For a historic town such as Guildford to have such a modern cathedral may come as a surprise. The magnificent place of worship heads up our favourite days out in the area. A few others include Guildford Castle, the National Trust’s beautiful Hatchlands Park and the wonderful culture trip that is the Watts Gallery. You can find out about them all here in our local guide, which should help fill the hours during your stay in Guildford.
Activities in Guildford
Overlooking the town centre, the imposing Guildford Cathedral is the instantly recognisable monolith of Guildford’s skyline. Modest critics have described its stark exterior as clean and undramatic, others celebrate its modernist qualities and the rest consider it rather ugly. Regardless of what you think it looks like from the outside, the cathedral’s interior is widely applauded. It’s subtle by design, enormous in space and quite overwhelming when you soak it all in. The cathedral’s construction in the 1950s was crowdfunded with a “buy a brick” scheme, which let locals contribute a signed brick to what would later be known as the People’s Cathedral.
The cathedral may be modern, but Guildford Castle goes way back. It was built in 1066, immediately following the Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror’s invasion of England. The castle survives in good condition for you to explore today. You can even make your way to the top of the castle tower to soak up its commanding views of Guildford and the castle grounds. The gardens are free to enter and are enormously popular on sunny summer days. While you’re here, be sure to snap a photo with the life-sized Alice in Wonderland statue, which stands as a memorial to Lewis Carroll.
In the summer months, the Guildford Shakespeare Company performs from the bandstand in the castle grounds. It’s well worth checking to see if one of their productions coincides with your stay in Guildford.
In the nearby village of Compton, just a 15-minute drive from our Guildford hotel, the Watts Gallery is an exceptional art gallery housing the work of George Frederic Watts. The master painter and sculptor was considered the Michelangelo of the Victorian era and one of the leading exponents of the Symbolist movement. G.F. Watts notedly influenced countless artists. Barack Obama has even cited the painter as an inspiration to him. With more than 100 paintings on show spanning some 70 years, the Watts Gallery is one of the few galleries in the UK devoted to a single artist. It’s truly fascinating for any art aficionado.
Next up, literally take a trip back in time with Steam Dreams. This immensely popular steam train company offers heritage railway day trips all around the UK aboard its beautifully preserved collection of steam locomotives. It means you can step aboard a Flying Scotsman and soak up some beautiful views of the countryside. In the summer months, we recommend booking a place on one of the dining tours of the Surrey Hills to really experience the lifestyle and luxuries of the bygone steam era.
Another hugely popular history trip is a visit to Hatchlands Park. It’s an enormous National Trust estate in nearby East Clandon. Spanning 430 acres of parkland, which was formerly owned by Chertsey Abbey and mentioned in the Domesday Book, it’s transformed over the centuries to centre on a stunning stately home. The house dates back to 1750 and was built for Admiral Edward Boscawen, a naval hero of the times. The magisterial interiors are the work of design-daddy-o Robert Adam. It’s also home to the Cobbe Collection of 42 historic keyboard instruments. It’s the largest collection of its kind in the world and features instruments owned by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin, not to mention a piano made by Sebastian Erard for Marie Antoinette.
Last but not least, if you just want to let your hair down, you can enjoy a visit to AirHop Guildford, the enormous trampoline park, which you can find on Middleton Industrial Estate. There’s a huge foam pit, dodgeball games and basketball hoops. The prices are reasonable; it’s a lot of fun and great exercise as well, perfect if you’re visiting Guildford with a young family.