The Surrey Hills is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) with its hills stretching across a quarter of the county from the chalk North Downs running from Farnham in the west to Oxted in the east. We’d arranged accommodation at The Percy Arms in Chilworth, a village three miles south of Guildford. We’d read that the country inn served modern British cuisine with a South African twist so we were looking forward to sampling it.
Arrival and check-in:
There is a large car park to one side of the hotel close to the main entrance where we were greeted by a friendly member of staff as we stepped indoors. Without delay we were being led upstairs to our room on the first floor. The inn has just five rooms, each of them absolutely beautiful with their sumptuous decorations oozing colonial charm. This elegant country pub and grill-house has South African owners who have tastefully furnished the interior with a range artefacts collected from all over the country creating the style of a colonial hunting lodge.
The rooms are each named after one of the Big 5 game animals, ours being Ndlov (meaning elephant). Our beautifully appointed room featured a king size bed complimented with antique furniture, wool throws and large cushions. At the foot of the bed there was a decadent slipper bath plus a huge walk-in shower room near the door.
The two windows looked out onto the village centre and on a table next to them was a Nespresso maker and some shortbread biscuits, meaning that we had all we needed for a relaxing stay.
Dinner – The pub is attractively laid out with a stone flagged bar at one end and numerous cosy dining rooms each with a slightly different colonial style. In keeping with the South African theme there are antler chandeliers and upholstery featuring wild animals.
We’d reserved a table for dinner and over glasses of South African Shiraz we studied the menu which was very tempting with a combination of classic English dishes along with several South African specialities.
We both opted for these with me selecting bobotie whilst my husband opted for the strangely named lamb bunny chow. I savoured every last forkful of my bobotie with its subtle Malay spices and creamy egg based topping whilst across the table the lamb bunny chow hit the spot nicely with its distinctive hot chillies and spices.
Breakfast – Guests are asked to select their breakfast preferences before bedtime the previous evening along with a chosen time. Coming downstairs we were greeted by a friendly waiter who soon had our order ready. After a bowl of yoghurt and fruit I enjoyed my favourite smashed avocado and eggs on toast whilst my husband opted for the South African cooked breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, Boerewors farmers sausage, polenta, chakalaka spicy bean relish and tomato which he informed me was very flavoursome.
The hotel has a cosy lounge area reserved for hotel guests, a large bar lounge attractively divided into slightly different areas each featuring many South African artefacts that have been collected over time by the current owners. Outdoors there’s a large beer garden with a bar which must be a lovely place to sit and enjoy a drink and a bite to eat on warm summer evenings.
Out and About:
My suggestions of things to see and do.
Guildford is the county town of Surrey situated just 4 miles from Chilworth. Stand beneath the Tungate Arch midway along the cobbled high street before moving on to explore the Great Tower which was built by Normans in the early 12th century on the site of an earlier wooden fortress. Don’t miss the delightful Alice through the looking glass sculpture commemorating Lewis Carroll’s association with the town which is located in the gardens there. Then head down to the riverside where you’ll find another of these enchanting sculptures. The town has a wide selection of shops and is a lovely place to spend a few hours.
Greyfriars Vineyard, Puttenham located on the outskirts of Guildford on the sunny, gently sloping south facing slopes of the Hog’s Back. The Cellar Door wine shop is open year round whilst tours of the vineyard take place from April through to autumn. At other times visitors are welcome to collect laminated maps from the shop and follow a self-guided tour leading around the estate.
The picturesque town lies four miles from Guildford and stands on the banks of the River Wey. At the top of High Street stands the Pepper Pot, an unusual structure that has come to symbolise the town. Have a wander around the attractive shops and then head to the riverside park for a gentle stroll by the River Wey.
Wonersh – a quaint village with its delightful array of black and white Tudor houses along its narrow, winding main street. Many of these homes have special architectural and historic interest making it a picture-perfect quintessential English village to visit.
Shere – a picturesque village located midway between Guildford and Dorking with its characterful buildings, narrow winding streets, small shops, quaint pubs and cosy little tearooms. The village resembles the lid of a chocolate box with its timber framed houses with 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. You may recognise the village as Shere was one of the filming locations for the blockbuster film, The Holiday.
Newlands Corner – 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 and picnic benches.
The Silent Pool – a local beauty spot on the edge of the village of Albury located midway between Guildford and Dorking. From the car park, a footpath leads to the Sherborne Pond and continues on slightly further to the spring fed Silent Pool which is surrounded by trees. Legend has it that the pool is haunted as it has a long history of mysterious happenings. Whilst there, pop into the Silent Pool Distillery to browse its shop and to perhaps join one of their distillery tours.
The Percy Arms is an ideal base for touring the Surrey Hills lying close to the larger towns of Guildford and Godalming. We found the accommodation to be very comfortable with stylish designed rooms enhanced with South African touches. With just five rooms guests receive personal attention and are made to feel at home. The dining areas are beautifully furnished and coupled with first class cuisine the inn makes for a very pleasant stay.
Details: The Percy Arms, 75 Dorking Road, Chilworth, Surrey, GU4 8NP
We were guests of The Percy Arms and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.
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