With European holiday plans on hold, you might be at a loss for what to do this summer. But fear not – there are many exciting outings and weekend trips to be had right here in the heart of Surrey. An area surrounded by the natural beauty of the Surrey Hills, this charming county has more than its fair share of historic buildings, boutique shops and Michelin-starred restaurants. So, whether you’re after grand castle tours, scenic riverside picnics or cute café brunches, we have you covered with this list of local delights.
1. Wine Tasting and Treasure Hunting in Dorking
This historic village offers a range of unique shopping opportunities, impressive eateries and areas of historic architecture. Start your morning with a tea and homemade cake from Mullins, one of Surrey’s most renowned coffee shops. For a family day out, visit the stunning Polesden Lacey manor or wander through its breath-taking floral gardens. Alternatively, wine-lovers can take a tour of England’s largest vineyard, Denbies Wine Estate, which will let you sample up to 16 of its award-winning wines.
For your second day, head to the shops on West Street, a treasure trove famous for its antique vendors, including Talbot House. On Neighbouring streets, you can find exclusive womenswear at Aya Boutique and Victoria’s Little Bra Shop, paintings from talented local artists at Bourneside Gallery and delightful handmade gifts at the Lemon Tree.
When looking for a friendly lunch spot that will cater to all your dietary requirements, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than the buzzy Red Bar & Lounge. However, if a pint and classic pub grub is what you’re after, stop in at The Old House, an atmospheric, 14th century pub with an enviable ale selection. In the evenings, choose from a selection of first-rate restaurants. Sample the mouth-watering seasonal menu at Michelin-starred Sorrel or dine surrounded by the natural beauty of Box Hill at critically-acclaimed Emlyn restaurant.
Where to stay: The White Horse, situated in the centre of Dorking High Street, once housed Charles Dickens while he wrote the Pickwick Papers.
Alternatively: Wine aficionados will love a stay at Denbies Vineyard Hotel, where they can enjoy spectacular views of Box Hill and the North Downs.
2. Unwind with some retail therapy in Guildford
Calling all shopaholics: welcome to the luxury shopping capital of the UK. If you’re looking for the ultimate relaxing getaway, Guilford has you covered. Begin your day in Fresco DeliKafessen, a multi-award winning Greek cafe with outstanding pastries, coffees and vegan options. Sample their popular traditional cream pies, cheeses and the best coffee in Guildford.
Next, peruse the lavish window displays on Guildford’s famous cobbled High Street and wander into independent luxury stores like the Gate Boutique, or revisit classics like Jo Malone, Mappin & Webb and House of Fraser. If you’re a woman on a mission, you can also find 50 shops tucked inside the Friary Centre on North Street. After a long day of shopping, you may next want to treat yourself to a facial or massage at the Relaxation Rooms, conveniently located right in the town centre.
If you’re looking to spend more energy, take a daytrip to Guilford’s medieval castle and admire its stunning floral gardens. Alternatively, if art is more your scene, you can attend an exhibition at the historic Watts Gallery.
In terms of restaurants, you’ll be spoiled for choice. For authentic Southern Italian Food served in an intimate setting try local favourite Positano. You can also shake things up with Indian fine dining at the spectacularly well-reviewed Raviz. Otherwise, for pints, roasts and a less formal atmosphere, you’ll feel right at home at both the Grantley Arms and Red Lion Inn.
Where to stay: Located on the high street, Guildford Harbour Hotel is fitted with a luxury spa and fabulous seafood restaurant
3. Promenade like a Bridgerton in Cobham
Sometimes branded the Beverly Hills of England thanks to its popularity amongst celebrities, Cobham is one of the most stylish and aesthetically-pleasing villages to make this list. Its bustling highstreet boasts many cafes, restaurants and high-end retailers, while its stunning natural surroundings make it a particularly favourable destination.
You cannot visit Cobham without taking a trip to Painshill Park. Whether you’re after a romantic lakeside picnic for two, woodland adventures with the kids, or a visit to the Crystal Grotto, Painshill has something for everyone. You may recognise the iconic Five Arch Bridge, Ruined Abbey and Gothic Temple from television. The park has featured in episodes of Black Mirror, Good Omens, Vanity Fair and most recently Bridgerton.
Spend the second half of your stay browsing the village’s vibrant highstreet. Pop into local favourite The Wine Reserve, luxury beauty shop Space NK or boutique mother and baby store Jojo Maman Bebe. Alternatively, find designer labels sold for a fraction of their original price at clothing store Phoenix. Also worth a quick visit is Surrey’s only working water mill, which is situated just a few minutes away on the banks of the river Mole.
Most Cobham cafes are top-notch, but we suggest wandering into Carolina’s Coffee shop, where you can pick up a panini and expertly-made coffee. There are plenty of fabulous restaurants, the Ivy garden proving a hit with those hoping to dine in fantastic surroundings. However, if you’re looking for incredible food and a little less flash, several outstanding gastro pubs, including The Old Plough and The Bear, are located minutes from the high street.
Where to stay: Woodlands Park is a gorgeous hotel offering guests a truly luxurious experience.
4. Fall in love with nature in Farnham
With its many parks, meadows and forests, Farnham is the ideal destination for wildlife enthusiasts needing a break from the big city. Farnham Park is perfect for a family day out, featuring walking trails, an adventure playground and plenty of deer. Avid explorers and movie buffs alike will also enjoy a hike through Bourne Wood. Offering impressive views of surrounding pine forests, this iconic filming location has featured in Gladiator, Wonderwoman and several Harry Potter films.
Alternatively, those looking for a more relaxing way to enjoy Farnham’s natural beauty might fancy a picnic on the grass of Gostrey Meadow, which offers access to paddling in the River Wey. Families will also have fun finding dragons, polar bears and huge tarantulas in Farnham’s magical Sculpture Park.
Farnham’s town centre is a great place to browse. Visit the historic Elphicks department store or shop around the cobble-lined Lion and Lamb Yard, which houses several luxury stores including Colony Interiors, Blue Bear Bookshop, clothes retailer Orvis and familiar brands like Whistles.
Described as Surrey’s best kept Gastropub secret, dinner at the Donkey is a must. This cute little local favourite serves up fabulous Sunday Roasts and takes its name from Pip, their resident donkey. If you’re after an evening meal with a little more romance, however, you should try local Italian restaurant Caffé Piccolo, followed by dangerously drinkable cocktails at the Botanist.
Where to stay: Frensham Pond Hotel stands on the shores of the Great Pond and guests who don’t fancy a dip can indulge themselves with treatments at the hotel’s luxurious Elemis spa.
5. Holiday like a filmstar in Godalming
With its charming cobbled streets and enchanting greenery, it is no wonder filmmakers decided to shoot The Holiday starring Cameron Diaz in this quaint little town.
Spend your mornings taking scenic strolls around the gorgeous woodland at Winkworth Arboretum Along or along the river Wey, where you can hire out a narrow boat. We also recommend a trip to Godalming Museum, which features a charming local art gallery, garden and summer house. Alternatively, go for a picnic in the historic Phillips Memorial Park, which is named after the wireless operator on duty as the Titanic went down.
Godalming’s now-famous high street is full of enticing treats, including a range of delectable cheeses, wines and other mezze from independent delicatessen, Godalming Food Company. You can also support talented local artists at the Wey Gallery or pick up some unique handmade gifts from Wattle and Daub. For something a bit different, try out quirky coffee shop Cafe Mila, where you can enjoy exceptional coffee, plant-based cuisine and even join some yoga classes!
Strangely enough, two of Godalming’s most popular eateries are tapas fusion restaurants. Try Acorn restaurant for a fresh take on Spanish cuisine or check out Bada for some Korean-inspired tapas. There are many brilliant pubs to be found in Godalming, including The Star, a tavern from the 1800s with newly renovated gardens and frequent live folk music nights.
Where to stay: The Rose and Crown is a recent Muddy Stilettos Award-Winner
6. The Best Bargains and Bites to Eat in Ripley
The picturesque town of Ripley is home to many natural wonders, including the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley – one of the UK’s greatest gardens. The village also hosts an award-winning farmer’s market every month on the green, where visitors can sample some of the best locally-sourced food and drink Surrey has to offer. Ripley is similarly well-known for its Nut Hill Car Boot sale, where bargain-hungry shoppers can find some incredible deals.
The charming little highstreet hosts a number of cute cafes. Local favourite Nest offers visitors a range of delicious coffees and pastries whilst also selling exquisite antiques and handmade gifts. If you’re there for the weekend, we suggest tucking into a sandwich, cake and coffee under wooden beams for a cosy Sunday brunch at Pinnock’s coffee house. It might surprise you to know that Eric Clapton was born in Ripley and that an excellent music shop, Ripley Guitars, is a key feature of the highstreet. Also worth a mention is Jo Downs Handmade Glass, which offers a stunning assortment of unique artwork and household items.
Nature lovers will adore Ripley for its scenic riverside walks with fantastic views of the ruined Newark Priory and the narrow boats passing by. Even more enchanting are the beautiful gardens at Dunsborough Park, which are open to the public at various points in the year.
The real pride of Ripley, however, is its Michelin-starred restaurant The Clock House, where you can enjoy a seasonal menu of stylishly presented dishes. Of course, if you’re after great value food and more extensive menu options, you can instead try The Anchor, a gastropub recently awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand.
Where to stay: Everyone has great things to say about local upscale B&B Broadway Barn
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