Surrey is a charming county in Southeast England home to historical and natural landmarks, world-class gardens and an extensive network of footpaths and bike trails. As the most wooded county in Great Britain, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing which outdoor activity to do first.

    Will you discover an 11th-century castle, a red-bricked Tudor Royal Palace, or a vineyard with panoramic views of the glorious countryside? Perhaps a walk through a colourful botanical garden or an enchanting sculpture park will do? Whatever the season, here are good reasons to escape London on a road trip to Surrey.

    1

    RHS Garden Wisley

    See unique plants at a historic garden

    RHS Garden Wisley is the historic flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society and offers a mesmerising fusion of beauty and tranquillity with innovative designs and cultivation techniques. The sprawling grounds cover 240 acres and have everything a garden-lover can enjoy through every season – carpets of bulbs and cherry blossoms in spring, roses and a bold display of mixed borders in summer, vibrant foliage in autumn, and quiet, frosty walks in winter.

    Key sites to see include the luscious rose gardens, lakeside glasshouse with over 5,000 varieties of tropical plants, 110-year-old rock garden featuring alpine plants and the beautiful Jellicoe Canal with waterlilies. If you arrive by bicycle or public transport, you can get a discount on the entrance ticket.

    Location: Wisley Ln, Wisley, Woking GU23 6QB, UK

    Open: Daily from 9.40 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1483 224234

    Map
    2

    Hampton Court Palace

    Visit a 500-year-old Tudor Palace beside the River Thames

    Hampton Court Palace is the magnificent former home of England’s notorious King Henry VIII and his 6 wives. The stately landmark offers visitors a glimpse into the fascinating world of the Tudor Court. Discover the infamous Haunted Gallery and impressive Great Hall with a hammer-beamed roof and 5-century-old tapestries.

    Marvel at the grandeur of the state apartments and huge Tudor kitchens and stroll through 60 acres of stunning landscaped gardens with marble sculptures. Don’t miss the world-famous maze – it’s the oldest surviving hedge maze in the UK. Your entrance ticket includes an audio guide. There are also costumed tours daily.

    Location: Hampton Ct Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)2031 666000

    Map
    3

    British Wildlife Centre

    A great place to experience UK’s fauna in their wild habitats

    At the British Wildlife Centre, you can learn about the UK’s incredible native wildlife at the British Wildlife Centre located in the East Surrey countryside. You can see over 40 species, including foxes, deer, owls and tiny harvest mice, plus rarely seen animals like Scottish wildcats and otters. Every half an hour, there are informative keeper talks.

    At the Nocturnal House, you can observe badgers and night creatures during the day. While at the walk-through red squirrel enclosure you’re allowed to walk among the squirrels in their natural habitat and see them up close during feeding time. The centre also offers a coffee shop and picnic areas.

    Location: Eastbourne Rd, Newchapel, Lingfield RH7 6LF, UK

    Open: Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1342 834658

    Map
    4

    Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

    Explore a UNESCO World Heritage site with a renowned botanic collection

    The 250-year-old Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is a gorgeous, 330-acre landscape on Surrey’s doorsteps. It is home to the largest and most diverse collection of living plants in the world (over 50,000 on display). You can easily spend the whole day discovering rare plants, historic Georgian royal buildings and botanical art galleries.

    Explore the famous glasshouses and see climatic zones from around the planet. Stroll along the Great Broad Walk Borders and observe spectacular displays from spring through to autumn. At the Arboretum, visit the 18-metre-high Treetop Walkway for a unique view of 14,000 trees. Better still, climb the 253 steps to the top of the 18th-century Great Pagoda for marvellous views of London.

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    Location: Kew, Richmond TW9 3AB, UK

    Open: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)2083 325655

    Map

    photo by Karen Roe (CC BY 2.0) modified

    5

    Thorpe Park

    Test your nerves on over 30 exhilarating rides

    • Families

    Thorpe Park is one of Britain's major theme parks set on an island near Chertsey where you can experience mind-blowing rides. The collection of 6 one-of-a-kind rollercoasters are alone worth a visit and take thrill-seekers to incredible speeds, terrifying drops and eye-popping extremes. Don't miss Stealth, the UK's fastest rollercoaster that launches you from 0 to 130 km/h in under 2 seconds or the heart-stopping G-Force of 4.5 on Nemesis Inferno.

    Face your fears on Derren Brown's Ghost Train, where live-action and virtual reality take you on a frightening immersive journey. On warm days, head to the aqua park and enjoy super-soaking attractions. Diehard adrenaline-chasers can even stay the night at the on-site Thorpe Shark Hotel.

    Location: Staines Rd, Chertsey KT16 8PN, UK

    Open: March–November: daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)3716 631673

    Map
    6

    The Sculpture Park

    Stroll through a peaceful outdoor gallery

    The Sculpture Park is a magical spot hidden away in a hillside forest in Farnham and showcases over 600 sculptures crafted by 200 well-known sculptors. You can explore the grounds along a walkway which meanders for 3 km through picturesque woodlands – don't forget to look out for wild birds and other creatures.

    The collection of artwork is made from bronze, marble, wood, copper or stone, among others. And as practically every piece is for sale, the exhibits continuously change throughout the year. Bring along a picnic and enjoy your spread at one of the picnic tables.

    Location: Jumps Rd, Churt, Farnham GU10 2LH, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1428 605453

    Map

    photo by Karen Roe (CC BY 2.0) modified

    7

    Guildford Castle

    Learn about the history of Guildford's medieval Castle

    • Photo
    • Families
    • History
    • Budget

    Visit Guildford Castle and explore an imposing fortified stone fort thought to have been built shortly after the Norman invasion in 1066. Surrounding the 11th-century Castle Keep, once occupied by a moat, are the splendid castle gardens with an astonishing array of flower displays.

    Other attractions not to be missed include the historic bowling green, the life-size statue of Alice Through the Looking Glass and the fabulous panoramic vistas of Guildford town from the visitor platform on the roof of the Great Tower. You can wander the castle grounds for free, but you’ll need to pay a small fee to visit the Castle Keep.

    Location: Castle St, Guildford GU1 3SX, UK

    Open: April–September: daily from 10 am to 5 pm. March and October: Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1483 444751

    Map
    8

    Surrey Hills cycling routes

    Ride through a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

    • Families
    • Budget
    • Adventure

    Cycle Surrey Hills is a top choice for cyclists looking to experience Surrey’s quaint villages, ancient woodlands and winding country lanes. The network consists of over 80 km of cross-country bike trails divided into 5 interconnecting routes. So depending on your level of fitness, you can choose a long-distance ride or shorter loops. An excellent place to start is the historic town of Dorking, considered England’s cycling capital. Here you can climb Britain’s iconic Box Hill, made famous during the 2012 Olympic road race.

    On the Elstead Loop, you’ll ride across Hankley & Elstead Common passing vast commons and delightful villages. The other loops at Devil’s Punchbowl, Frensham, Thursley and Puttenham offer plenty of points of interest, including remarkable views across open heathland, medieval bridges and wildlife.

    photo by Richard Child (CC BY 2.0) modified

    9

    Brooklands Museum

    Step back in time and explore the world’s first racing circuit

    To appreciate the Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, you don’t need to be an aviation or motoring fan. The fascinating heritage museum is located on the site of the world’s first motor-racing circuit. It houses an incredible collection of bicycles, motorcycles and Formula One cars, as well as civilian and military aircraft, including the supersonic Concorde open to the public and the Wellington Bomber from Loch Ness.

    History and art fans should plan a visit to Watts Gallery - Artists’ Village. The art gallery and heritage site is located near Guildford and is dedicated to the legacy of the great Victorian artists, Mary and George Frederic Watts. You can explore the beautiful woodlands, have tea at the Tea Shop, tour the Watts’ home and see Victorian paintings and sculpture.

    Location: Brooklands Drive, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 0SL, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1932 857381

    Map

    photo by STEPHEN J MASON PHOTOGRAPHY (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    10

    Denbies Wine Estate

    Enjoy a scenic wine tasting at England’s largest vineyard

    • Couples
    • Food

    Denbies Vineyard is England’s largest vineyard and invites visitors to taste world-class sparkling and still wines, plus take a walk through its expansive estate along 11 km of footpaths.

    Indoor wine tastings take place every hour between 11 am and 4 pm. For a more adventurous experience, book the 50-minute Outdoor Vineyard Train Tour (available from March to October) and enjoy sweeping views of the vineyard. The estate is located within easy walking distance of Dorking station, so there’s no need to drive after all the tasting.

    Location: London Rd, Dorking RH5 6AA, UK

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1306 876616

    Map
    Jacqui de Klerk | Contributing Writer

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