15 of the best things to do in Esher
- Credit: John Miller/National Trust
James Knighton gives us the lowdown on this sophisticated Surrey town
Having developed as a coaching town on the London to Portsmouth route, Esher came into its own in the 16th century when Henry VIII commandeered the area as a hunting ground. It is still a draw for the rich and famous today.
The bustling High Street, which is packed full of places to eat and stylish boutiques, backs onto an almost secretive village green, overlooked by an attractive pub and the impressive Christ Church.
Sandown Park Racecourse
Just a short trot from the town centre is one of the UK’s best-known racecourses, Sandown Park. Founded in 1875, Sandown Park was the first purpose-built racecourse designed to be a leisure destination. These days, it hosts regular race fixtures and music nights. Looking forward, The Betfair Tingle Creek Festival is the highlight of Sandown Park’s jump racing calendar and takes place on the first Friday and Saturday in December each year.
Garsons of Esher
With pick-your-own season well under way, Garsons is a fantastic day out for all the family. There’s 155 acres of seasonal rotating crops that usually offer picking opportunities through to October. It’s also home to an award-winning farm shop, where you can pick up a hamper of fine foods and local produce; a garden centre, where you’ll find hundreds of bright ideas for your garden and home; and The Orangery Tea House, where you can enjoy breakfast, brunch and lunch.
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Claremont Landscape Garden
An oasis found only moments outside the town, Claremont Landscape Garden is steeped in more than 300 years of history. Many of the great names in landscape design played a part in the creation of the estate and, in 1866, Queen Victoria acquired the estate to save it from development. It’s now in the hands of the National Trust and, with its turf amphitheatre, serpentine lake, grotto, Camellia Terrace and Belvedere Tower, it’s a wonderful destination to while away an afternoon. It’s also worth checking whether you can couple your trip with a visit to The Homewood, an extraordinary early 20th-centure Modernist villa found in a picturesque woodland garden, which only occasionally opens to the public.
St George's Church
Esher’s oldest building, St George’s Church, is tucked behind The Bear coaching inn. Princess Victoria attended services there when visiting her uncle at Claremont and later, as Queen, visited with Prince Albert.
In a pop culture nod, a blue plaque commemorates Beatles guitarist George Harrison's time living in Esher at his former home, Kinfauns.
What are the best places to eat in Esher?
The Good Earth is arguably one of the best Chinese restaurants in Surrey. Visit: thegoodearthgroup.co.uk
Sherpa Kitchen takes Nepalese cuisine to new heights. Visit: sherpakitchen.co.uk
Siam Food Gallery serves tantalising Thai. Visit: siamfoodgallery.co.uk
José Pizarro’s The Swan Inn celebrates the fabulous flavours of Spain. Visit: josepizarro.com
Averna brings a modern twist to classic Italian dishes. Visit: claygateaverna.co.uk
What are the best pubs in Esher?
The Wheatsheaf, a welcoming community pub which is tucked away off the village green hidden behind the High Street. Visit: wheatsheafesher.co.uk
The Bear - right in the heart of the town - also offering B&B. Visit: bearesher.co.uk
Hummings Bar, a boutique destination that opens for brunch, lunch and cocktails - 'cafe by day, bar by night'. Visit: hummings.co.uk
Don your glad rags for a visit to the sophisticated Cuvee VIII bar and restaurant, where you’ll enjoy some of the best wines around with an indulgent food menu to match. It could almost be Paris. Visit: cuvee8.com
Big Smoke Brew Co brewery and taproom, meanwhile, can be found in Sandown Industrial Estate. It’s open seven days a week, with DJs playing on Fridays and Saturdays if the weather is nice. It’s home to a dazzling array of vibrant brews. Visit: bigsmokebrew.co.uk