By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
An artistic haven dotted with historical buildings, museums and grand homes, Surrey offers the ultimate culture fix on postcard-perfect backdrops.
Pretend to be the lady or the lord of the manor at one of Surrey’s many historical homes. The elegant Edwardian country house of Polesden Lacey is a great place to start, as it was known as ‘the’ place for lavish high-society parties in its heyday. The owner Mrs Greville threw posh social gatherings where people spilled out onto the famous lawns. Now, modern-day visitors enjoy picnics and house tours.
No building makes the most of its surroundings better than the National Trust’s Leith Hill Tower, near Dorking. The Gothic tower stands alone atop the highest point in the South East. Climb to the top of the spiral staircase for sensational views of the Surrey Hills and beyond, even as far as Big Ben on a clear day! Next stop is Leith Hill Place, the childhood home of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. You’ll walk in the footsteps of naturalist Charles Darwin, who conducted experiments in the grounds.
With its glorious walled rose garden and magnificent Great Hall, Loseley Park has remained remarkably unchanged since Sir William More laid the first stones in 1562. On a house tour, you’ll see domestic details of everyday life resting beside icons like George IV’s coronation chair. If you can’t get enough of stately residences, hop around for afternoon tea at historic house hotels, including Langshott Manor in Horley.
Museums and traditions
Surrey brims with historic treasures and you’ll travel back in time at the Rural Life Living Museum. A collection of relocated historic buildings join the Old Kiln Light Railway for passenger rides during weekends and school holidays. Discover the Granary, the Shepherds Hut and the Eashing Chapel while the kids run around the playground or across 10 acres of open space and woodland.
Racing fans head to the Brooklands Museum, the site of the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit. Discover what it’s like to speed around the famous track in a pre-war racing car at The Napier-Railton Race Experience. It’s a 4D theatre show where you’ll see, hear, feel and even smell the racing thrills. Then, check out the only Concorde with public access in South East England, along with giant racing cars.
Plenty of perks go along with a journey into Surrey’s gin, beer and wine production history. A distillery in the grounds of the Duke of Northumberland’s Albury Estate, Silent Pool takes its name from the mystical, spring-fed pool from which it draws water. Take a tour with gin tastings and fun historical facts and myths. If wine is your drink of choice, you’re spoilt for choice while meeting the producers of the region’s famous drops. Visit picturesque Chilworth Manor with a history that spans nearly 1,000 years, and stroll through beautiful vineyards before the tastings commence.
Churches & chapels
Surrey has a wealth of churches and chapels that display the unique history of the area. The first Cistercian abbey in England was Waverley Abbey in Farnham. Founded in 1128, you’ll see the ruins including the fine vaulted refectory. If you’re a fan of Bridget Jones, you might recognise Shere’s quaint St James Church from the film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
Dating from the 12th century, one of the county’s oldest village churches is St Nicolas at Wisley. The writer Lewis Carroll was a lay preacher at St Mary’s in Guildford, a church with a history that spans almost 800 years. Also in Guildford, Holy Trinity is one of Surrey’s only Georgian churches, whereas the more modern Guildford Cathedral is a 20th-century Grade 2-listen building. St Martin’s in Dorking boasts one of England’s tallest spires and St Giles in Ashtead still has Roman bricks in the walls. For a church with sweeping views, Chilworth’s St Martha’s rests atop the Surrey Hills.
History and heritage of Surrey
Top 10 things to do in Surrey
Gorgeous gardens and outdoor adventures in Surrey