Just to the south of London, Surrey is an attractive county of wooded hills and valleys. I headed there for a couple of days’ exploration during summer, when the longer, warmer days allow you to enjoy the many outdoor attractions in the area.
My first destination was one of the county’s best-known beauty spots, Box Hill, near Dorking. The steep climb from the car park was well worth the effort. It was a clear day, and from the summit, 224 metres above sea level, I could see right along the ridges of the North Downs, and across the flat Weald to the hills of the South Downs, many miles away in Sussex.
Once I’d seen the lie of the land, I descended Box Hill and drove the short distance to Denbies Wine Estate. One of the UK’s premier wine estates, Denbies produces nearly half a million bottles of red, white, rosé, and sparkling wine each year. I took a tour and learned a bit more about the manufacturing process, and got to sip a couple of varieties – I wasn’t disappointed.
Armed with a few bottles to take home I headed west through beautiful countryside to the town of Guildford. I had dinner at Positano, in the High Street – a lovely Italian with a great atmosphere. You’re spoilt for choice in affluent Guildford – there’s everything from pubs to Indian cuisine to seafood restaurants. There’s also a good range of hotels in Guildford. I spent the night at the comfortable three-star Mandolay Hotel, conveniently located in the centre of town.
Next morning I headed out to explore Guildford. Perhaps its best known landmark is Guildford Cathedral, which sits upon Stag Hill overlooking the town, and was built in the mid 20th Century. I also visited Guildford Castle, built shortly after the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Aside from its impressive keep, there are some beautiful gardens surrounding the castle. I also took a walk along the towpath of the River Wey, which is surrounded by some attractive houses and wharfs. Guildford has been described as one of the best shopping destinations in the UK, and I also spent some time looking round the High Street, Friary Centre and many other surrounding streets browsing the boutiques, big name stores and independent shops. I could have spent many more hours exploring this pleasant town, but it was time to move on.
I drove to the northwestern corner of Surrey, to Runnymede, which is not far from Windsor. This patch of land by the River Thames is where the Magna Carta – the Great Charter of the Liberties of England – was given the royal seal by King John in 1215. This document was the model for many countries’ legal systems. Runnymede has a monument to the Magna Carta, as well as memorials to the Commonwealth Air Forces and John F Kennedy – so there’s plenty to see, plus it’s a great place for a picnic and a stroll by the river.