You might think that Surrey, sitting just outside of London in South East England, is commuter-central. To a certain extent it is, but it’s also home to great beauty, incredible landscapes and plenty of exciting things to do. The shire county has an interesting history. Following 1066, William the Conqueror gave large parts of it to his closest friends, and Guildford has been a crucial trading hub since 1215, when it was an important part of the country’s horse-drawn stagecoach network. A mishmash of market towns, large country estate and wild countryside, it can be tricky to know what to do, but that's where we come in. Here at Plum Guide, we've put our expert heads together to curate the lutimate guide just for you, so you don't have to worry about a thing. Here is our list of the best places to visit in Surrey.
Guildford Castle and Gardens, Surrey | Photo by nick.garrod is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
It might be the obvious choice, but you really shouldn’t miss out on seeing Guildford (it has the added advantage of undoubtedly being the home of many of your friends and their parents, so you’re sure to bump into a familiar face while you’re there). One of our favourite things to do in Surrey is wander around this pretty town. With too much heritage to take in on one trip, you’ll have a great time whether you’re into shopping, history or culture. Grab a slice of cake in one of the many splendid cafes and settle in for the long haul.
The town rose in prominence because it’s centrally located between Portsmouth, the site of an important naval base, and the admiralty, based in Greenwich. People travelling between the two would stay the night in Guildford, and you can even see some of the inns where they would stay. The Angel Inn, built in the 1300s, is still a working pub. Head there for a pint and pretend you’re a swashbuckling naval officer on his way to fight pirates (yes, we know you have a boring office job, but you can dream).
This remarkable Grade II listed house can be found in East Clandon. Made of the kind of red brick that you fantasise about when you’re browsing online for dream homes, the 430 acres of land truly set it apart. It’s been a lot of things over the years, from a printing press to a finishing school for girls, and is now privately owned. Open four afternoons a week for tours, it's great for interiors inspiration and for simply marvelling at the wonderful architecture. On a sunny day, the red bricks glow as though they’re lit from the inside out.
The surrounding park and woodland is open all year round, and the house puts on special events in the summer months such as film showings on the lawn or even theatre performances. Bring a bottle of wine from the nearby Denbies Wine Estate, the largest vineyard in England, lie back on the warm grass and enjoy the very British ambiance.
Waverley Abbey, Surrey UK | Image © EnglishHeritage
You can’t compile a selection of places to visit in Surrey without having a classic market town on the list. Farnham is a particularly pretty example. It’s famous for its farmers market, held on the first Saturday of every month, when stallholders and artisans of all varieties assemble for the kind of gathering that will stock your pantry for months to come. Don’t say we didn’t warn you when you leave weighed down by artisanal cheeses.
Nearby Waverley Abbey, owned by British Heritage, was the first monastery founded in Britain by the Cistercian religious order and is very interesting to see. For those who have long fancied themselves to be outdoorsy types (we see you and we respect your commitment to wearing wellies for much of the year), head to the Rural Life Centre to learn about the last 150 years of Farnham’s history and rural industry. Your kids will absolutely love seeing the 1940s corrugated iron laundry shed they have on display - well, they’ll tolerate it if you bribe them with an ice cream afterwards. Maybe you’ll even inspire them to grow their own vegetables.
Farnham park, a medieval deer park, is a short walk from the town centre and provides unobstructed views of the town and the countryside beyond. If you look in the right direction, you could almost believe that times haven’t changed since then, so impressive is the landscape.
WWF Living Planet Centre
Living Planet Centre, WWF-UK Headquarters is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Animal lover? First of all, book a stay in a pet-friendly Plum Guide home. Second of all, hop on the train and visit the WWF Living Planet Centre. Any teenagers who have recently turned vegan (making the Ocado order into a nightmare, no doubt) will also love this option on our list of places to visit in Surrey. The home of the environmental charity WWF-UK, it’s an education and visitor centre designed to teach everyone about the earth’s different environments.
It’s a visually striking place to visit, with exhibits themed to oceans, forests and wildlife. Each topic is enlivened with a film, and even the building itself is ecologically designed. Your little rascals will love the treasure hunts and will learn facts about the environment while they search for treasure. It’s even free to visit, with donations encouraged - and of course, it’s a very good cause.