10 reasons to visit Guildford
PUBLISHED: 13:35 16 December 2015 | UPDATED: 13:44 16 December 2015
With its historic High Street, famous clock and views to the Surrey Hills, Guildford is a great place to visit at any time of year, but especially now when it is also festooned with twinkling Christmas lights
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2015
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Town centre, High Street GU1 3QT: 01483 452163 / experienceguildford.co.uk
The historic town centre has to be the place to start any visit to Guildford, with the famous Guildhall clock, dating back to 1683, jutting out over the cobbled High Street. Plus, with some 250 shops, it’s the perfect place for a bit of retail therapy (look out for Experience Guildford’s Little Book of Offers free with this issue). But, before you go mad with your credit card, do take a tour of our lovely county town, which even has its own castle ruin, by downloading the free app from Visit Guildford (go to handheldtours.co.uk and look for Guildford).
Guildford House Gallery, 155 High Street GU1 3AJ: 01483 444751 / guildford.gov.uk/guildfordhouse
Walk up the cobbles from the clock and, just a few yards away, you’ll find this delightful 17th century museum and gallery with the creakiest staircase in Surrey! With a varied programme of events and exhibitions, The Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition 2015 is in residence until Saturday January 2. Now in its 28th year, this prestigious show features the work of some 80 artists. Admission is free and the gallery is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4.45pm. For more cultural interest in Guildford this month, turn to our Art Life section on page 70.
Abbot’s Hospital, High Street GU1 3AJ: 01483 455591 / abbotshospital.org
Tucked away at the top of the High Street, Abbot’s Hospital is a bit of a hidden gem, with people walking past oblivious to the incredible Jacobean Grade I building just a few yards away. Founded in 1619 by former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, as a place of shelter for the elderly, it continues to this day to provide accommodation for 28 residents. Full tours start again next year in May, but be sure to take a peek inside the gates as you pass. Now, while you’re in the area, here is our little challenge… not far away is a small piece of history sitting quietly at the edge of the pavement: Guildford’s very own Boundary Stone, dating from the late 1700s, complete with descriptive plaque… but can you find it?
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Millbrook GU1 3UX: 01483 440000 / yvonne-arnaud.co.uk
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, this much-loved theatre hosts local and national touring productions, including drama, opera and ballet, as well as producing its own work. Talking of which, ‘tis the season to enjoy Jack and the Beanstalk, with Dillie Keane leading the way as The Good Fairy and Kit Hesketh-Harvey as the nasty Dastardly Dick (he’s behind you!). Kick-off is Friday December 4 and the show runs until Sunday January 3. If pantos aren’t your cup of tea, there’s always The Snow Queen in the Mill Studio. Presented by the Apollo Theatre Company, it runs from Saturday December 19 to Sunday December 27, so get your skates on…!
Britten’s Restaurant, 1C Sydenham Road GU1 3RT: 01483 302888 / brittensrestaurant.com
So you’re probably feeling a bit peckish by now? Well, just a short trot away from the High Street, Britten’s comes with the backing of a Surrey Life Food & Drink Award no less. Chef Daniel Britten and his crew took the trophy for Best Local Menu, with our esteemed judge, Professor Andrew Lockwood from the University of Surrey, praising the dishes for their “high culinary standard”. For this month, they have created a special Christmas menu – with three courses for just £34.50.
Guildford Institute, Ward Street GU1 4LH: 01483 562142 / guildford-institute.org.uk
Another easily-missed gem is this community hub tucked away in Ward Street. Housed in a beautiful Grade II listed building, dating from the late 1800s, they offer a range of courses, talks, music recitals, visits and more. There is also a great vegetarian restaurant called The Beano (tried and tasted by our lovely editor – review at surreylife.co.uk – so it must be good!) and a library that is like something out of Harry Potter (open Tuesday to Saturday for research and for members to borrow books). This month? Wednesday December 9 sees a talk on Christmas wines by a former chief inspector of The Met, Jeremy Blood, now owner of the Surrey Wine School.
Ben’s Collectors Records, 5 Tunsgate Road GU1 3QT: 01483 301165 / benscollectorsrecords.com
This little shop has to be the ‘grooviest’ independent in the town centre (sorry!). Found close to Guildford Castle, Ben’s is the first place to stop if you’re looking for that obscure record (vinyl, CD, whatever...) and with it you’ll also get a wealth of information and knowledge from the man himself. Working in record shops since 1984, Ben has built up a reputation among music fans and artists alike and still organises the monthly Guildford Record Fair in the nearby Guildhall.
The Boileroom, 13 Stoke Fields GU1 4LS: 01483 440022 / theboileroom.net
Sticking with the music and arts theme, a short toddle past the new Waitrose site in York Road will take you to this unique venue, which hosts live alternative music, arts and crafts and community events. A bar serving drinks and pies is just a tiny part of this place. Dedicated to helping creative start-ups in the area, The Boileroom also has three artists-in-residence showcasing their work – Esoteric Screenprinting, Poppy Porter (an abstract artist-jeweller) and Boileroom Tattoo, where you can have “I Love Surrey Life” carefully written across your chest (just joking, but if you do, please send us a photo…).
River Wey, Millmead GU2 4BE: walkthiswey.co.uk
Away from the town centre, a leisurely potter along the towpath of the Wey is a lovely way to relax. Our choice would be to start at the bottom of the High Street, crossing the town bridge and turning left by The White House pub. As you wander down Millmead, look out for Alice and The White Rabbit on your left – a sculpture by local artist Edwin Russell celebrating Lewis Carroll’s connections with Guildford. The path also takes you out along open meadows and, after a mile or so, you’ll reach St Catherine’s – the ruins of a 14th century chapel on the hill overlooking the river. Well worth the detour up to Ferry Lane to see it.
G Live, London Road GU1 2AA: 01483 369350 / glive.co.uk
Winner of the Entertainment Venue of the Year at the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2015, G Live offers music, theatre, comedy, films and events – and this month Father Christmas himself will be there to get the kids in the mood. Santa Claus and the Night Before Christmas starts the festive countdown on Wednesday December 9 and runs until Christmas Eve. Something for the grown-ups? Try the New Year’s Eve Ball with champagne, three-course dinner, live entertainment and – slightly worrying – a Survivors’ Breakfast, all for £65 per person.
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