48 Hours in Guildford: How Surrey’s largest town makes for the ideal break away
Guildford is known as Surrey’s largest town. With traces of early settlement dating back to the Bronze ages, Guildford has thrived through the ages and now is the reference for a buzzing English town. Habited by locals and overseas students alike (due to the University), Guildford is a melting pot of characters and thus, foodie spots and attractions to quench an array of interests. As an alumni myself from Surrey Uni, Guildford is close to my heart and I’d love to share how you can make the absolute most of a weekend break there.
Although I would recommend having a car for any Surrey-based breaks purely out of ease (and being able to carry all the shoes you probably don’t need), this itinerary is entirely feasible through either taxi and/or cabs which deserves two thumbs up!
Friday Afternoon in Guildford
Guildford does have a wide range of hotels, from budget-friendly options to your luxury manor house hotel nearby, but I decided to check into the independent Mandalay Hotel which was in the middle of the price spectrum yet still classifies as a four-star boutique hotel. I’ve been for cocktails before but never had the opportunity to stay the night so it seemed like the perfect excuse to test it out to see if the beds matched the drinks (spoiler: they do).
The Medium room very cosy with all the basic amenities you need and I loved how they had Elemis as their toiletry brand too which are kept in refillable bottles (points for the green initiative!).
Once you’re all settled in, walk down into the town centre along the cobbled High Street and take a wander over to William the Conqueror’s Castle and its grounds. During the spring and summer months, the gardens are manicured and lined with clusters of vivid floral arrangements. You’ll come across a familiar face which you’ll recognise as Alice in Wonderland cast in bronze – an ode to Author Lewis Carroll who spent many days in the company of his sisters in Guildford.
Friday Evening in Guildford
Swap those travelling sneakers for your heels and dress shoes as you head into town for dinner at Theion where you’ll be able to indulge in fine, inspired Greek traditional cuisine in a beautifully decorated, rustic backdrop. The menus highlight fresh ingredients you would find in Mediterranean cuisine. I recommend sharing a couple of starters, alongside some Tzatziki and pita bread. The interior design is quite neutral making the chosen art installations pop out even more – be sure to look up at the ceiling where hundreds of feathers hang beautifully. Moreover, the restaurant boasts an impressive cocktail bar nestled in the heart of the first floor and proudly displays its selection of bottles used to make some fresh cocktails. The winelist showcases an extensive collection of Greek wines carefully curated by wine consultant, Gregory Kontos. Menu highlights: Meatballs ”giaourtlou”, Filo-wrapped feta, Orzo kavourma, Roasted octopus and Galaktompoureko.
Are we full yet? Good, because Tattam’s is where Guildford’s most innovative cocktails are being brought to life. Models after a European café, it serves some beautifully crafted drinks to be enjoyed as you whisper the rest of the evening away on your bistro-table, Parisian-style.
Menu highlight: Tattam’s rhubarb Pymms.
Saturday Morning in Guildford
I’ll say today is your main walking day so dress accordingly and lace up those walking boots – we have to make sure you get your steps in at least once this weekend with a foodie walk in Surrey!
Fuel up with breakfast at Amor Amora, and opt for the Croque Madame. For those who like to be adventurous with their coffee order, the Crème Brûlée Latte is a fun and delicious take on the classic drink I’ve personally really enjoyed and want to highlight.
Saturday morning is a good time to visit Guildford Cathedral that presides on Stag Hill. Although it may not look too historic from the outside (or on the inside) it is described quirkily as a “fresh expression of a traditional sacred space” with a rich variety of features to learn from as well as serving as emblem for Guildford. You are more than welcome to have a wander around guided by their leaflets or you can arrange a guided tour in advance for just £5 per head.
Saturday Afternoon in Guildford
From the Cathedral, drive out of Guildford town centre for about 15 minutes for the St Martha’s Hill hike (Parking on Shalford Road). This 4.6 mile walk can either be done completely or if you’d rather take it easy you are more than welcome to go up to the Church to enjoy the views over the High Weald and walk back down the same way through the woodlands. This walk takes you into the very West of Surrey Hills, AONB through a loop and is one of the prettiest walks in Surrey.
The trail partly coincides with the historic Pilgrims’ Way, a route used to travel from Winchester in Hampshire to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury in Kent. The walk takes approximately 3 hours.
Saturday Evening in Guildford
Time to trade in the muddy boots in for kitten heels because the newly opened Ivy Asia has arrived from London to light up floor, walls and ceilings in an eclectic setting while you dine. Taking inspiration from Asian cuisine, sushi is definitely the one to look out for on the menu. The original Ivy Asia firstly opened at St Pauls in London and now graces Tunsgate Square.
Here you’re not only in for a mouthful of fusion tastes but the decor is a feast for the eyes in itself (we’re looking at you geo-paved floor). Full disclosure, it has been difficult to grab a table since its opening so should this be the case, waltz down to its sister restaurant The Ivy Castle View for an equally delectable menu with a more Art-deco charisma with intimate booths and floral displays.
Sunday Morning in Guildford
For a well-caffeinated start to the day sit in for a coffee and pastry at KOJA hidden away in Jeffrey’s passage. They use Surrey Hills Coffee for their menu, a local roastery located in the heart of Dorking, founded in 2014. It doesn’t get more local than this! Little bonus: you can stock up for road snacks from their Scandi Market inside the café.
When you feel you’re ready to take on the world, drive slightly out of town to the National Trust’s Hatchland’s Park – a beautiful 400 acres of land home to your classic Georgian manor house built in 1756. A pair of boots is highly recommended to wear while you explore the lands as muddy situations are not uncommon to come by especially in the colder, wetter months. It still remains one of the most picturesque walks in Surrey.
Sunday Afternoon in Guildford
Sunday without a Roast? This can’t happen. The March Hare, a White Brasserie Co. Pub, has recently had a glow up, both menu and interior-wise and offers a hearty roast in the centre of Guildford. The pub’s cuisine typically leans towards French more than anything and keeps a nice selection of regular starters and mains if you would rather opt for an a la carte selection rather than a roast.