Things to see and do in Leatherhead
PUBLISHED: 16:27 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:27 04 September 2019
With the Surrey Hills and River Mole on its doorstep, Leatherhead is a town that has faced its challenges over the years but is packed full of potential and places to visit. Here we take you on a whistle-stop tour
One of the gateways to the Surrey Hills, Leatherhead is sandwiched between Cobham, Oxshott, Epsom and the M25 on one side and Box Hill, Norbury Park and Ranmore Common on the other. It's the space where cosmopolitan and countryside collide.
For a long time, the town was probably best known as the home of Sir Michael Caine - until he put his home up for sale earlier this year. Recent years, however, have seen another challenger step up to the celebrity plate. Once the private residence of Lord Beaverbrook and then a short-lived tourist attraction, Cherkley Court is now home to the spectacular country hotel resort, Beaverbrook. That's a short drive outside the town though, so let's get back to the heart of the matter at these early stages.
Originally known as Leodridan, meaning "place where people ride across the river" in Anglo-Saxon (who said those evening classes were wasted?!), the River Mole cuts through parts of the town offering idyllic riverside walks and some rather lovely bridges. There's an excellent Leatherhead Walks leaflet available which features fascinating sounding meadow and historic town walks, both starting from the Town Bridge. A bridge has existed here since the 13th century, but there have been various tweaks and refurbishments since then to reach what we see today. It's a lovely view, either way.
You'll find plenty more history at the 17th century Hampton Cottage on Church Street, which is home to Leatherhead Museum. Run by volunteers from Leatherhead & District Local History Society, the museum is free to visit.
The town centre is currently undergoing a period of transformation; in 2017 a £1m project to upgrade Church Street was completed, The Swan Centre is also undergoing improvements and plans are afoot to reconfigure the High Street. The town will also soon be home to Surrey Police headquarters following a move from the force's current operational base in Guildford.
A piece of Leatherhead's recent history sadly departed earlier this year when Barton's Bookshop closed its doors for the last time. Carrying the torch for literary fans these days is the independent BookPotato book shop in The Swan Centre. Pop in and have a browse.
If you fancy reclining with a book or two, well how about a corner of an historic pub? The Running Horse, on Bridge Street is more than 600 years old and full of charm and character. A regular winner of CAMRA's Surrey pub of the year, the beer here is so good they have even had a visit from Tony Robinson of Blackadder fame. A cunning plan, indeed. There's also The Penny Black, which was formerly the post office, in the town centre, or, if you're looking to head a little further afield, The Bell at Fetcham is extremely popular and The King William IV at Mickleham is absolutely magical with one of the best pub views in Surrey on a sunny day.
There's a fairly high chance you've never come across the Fire and Iron Gallery before and yet its influence is huge and inspirational.
Found just a couple of miles outside the town centre, it's an absolute must visit for anyone with even a passing interest in beautiful metal artworks crafted by leading international artists. Owned by Lucy Quinnell, whose family has been involved in English ironworking since the 1500s, they created the wall sculpture on the facade of the Leatherhead Institute, the Neate's Alley sign in the town centre and many more. They even created the Dorking Cockerel. During August, the gallery is open by appointment only but there are plenty of opportunities to visit throughout the year.
24 hours in…
- Morning - Depending where you're staying - because let's face it, if you're lucky enough to be at Beaverbrook you're likely to only want to leave once you've overstayed your welcome - we'd suggest heading to the lovely little Charlie & Ginger speciality coffee shop. Whether you're stopping by for breakfast, brunch of lunch - or just an iced coffee, gelato or smoothie - this is a lovely little independent place to stop by. Then pop in and have a browse of the Black Dog.
- Afternoon - Let's take things easy (depending on your chosen walking route) and focus on the natural wonders that surround the town. Ho for a riverside stroll along the River Mole or hit the heights at Box Jill - potentially with a visit to The King William IV at Mickleham to enjoy its wonderful view. Kids in tow? It's Bocketts Farm for you!
- Evening - Make sure to visit the Running Horse in the name of historical research, of course - and you may find you feel the evening is sorted. Otherwise, enjoy a slice of Florence at Piazza Firenze; let the sun shine at the Brazilian, Preto; or book into one of the restaurants at Beaverbrook (the Dining Room offers modern Japanese while the garden house is Anglo Italian inspired by the kitchen garden).
- Bocketts Farm Park - It would be absolutely remiss of us not to mention the one-stop family fun destination that is Bocketts Farm Park. Found just outside the town, only a few minutes' drive away, there's all the animal petting, soft play and outdoor adventure any child can handle. Bocketts Farm Park is a working farm run by the Gowing family, who opened it in 1992.
- Beaverbrook - Whether you're looking for a top class spa, date night fine dining or just a relaxing and luxurious staycation in the countryside, there's only one venue people are talking about at the moment - as long as you're able to keep the bank manager happy. The views from Beaverbrook can quickly trick you into believing you must have magically been transported to Tuscany on entering the gates.
- Nower Wood - There's a strong Surrey Wildlife Trust presence in the Leatherhead area, with both their Nower Wood outdoor learning centre and Norbury Park and its sawmill on the doorstep. Add the National Trust's Box Hill and its natural play trail and you're primed for a fun day out with the family. Don't worry, there are plenty of quiet corners too if you're looking to escape the hordes.
- River Mole - No visit to Leatherhead would be complete without an idyllic stroll along the banks of the River Mole. Historically, it was something of a pleasure ground for the wealthy inhabitants of some of the larger manor houses in the area. It's also been a place where industry once thrived, but now it's a great place to take a moment of reflection. Look out for those bridges, manor houses and the wonderful wildlife.
- Leatherhead Theatre - Formerly known as the Thorndike Theatre (after the Shakespearean actress Dame Sybil Thorndike), this theatre first opened its doors in its current form in September 1969. In the 90s it was forced to shut following the withdrawal of public funding but it's now a thriving community attraction. Home to Leatherhead Drama Festival, the theatre is a place where you can check out a show, watch a movie and browse local art.
- Some of the successful dog-friendly businesses in Surrey - Dogs are a man's best friend, so it's no wonder pup-friendly businesses are booming - especially here in Surrey