The stone tower of Guildford Castle was built during the 12th century. For a while the castle was one of England's most luxious royal residences, and under Henry III it became known as "The Palace". After only a few decades, however, it was left to fall into ruins. In 1885, it was bought by the Guildford Borough Council who turned what was left of the castle into a park. There is now a small museum in the tower, and the Castle grounds, a beautiful place to walk around and take pictures, are open to all free of charge.
Built in the mid-10th century, St. Mary's Church is the oldest surviving building in Guildford. The fact that it was built in stone is rather surprising considering that most parish churches of that period were made of wood. The original stone tower (circa 1050) still survives.
There are many walking trails in and around Guildford - some go as far as Canterbury if you feel like going on a full blown pilgrimage a la Goeffrey Chaucer, and others take you along the river and off to Surrey's lovely countryside where you can pretend for a moment to be one of Jane Austen's characters. So whatever sounds the most appealing to you, I would recommend stopping by Guildford's tourist information centre where you can get a free map of all the walking trails. Don't forget to ask the friendly staff to point out some of the interesting features along the way!
No matter what time of the year or what day of the week you are in Guildford, there's always something going on at the Electric Theatre! Whether you're interested in musicals, plays, comedy, music or dance, you should check out the theatre's program - you'll find quality entertainment at a very reasonable price. In our case, as we couldn't afford to go see a play in London, we went to see "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the Electric Theatre for only £7 and spent a very pleasant evening.
Although there are no documents about the early years of the castle, it is almost certain that it was built shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066 as it was customary to do in all the important towns to prevent rebellion and to strengthen the hold on the country. At the time Guildford was on an important route between London and the west of England. The first structures at the castle probably included the motte, surrounded by a ditch, and an adjoining bailey.
There was a wooden tower on the mount for a look-out post. In the early 1100s a wall was built around the top of the mount. Later a tower with three floors was built. The first floor consisting of the main chamber, a chapel, and a wardrobe chamber with a latrine. The second floor had a two-seater latrine.
Although the castle was used mainly as an overnight dwelling as the southernmost point of the Windsor hunting park and was visited on several occasions by the Kings John and Henry III, it was also used as an assembly point for Edward I's army.
In the 14th century the castle was no longer needed and fell into disrepair. Today, the Great Tower is the only remaining structure. The tower was restored, and the grounds were opened to the public in 1888.
In 2004 the Great Tower was conserved again, during which various original features were discovered. A roof and floor were re-instated at 1st floor level, and the ground floor now houses a model of the original castle c 1300 and interpretation panels tracing its history to the present day. There is a visitor platform on the roof offering panoramic views of Guildford. Unfortunately, there is limited disability access to the castle itself due to the steep castle mound and the number of staircases. The castle grounds and the garden are open all year round. The grounds house a pretty and quiet public garden where you can chill out and have a sandwich lunch.
Apr-Sep 10am-5pm daily
Oct & Mar 11am-5pm Sat & Sun only
Closed between November and February
Admission: Adults £2.30, Concessions £1
The River Wey flows through the Guildford town centre and is one of the prettiest bits of the town. You can sit on a bench along on it or the nearby riverside pubs, if you don't fancy a walk.
The river is located at the bottom of the High Street (cross the road). Soon the path comes out into a lovely open area, with lots of open grass land and seats, with narrow boats lining the banks of the river, a surprisingly rural scene considering the distance from the centre of Guildford. Later the path leaves becomes more of a tow path, with trees and buildings lining the river banks.
The path leads all the way to Goldalming and alongside you would see a few locks and several narrow boats, since the river is navigable all the way to Godalming. Today, there is about 20 miles' navigable stretch on the river and there are 16 locks, which are all owned and maintained by The National Trust.
Farncombe Boat House at Catteshall Lock in Godalming offers narrow boat hire from March to the end of October (at weekends and midweek). A day hire is rather dear (about £100) but if you are travelling with a big group, it's not too bad. No previous experience of steering a boat is needed as they will provide full tuition.
Tel: 01483 421306
We spent about an hour looking around Guildford before beginning our hike. It seemed like a typical Surrey town, with plenty of expensive cars and houses. The Castle Keep was impressive and there are good views over the town from its grounds and its gardens are beautiful. The shops in the High Street were the same as you’d expect in any British town, though it was an elegant street nonetheless with the standout building being the Guildhall, near the top of the street. You can’t miss the Guildhall’s huge clock hanging high above the street. The High Street slopes down to meet the River Wey, which we followed on our way to the North Downs Path.
The North Downs Way is a long-distance walk in Southern England. It starts just east of the village of Farnham in Surrey and ends 153 miles to the east in Dover. Along the way there is superb scenery and excellent hiking trails. The path follows part of the ancient Pilgrims Way, a route used by pilgrims to get to Canterbury Cathedral.
Guildford is a good place to start a walk on the North Downs Way, as the path fairly easy to find from the town. You follow the River Way south and turn off to the west after about 700 metres. Our walk took us from Guildford to Farnham, which is usually considered the first section of the North Downs Way. Near Farnham, we passed a wooden seat which marks the starting point of the North Downs Way (picture 2). For us, however, it marked the end point of a long but enjoyable day's hiking.
Guildford cathedral is a definitely a landmark of the town, as it is located on top of a hill known as Stag Hill, former hunting grounds of the Kings of England. It is not the most beautiful of cathedrals from outside. Its designer relied more on volume and mass than pretty ornaments. The outside of the building is entirely constructed from red brick signed by the members of the Royal family including the Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. The cathedral was built between 1936 and 1961 and is the only new Anglican Cathedral built in the South of England since the Reformation.
The interior is much prettier than the exterior. It is surprisingly light and spacious due to the use of the pale sandstone, numerous pillars, white Italian marble floor and the light flooding in through tall lancet windows. The incredibly long nave is equipped with wooden chairs, individually named in memory of local people.
The Cathedral choir is one of a very few ensembles of its type to be founded in the 20th century. The choir has won an international reputation for its singing. The choir does not only regularly sing during the services, but they also record, broadcast, tour and organise concerts in the cathedral and elsewhere. In recent years the choir has toured in Denmark, northern France and Bruges and has appeared on several UK radio stations and released several CDs.
Facilities include library, guided tours, restaurant, gift shop, book shop, disabled facilities, directions and parking
Cathedral is open daily, all year round 08.30am-5.30pm
Guided Tours: daily 09.40 - 16.00 (£3 per person)
Refectory, Cafe, Restaurant are open daily 09.00 - 16.30
Very pleasant and varied lanscapes walk starting from the train station. 8 miles or 12 kms. Go to: http://www.walkingclub.org.uk/book_2/walk_12/index.shtml for detailed directions.
This walk starts along the river then goes through fields and woods. Perfect as a warm up for longer walks. Can be muddy in parts if it just rained.
A possible lunch stop is the cafe of the Watts gallery where you can eat nice cakes or toasted sandwiches whil esipping a tea or coffee. Service is rather slow.
We first came to Guilfest to see Tom McRae perform here in 2003, needless to say, he was fabulous! There are several stages with various performers/artists from Friday to Sunday so check the website for listings.
In the nearby town of Compton (near Godalming), there's a lovely, fairly secret art gallery and beautiful chapel. It was founded by the famous 19th century artist, Watts and his wife. We came across it just by accident one day while driving around. There's a small and inexpensive tea room attached, plus a gift shop. The gallery has many works of art by Watts and also some by other artists of the late 19th century.. Pre-Raphaelite etc. The chapel is situated alongside a very picturesque and beautiful cemetery with lovely views of the Surrey countryside.
Reverend Charles Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, the author of children's classic "Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland", died in Guildford on January 14, 1898, and was buried at The Mount Cemetary (his grave is right by the church, very easy to spot). Although he did not spend that much time in Guildford, his family lived in a roomy house, "The Chestnuts", located next to the Guildford Castle grounds.
There are two Alice statues in Guildford: one is located near the river and illustrates an early scene from the novel "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" ("Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank [...] when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her"), while the second statue depicts Alice going through the looking-glass (that one is actually kind of scary looking, especially if you happen to have seen the movie "The Ring"!!). The second one is located on the Castle grounds and is a bit difficult to find: you have to go at the end of the bowling green and go down the few steps on the right that seem to lead nowhere - you'll end up at the statue.
Beginning at Dapdune Wharf in Guildford, one can walk for 19 miles north along the Wey Navigational System. It's a beautiful towpath filled with lovely scenery and ever-moving barges, especially in the warmer months. I've put more photos in a travelogue below. We've walked quite a bit of the path. More information on the wharf and canal barge rides offered are on the National Trust website.
There's a lot to do a Guilfest... you can eat drink, smoke, buy magic mushrooms and have them cooked in a bacon toastie... get a Thai head massage... blow bubbles... you can queue for 45 mins for the loo... you can shop at the numerous small stalls selling all the usual Festival paraphanalia... from hats to bongs...
But most importantly and the reason you bought your ticket is so that you can watch the great acts appearing throughout the afternoon and evening...there are several stages.. we chose the main stage as Tom Baxter was appearing there... and he was fantastic.