The most romantic National Trust attractions in Surrey
PUBLISHED: 15:48 24 November 2011 | UPDATED: 12:44 15 January 2015
Every month, Emma Brien reports on what's happening at National Trust properties in Surrey for Surrey Life. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, this time she has a few romantic suggestions
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2010
Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, so there really is very little excuse, for those fortunate enough not to have to work at the weekend, to ignore the most romantic day in the calendar.
However, having the whole day free does require prospective romancers to come up with rather more than the traditional, yet slightly unimaginative, box of chocolates.
Well, the National Trust in Surrey offers plenty of places for would-be Romeos and their loved-ones to spend Valentine’s Day.
Thanks to the rich history of the National Trust houses and gardens in the county, and the beauty of the countryside it owns, almost every romantic whim can be catered for, and every passionate proposal indulged!
So, without further ado, here are just four suggestions for ways to make this Valentine’s Day one to remember.
Follow in the footsteps of historic lovers at Polesden Lacey, near Dorking
Polesden Lacey’s history includes plenty of love stories. The late Queen Mother and King George VI spent part of their honeymoon at this magnificent house in 1923, as guests of society hostess Mrs Margaret Greville. Mrs Greville, in turn, expressed her love for her husband, Captain Ronald Greville, by having an arch built at the entrance to the grounds in tribute to him.
This Valentine’s Day, couples are invited to come and be inspired by Polesden Lacey’s wonderful views. Loved-up visitors can enjoy walking round the gardens, or in the wider estate, perhaps stopping for a kiss on one of the many benches dotted around the grounds. Then, they can warm up with lunch, or tea for two, in the restaurant afterwards.
Celebrate lifelong partnerships at Claremont Landscape Garden, Esher
They say that birds of a feather flock together, and this is one of the more endearing attributes of nature. Many bird species mate for life, building nests and raising their young together.
Such inspirational behaviour is a perfect theme for Valentine’s Day and an ideal place to see it in action is the stunning Claremont Landscape Garden in Esher.
Here, numerous types of waterfowl and other birds visit the large circular lake, and the whole garden is perfect for lovers wishing to take a stroll and watch their avian counterparts at play.
The creation of the garden itself was something of a labour of love, involving many great names from gardening history, such as Sir John Vanbrugh, William Kent and Capability Brown. The first gardens were begun in 1715 and later that century the splendour of Claremont was famed throughout Europe.
Today, visitors can enjoy romantic walks round the grass amphitheatre, before visiting the grotto and Belvedere Tower, where even more love stories can be conjured up from the imagination. As an added bonus, children will love visiting the play area and having something to eat in the tea room afterwards.
Propose against a stunning backdrop at Box Hill, near Dorking
If roses are red and violets are blue, there can’t be many places more appropriate to spend Valentine’s Day than in the heart of the countryside – admiring beautiful plants and flowers, such as orchids, rock roses and bell flowers.
At Box Hill, near Dorking, you’ll also find spectacular views, too, making it an unforgettable place to ‘pop the question’. For not only are the surroundings lovely, there is a fairly steep climb to the top of the hill and its famous viewpoint, so there should be no doubting a suitor’s ardour if he is willing to go down on one knee after all that climbing.
Box Hill was also seen as a special place by Jane Austen, who set one of the pivotal scenes in her romantic novel Emma there.
Today’s walkers can enjoy a warm drink and snack at the tea room by the car park – the perfect way to toast a new engagement for those who forget to bring the champagne along.
Get married in style at Clandon Park, West Clandon
‘Oh let us be married, too long have we tarried,’ declared Edward Lear’s Pussycat to her beloved Owl. They had to sail away for a year and a day to get married, but there is a nearer wedding venue available for Surrey brides and grooms.
Clandon Park, the National Trust’s Palladian mansion in West Clandon, is a beautiful place to tie the knot, and offers the whole wedding package, from ceremony to drinks reception, wedding breakfast and dancing.
Visitors spending Valentine’s Day at Clandon Park can admire the grand White Marble Hall and impressive collection of Chinese, Sèvres and Meissen porcelain inside the house and wander in the parterre, grotto and sunken gardens outside.
Clandon Park is also home to another labour of love: the authentic New Zealand meeting house, Hinemihi, which was lovingly and painstakingly broken down and transported from New Zealand to Clandon Park by the fourth Earl of Onslow in 1892. This highly-decorated Maori meeting house is the only one in the UK and would make a rather special backdrop for wedding photos. To find out more about weddings at Clandon Park, please call 01483 222502.