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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Guildford castle, now in ruins, was the only Norman Royal castle in Surrey. It was built on the site of older Saxon fortifications and replaced a wooden castle of earlier Norman design. The imposing stone castle keep was built during the reign of king Henry II (r. 1154-1189). It was a favourite residence of Henry III (r. 1216–1272) and he always stayed at the castle when he went hunting in the neighbourhood. After his time it soon went into disrepair, and it was virtually in ruins by the end of the middle Ages. The castle estate passed through several hands, until it was laid it out as a pleasure garden, which was opened to the public in 1888. The ruins of the medieval castle were retained as features of the park. The castle keep, a landmark in Guildford, is not open this year (2003) due to major restoration work.
The oldest church in Guildford is St. Mary’s, i. e. the oldest part of it, the Saxon tower. A timber church was built on the site in the 600´s AD when the Saxon population converted to Christianity. In about 1050 the church was rebuilt in stone of which the tower survives, undoubtedly a Saxon work. This church is definitely worth a visit.
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.
Guildford’s most famous son is without doubt George Abbot (1562-1633). He was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633 and before that he was Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield and Bishop of London. He founded Abbot’s Hospital (almshouse) on High Street just opposite the Holy Trinity. He was buried at The Holy Trinity in Guildford where his tomb can be seen.
The church of the Holy Trinity is the only large Georgian church in Surrey. The medieval church was destroyed when the tower and steeple collapsed in 1740, but in 1763 a new church was built. The Holy Trinity had the status of a cathedral from 1927 to 1962 when the new cathedral on Stag Hill was consecrated.
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.