Cool Places - The best places to stay in the UK

The Best Places to Stay in the UK


Despite its position on the cusp of the capital (much of the county sits within 40 minutes' train ride of central London), Surrey has been lustily protected by the guardians of the greenbelt and still boasts plenty of wild woods, open commons, verdant rolling hills and ever-so-English country villages. Even amid stiff competition from its Home County neighbours, it's an affluent place – a fact reflected in the cost of living and in the shop windows of its principle towns. Yet there's grit beyond Range Rover tyre tracks and Surrey has still managed to produce a number of angry artists, including influential punk outfit The Stranglers and the Modfather Paul Weller, as well as mellower musicians like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel and Fat Boy Slim. It has been called home by authors ranging from George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll, through to H.G. Wells, Douglas Adams and Aldous Huxley, whose dystopian novel Brave New World ends in Surrey, and it's been invaded by aliens at least twice (the action in both The War of the Worlds and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy starts here).

The Magna Carta was issued in Surrey on June 1215, at Runnymede on the banks of the Thames, and Guildford Castle was a favourite haunt of King Henry III later in the 13th century. Guildford – the county capital – is an old Saxon market town located in a beautiful cleft in the North Downs on the banks of the River Wey. It features a cobbled High Street, wickedly slippery when wet, where the penultimate stage of the Tour of Britain cycle race has been fought out for the past two years. Besides the 11th Century Castle, Guildford boasts an iconic Guildhall Clock, plenty of atmospheric alehouses and an imposing Art Deco cathedral that fans of classic horror flicks will recognise from its staring role in The Omen.

Guildford is surrounded by quiet and quintessentially English hamlets, such as Bramley, Shere, Albury and Shalford, all linked by numerous walking trails across the North Downs, which run along the length of the county like a chalky spine. Other sizable Surrey towns include Godalming (the first place in the UK to get electricity), Woking (hometown of Paul Weller and the Jam) and Cranleigh – a village on the edge of the Weald, surrounded by forest, whose church gargoyle is said to have inspired Lewis Carroll to create the Cheshire Cat.

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Verdant hills, vibrant villages, cracking country pubs, beautiful B&Bs and historic houses
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