Day 3. Exploring Guildford & Shere, Surrey

After another blissful night’s sleep we tucked into hearty breakfasts downstairs in the Percy Arm’s cosy restaurant.  As the inn has South African owners included on the menu are some interesting dishes.  My husband was tempted to sample the S.A. breakfast which comprised two fried eggs, bacon, Boerewors farmers sausage, polenta, chakalaka spicy bean relish and tomato.  When served it looked surprisingly similar to the traditional English version but with different flavours.  The dish got a big thumbs up and was said to be very flavoursome whilst my smashed  avocado and eggs were also up there with the best.

South African cooked breakfast at the Percy Arms, Chilworth
My husband’s South African cooked breakfast

After bidding our farewells to Alfred and the rest of the team at The Percy Arms we packed up the car and drove the short distance to the Artingtom Park & Ride on our way into Guildford (£2.30 return per person including unlimited stay parking).  A bus was just about to depart so we dashed across the car park and ten minutes later we were getting off in the town centre.

Tunsgate Arch, Guildford
Tunsgate Arch, Guildford

Guildford is the county town of Surrey, situated just 27 miles south west of London and less than an hour by train, making it a desirable place to live outside the city.  As we were unfamiliar with the town, we had arranged a walking tour with Steve, one of the Guildford Town Guides whom we met beneath the Tunsgate Arch midway along the cobbled high street.

Guildford Guildhall covered in scaffolding
Sadly the historic Guildhall was undergoing renovation

After welcoming us to Guildford, Steve began our walking tour by explaining that the Tunsgate Arch resplendent with Doric columns was built in 1818 as the entrance to the town’s Corn Exchange.  It takes its name as it stands on the site of one of Guildford’s former coaching inns called The Three Tuns.

Guildford Guildhall clock
Guildford Guildhall clock

Facing the arch is the Guildhall with its magnificent gold bracketed clock hanging over the high street.  The building has Tudor origins and was formerly a court room but is now the official office of the mayor and where official events take place.  Unfortunately we had arrived in town on the very morning that scaffolding was being erected ahead of renovations to the building, rendering my photos quite poor, but it couldn’t be helped.

Viiews over to Guildford Castle
Views across to Guildford Castle

Steve then led us up Tunsgate towards the castle where he pointed out that the Castle Square formed the boundary of the medieval town.  Credit must go the the council gardening department because even though we were visiting in mid-winter the Castle gardens still looked beautiful with their careful planting.  It was quite a dreary morning but we still enjoyed some good views over the old town below.

Guildford Castle
Guildford Castle

Moving on, we explored the exterior of the Great Tower (also known as the Castle Keep) which was built by Normans in the early 12th century on the site of an earlier wooden fortress.  Although the castle saw little or no military action it was utilised as the main Surrey and Sussex prison.  Restoration work took place in 2004 and it is now open to the public but was unfortunately closed at the time of our visit.

Alice Through The Looking Glass sculpture, Guildford Castle
The Alice Through The Looking Glass sculpture in the Castle grounds

Our attention was drawn to a sculpture of Alice Through The Looking Glass which was created in memory of the famous children’s author Lewis Carroll who lived nearby with his seven sisters at The Chestnuts until his death in 1898.  It was here that he wrote much of his world famous book.

Guildford Museum
Guildford Museum

Our walk continued through the castle arch onto the narrow Quarry Street lined with buildings of architectural interest.  Among them is Guildford Museum (free admission) which documents the town’s rich history.

The Undercroft, Guildford High Street
The Undercroft on Guildford’s High Street

From Quarry Street we looped back around to the high street and were led down some steps to The Undercroft.  This 13th century stone vaulted space hidden beneath the modern shops of today would once have been a medieval store where expensive clothes, silk and wine would have been sold.  It was pleasing to discover that it has been retained for future generations to enjoy and had we not been on a guided walk, we would surely have walked past without noticing it.

The Angel Inn, Guildford
The Angel Inn on Guildford’s High Street

Across the road from there stands The Angel Hotel (dating back to 1522) now Guildford’s only surviving coaching inn.  As Guildford was a convenient stopping point on coaching routes to the south coast, the town attracted up to 200 travellers each day.  The inn continues to be popular with today’s modern travellers.

Abbot's Hospital, Guildford
Abbot’s Hospital at the top of the High Street

At the top of the High Street stands the magnificent Abbot’s Hospital founded in 1619 by George Abbot when he was Archbishop of Canterbury, creating these almshouses for the benefit of elderly local people.  The hospital is opposite the Georgian Holy Trinity Church which needed to be re-built in 1761 after its original spire collapsed during alterations to the existing building.

Guildford Tourist Information Office
The attractive Guildford Tourist Information building

This concluded our Story of Guildford walking tour which I’d highly recommend as we were taken us to some hidden gems that we probably wouldn’t have come across had we just wandered around on our own.

River Wey and Godalming Navigation, Guildford
The River Wey and Godalming Navigation

After thanking Steve, our tour guide for showing us around he suggested that we head down to the river for a stroll, so we took his advice and crossed the river at Town Bridge over to Mill Mead.  The Wey Navigation dates from 1653 and was one of the first navigable river systems in England transporting cargo to and from London docks before the arrival of the railway.

Alice and the White Rabbit sculpture, Guildford
The Alice and the White Rabbit Sculpture by the riverside

A short distance along the river bank stands a second Alice in Wonderland sculpture, this one being Alice and the White Rabbit.  It depicts the opening moments from the children’s book when the white rabbit vanishes down a rabbit hole.

Mill Mead Lock, Guildford
Mill Mead Lock, Guildford

Our stroll continued as far as the Town Mill which for centuries was used for milling corn and pumping the water supply.  We then wandered back into the centre alongside Town Wharf where river barges used to unload their cargoes.  We rounded off our visit to the town with some shopping in the Friary Centre and a spot of lunch in one of the cosy inns.  Back at the Park and Ride bus stop we only had a few minutes to wait for a service to take us back to the car park making it a convenient and inexpensive way of visiting the town.

Characterful homes in Shere, Surrey
Characterful homes in the village of Shere

Before returning home we drove the short distance to Shere, a picturesque village located midway between Guildford and Dorking.  It’s a quintessential English village with its characterful buildings, narrow, winding streets, small shops, quaint pubs and cosy little tearooms.

TImber framed homes in Shere, Surrey
One of the many timber framed homes in the village

Readers may have come across Shere before without actually realising it as it is the village where the romantic comedy The Holiday (2006) starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet and Jude Law was filmed alongside a location in Southern California.  In the film, two girls from different countries swap homes to get away from their relationship issues and although the village was a real film location, the exterior of the idyllic cottage was actually constructed in a field near to the village church of St. James for the film set.

The Old Fire Station, Shere, Surrey
The Old Fire Station in Shere

We wandered around the village where almost all the buildings look like the lids of chocolate boxes or the feature of jigsaw puzzles with their idyllic timber frames and thatched roofs dating from between 1569 and 1620.  A prominent feature of the village is the Old Fire Station overlooking the village stream which was built in 1885 and today serves as public conveniences.

The William Bray pub in Shere, Surrey
Inside the William Bray pub in the village centre

As well as the Dabbling Duck cafe there are two lovely village pubs so we popped into The William Bray for a pot of tea and a slice of cake to set us up for the journey home.  The pub has a charming interior and glancing at the menu it would make an ideal place to stop for a meal whilst exploring the village.

Newland's Corner, near Guildford
The information board at Newland’s Corner

After driving for a matter of minutes we noticed a signpost to the Newlands Corner viewpoint so we pulled over to take a look.  This popular beauty spot lies just four miles east of Guildford and is the starting point for numerous walks across the Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  The viewpoint has ample free parking, a visitor centre (temporarily closed) and picnic benches.

Views across the Surrey Hills from Newland's Corner
Views across the Surrey Hills from Newland’s Corner

We didn’t have time to put on our walking boots but instead got out of the car to admire the spectacular views over the Surrey Hills and across the Weald ridge.  It’s an area of chalk downland where the crime writer Agatha Christie staged her disappearance from Newland’s Corner in 1926 but was found a few days later many miles away in Harrogate.  We weren’t intent on staging a disappearance but we did set off north bound heading home after an absolutely beautiful three days exploring the Surrey Hills.

We were guests of  Visit Surrey and The Percy Arms and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.

 

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Guildford, Surrey

 

40 thoughts on “Day 3. Exploring Guildford & Shere, Surrey

  1. I lived in Guildford for a while and I think partaking in a guided walk was an excellent way to experience the town. One of my favourite walks if from Mill Mead, alongside the Wey, to Godalming, stopping at Farncombe Boat House for homemade cake and coffee, before walking back. It’s a long but flat walk! I know Shere well but often drive round it, to avoid the tourists 😂

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    1. That walk along the river to Godalming and back would be a lovely thing to do sometime especially if it involved coffee and cakes! Thanks so much for taking an interest and I’m so pleased you enjoyed this mini series on the Surrey Hills. It’s a compliment indeed from a local resident!

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  2. England has so many quaint villages, there is always somewhere different to visit. Guildford looks interesting and Shere very pretty. There can’t be many places left for you to visit Marion 😊

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      1. Just another evening in London tomorrow night again! I was up in London last night to see Pretty Woman with some girlfriends at The Savoy and cocktails at The Waldorf!
        Flying back Tuesday 😁

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  3. Very quaint! From the South African-inspired breakfast of champions to the stoic Guildford Castle, you had quite the packed day sightseeing! I was especially impressed with the Through the Looking Glass sculpture, as the statue cuts through the glass itself and is being transported to another world…another great day out in town, it seems!

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  4. We do hilly landscapes so well in England and Surrey is yet another home to gorgeous rolling fields. Loved the Alice sculptures, anything Lewis Carrol related always brings a smile to my face. I also have a soft spot for The Holiday 😉

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  5. I love all the brick and timber framed homes in Shere. I actually watched the Holiday over Christmas and remember thinking of how idyllic that small town in the UK looked. The gardens at Guildford Castle also look stunning and immaculate.

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    1. Shere just looks like something out of a picture book, everywhere is so picturesque. I had no idea that The Holiday was filmed there until we visited but I loved the film too, it always seems to be on TV at Christmas. Guildford is a very attractive town and the gardens surrounding its castle are delightful. Thanks for reading Linda. It’s much appreciated.

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    1. Thanks for your interest in this series of posts. Surrey is a very pleasant place for a short break and I recall watching cycle races from the Olympics and other events up Box Hill. Hopefully I’ll get there too on a future trip. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated.

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  6. Great post and wonderful photos, Marion 🙂 Guildford looks like a lovely, prosperous town that has held onto its historic character. I love the castle with its manicured gardens, I can only imagine how pretty it must be during the summer when the flowers bloom in neatly kept flowerbeds. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our short break in Surrey was delightful Aiva and we enjoyed all the places we visited. Guildford is indeed a prosperous town with a well preserved historic heritage. I hadn’t realised before visiting its link with Lewis Carroll but thought its sculptures were really nice. Thanks for your interest and hope your week is progressing well.

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  7. Oh, yummy Boerewors – love it … I will have to remember The Percy Arms 😉.
    The Guildford Guildhall clock is so pretty and so is the garden at the castle. I agree that a walking tour is one of the best ways to explore a town/city. And what a lovely village is Shere (The Holiday is one of my favourite movies – specifically for those lovely scenes in the UK). Thank you Marion for taking me on a charming tour through Surrey – I’ve enjoyed it tremendously!

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    1. I’m so pleased to read that you enjoyed this series of posts Corna and how wonderful that the hotel was owned by South Africans who run the place admirably. We’ll have to get out to SA one of these days and try more of the local fare. Thanks so much for your interest and taking the time to comment. Marion

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  8. It looks a charming area Marion. I was raised in Old Guildford (NSW), which was originally called Guildford until the centre of town moved when the railway came through. There is also a Guildford in Western Australia. While the WA one is more historic, (the NSW one totally working class) it cannot hold a candle to yours for well maintained historic buildings.
    And co-incidentally, I just finished rereading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Bingo!

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    1. How interesting to learn that you were raised in a Guildford! This one in Surrey is a very attractive town with much historical interest. The Lewis Carroll link to the town is lovely and I wasn’t aware of it before visiting. Hope your week is going reasonably well despite the floods. Keep me informed about the golf course. Bill must be distraught.

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      1. The Guildford / Lewis Carroll link went over my head too!
        Bill insists he is not addicted to golf, and only plays so regularly because he lives next to the course. Claims he wouldn’t do it if he had to drive there. I refrained from pointing out that is what he used to do before we moved here.
        However! Today he was kept busy trying to clear water from ours and neighbours garages. They are in the basement, actually below water level, so they don’t have drains because there is nowhere for the water to go. In fact, it is seeping up through expansion joints and goodness knows where else.
        It didn’t rain today but more is on the way. I was required to take the train to Sydney today and it was a nightmare journey. At least double the usual 90 minute trip. At one stage we had to creep and crawl over a section of track that had emergency repairs made to where the rain washed the ballast away from under the sleepers.
        But all this inconvenience is nothing in comparison to those thousands who are suffering severe damage and evacuations. I feel so sorry for them.

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