Welcome to the golden age of the staycation. Last week rail bookings trebled, with the most popular getaway destinations being Margate, Weymouth, Brighton, Inverness, Cambridge, Bournemouth and Guildford.
The latter can be reached in little over half an hour from Waterloo. But what is the secret to Guildford’s popularity? The County town of Surrey and “Gateway to Dorking and Pewley Down” doesn’t have fresh seafood, pebble or Blue Flag beaches or a ferry terminal. Bonny Langford and newsreader Michael Buerk are perhaps its most famous favourite daughter and son, although PG Wodehouse was born prematurely there and Lewis Carrol, commemorated by sculptures in the castle grounds and by the River Wey, died and is buried there.
On the plus side, it has a Norman cathedral, a cinema multiplex, a state-of-the-art docking station and elite ice hockey and netball teams. The weather is fine, with mean May sunshine hours of 192.6 hours, well above the UK average, and an average May high temperature of a balmy 17.7C, plus it boasts impressively low rainfall for this time of year. A train trip will avoid the dreary and congested A3 trunk road, and will give you the chance to see the banks of colourful buddleia and graffiti coming into Guildford station.
It will also give you the opportunity to hear Westborough Estate burrs mingling with lilting Woking accents along the granite setts (not cobbles) of the High Street, with its famous must-look-up-at Guildhall Clock. You could also take some time to watch aircraft stacking up in holding patterns on their approach to Heathrow and Gatwick.
There are more historic reasons to visit, too. The southernmost tip of Greater London is mentioned in King Alfred’s and it was King John’s weekend bolthole when Guildford was part of Great Windsor Park. It was the home to the Royal Mint in the year 958 and boasts western Europe’s oldest synagogue. It may also be the true home of cricket – forget Lords – with the earliest definite reference to the game being played anywhere in the world all the way back in 1597.
To book a ticket visit The Trainline here.