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GV of Dorking, UK

10 things to do in Dorking

Exploring the pretty Surrey Hills? Find fresh air, foodie fun, spooky shenanigans and more great things to do in Dorking and Box Hill

By Emma Hughes
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This pretty patch of green just outside London is nowhere near as hyped as the Cotswolds, but the Surrey Hills are gorgeous (officially: they’re an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Get to know it with a visit to Dorking, a Georgian market town with bags of independent spirit, and Box Hill, the peak immortalised by Jane Austen in ‘Emma’ that also featured as a cycling route in the 2012 Olympics. Best of all? With loads of trains heading out of the city, a spontaneous, low-effort day out is totally doable.

RECOMMENDED: Explore more things to do nearby in Surrey, Kent and Hampshire  

 

 

A perfect day in Dorking

River Mole at Box Hill, Dorking, UK
River Mole at Box Hill, Dorking, UK

First up

Stretch your legs at Box Hill. Whether you’re in the mood for a short stroll or the full eight-mile round trip, check out the National Trust’s series of walking routes, one of which takes in the picturebook-pretty stepping stones across the River Mole. Expect to spot orchids, butterflies and, er, giant snails (there’s a colony of them).

Pastel Mists
Pastel Mists
Helen Dixon

Soak up the vibes

Tired already? The bus from Box Hill to Dorking takes just 15 minutes. On your way, stop off at Denbies Wine Estate. One of the UK’s largest producers, its vineyard has spirit-lifting views over the North Downs. Book a tour and you’ll get to trundle around it in a tiny train with a glass of sparkling wine in hand.

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Sorrel restaurant, Dorking
Sorrel restaurant, Dorking

Stop for lunch

The Dorking Deli does a nice line in whopper homemade sausage rolls, jackfruit chilli and mozzarella meatball stew – browse the shelves of artisan cheeses while you’re waiting. Eat at buzzy newcomer Sorrel for a fancy three-course set lunch, made up of the likes of venison tartare and brill with seaweed, with loads of delicious extras (truffled cheese on toast, anyone?).

Dorking Caves
Dorking Caves
Sam Dawson

Go on an adventure

Book a spine-chilling tour of the South Street Caves. Right in the town centre, this network of tunnels was dug out in the seventeenth century. At its heart is a mysterious chamber with seating carved out around it. For religious rituals or something more sinister? Nobody knows, but lit by flickering candles, it’s pretty spooky.

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Antiques shops in Dorking, UK
Antiques shops in Dorking, UK
Willy Barton/Shutterstock

Hit the shops

Incredible antiques stores are Dorking’s stock in trade – or indulge your inner crafter at The Fluff-a-Torium, a brilliantly bonkers treasure trove of yarns, felts, buttons, glitter, take-home kits and more. 

 

Box Hill, Dorking
Box Hill, Dorking

If you only do one thing

Stop for a pint in one of Surrey’s loveliest pubs. Back towards Box Hill, sixteenth-century The Running Horses at Mickleham is much loved by cyclists and dog-walkers for its history (it used to be a stable for the nearby Epsom Derby), views and strong craft beer selection.  

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Garden Cottage, Polesden Lacey
Garden Cottage, Polesden Lacey
Photograph: National Trust

And if you stay the night, wake up here

Rest your weary walking legs – and keep those serene green vibes alive – with a stay in a super cute Regency-style villa surrounded by formal grounds, woodlands and the Surrey Hills. Garden Cottage is on the estate of grand Edwardian retreat Polesden Lacey, right next to the rose gardens. It’s all run by the National Trust and cottage guests get free use of the huge house’s croquet courts and the gardens out of hours, too. Inside the quirky cottage, you’ll find three bedrooms, an open fire and a rolltop bath for soaking away any stubborn city stresses. Polesden Lacey, Surrey. From £414 for two nights. 

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