A town guide to Farnham
PUBLISHED: 14:40 10 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:40 10 March 2020
Credit: Arcaid Images / Alamy Stock Photo
From the magic of arts and crafts creativity to the elegance of beautiful Georgian architecture, the market town of Farnham is quite the picture. Visit and you’ll find a fascinating town with so much to explore. One that’s surrounded by beautiful countryside full of iconic sites too | Words: James Knighton - Photos: Andy Newbold, Getty, Farnham Pottery
Known as England's craft town, there are many corners of Farnham that are picture perfect and the Georgian streets and stunning architecture have inspired generations.
A former brewery with a history that goes further back than its beer making days, Farnham Maltings acts as the town's cultural hub today, standing proudly alongside the River Wey.
Purchased from the Courage brewery in the 1960s, it is a vibrant arts centre with theatre companies, a museum, exhibitions and even knitting fairs. In fact, Unravel, a three-day festival of knitting, takes place there every February.
You may also want to check out the Maltings' Monthly Market, which attracts around 200 stalls on the first Saturday of every month. It's said to be one of the oldest and largest markets of its sort in Surrey.
In the centre of town, Farnham Castle dominates from its perch at the top of the aptly named Castle Street. A castle of two halves, the impressive keep was founded in 1138 by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen.
It's managed by English Heritage, is free to enter and has fantastic views over the town in one direction and Farnham Park in the other. The remaining areas of the castle are privately-owned and run as a wedding and events venue, but they still make for hugely impressive viewing.
Head back down to the town centre via Castle Street, possibly a little awe-struck by the beautiful homes that line the route, and Farnham is your oyster.
You could at choose to head to the wonderful Museum of Farnham, situated in an attractive Grade I listed Georgian town house dating from 1718. There you'll find everything from a mammoth's tusk to a skull cap worn by Charles I during his stay at Vernon House (now home to Farnham Library), on his way to his trial and execution.
You could hunt for William Cobbett, who was born in the town and considered to be the foremost political journalist of the age, too. He's buried in St Andrew's Church yard, his birthplace is now a pub that bears his name and there's a statue of him riding a horse at the corner of Longbridge and Downing Street.
Then there's the idyllic Lion and Lamb Yard - the kind of cobbled courtyard that looks made for a light snowfall and warm and welcoming lights emanating from the shops and restaurants that line it. Make sure to say hello to the lion and lamb who live there too.
Visit Elphicks department store, which occupies a large proportion of West Street and dates back to 1881, when it first opened as a drapery business. Seemingly against the grain, Farnham has a brand-new book shop, Blue Bear Bookshop, which opened in November. It's independent too.
Meanwhile, one of Surrey's landmark antiques businesses, the Bourne Mill Antique Centre, has reopened four years after its Grade II-listed home was devastated by fire.
Farnham is clearly not your average town. A point proven by the Shepherd and Flock, which some people say is probably the largest inhabited roundabout in Britain. It's also home to a pub.
There's plenty of those in town and you don't have to walk far to find a welcoming hostelry. The Castle Inn is part of the popular Red Mist Leisure group and The Lost Boy is a relative new kid on the block and takes its name from the characters of JM Barrie (who enjoyed trips to the area once upon a time).
They could have their own pub guide here - although once upon a time there were said to be over 150 watering holes with hop fields surrounding the area too.
There's an interesting mix of independent eateries, including Daniele Sicilian up near Farnham Park, Bloom in The Borough (small plates dining) and Rosemoor Kitchen on Downing Street (a great brunch and afternoon tea spot). There's also the stylish The Botanist, which offers cocktail masterclasses.
As is probably evident by now, this is a town that you can explore without leaving but it's also the start of the North Downs Way trail and its 153 miles of stunning countryside all the way to Dover if you are looking for escape.
The first Cistercian monastery Waverley Abbey, Bourne Wood (where everything from Gladiator and Harry Potter to Avengers movies have been filmed), the Rural Life Centre (a museum celebrating rural life), Hogs Back Brewery (one of Surrey's leading breweries and home to one of our few hop fields) and The Packhouse (a lifestyle must) are all on the doorstep too. Best book a weekend away then...
But let's just say you head into town anyway, exploring the streets and hidden yards and grab a relaxed brunch at Rosemoor.
Either delve into history with the castle, museum and heritage trail, discover the towns arts and crafts heritage or head for some of the, well, unique countryside attractions this area offers.
Where else in Surrey can you pretend to be Maximus Decimus Meridius while shouting at trees or visit an impressive historical ruin?! Well, without people thinking you're 'completely' mad.
Alternatively, check out the listings at Farnham Maltings where there's often a comedy performance, concert or film showing worth checking out.