Over the last few months I've been on a mission to discover more of the UK and to see what makes 'Great Britain' so great. So far I've explored the hilly coastline of Northumbria, shopped around some of the biggest cities such as Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham and two weeks ago I took a weekend trip to Guildford, one of the most unique and beautiful medieval cities in the UK.
Guildford is a large town in Surrey located thirty minutes by train from central London. The close proximity to the capital means that Guildford makes a great day trip for those visiting London or alternatively a wonderful staycation for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. If your ideal weekend away consists of a town steeped in history, a town with connections to some of the world's greatest literature and places where you can sit and relax and admire the beauty of nature, Guildford should be on your bucket list.
Guildford is a wonderful market town consisting of cobbled alleyways with dozens of independent and high street stores, several small, yet fascinating museums and a castle with the most well kept gardens you will ever see. Guildford Town Centre was voted 'the best luxury shopping destination outside of London' by Experian in 2014 and in the same year clinched the prestigious title of 'Tourist Destination of the Year' beating the likes of Cornwall and Bath at the Tourism Networks Award.
One of the many things that fascinate me about Guildford is the amount of history in such a small town. Guildford has a strong Saxon history dating back to the 10th century and evidence of this can be seen at Guildford museum, along with other artefacts found in the town, but it also has many historical buildings which really exhibit the changes in Guildford town throughout history. Above is the Abbot's Hospital, which is such a beautiful building situated on the main high-street. The 'hospital' which isn't really a hospital in the modern phrasings, was the brainchild of George Abbot, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and it was erected in 1619 to house the poverty stricken elderly of Guildford town. The building acted as a place of shelter for those struggling to find accommodation and consisted of 12 single men and 8 single women - under the care of a master. Nearly 400 years later, the building still continues to house elderly 'Guildfordians' and provides not only town centre accommodation, but a social and supportive environment for those who need it the most.
Another historical building in Guildford is the castle, situated on a hill overlooking the town. Guildford castle dates back to approximately 1086 shortly after William the Conquerer invaded England. After the 1300s, the castle was heavily neglected and therefore only a small part of the building remains, however the grounds are kept in beautiful condition and on a summery day, it's the perfect place to visit and have a picnic. While I was there, the castle grounds played host to Guildford's annual 'Fringe festival' and two commemorative gardens were unveiled to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday.
If you prefer literature to history, you will be pleasantly surprised to hear that Guildford was once home to the author Lewis Carroll, famous for writing the Alice in Wonderland books and Guildford has honoured the writer with many monuments around the town. The famous Alice Through the Looking glass monument can be found in the castle grounds and the rabbit jumping through the hole is situated near the canal. Free history walks take place several times a week from Tunsgate Arch and by taking part in these, you can learn more about Lewis Carroll and the history of Guildford.
Guildford is a wonderful town and I would definitely recommend paying it a visit. If you would like more information about Guildford check out the Visit Guildford website.
Have you been to Guildford before?