a holly bush is a 400 year old Beech tree that temporarily halted work on the £371 million road tunnel, when it was discovered to bear a carving of a naked woman and an inscription which reads "G Wadham. Southall. 5/3/43". No-one can be quite sure who G Wadham was but Forestry Commission rangers had known about the tree for many years keeping it secret in case of an attack by vandals. The route of the road has been re-aligned slightly to skirt round the tree.  
Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

  • There is more than one memorial stone in the Punchbowl. One called the Sailor's Stone at Gibbet Hill reads: "Erected In deteftation of a barbarous Murder
    Committed here on an unknown Sailor On Sep. 24th 1786 By Edwd. Lonegon, Mick Cagy & Jas. Marshall Who were all taken the fame day And hung in Champs near this place Whofe theddeth Man's Blood by man thall his Blood be thed. Gen: Chap 9: Ver 6"
    The sailor had been trying to return to his ship in Portsmouth and was set upon by the three men after they had met him, at a nearby inn. They were caught, tried and hung in chains from a gibbet on the hill.
    The murder became so famous that Charles Dickens even wove the tale into the story of Nicholas Nickelby.


  • Another monument is the granite Celtic Iona cross, dated 1851, which is rumoured to have been erected to reassure travellers that the area was not awash with spirits and brigands and was a safe place to rest! The inscription reads : "After Darkness, Light, In Light, Hope, In Death, Peace, After Death, Safety". A sentiment, which somehow, doesn't seem terribly reassuring! 
  • Writers who have been inspired by the Devil's Punchbowl include poet laureate Lord Tennyson, who lived for a while in nearby Grayshott Hall, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who built a house called Undershaw, at Hindhead in the 1890's, and Sir George Bernard Shaw.
The Devil's Punchbowl Hotel


London Road, Hindhead, Near Guildford, Surrey GU26 6AG. Tel:  01428 606 565

You will never be as pleased to see a pub, as you will to see this one, after your walk!

Directly across the road from the Punchbowl pay and display car park, you can either leave your car where it is or drive across the road and use the hotel's parking, which is considerably smaller, and can be slightly tricky to manoeuvre in, when full.

WARNING: The A3 (London Road) is extremely busy and folk tend to drive very fast. Please take extra care when crossing to the hotel.

Welcomes well behaved dogs on leads. 

The bar is open from 11.00 to 23.00 daily and for food from 12.00 to 21.15pm
However, for those of you who want a full English before you set out, they are also open for breakfast form 07.00 to 09.00. 

In the 1800's, the area became popular as a health resort due to it's fresh air and open countryside. The building started life as the country residence of the Honourable Rollo Russell, meteorologist and whose father, was England’s first Liberal Prime minister, and nephew was Bertrand Russell.

In the 1890’s, the house, called Thorshill, was leased to a part time Minister of local congregational Church, the Reverend Alfred Kluht. He decided to open it as a private guesthouse, with the help of his wife, Eleanor, due to the demand for accommodation from folk seeking the restorative powers of the place.

It was run as such until 1949, when it became a hotel and has been so, ever since. 

PLEASE NOTE: The Devil's Punchbowl Cafe is not dog friendly but does serve hot and cold food as well as a children's menu. Toilets are to be found here too.

last updated: 27/03/2008 at 15:01
created: 26/03/2008

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Peter of the Web
I walk my dogs here every day, although if I'm not feeling too energetic I walk on the other side of the A3 - Hindhead Commo - that's an easier walk. But this is a beautiful and spectacular area. It's worth the effort

pauline pullman ,nee lockwood
I had a friend Dorothy in the early '50's whose father was the keeper of the Punchbowl. Happy memories.

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