Although it’s often pigeonholed as just being an affluent commuter county, Surrey is actually home to some of the most beautiful sights in South East England. After moving from North London, I bought a small cottage in Surrey looking for a more peaceful way of life and have spent many weekends exploring nearly every corner of the picturesque county. If you look past its reputation for being a little aloof and snobby…and having overly busy roads….and you’ll find beautifully kept public gardens, fine country houses, picture-postcard villages and landscapes so beautiful they inspired famous authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen. After living here for over a decade, here are my favourite best and most beautiful places to visit in Surrey, England…
1. The North Downs – one of the most stunning areas to explore and walk in Surrey
This is easily one of my favorite places to visit in Surrey and the scenery and the views and atmosphere here are just incredible. The North Downs are a beautiful chalk ridge that winds over hills, ancient woodland, and grassland stretching all the way from Farnham in Surrey across to the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent. As well as being a famous beauty spot and a must for nature lovers and walkers, the route of the North Down Way passes through many protected sites of specific scientific interest. This region is home to several rare species notably orchids and butterflies that are hard to find anywhere else in the UK.
There’s also a mysterious aspect to this part of Surrey, as this was also one of the legendary crime writer Agatha Christies’ famous stomping grounds. As well as being home to many of her favourite views she also famously disappeared from this area in 1926.
2. Polesden Lacey – an Edwardian house and estate which is positioned in the most beautiful spots in Surrey
Another one of my favourite beauty spots in Surrey, this place enjoys one of the best positions and is surrounded by the most scenic landscapes and views in Surrey. Now owned by the National Trust, Polesden Lacey is a stunning Edwardian house and estate, located on the North Downs at Great Bookham, not too far from Dorking.
The Regency house was expanded from an earlier building and extensively remodelled in 1906 by the popular socialite Margaret Greville. She then used the opulent house to throw lavish parties and entertain a whole host of important people here from royalty, politicians, and countless celebrities.
It is one of the Trust’s most popular properties and with good reason, once you’ve visited for yourself you’ll see why. If you like art and history then make sure you take a look inside the house which is filled with well-preserved decor and artifacts including Dutch Old Master paintings and excellent examples of fine silverware. Although arguably it’s the gardens, the grounds, the views, and the wider estate that’s the real draw, so make you bring your camera and also your walking shoes to really explore this beautiful part of Surrey. Dogs are also allowed in the grounds and gardens if they’re kept on a lead.
3. Virginia Water – a very popular beauty spot to visit in Surrey
Located in the northern part of Surrey in affluent Virginia Water, this is another one of my favorite places to walk my dog and enjoy the beautiful views. It’s also very popular with others too and can get very busy on bank holidays and at weekends so don’t expect to have the place to yourself. If you time your visit well you’ll be rewarded, here you can expect to see a lovely well kept park, pretty woodlands, and a huge sparkling lake.
Both families and dog walkers come here and take a leisurely 4.5 – 5 mile walk around Virginia Water to fully take in all the sights, the most popular is the ornamental Cascade waterfall and the 100-foot Totem Pole. If you veer off the main path and explore the woodlands you can even spot wildlife such as deer, squirrels, and rabbits.
There’s a large onsite car park and other amenities include well-maintained paths, a cafe, picnic tables, a children’s playground, and onsite toilets.
4. Shere – one of the most pretty villages in Surrey which provided the backdrop for The Holiday movie
If you fell in love with Jude Law and Cameron Diaz in the movie The Holiday then you’ll love Shere as this is where all the magic happened. Shere is an impossibly pretty and compact English village in Guildford, Surrey which is home to a cluster of village houses, shops including a blacksmith, a trekking shop, a pretty stream with ducks, gift shops, a quaint tea house, an art gallery, a museum, two traditional pubs, and a Norman church.
The charming village is mostly set in the wooded Vale of Holmesdale, which is located between the North Downs and Greensand Ridge. It’s now very popular with passing visitors due to it being a perfect example of a quintessential English village, having stunning surroundings and countryside and for its Hollywood fame – as well as The Holiday, scenes from Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason were also filmed here.
5. Guildford – the historic and vibrant county town of Surrey with many great places to visit
Guildford is a thriving and affluent city in the middle of Surrey and there are many reasons to visit this great place in Surrey. Shopping and eating are the most popular draws as Guildford is filled with a fantastic range of shops from cool designer brands and upmarket boutiques to unique independent retailers and no less than three shopping centres.
There’s also a fine range of restaurants and cafes many of which are housed in beautifully preserved historic buildings. In the centre of the city resides the medieval Guildford Castle which has landscaped gardens and views from its square tower. Another highlight is Guildford House which is a 17th-century townhome that has a gallery with home to many exhibitions.
Also pay a visit to nearby Watts Gallery Artists’ Village which can be found in the village of Compton and is dedicated to the work of the Victorian-era painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts.
6. Loseley Park – a magnificent Tudor manor house and grounds which is one of the best places to visit in Surrey
The is another truly beautiful place to visit in Surrey which has a special and captivating charm. Located near Guildford in the stunning Surrey Hills it’s a large Grade 1 Tudor manor house – which was originally built to entertain Queen Elizabeth I – with a spectacular walled garden and further estate grounds which are 1,400 acres of glorious rolling countryside.
It’s privately owned and hosts a variety of events including weddings and festivals but otherwise, it’s open to the public and visitors can pay to explore the house and grounds with guided tours, period furnishings, a chapel, a gift shop, and a tea room.
7. Godalming – one of the prettiest towns to explore in Surrey
Godalming is a pretty historic market town in the Borough of Waverley in Surrey about a 15-minute drive from Guildford. It enjoys an idyllic location on the banks of the River Wey and has many quaint historic buildings and interesting independent shops and boutiques lining its streets.
As well as being surrounded by outstanding Surrey countryside and pretty villages other highlights include the Godalming museum, a charming canal, traditional pubs, and a good selection of restaurants and cafes.
8. Leith Hill – for beautiful views and gorgeous Surrey landscapes
If you like walking, hikes, and gorgeous views with Leith Hill, you get the opportunity to exhaust yourself by climbing all 74 steps of the spiral stairs at the National Trust owned Leith Hill Tower. Once at the top you get to gaze through a telescope at the truly gorgeous views of the Surrey countryside and on a clear day you can see even Wembley Stadium Arch and the London Eye.
It’s actually the highest point in southeast England as well as being a famous local beauty spot home to woodland, parkland, farmland, and open heath.
With plenty of well-marked trails, it’s a great place for friends and family and dog walkers to enjoy. Don’t forget to visit nearby Leight Hill Place an atmospheric house with panoramic views which was once the former home of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Apparently, Charles Darwin was once a famous guest.
9. Hatchlands Park – a gorgeous red-brick country house with surrounding gardens
Hatchlands Park is a beautiful red-brick Grade 1 country house that has stunning surrounding gardens and a further estate which covers over 170 hectares and was built in 1757-9 by Stiff Leadbetter for Admiral Edward Boscawen.
Located in East Clandon, Surrey it’s another National Trust property that enjoys a stunning spot. History fans will love the interiors which include neo-classical decorations by Robert Adam and an interesting library, music room, and saloon. The landscaped gardens which sit on the edge of the woods are very pretty and features designs by Humprey Repton as well as a terrace, fountain, stone ornaments, and a small temple.
10. Shepperton – a large suburban village which is home to great walks by the River Thames
Shepperton is a peaceful suburban village in Surrey/Middlesex that has a long history (that it makes an appearance in a document of 959 AD and the Domesday Book) and has even been voted as one of the top ten happiest places to live in the UK. It’s also lived in Shepperton for the last 11 years and I can easily see why so many others love living here. Though it lacks major attractions and top-end shops and restaurants it more than makes up that with pretty walks by the River Thames. The best walk is Shepperton Tow Path which runs along the River Thames and is lined with a picturesque mix of gorgeous designer homes and traditional boathouses and ending with a very popular riverside pub (Thames Court) which also has outdoor seating taking advantage of the lovely river views.
Other highlights include Shepperton Marina, the Nauticalia Shop and cafe which enjoys a pretty position right next to Shepperton Lock, and Old Shepperton which is home to a number of historic buildings and a small square lined with popular traditional pubs.
If you enjoyed Shepperton other suburban towns and villages worth visiting in Surrey include Esher, East Molesey, Weybridge, Lower Sunbury, Kingston-on-Thames, and Walton-on-Thames, many of which offer more beautiful walks by the River Thames.
11. Wisley Gardens – considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world
Located near Woking in Surrey this is one of the best-loved beauty spots in Surrey and one of the most popular gardens to visit in the whole of England and is even considered to one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Open to the public for a fee it spans over 200 acres in size and it receives over a million visitors each year.
Wisley Gardens was gifted to the RHS in 1903 and is home to a huge well-kept garden, a glasshouse with three climatic zones, a learning space, and a Growing Lab, a unique Rock Garden, and a pretty fruit orchard – a true horticultural paradise!
12. Claremont Landscape Gardens – beautiful landscaped gardens near Esher beloved of royalty
Claremont Landscape Garden is a great place if you are looking to escape the modern world and experience a tranquil and natural experience. Located just outside Esher, the garden is Grade I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens and is one of the earliest surviving gardens which still features its original 18th-century landscaped layout.
Claremont has been around for close to 300 years and for most of that period, it was a countryside retreat of the aristocracy and the royals.
The gardens are beautifully kept and are stunning, and highlights include the lake, the amphitheatre, the Camellia Terrace, the Belvedere Tower, a children’s play area, and the cute Thatched Cottage, which is filled with quirky Victorian-style games and dressing up clothes.
13. Hampton Court Palace – Henry VIII favourite royal hangout
One of the highlights of Greater London and the Surrey border, Hampton Court Palace is a Grade I listed royal palace which is famous for being Henry VIII’s favourite royal hangout.
It’s a truly spectacular and sprawling place which history lovers shouldn’t miss and here you can expect to see beautiful formal gardens, elegant cobbled courtyards, and magnificent Tudor and Baroque architecture. Highlights include the world-famous and very fun maze, the Great Fountain Garden with historic yew trees, sparkling fountains, and the longest herbaceous mixed flower border in Britain.
There are also various events hosted here throughout the year including ice skating, the famous flower festivals, and many food-related festivals.
Make a day of your visit and explore nearby East Molesey which is home to many independent shops as well as excellent restaurants and traditional pubs.
14. Box Hill and the rest of the Surrey Hills – an Area of Outstanding Beauty
The Surrey Hills are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one of the highlights of this area include Box Hill which is known for being home to some of Surrey’s most incredible views and walks.
There’s parking at the bottom but make sure you pack your walking boots and your stamina – it’s a pretty steep climb to the top, but that’s arguably what makes this place so popular!
Don’t miss the Stepping Stones which provide a perfect spot to picnic by the River Mole and the Fort which is one of Box Hill’s oldest buildings.
15. Denbies Wine Estate – England’s largest vineyard and a great spot to explore in Surrey
Denbies Wine Estate is England’s largest vineyard and is situated on the outskirts of Dorking in the Surrey Hills as well as being a local beauty spot popular with families and dog walkers. The vineyards stretched for miles here and on a fine day if you squint a little you could almost be in France!
The estate is home to a Wine and Gift Shop, Art Gallery, local Village Greens Farm Shop, a Gallery Restaurant which offers gorgeous views, and the Conservatory Restaurant offers perfect al-fresco dining.
Also explore the nearby pretty town of Dorking which is home to many shops, pubs, and restaurants many of which are housed in very pretty historic buildings.
16. Painshill Park – a magnificent award-winning 18th century landscape garden
Beautiful Painshill Park is an excellent choice for a day or an afternoon out in Surrey. Located in Cobham, the pristinely preserved and perfectly kept landscaped gardens date from the 18th-century are perfect for long or leisurely walks on the well-maintained paths that follow through the grounds and the wooded areas (dogs are also allowed as long as you keep them on the lead).
The park is home to a beautiful lake, stunning vistas, follies, grottoes, a waterwheel, a vineyard, a tearoom, and an Art Workshop.
17. Bushy Park – a former royal hunting ground turned atmospheric beauty spot
Lovely Bushy Park covers over 445 hectares and is the second largest Royal Park in London but it’s officially located in Surrey. Once a Royal Hunting ground it resides just opposite Hampton Court Palace and is Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
Bushy Park is a wonderful place to walk your dog, cycle, jog, or just go for a hike and spot deer. It has a number of picturesque features, including the Longford River, several ponds and monuments, model boating ponds, formal plantations, conservation areas, and herds of both red deer and fallow deer, and also a children’s playground.
If you’re looking to explore further afield, the park is surrounded by some pretty places such as Teddington, Hampton, Hampton Hill, and Hampton Wick.
18. Runnymede – a great place to visit and explore in Surrey
Runnymede is a beauty spot located on the Surrey border (not too far from Winsdor in Berkshire) which is famous for being the site of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 by King John and his Barons.
It’s an attractive meadow area now owned by the National Trust and is popular with walkers, families, and picnickers during the summer. There is also a tea house, three historic monuments to gaze at, and a car park in the area.