It’s a little-known fact that Guildford is just 33 minutes from London by train, making it the ideal base offering the best of both worlds: fast access to the city together with the charms of an English market town.
But why, I hear you ask, would you want to stay outside the thriving metropolis that is London? For plenty of reasons as it turns out…
Guildford presents a much truer example of a typical English town than London, which is a massive cosmopolitan capital by comparison. If you want to discover the ‘real’ England then Guildford, with its “olde worlde” charm and friendly residents, represents the best of British hospitality.
Guildford’s historic centre has a famous cobble-stoned high street which is incredibly atmospheric. This is largely thanks to the town’s strict planning regulations, which dictate that all buildings are styled in a similar fashion – even the insides of shops have to be in keeping. This, and the fact that it escaped bombing in WWII, means the town is unbelievably well-preserved and retains masses of English country-town charm.
In terms of amenities you’ll want for nothing in Guildford. As it’s a little outside the capital, everything’s better value – your pound will stretch further on a week’s break in Guildford than a comparative break in London.
Accommodation-wise, there are hotels in Guildford to suit all budgets and tastes, including the brand new 4 star Radisson Edwardian Guildford which is the only contemporary-style hotel in the city centre.
When it comes to eating out, Guildford restaurants present a plethora of options to rival London. The town’s culinary scene is a magnet drawing in savvy diners from all over Surrey and even from London’s upscale suburbs. All the big names have been drawn by the town’s appeals: Jamie’s Italian, Loch Fyne, Giraffe, Café Rouge, Wagamama and Zizzi to name a few.
If you’re looking for something really special, there are also two Michelin-starred restaurants within 8 miles of the town – Drakes on the Pond and Drake’s at The Clock House. And the Radisson Edwardian mentioned above also houses two exceptional restaurants which are already making waves in the local culinary scene: Relish, which serves up top-quality British cuisine and Market Kitchen, which offers tapas-style Mediterranean dishes. The latter also has a hip cocktail bar – as sophisticated as any you’ll find in central London.
Many visitors are surprised to discover the range of attractions in Guildford and its surrounding area. The town has easy access to both Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures, two of the UK’s best-loved theme parks. Or if you’re a water baby, there’s The Spectrum Leisure Centre which has an Olympic-size swimming pool, a water park and an ice skating rink! And beer drinkers will be pleased to hear about the abundance of breweries in Surrey – Hogs Back and Surrey Hills being two of the most famous in England.
Being such a historically-rich town there are also many cultural attractions, such as the historic walks around the town led by local guides and historians. Or a little further out there’s Clandon Park stately home, the tranquil Sculpture Park, Farnham and Guildford Castles, Guildford’s imposing Cathedral, and the Tudor village Shere (from which you can join a llama trek of all things!).
Even if the focus of your visit is London, there are other perks to staying in Guildford.
Not only is it just a short hop by train to central London from Guildford’s modern train station, it’s a manageable drive too. And if you’re travelling by car, driving in the stunning Surrey countryside is an altogether more pleasant prospect than maneuvering the congestion-clogged streets of London.
Also, if you’re flying in from overseas, Guildford is equidistant from both Gatwick and Heathrow airports at roughly 40 minutes drive from each.
And finally, a subject that’s unfortunately at the forefront of many peoples minds following the recent London riots, Guildford is arguably safer than the UK capital city. In fact, according to crime statistics it’s one of the safest towns in the UK, coming in well below average for all major offences. According to Guildford Borough Council, the county of Surrey has the lowest level of recorded crime in England. So if it’s peace of mind you’re after and particularly if you’re on a family vacation, then Guildford certainly offers that by the bucket load.