12 brilliant things to do in Dorking
Fancy a Surrey getaway or day trip? Buzzy Dorking should be your number one destination, thanks to its serious foodie creds, beautiful countryside and excellent shopping. Here are 12 things to add to your to-do list.
1. SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP
If you’re a lover of all things vintage and antiquities, Dorking is your spot. West Street – the oldest street in the town – is home to several antiques shops including the Christique Antique Centre which represents 70 dealers, Malthouse for furniture and art and the treasure trove that is Sandrock House.
Visit on the first Sunday of the month, and you’ll find the Dorking Artisan Market in the St Martin’s Walk car park. It’s a veritable showcase of the best the local area has to offer with food and drink stalls, arts and crafts, homeware and garden goodies, clothing and accessories and natural skincare brands.
2. FASHION FIX
But it’s not all antiques and artisan wares, there are also some fabulous little indie boutiques worth a nose in. Victoria’s Little Bra Shop on West Street has long been popular for smalls, Aya Boutique in St Martin’s Walk has an eclectic range of women’s fashion, Westdaw is excellent for menswear and for pre-loved designer fashion Michele’s Dress Agency is your to-to. But for country-types, Dorking’s oldest shop S C Fuller in South Street is a must-visit. Established in 1882, the fourth-generation family run store has a wide range of country clothing and accessories including hiking gear and fishing and shooting equipment.
3. TAKE A STROLL
With Box Hill, Leith Hill, Denbies Hillside and Holmwood Common all on the Dorking doorstep, there are plenty of options for those who want to stretch their legs including the iconic Stepping Stones trail. Or for something a little less strenuous, two self-guided Heritage Trails are available for those who wish to explore the architecture, streets and public spaces of Dorking town centre.
4. KEEP THE KIDS HAPPY
Meadowbank Park is tucked away behind St Martin’s Walk shopping centre in the Dorking, and here you’ll find a fabulous outdoor playground with a nod to the local area. Kids can scramble up Box Hill, jump over the River Mole, climb Leith Hill Tower and dig in Betchworth Quarry. There’s also indoor soft play, ideal for kids up to 10 years with a separate section for toddlers, and a kiosk cafe, plus a park with a duck pond.
5. GET YOUR CAFFEINE FIX
Is there anything more relaxing than watching the world go by, latte in hand (and perhaps something pastry-based to nibble on)? Luckily Dorking is home to plenty of chic cafés and delis – Mullins coffee shop is located in the ancestral home of William Mullins, one of North America’s Pilgrim Fathers, in the heart of the old quarter; Capers at the Yard is a hidden gem in Old King’s Head Court; Monica’s Deli in West Street offers up a range of homemade goodies; and Two Many Cooks on South Street make possibly the best hot chocolate you can get (the secret is the real Belgian chocolate). Holme Stores – the former Dorking Deli – is another goodie and as well as artisan coffee (and craft beer) has a fab range for deli goodies.
6. SPA DAYS
Plan some me-time and book into Mayflower Spa in the old quarter for a luxurious retreat. There’s a gorgeous spa menu promising the ultimate in relaxation – massage, facials, body scrubs and body wraps – or they’ll happily tailor a package to your own needs. There’s a lovely relaxation room where you can put your feet up in between treatments, or before or after a treatment. And the recent addition of the CACI Synergy facials to the menu, means the results-driven facials love by the A-listers is also available.
7. FILL YOUR BELLY
Feeling peckish? Thought so! Dorking’s practically groaning with excellent eateries, but we’ll try to whittle it down for you. The Queen’s Head is a lovely historic pub with a gorgeous tipi in the garden that will make you feel like you’re on holiday in France. The Old House is cosy pub with a great selection of tapas-style small plates and a good burger menu (we like the Bankok BadBoy veggie burger). There’s also a garden with cool beach huts, but even more cool is the hidden room, accessed via a Narnia-style wardrobe.
For world-class views, head to the stylish new terrace at The Watermill where the views out over Box Hill are stunning. Food’s great too!
Fancy Michelin-starred fare? Head to Sorrel, Steve Drake’s modern fine dining restaurant in South Street.
8. EXPLORE DENBIES WINE ESTATE
Just outside Dorking is the family-owned Denbies Wine Estate, England’s largest vineyard, sitting on 265 acres – and there’s plenty to explore here. Visitors can take a stroll (or hike) through the vineyard. There’s a large visitors’ centre as well as two restaurants and a hotel. Regular events are held at the winery, including vineyard tours and tastings, art exhibitions and running events including ParkRun every Saturday.
9. GO TO CHURCH
Right in the heart of Dorking, there’s St Martin’s Church, a Grade II-listed building with parts dating back to the 12th century. It sits in a pretty garden-like churchyard, and – fun fact – the spire is the tallest in Surrey.
10. TAKE IN A SHOW
Dorking Halls is a cracking theatre offering a good line up of live theatre, music and comedy, as well as films. But there’s also the hidden gem, The Green Room studio theatre at the rear, home to the Dorking Dramatic and Operatic Society, putting on plays, musicals an reviews.
11. SIP A BEER
Fancy a beer? Go behind the scenes at the 12-year-old Dorking Brewery which offers tours, taproom drinks and on the first Friday of every month, live music and street food. Cobbetts is the other option for beer aficionados – offering cask, keg and bottled beers at the cosy West Street micropub.
12. OR SOMETHING STRONGER
If you’re more of a heels and vino girl, then it’s to The Grape Variety you must totter. This cool new wine bar, which only opened at the end of 2021, has a an eclectic wine list from all over the world with many served by the glass. They also do fabulous grazing platters. If gin is more your speed, head to The Gin Kitchen just outside Dorking in a series of heritage barns on Punchbowl Lane, offering distillery tours, gin tastings, cocktail making experiences and bottomless brunches. Their Orangery Bar is open on Fridays and Saturdays for drinks and tapas.