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10 great Surrey staycation ideas for English Tourism Week 2015

PUBLISHED: 09:07 16 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:28 16 March 2015

Walker in the vines at Denbies (Photo: Andy Newbold)

Walker in the vines at Denbies (Photo: Andy Newbold)

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A national showcase celebrating the country’s tourism, English Tourism Week runs from Saturday March 14 to Sunday March 22. To mark the occasion, here we pick out just a few of the great things to explore right on our doorstep...

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2015

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Head for the hills – in retro style…

Explore the stunning Surrey Hills with a twist – set off in a hired camper van! A family business in Guildford, Retrocampervan has a collection of nine fabulous Classic and Modern VW Camper Vans available to rent. For an unusual weekend break, get behind the wheel of a motoring icon and enjoy an adventure in retro style. All campers sleep four, with full self-catering facilities – but you won’t be able to resist stopping at some of the traditional English pubs you will find along the way (follow the links for our pick of the bunch, whether you're looking for cosy or sun-drenched!). Prices start from £300 for a long weekend.

• Guildford: retrocampervan.com

 

A day at the races…

Racegoers at Kempton Park can now see a statue of the legendary Kauto Star, commissioned by his owner Clive Smith and created by equine sculptor and painter Charlie Langton, when they visit the Sunbury-on-Thames racecourse. The top quality jumping of the BetdaqSilver Cups day on Saturday March 14 should prove the perfect opportunity to get a “selfie” with it. Prices start from £12 per person when booked in advance, with the gates opening at 12.50pm and the first race kicking off at 2.20pm.

• Kempton Park Racecourse, Staines Road East, Sunbury-on-Thames TW16 5AQ: thejockeyclub.co.uk

 

Join the grapevine…

England’s largest single estate vineyard, Denbies Wine Estate is situated on the outskirts of Dorking in the heart of the Surrey Hills. Planted in 1986, with 265 acres of vines, it commands an impressive location at the foot of Box Hill. Approaching the expansive estate, one could really be anywhere in the world with acres and acres of vineyard rolling into the distant hills – a captivating sight in the middle of Surrey! Denbies is open daily to the public and as well as the chateau-style winery’s two restaurants, wine and gift shop and art gallery, there is also the Surrey Hills Brewery and Village Greens Farm Shop on site. There are daily indoor wine tasting and outdoor vineyard tours too.

• Denbies Wine Estate, London Road, Dorking RH5 6AA: denbies.co.uk

 

A need for speed…

Famous as the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation, at Brooklands Museum you’ll find exhibits ranging from giant racing cars, motorcycles and bicycles to an unparalleled collection of Hawker and Vickers/BAC-built aircraft, including the World War Two Wellington Bomber, and the only Concorde with public access in south-east England as well as the simulator used to train the aircrew. Don’t miss the newly restored Balloon Hangar, where you can experience what it would have been like to race around the famous banked circuit in a pre-War racing car at over 100mph – all from the safety of the state-of-the-art 4D Theatre. There is a supplementary charge of £5 for adults and £3 for children, on top of your museum entry ticket, for the Napier-Railton race experience.

• Brooklands Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge KT13 0QN: brooklandsmuseum.com

 

A place of trust…

There are so many National Trust properties in Surrey that it’s worth having a look at their membership scheme. The spectacular Polesden Lacey near Dorking is a day out in itself, offering the chance to explore the house, grounds, shop and restaurant. Not far away, the Palladian mansion of Clandon Park, with its grand marble hall, porcelain collection and unique Maori meeting house, is a must-see. Don’t forget Hatchlands Park just around the corner too, with its exquisite Cobbe Collection of musical instruments (read more on page 96). Elsewhere, energetic walkers can head over to Winkworth Arboretum near Godalming or Claremont Landscape Garden near Esher to stretch their legs. Don’t forget Dapdune Wharf and Shalford Mill for a charming step-back-in-time.

• Various locations: nationaltrust.org.uk

 

Taking flight…

Opened in 1967, Birdworld near Farnham has become one of the largest bird parks in the country. From storks and sunbirds to penguins, owls and parrots, there are birds from all around the world. The 26-acre park is also home to Underwater World, a journey from a tropical mountain stream through jungle swamps to the colourful world of marine reefs, as well as the Jenny Wren Farm. Keeper talks take place at the park daily.

• Birdworld, Holt Pound, Farnham GU10 4LD: birdworld.co.uk

 

Get your hands dirty…

The historic home of the RHS, Wisley is undoubtedly one of the finest gardens you can visit in the country, featuring one of the largest plant collections in the world with close to 30,000 varieties. Highlights include the original Wild Garden, the bicentenary Glasshouse with its three climatic zones, the Alpine Display Houses, and the famous Mixed Borders leading on to the woodland beauty of Battleston Hill. For an extra special treat, check out the afternoon tea in The Restaurant, which has become even more popular since the world-famous pastry chef Claire Clark MBE joined the Taste of Wisley team. Tickets: adults, £12; children (five to 16), £6.

• RHS Garden Wisley, Woking GU23 6QB: rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley

 

Messing around on the river…

The River Wey is always worth a visit, and on Monday March 16 at 2pm, there will be a chance to join a guided walk from the Gunpowder Store at Stonebridge, Shalford, which is owned by the National Trust. Led by Alan Johnson, the Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s technical liaison officer, the walk will then continue along part of the old route of the Wey and Arun Canal and cross over the A281 road and continue into Hunt Park along the riverside path, which has recently been built by the Trust’s volunteers. At the end of the one-and-a-half-mile walk, visitors can see three oak trees that are more than a hundred years old. No booking required.

• Gunpowder Store, Stonebridge, Shalford GU4 8EP: weyandarun.co.uk

 

Culture in our county town...

Take a watercolour journey exploring war and peace around the world via the works of artist Gordon Rushmer at a free exhibition at Guildford House Gallery from Saturday March 14 to Wednesday April 15. Gordon’s success as a landscape painter is matched by his reputation as a war artist. In recent years, he has worked in areas of conflict as diverse as Bosnia, Kosovo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Following English Tourism Week, on Saturday March 28, you can meet Gordon at the gallery and hear an account of life on the ‘frontline’ supported with paintings and sketches. Tickets for the talk are £5. Entry to the gallery is free.

• Guildford House Gallery, 155 High Street, Guildford GU1 3AJ: guildford.gov.uk/guildfordhouse

 

Something brewing…

Situated between Guildford and Farnham, the Hogs Back Brewery has been creating its award-winning ales, using locally grown hops, since 1992. Visitors can enjoy an entertaining tour around the brewery, which is housed in 18th century farm buildings. Open every day during English Tourism Week, this is a great chance to learn about the brewing operation, sample a range of beers, see the new three-and-a-half-acre hop garden and finish with a visit to the Brewery Shop, stocking Hogs Back Brewery’s fine ales plus over 300 other beers from the UK and around the world. £15 per person.

• Hogs Back Brewery, The Street, Tongham GU10 1DE: hogsback.co.uk

 

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More local exploration suggestions

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