With miles of rolling hills, woodland, pretty waterways, picturesque villages and elegant towns, it’s no wonder that Surrey is considered one of the most desirable places to live in the country.
Surrey is made up of eleven districts and boroughs, each with its own identity and its own amazing attractions from lively shopping centres to sporting venues and historic houses. Indeed, Surrey is renowned for its golf courses – some of which are amongst the best in the world.
The county’s excellent transport links mean that living in Surrey has been described as ‘having one foot in London and the other in the country.’ The northernmost areas of Surrey, within the M25, are suburbs of the capital whilst its more southerly reaches offer pockets of seclusion. Regardless of the area of Surrey, there are good rail or road connections. Trains run to London Victoria and Waterloo and road links make it easy to travel to Gatwick or Heathrow airports.
A combination of the lowest crime rate and the highest life expectancy, along with some of the country’s most attractive towns and villages and with plenty of places walk, cycle, play golf, explore historic houses or relax over afternoon tea, Surrey is undoubtedly one of the best counties for retirees.
Leafy Surrey is England’s most wooded county with woodland covering 20% of the land. More than a quarter of the wooded areas are recorded as ancient woodland, rich in wildlife, flora and fauna.
The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty stretch across a quarter of the county, a specially protected landscape which extends from Farnham in the west, above Guildford, Dorking and Reigate, through to Oxted in the east. This area is accessible by train, car or public transport and there’s a fabulous network of footpaths, bridleways and cycle trails available to walkers, horse riders and cyclists who are able to enjoy breath-taking views and to visit picture-postcard towns and villages. The Inspiring Views Art Project offers visitors an opportunity to discover unique and beautiful artworks and sculptures within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
One of the best ways to explore is to use the long-distance Downs Link which follows the route of two disused railway lines and crosses the Surrey Hills, The Low Weald, the South Downs and the Coastal Plain. In Surrey, it links the North Downs Way at St Martha’s Hill with the South Downs Way near Steyning in West Sussex. ‘Easy Going On The Downs Link’ is a short walk of about one mile starting from the car park at the former Bramley Station.
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Surrey has a wealth of wonderful historic houses and beautiful gardens to visit. The following are just a few suggestions:
Image above: Polesden Lacey.
This is a great day out for anyone interested in motor racing or aviation.
Discover the stories of the legends of land and air, the men and women that raced, flew and built at Brooklands. The museum takes you back to the days of ‘innovation, determination and record-breaking'.
The museum has been created on the site of the world’s first purpose-built race track and you can relive the glamour of speed with interactive collections of motor vehicles. You can also discover supersonic flight with Concorde as well as getting close to aircraft designed, built and flown at Brooklands.
Visit the website here: www.brooklandsmuseum.com.
Once home to Henry VIII, the palace provides an opportunity to imagine life at the Tudor Court.
Events include festive fairs, lantern and light festivities, a winter ice-rink, carriage rides, Tudor cooking experiences, art galleries, exhibitions and more.
Visit the website here: www.hrp.org.uk.
This is a splendid National Trust property that houses the world’s largest collection of composer related keyboards.
Musical instruments from a variety of eras aren’t the only attractions – including artworks and 430 acres of parkland with woodland walks.
Visit the website here: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatchlands-park.
Whilst open to visitors, Loseley Park is still a living home and has been so for the More-Molyneux for over 500 years.
The current owners are the 15th generation of the family. There’s plenty to see with collections of art, ceramics and future including George IV’s Coronation Chair and panels carved for Henry VIII’s banqueting tents.
The gardens, including a Botanical Garden, Rose Garden, Walled Garden, Flower Garden and White Garden are spectacular.
Visit the website here: www.loseleypark.co.uk.
Painshill is an award-winning 18th century landscape garden in the heart of Cobham. Winding paths lead through spectacular gardens with beautiful views.
There’s a Serpentine Lake, woodland and follies including the Ruined Abbey, Gothic Temple and Turkish Tent. Painshill runs an annual programme of fantastic events including live music evenings in the summer and festive trails.
Visit the website here: www.painshill.co.uk.
Managed by the National Trust, Polesden Lacey is an Edwardian house and estate set on the North Downs.
The manor houses a collection of fine paintings, furniture, porcelain and silver and the 1500-acre estate includes a walled rose garden, lawns and ancient woodland. Measured walks allow you to choose a suitable length of walk – and the estate hosts outdoor theatre performances, walking groups and a whole range of exhibitions and events.
Visit the website here: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/polesden-lacey.
Set in the Surrey Hills, Watts Gallery is the UK’s only purpose-built art gallery created for the display of works by a single artist – in this case, the Victorian artist GF Watts (1817-1904).
The Gallery opened its doors to the public in 1904 and over 100 paintings and sculptures are on permanent display. Today, artists work onsite, the contemporary gallery sells artwork by local and national artists and the Watts Gallery runs an extensive events programme so you can improve your art skills, attend a lecture or meet an artist in residence – and don’t forget to stop at the café for afternoon tea.
Visit the website here: www.wattsgallery.org.uk.
Wisley is one of the world’s great gardens, packed with horticultural inspiration. As the historic home of the RHS, it houses one of the world’s largest plant collections and a whole series of garden delight through every season.
In spring, there are swathes of bulbs and blossom, in the summer, beautiful roses and mixed borders, in autumn, the beautiful colours are there to be enjoyed and in winter, take a ‘frost-sparkled’ walk. In addition to the garden, RHS Wisley hosts a whole range of events, talks, course and workshops.
Visit the website here: www.rhs.org.uk.
OK, we know it's technically not in Surrey, but Kew Gardens is easily accessed from Surrey's plentiful eastern towns, being only thirty minutes drive from Esher.
Another, not to be missed horticultural experience can be enjoyed here, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 50,000 living plants. The world-famous living plant collection includes plants from tropical, temperature, arid and alpine climates both in the gardens and within glasshouses and nurseries.
There’s an arboretum, rock gardens, conservatories and so much more. In addition to a well-stocked shop, there’s a wide variety of cafes and restaurants all of which source seasonal and local ingredients and include a good range of plant-based options.
Visit the website here: www.kew.org/kew-gardens.
We love so many Surrey towns.
There’s Guildford with its Yvonne Arnaud theatre and G-Live as well as great sports centres - Surrey Sports Park and Spectrum Leisure Centre. Kingston-Upon-Thames is a great place to shop or enjoy a night out at the theatre, cinema or in one of the many bars and restaurants. Richmond-upon-Thames is also a fabulous location – nothing nicer than sitting beside the river enjoying a cool drink on a hot day – or browsing round the stylish, independent boutiques.
Our list of favourites, however, includes a few that are occasionaly overlooked – all charming towns with plenty to offer.
The historic market town of Godalming is known for its excellent transport connections and for being ‘pleasing on the eye'.
The town, with its five conservation areas and 350 listed buildings, is surrounded by beautiful countryside which stretches beyond the water meadows on the banks of the River Wey.
London is just 30 miles from Godalming and there are excellent rail services.
The A3 Portsmouth to London road bypasses Godalming, providing easy links to both the Capital and the South Coast.
In Godalming, you’ll find a delightful blend of independent shops and High Street names including branches of both Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. It’s a pleasure to shop on the picturesque High Street, home to the landmark ‘Pepperpot’ building and family businesses as varied as Merlins The Jewellers and the Cornmeter hardware store – and there’s a branch of COOK.
Godalming is set in the midst of Surrey’s most scenic countryside – and these words, written over a century ago, are still relevant today. Climb up Hascombe Hill, the site of an ancient hillfort, and you’ll be rewarded with breath-taking, views over green meadows and wooded hills. If you’re feeling less energetic, visit Winkworth Arboretum, Loseley Park or Busbridge Lakes. The River Wey towpath links Weybridge with Godalming and the beautiful North Downs Way.
Films are shown at Godalming’s Borough Hall and Godalming Theatre Group stages three main productions a year at Charterhouse School’s Ben Travers Theatre. Many of the most successful West End productions are first performed at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. For the artistic, a visit, a talk or a workshop at Watts Gallery Artists’ Village, in Compton is a must. For a wide variety of events and live entertainment, G Live is located near the top of Guildford’s sloping High Street, approximately 5 miles from Godalming.
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Set in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, within easy reach of Gatwick Airport, Reigate is a thriving, affluent market town and a charming place to live.
The High Street is full of independent shops, pubs and restaurants as well as green spaces.
When you’re eating out, there’s a good mix of independent restaurants and quality chains such as Bill's, Giggling Squid and Côte Brasserie. For relaxed pub dining, there’s The Black Horse and, next to Reigate Heath, the Skimmington Castle.
Reigate is a great venue for retail therapy – and for those who are conscious about recycling the ‘Re.Work.It Boutique’ dress agency is a good choice – selling a mix of high end, high street and design clothing. Independents include Gerrards and Quattro Rish and there’s a good selection of High Street favourites including White Stuff, Mint Velvet, Crew and Whistles.
When you feel the need for fresh air and exercise, head to Priory Park in the middle of town or the National Trust’s Reigate Hill – a stretch of the North Downs with vast grasslands and quiet shady woods.
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Esher, within easy reach of London, the M25, Heathrow and Gatwick airports is an affluent and desirable place to live.
It’s got a great sense of community, elegant shops and stylish places to eat and drink.
There’s also a thriving cultural scene that includes a large number of heritage sites.
You’re spoilt for choice in Esher. There’s a whole range of excellent restaurants from the Italian menu at Café Piccolo to the Chinese cuisine at The Good Earth. Côte Brasserie is a popular chain restaurant – but there’s also Maru, the Panahar, Sherpa Kitchen, Siam Food Gallery and more. The Bear on The High Street is a popular pub serving good food.
Esher is a good centre for shopping with a selection of boutique shops sittings alongside butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers and florists – and there’s a branch of Waitrose. Find local womenswear in Rocco women and Muddy Awards Finalist Bernard Boutique, plus lifestyle store The Interior Edit. The Art Agency, a contemporary gallery, stocks exquisite modern pieces to view and purchase. Garson’s Farm is a short drive away and a day out for the whole family, with a ‘pick your own punnet’ and large farm shop.
Situated on the River Mole, Esher is surrounded by countryside but if you want to enjoy more formal landscapes, there’s Claremont Landscape Gardens on hand, Painshill Park in nearby Cobham and Hampton Court Palace and Gardens on the Thames at East Molesey.
Esher has its own cinema and a variety of events are on offer at Sandown Park throughout the year – including horse-racing, concerts and exhibitions. Nearby Kingston-upon-Thames offers a theatre, cinema and plenty of night life.
Take a look at Beechcroft’s beautiful retirement development in the heart of Surrey:
Set in secluded walled gardens close to the heart of Reigate, with everything this vibrant market town has to offer on the doorstep, Fonthill Place brings to life a grand Victorian residence and coach house, where timeless architectural elegance meets stunning contemporary interiors.
Space, light and luxury abound in this collection of 10 thoughtfully converted, beautifully proportioned two-bedroom, two-bedroom with study and four-bedroom apartments.
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