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Reigate 2014: where to eat, shop and visit

PUBLISHED: 22:06 21 February 2014 | UPDATED: 22:06 21 February 2014

At the heart of Reigate is the Old Town Hall, which was built in 1708

At the heart of Reigate is the Old Town Hall, which was built in 1708

Pete Gardner

A historic market town surrounded by beautiful countryside, Reigate is known for its wide range of independent shops and many restaurants...

A potted history...

The good old Domesday Book (where would we be without it…?) originally records the town as ‘Cherchefelle – the Open Space by the Hill’; the name Reigate probably originates from Roe-Deer-Gate, the nearby deer park of William de Warrene.

Now known as Priory Park, and a popular place for a stroll, the landscaped parkland is also home to the Priory School, which occupies an 18th century building – under which are the remains of the original Reigate Priory founded in the mid-14th century.

On the other side of the town, Reigate Castle was built in the 11th century and has had a chequered history, being captured by the French in 1216 and occupied by the Earl of Holland in 1648. Demolished in 1777, when the park was created by Richard Barnes, there are still traces to be seen in the grounds.

Below the town, there is a huge network of caves, mainly produced as a result of sand mining, with one – the Baron’s Cave – being used as a cellar for Reigate Castle.

Out & about…

There’s certainly plenty to see and do in this bustling market town…

If you’re not claustrophobic, why not take a tour round the underground caves? The Wealden Cave and Mine Society runs guided tours several times a year – have a look at their website for details: wcms.org.uk. A visit to the Baron’s Cave is also on the list and is apparently conducted with lanterns.

Stuck for something to do with the kids? Priory Park to the rescue! Every Wednesday, there is a free children’s story time event at the Pavilion Café, so you can enjoy a coffee for a few precious moments while the little darlings sit spellbound and silent…

Reigate Heath’s quirkiest feature is the windmill, which was converted into a small chapel in 1880. Keys can be obtained from the nearby golf club and its free to enter.

Opened to the public in 2007, Reigate Fort, which can be found on Reigate Hill, was one of 13 mobilisation centres built in the 1890s to protect London from invasion, although none of them ever saw action.

Shop till you drop…

While you’ll certainly find a few High Street names here, Reigate is characterised by its many thriving independents – ranging from boutiques to kitchenware shops and gift stores.

Located in Bell Street, Knights of Reigate is one of those well-established department stores that seem to have been there forever. Opened as a drapery business in 1883, there is a huge area given over to menswear, womenswear, toys, kitchen equipment and more.

Staying in Bell Street, spread across the Magpie House antiques store, and in the old industrial warehouses behind, you’ll find a veritable treasure trove of vintage, retro and industrial furniture.

Round the corner in Church Street, look out for Reigate’s newly launched ‘destination store’ comprising three businesses: House of Building, a one-stop shop for building, maintenance and landscape services; Urban Nine, a coffee bar by day and a wine bar by night; and the latest shop, Taylor Jayne, bringing an edgy lifestyle approach to the leafy suburbs. Even Dame Judi Dench was spotted there the other day!

Head down into the High Street, past the old town hall jutting out into the road (and now housing a Nero’s coffee shop), and you’ll come to several more stalwarts of the town: the Gerrards boutique for stylish labels; the Art of Living for cutting edge kitchen items; and the Lime Blue Diamond Store – possible one for Valentine’s Day? In fact, they could have the very thing – a lovely little diamond ring for a mere £9,485.

Grabbing a bite…

There is a huge choice – and contrast – of places to eat here…

Now, if you have that ring on your finger (see below left), you should probably celebrate with dinner at Tony Tobin’s place a little further up the High Street. Called, suitably, Tony Tobin @ the Dining Room, the chef from the BBC’s Ready Steady Cook series has a reputation for fine dining. The à la carte includes Tony’s signature dish of Seared Sea Scallops – made with green mango and chili syrup… mmm.

In fact, that end of the town is a bit of a gourmet hotspot all round. Another favourite there is the relatively new and wonderfully named Thai restaurant, Giggling Squid – complete with viewing window onto a historic cave that was discovered during the building work. And then there’s the newly-renovated New Gurkha Kitchen on the corner of High Street and Park Lane. Open seven days a week until 11.30pm, just one of the many options is the Steamed Minced Lamb with spices, dumplings and Nepali home-made pickle…

There are also plenty of pubs around the town that will cater for a simpler meal – not least, a short drive down the A25, Surrey Life’s Pub of the Year, The Jolly Farmers, which also walked away with the title of Local Menu of the Year.

Famous faces…

There’s a good smattering of well-known names from the world of entertainment…

Heard of Alfie Moon? Well, if you have, you are probably a fan of EastEnders. Shane Richie, who plays Alfie in the long running BBC soap, is closely involved in the life of the town and has previously turned on the Christmas lights.

In addition, Dame Judi Dench lives just down the road; comedian David Walliams grew up here and was a pupil at Reigate Grammar School; and then there’s long-time resident and BBC newsreader Nicholas Owen – also the host of the recent Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards.

And, finally, one from the field of politics...Another ex-pupil of Reigate Grammar School, Keir Starmer QC is the former Director of Public Prosecutions. What is more, in the New Year’s Honours List, he was awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) for services to law and criminal justice.

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Getting there…

Nice and close to the M25 at junction 8 and lying on the main A25, the town is easy to find. It has its own railway station on the North Downs Line to London Victoria and London Bridge if you want the train to take the strain as they (used to) say. Alternatively, the Arriva bus 32 will take you from Redhill through Reigate and on to Guildford via the villages along the A25.

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