The best things to do in Godalming

The spectacular Charterhouse is found just outside the town centre

The spectacular Charterhouse is found just outside the town centre - Credit: Charterhouse

With its gorgeous riverside setting, foodie hotspots and tourist attractions, Godalming is a fantastic place to visit, says James Knighton

Thanks to a wealth of lush meadows, picturesque riverbanks and historic buildings, Godalming is idyllically located on the banks of the River Wey.  

The Phillips Memorial Cloister is found along the river in Godalming

The Phillips Memorial Cloister is found along the river - Credit: Matthew Williams

As well as gorgeous riverside strolls, you will also discover the memorial cloister to Jack Philips, a telegraphist on the Titanic, who continued to send SOS messages until the ship met its doom. 

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The parish church of St Peter and St Paul looms over the surrounding riverside park, with its 14th century spire rising to 147 feet and providing the focal point for a watercolour pretty scene.  

Surrounded by much sought-after villages such as Bramley, Hambledon, Hascombe, Witley, Thursley, Elstead, Compton and Chiddingfold, Godalming is a perfect place to explore our county’s beautiful rural life.  

The best places to stay in Godalming

Llama trekking and staycation stays with The Merry Harriers

Llama trekking and staycation stays with The Merry Harriers - Credit: Fiona Mills

The Godalming area is home to one of the quirkier places to stay in Surrey, The Merry Harriers with its cosy country inn accompanied by luxurious shepherd huts - with a bottle of bubbly thrown in and llama walks through the Surrey Hills.  

There are numerous well-appointed country inns only a 10-minute drive from the town too, such as The Stag on the River in Eashing, which is a charming waterside retreat with seven bedrooms, and The Withies Inn at Compton, a freehouse with the added benefit of bedrooms near the popular Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village. Visit: stagontherivereashing.co.uk

There is also Barnett Hill at Wonersh, a four-star hotel that’s part of the Alexander House Group, and the Kings Arms Royal Hotel in the heart of Godalming, which dates back to 1639 and has a fascinating history.  

7 best food shops in Godalming

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Godalming is an exciting place for great local food and drink, even before you look into the options for dining out.  

Just a few minutes down the road, you will find Secretts of Milford, which is undoubtedly one of the powerhouses of the Surrey food and drink scene. Head to: secretts.co.uk

It has been producing fresh fruit and veg for pubs, restaurants and markets since 1938, but is also home to an excellent farm shop, butchers and the Hawkins Bros’ English wine store.  Hawkinsbros.co.uk 

In the heart of the town, there’s Godalming Food Company deli, Godalming Fish, Godalming Delights (retro sweets and ice creams), Loaf Bakery and Amy Lou’s Greengrocer, meaning you are never far from some prized ingredients for a picnic.  

Best places to eat in Godalming

The restaurant offer is pretty good too, with the exceptional Acorn offering Spanish fusion (think fresh catch of the day fish cooked in a wood-fired oven etc) and Bada producing delicious Asian flavours. Both make quality dining accessible and unpretentious.  

Acorn restaurant Godalming

Acorn restaurant is highly recommended - Credit: Acorn

There is also an excellent selection of places to enjoy a slice of cake, a cup of coffee and a light lunch, while The Star on Church Street has won CAMRA Regional Cider Pub of the Year too many times to mention. 

Perfect picnic spot

The Lammas Lands are the remains of a mediaeval field system and separate the main town centre from the world-famous Charterhouse School across the river. They make for a lovely place to throw down a picnic blanket or just go for a stroll. Charterhouse was founded in 1611, before moving out to its sprawling Hogwarts-esque country home in Godalming in 1872. Famous alumni, known as Old Carthusians, include the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams; the founder of the Scout movement, Robert-Baden Powell; and most of the members of the band, Genesis, among many others. 

Best things to do in Godalming

Explore the town 

The iconic Pepperpot, a Georgian building erected by public subscription in 1814 and shaped (unsurprisingly) like a pepper pot, is found at the heart of Godalming, along with many eye-catching timber framed buildings. There are also some really interesting independent shopping options, with The Yard Market (a home for makers, creatives and more) offering something unique. There are loads of arts and crafts options too: the Wey Gallery on Bridge Street; Lingwood Samuel on Church Street and Arthouse Unlimited and McAllister Thomas Fine Art on the High Street - providing plenty of inspiration. And that is just the start… 

 Arts and crafts  

Continuing the arts and crafts theme in the historic sense is Godalming’s extraordinary appeal to a collection of 19th century artists and writers. This celebrated history is told in the Arts and Crafts gallery at Godalming Museum. At Munstead Woods (garden tours strictly by appointment), Gertrude Jekyll created a garden which became an inspiration for generations. Just 10-minutes down the road, meanwhile, you will find the remarkable Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village with its galleries, tearoom and spectacular chapel. A must visit - see wattsgallery.org.uk for more.  

Farncombe Boat House 

While it is currently unable to hire out rowboats and canoes due to silting issues, Farncombe Boat House can still thankfully rent out narrowboats to anyone who loves the idea of ‘messing about on the river…’ You can even book a two-week cruise in a narrow boat and putter up to Oxford and back via the Thames. Visit: farncombeboats.co.uk

Winkworth Arboretum  

Winkworth Arboretum

The wonderous Winkworth Arboretum - Credit: Carole Sheppard

A spectacular destination at any time of the year, the National Trust’s Winkworth Arboretum is found a short drive from Godalming. It was created in the early 20th century by Dr Wilfred Fox, a local doctor with a passion for preserving the wooded hillside near his home. Lovely for a morning visit - possibly followed by a country pub lunch to follow. Perfect! It is advised to book tickets for Winkworth Arboretum under the current guidelines. See: nationaltrust.org.uk