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
15 September 2021

This classic English county on the capital’s doorstep is ripe with summer-ready lidos and wildlife-loved lakes.

Head southwest of London, and you’ll find yourself in the charming county of Surrey. Here, dotted around the countryside, are picturesque villages, English sparkling vineyards, historic towns and fascinating day-trip locations. With everything from classic castles and wetland centres to Guildford galleries and motoring museums, there’s plenty to keep you coming back.

Take to the water at Hawley Lake

Park, Sports Center
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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 watersports 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. Known for its youth programmes as well as adult classes, the lake allows everyone to try their hand at splashing around, with certified pros on standby to offer guidance and tuition.

School-up at the WWF Living Planet Centre

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This hub of conservation, sustainability and environmental activities is run by the World Wildlife Fund. 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 Living Planet Centre makes for a fascinating day out. Open to the public, it’s located in the heart of Woking and offers a range of tours, workshops and talks, with special events, such as food festivals, planned over the school holidays.

Speed over to the 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.

Browse the Watts Gallery and its 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 master 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, beautiful woodlands and a living exhibition showcasing the artist’s studios as they once would have been. There is also a charming tea shop, perfect for a cuppa between exhibitions.

Splash out at Guildford Lido

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

Guildford Lido, a purpose-built 1930s Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool, is one of the true treasures of this Surrey county town – surrounded by over 4 acres (1.6ha) of land, including carefully crafted gardens, paddling pools for younger ones and even a miniature golf course. Only open from April to September, it’s a surefire summer hit, especially refreshing on a hot day, with waters warmed to a balmy 24 degrees, and ad-hoc events held – from outdoor concerts to pool parties and barbecues.

Take to the turrets of Guildford Castle

Historical Landmark, Ruins
Map View

Built nearly a thousand years ago, 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 amazing views of surrounding Guildford. Tickets are reasonably priced, and the castle gardens are well worth a visit, too.

These recommendations were updated on September 15, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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