The Best Things to Do in Surrey, UK

Learn about Surrey's history at Guildford Castle
Learn about Surrey's history at Guildford Castle | © John Goulter / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Nicholas Grantham
2 November 2020

Head southwest of London, and you’ll find yourself in the charming county of Surrey. Dotted around the expansive countryside, there are picturesque villages, historic towns and fascinating day trip locations. With everything from classic castles and living ecological enclosures to Guildford galleries and motoring museums, Surrey has plenty on offer for your next visit.

Hawkley Lake

Park, Sports Center
Map View
White Mountain Apache Reservation  AZ / SEPT Early morning in late summer at Hawley Lake. Conifer frames a scene looking toward a point .
© Randy Prentice / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re looking for a chance to get out on the waves without heading to the coast, Hawley Lake is a fantastic alternative. A great spot for both novices and experts, the lake is largely used as a training facility for anyone looking to try their hand at sailing, windsurfing and powerboating. Famed for its youth programmes as well as adult classes, the lake is an excellent destination for a day out with the whole family, allowing everyone to try their hand at any number of water sports.

WWF Living Planet Centre

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The base of operations for the World Wildlife Federation, the Living Planet Centre is a hub of conservation, sustainability and environmental activities. With a mission to educate its visitors on the works of the WWF and what everyone can do to help some of the world’s most endangered species, the centre makes for a fascinating day out. Open to the public Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, the centre is located in the heart of Woking and is available for tours, workshops and can even be hired for private events.

Brooklands Museum

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Clubhouse and Paddock, British Marques Day, 28 April 2019, Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, Surrey, England, Great Britain, UK, Europe
© Ian Bottle / Alamy Stock Photo
Often referred to as the “birthplace of British Aviation” as well as the site of professional motorsports, Brooklands is a top destination for any flying or racing fanatics visiting the county. Originally founded as the first purpose-built racing track in the world, Brooklands was a central location for a huge number of aviation and racing firsts. Since 1991, the former track and runway have been turned into a museum showcasing examples of the excellent engineering feats built, driven and flown during the 20th century.

Watts Gallery – Artists' Village

Art Gallery, Museum
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Limnerslease, the Watts house and studios at Watts Gallery Artists Village in Compton, Surrey, UK
© Gillian Pullinger / Alamy Stock Photo
Showcasing the life and works of local Victorian artist George Watts, this Grade II-listed building is an excellent opportunity to see some of the area’s cultural history. Home to over a hundred works by the artist, the gallery grounds also feature the picturesque Watt Chapel (a Grade I-listed building), beautiful woodlands and an exhibition showcasing the artist’s studios as they would have been used. There is also a charming tea shop, perfect for a quick break between exhibitions.

Guildford Lido

Park, Swimming Pool
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Guildford Lido, outdoor swimming pool
© Ashley Prytherch / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the few remaining purpose-built lidos from the 1930s in the country, Guildford Lido is one of the best-hidden treasures of the city. An excellent spot during the summer, the lido is surrounded by over 4 acres (1.6ha) of land and features carefully crafted gardens, paddling pools for younger ones and even a miniature golf course. Only open from April to September, the lido is definitely a destination for the summer and especially refreshing on a hot day.

Guildford Castle

Historical Landmark, Ruins
Map View

Built nearly a thousand years ago, with the exact date uncertain but estimated to be around the time of William the Conqueror, Guildford Castle is a fantastic reminder of Surrey’s rich history. On top of interesting exhibits and panels showcasing the castle’s history, there is also a viewing platform to take in some amazing views of surrounding Guildford. Tickets are reasonably priced, and the nearby castle gardens are also well worth a visit.

These recommendations were updated on November 2, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.