15 family things to do in Surrey
From crystal grottos and lavender fields to pig and horse racing, this checklist offers plenty of inspiration for family days out in Surrey.
Fancy a day out trekking with llamas? The Merry Harriers pub in Hambledon near Godalming has a herd of 12 lovely llamas and they offer trekking days out into the pretty Surrey Hills. There are a routes to suit all levels of fitness, with most treks averaging around 3 miles. They’ll cater to almost any occasion – options include The English Picnic, Children’s Birthday Party Trek and Summer Evening Treks with the llamas carrying the picnic hampers and guiding you along the stunning local trails of The Greensand Way. The pub also has rooms, as well as luxury shepherds huts so you could make a weekend of it.
2/ GO BOATING
GoBoat is a fun self-drive boating experience that starts and ends on the River Thames, near the Kingston Bridge at Kingston. You’re at the helm so you can choose your own route – or let the kids decide! No boating experience is needed, the GoBoat team teach you everything you need to know before you set sail. It’s a great way to see London and Surrey from a whole different viewpoint whether you head downriver towards Teddington Lock or along the Thames River to Hampton Court Palace. The boats are designed with a large picnic table in the middle for passengers to gather around and each boat fits up to 8 people, including children and dogs. As well as the Kingston GoBoat, there is also a base at Paddington in London.
More than just a farm, Godstone Farm is a brilliant day out for kids of all ages with indoor soft play, a giant adventure playground, sandpits, tractor rides and of course lots of animals. But this summer, there’s also the chance to go camping at The Big Farm Sleepover. There are three events planned this year: Fri 19-Sun 21 Aug, Tues 23-Thurs 25 Aug, and Fri 26-Sun 28 Aug. It’s BYO camping gear, but the evening meals and breakfast are provided. And – possibly the best bit – when the farm gates close to visitors each day, you’ll enjoy behind-the-scenes animal encounters, after-dark tractor rides and campfire singalongs. There are more than 500 animals at the farm including highland cows, reptiles, llamas, giant rabbits, horses, goats, pigs, chickens and more.
4/ GO SHOOTING
Clay pigeon shooting is huge fun, and a great outdoor activity that all the family can enjoy regardless of age and physical ability. No gun-toting experience is necessary, and at Bisley Shooting Ground at Cottesloe Heath between Woking and Guildford you can book group lessons for three or more people for two hours, which includes up to 100 clays and cartridges per person, gun hire and tuition. Kids have to be at least 10 years old. Cottesloe Heath is one of the oldest shooting facilities in the world – and one of the best know – set over 3,000 acres of woodland and heath with 32 different stands offering a mixture of single and combinations traps. I spent a morning here learning how to shoot with my teenage son, and we both had a great time, each trying to out-do the other with the number of successful targets hit, but having a laugh at the same time. Totally recommend it.
Created in the 1700s by Charles Hamilton, Painshill landscape garden is a beautiful place to visit – and taking centre stage is the stunning man-made crystal grotto. Hamilton was inspired by Renaissance art and his tours throughout Europe, and the 158-acre gardens have been created with a sequence of breathtaking and surprising vistas. As well as the grotto, there winding paths that take you to all corners, around and over a serpentine lake, and alongside vineyard plantings that produce sparkling white. Most of the paths are paved, so it’s very accessible. Dogs on short leads are welcome and you can bring a picnic – or visit Hamilton’s Tea Room.
It’s officially lavender season, and the seas of proud purple should stay in bloom until the end of August. Head to Mayfield Lavender Farm in Banstead, before then (adults cost £4, children under 16 go free), and you will be rewarded with glorious acres of headily scented flowers – plus there’s a gift shop selling the farm’s organic lavender wares. A wonderful assault on the senses, and absolute gold (well, purple) for Instagram.
You read that right! Surrey has its own beach… at Frensham Great Pond, between Farnham and Hindhead. The man-made sandy beach stretches along the lake that was originally created in the 13th century – it’s the perfect spot to picnic and swim. It’s worth noting, though, that it gets incredibly busy in hot weather – so probably best to avoid going then. There are many lovely walks across Frensham Common too.
If you’re looking to try something new this year, Aqua Sports is pretty much the perfect place to do it! A large, tree-lined lake just outside Redhill awaits for you to sail, canoe, kayak, windsurf, and paddleboard at your leisure. It’s based in the beautiful setting of Mercers Lake. All equipment is provided; you simply need swimwear, a towel, and an old pair of trainers. The centre also has a cafe for refreshments, changing facilities and free parking – you won’t need to wrestle into your wetsuit in public.
A day out that grown ups will enjoy just as much as the children. Denbies Wine Estate, just outside Dorking, is England’s largest vineyard, sitting on 265 acres. There’s plenty to explore here – visitors can take a stroll (or hike) through the vineyard, or if you’re not feeling energetic, there also a train. Regular events are held at the winery, with plenty for families like Birds of Prey demos, plus art exhibitions and running events like ParkRun every Saturday. Oh, and there’s also the Paradox Parlour Escape Rooms on the estate too.
Brooklands Museum in Weybridge is a must-see if you’re you, or one of the sprogs are a fan of fast cars or airplanes – this is the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation. There’s a wide range of exhibits, from race cars and motorcycles to airplanes, including Second World War bombers and the Concorde. In fact, it’s the only Concorde in the south-east of England with public access.
Henry VIII’s old gaff – aka Hampton Court Palace – is one of England’s top tourist attractions, and for good reason. This spectacular Tudor mansion in East Molesey, built in the 1500s as a home for Cardinal Wolsey, is gorgeously grand, brimming with history and surrounded by 60 acres of beautiful gardens. Perhaps not as well known is the stunning 17th Century maze, a great family adventure, and The Magic Garden, a dreamy children’s playground where you’ll come face to face with mythical beasts, storm battlements and explore the secret grotto.
12/ A DAY AT THE HORSERACES – SANDOWN, ESHER
A day at the horseraces is a fun day out for the family – and with four racecourses in Surrey there’s plenty of action to catch. Sandown Racecourse is holding its Summer Celebration on Sunday 20 August, a day of flat racing that ends with an after-party hosted by a DJ – perfect for families with older kids. At Lingfield Park, there’s a Family Raceday on Monday 15 August (children under 17 go free with an adult) where there are kids’ activities like face painting as well as the horseracing. At Epsom Downs, it’s all about family fun on Sunday 29 August where as well as an afternoon of live racing action there’s also plenty of free entertainment for the little ones away from the track, from pony rides to face painting, a mobile climbing wall to football darts. Kempton Park is hosting race days and evening racing. throughout July, August and September.
The iconic Pig Races at Bocketts Farm are legendary. Choose your pig, cheer them on and watch them all hoof it to the finish line! They’re on twice a day (12.45pm and 3.45pm). And for the rest of the day, there’s plenty to see and do – both inside and out – including trampolines, giant slides, a bouncy pillow, two large indoor play barns and outdoor adventure trails. Take a pony ride, hop on board the tractor and trailer, cuddle cute rabbits or feed the farm animals. As it’s a working farm, there are always baby animals to see including lambs, kids, piglets and chicks. Homemade food is available in the Old Barn Tearooms or the Cow Shed Coffe Shop.
Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village is a unique Arts & Crafts gem found in the village of Compton, near Guildford. It’s an art gallery dedicated to the work of the Victorian-era painter and sculptor G F Watts and his wife, the designer and artist Mary Watts, hosting visiting exhibitions throughout the year in addition to the permanent gallery. You can find out more about the lives of G F and Mary Watts at Watts Studios, and take a tour of the artists’ home, Limnerslease. The Grade I listed Watts Chapel, designed by Mary and created by the local community, is also nearby and worth a look. The Artists’ Village regularly hosts workshops and courses – for both kids and adults. And during the summer holidays there are drop-in workshops for families, as well as a range of bookable activities.
This National Trust property at Great Bookham near Dorking is a brilliant day out for the family. Set on a 1,400 acre estate it was once the country retreat of the Edwardian socialite Margaret Greville, and as well as walks aplenty throughout the grounds and gardens you can also tour the Edwardian manor house. It’s buggy friendly with plenty of paths, but it’s spread out – so be prepared with drinks and snack. There’s always a lot going on at Polesden with organised activities throughout the year for families and children – especially during the summer holidays. For older kids, pick up the ’50 Things to do Before you’re 11 3/4′ and work your way through the activities. You’ll easily spend a full day at Polesden Lacey – and if you don’t fancy bringing your own picnic, there are two cafés where you can grab a bite to eat.