Insider’s Guide to Godalming
This historic little market town by the River Wey is quintessentially British with its pretty lanes, charming cottages and quaint Shakespearean vibe.
Godalming is a bustling historic market town situated just four miles from Guildford. Nestled in the pretty Surrey countryside right by the River Wey, you’re in prime stockbroker belt country here. It’s the quintessential English town, with cutesy mix of charming weatherboard cottages, nice laneways and a healthy smattering of lovely independent stores that no doubt appeal. Plus the you can get to London in under an hour – so plenty of boxes are ticked.
All of this, plus the town’s Shakespearean vibe and great community feel mean it’s no stranger to those ‘best places to live’ lists. It’s even been said that Godalming-ites have a life expectancy well above the national average.
There’s plenty of history too. In the 16th century, Godalming was famed for its booming wool industry. And when the wool industry took a hit, the town reinvented itself and became known for making stockings. Who knew? Another one quirky little fact: In 1881, Godalming became the first place in the UK to have a public electricity supply and electric street lighting.
Parking is straightforward in Godalming, with the town centre being bordered by three large car parks. These are the best places to pop your car as free parking is quite a walk away. Don’t drive or fancy leaving the car at home? Godalming train station is just a seven minute walk from the centre of town.
WHERE TO EAT
The town and surrounding areas offers a plethora of eateries that will have you wanting to come back for more.
If a quick bite to eat is on your agenda, visit Cafe Mila for a plant-based brunch or lunch (and a side of not-so-healthy cake). Changing Perceptions, in addition to a breadth of loose leaf teas and tasty homemade cakes, offers skills training and work opportunities for people affected by epilepsy and disabilities via its upcycling furniture workshop. Delicious and generous!
Pubs wise, The Inn on the Lake is a favourite, with that great combination fo big garden and even bigger gin menu! But some of the best pubs are to be found in the villages just outside Godalming.
The White Horse in Hascombe has long been a Muddy fave – and is indeed a multiple-Muddy Award winner. The 16th century pub has plenty of cosy old world charm, but also a terrific garden for sunny days. The food is well above the usual gastropub fare, and there’s a killer wine list. We also love the Stag on the River in Lower Eashing – another great pub garden here and fab food, plus boutique rooms (more on that later!).
WHERE TO STAY
If it’s a town centre bed you’re after, head to the Kings Arm Royal Hotel, which once played host to Henry VIII himself. The hotel has opulently decorated rooms as one would expect from a building that has housed royalty and has large luxury rooms to hire for special occasions.
A little further afield is the Merry Harriers in Hambledon, a boutique inn built in the 16th century. Alongside the luxury pub rooms with exposed beams and pretty views of the countryside there are barnd new shepherd huts for a more romantic overnight stay. But the real selling point? Merry Harriers is home to a herd of 12 llamas that visitors can book to walk with along the local trails of The Greensand Way. A treat for the whole family!
The Stag on the River in Lower Eashing is another brilliant boutique option. The waterfront pub and hotel offers bed and breakfast accommodation. We love their ‘Escape with Friends’ package where you can practically take over the whole pub by booking all seven bedrooms exclusively. Weekend away anyone?
PLACES TO VISIT
A visit to Winkworth Arboretum is the great opportunity to reconnect with nature with the family. Take the little ones straight to the new Tree Adventure play park to let off some steam, before enjoying a long wander in the wild woods. Finish the trip at the tearoom for a hot drink and something sugary.
The Church of St Peter and St Paul, is a Grade I listed building built in the 12th century. It’s the oldest building in town – and for history types, worth a visit.
Fancy getting spicy? Book a curry masterclass with Sameena from The Art of Curry. There are plenty of options, but whichever you chose, you’ll certainly be able to tell a dopiaza from a bhuna when your finished!
HAVE A DRINK
Whether the sun is shining or the bitter cold has you hunting for a log fire, there are some great pubs and bars in Goldaming.
Head to The Rose and Crown bar in the centre of town to appease all of your cocktail dreams. Perfect for wiling away sunny weekends, plonk yourself in the bar’s Miami Beach themed garden terrace and take advantage of the twice-daily happy hour. Weeknight tipple more your thing? Try building your own gin goblet every Thursday to ease yourself for the weekend.
Just outside of Godalming is the Crafty Brewing Company, which prides itself in hosting a breadth of craft beers in a barn on a farm in the woods! A perfect afternoon out with a beer loving pal or partner, there is an on-site microbrewery and the company makes and packages all of the beer it sells.
While Guildford is pretty close by, and is known for its shopping – Godalming has some little gems of its own. Catwalk, sister store to The Gate in Guildford, is worth a peep with brands like Ilse Jacobsen, Oui, Envy and Rosamund lining the rails.
Fairly new to the town is Yard Market a bit like a real-life Etsy, offering unique handcrafted goods by mostly local artisan producers. It’s a proper little treasure trove of wonderful things, and well worth popping into. There’s also an eco conscious refill station, where you can replenish stock of hand wash, laundry liquid, glass cleaner and more.
And if it’s a spot of beauty therapy you’re after, head to Polished, a luxury beauty salon right in centre of town. As well as an extensive menu of facials, and the usual waxing, tanning, manis and pedis, you can also book for a pampering package that includes afternoon tea.
FUN FOR KIDS
The Little Gym kids play centre is a great place to let the kids run off steam. There are plenty of regular classes as well as camps during half terms and summer holidays. They’ve also got you covered for birthday parties.
Want to get them outside in the fresh air? Try the Godalming Spy Mission Treasure Trail. The self-guided trail takes around 1.5 hours to complete and is the perfect activity for the buddy spy in your family. Don your monocle, download the PDF guide and head out for an afternoon of mystery and exploration. Sherlock who?
Right! So one of the town’s most famous names is that of Jack Phillips, the RMS Titanic radio operator who is famed for standing firmly at his post and sending repeated distress calls, until the ship sank. He is is remembered in a number of ways around the town, including at the Godalming Museum and with a memorial fountain, cloister and garden walk near the church. A pub has also been named in his honour.
The architect Edward Lutyens has also left his mark on the town – he designed parts of Charterhouse School, including the Red House for a retired assistant head master, and other private house in the area including Munstead Wood which is open by appointment.
Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks, formed the band Genesis during their student days at Charterhouse, the Hollywood actor Sam Worthington was born in Godalming, although moved to Australia at a young age, and the actress Rachel Hurd-Wood is also said to be a current resident.
Found this Insider Guide useful? Check out our guides to …