Report by: Matthew Inglis
The town of Guildford is situated in the county of Surrey, and just 27 miles from London, making this a popular tourist destination for coach groups around the UK.
The town itself has so much to offer groups, with some fantastic visitor attractions covering a wide range of interests, so whether you are looking for culture, entertainment, or stunning gardens, Guildford has it all.
Head into the centre of Guildford and you can enjoy vibrant town centre renowned for its bustling high street shopping, combined with good accommodation and dining options, or enjoy a relaxing picnic on the banks of the River Wey, while taking in the beautiful Surrey Countryside. Visit Guildford have a comprehensive events programme running throughout the year, ranging from live music, carnivals and speciality international markets, to seasonal specials such as the Guildford Christmas Fair on November 22-23. Having visited Guildford a few years ago, I went back to meet the team at the tourist information centre and learn more about this historic venue in the heart of Surrey, and how they are continuing to drive for tourism and group visits. There is certainly a lot available!
Guildford town centre is a shopper’s paradise, renowned for its interesting buildings and thriving shopping scene. The High Street continues to buck the trend, with high occupancy levels, and attracting even more big names and brands to the town. As well as shopping, there is a busy events programme running throughout the year in the town and at the surrounding attractions. November in particular is another busy month with the Lions Firework Fiesta (November 2) and the Christmas lights switch-on also taking place during the month. A safe, relaxing environment for all.
The town centre has purple flag accreditation, an award similar to green flags for parks, or blue flags for beach quality. The purple flag assures the public that they can be sure of an entertaining and safe evening out in Guildford and is a prestigious award that the town is rightly proud to have earned. As part of Guildford’s ongoing efforts to make visits safe and enjoyable, the town has a small team of Town Rangers, who provide the eyes and ears on the street, as well as providing ambassadorial services to visitors. The rangers have a wide role in the town, dealing with small things such as broken paving slabs, through to providing valuable feedback from the local businesses, which allows Guildford to stay ahead of the game and provide such a diverse town centre experience. The town rangers work seven days a week, from 8am to 6pm.
NEED TO KNOW… Visit Guildford are keen to work with coach groups heading into the town and can offer a meet and greet service if pre-booked. The town’s TIC can provide group planners with the all-important information on attractions, accommodation, and rest breaks, and can be contacted on 01483 444333 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
Coach parking for Group Travel is available at:- Guildford Cathedral, Bedford Road, Arrington Park and ride, drop off points also available contact TIC for more information.
Must visit attractions…
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford
The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (named after the actress Yvonne Arnaud) is one of the main entertainment venues – and perfect for group visits.
The Theatre has a capacity of 586 and is home to year-round entertainment, with a number of touring shows, including ballet, opera and panto. The end-of-year production of Sleeping Beauty is already proving popular, with the panto running from the December 6 to January 5. The theatre is also used as one of the town’s drop-off points for coaches. More information on www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk or via the box office on 01483 440000
Guildford Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit was built between 1936 and 1961. The cathedral offers guided tours to suit groups’ requirements, and is usually open to visitors between 8am and 5.30pm every day.
The Seasons Cafe and Restaurant set in the cathedral grounds is a great place to enjoy a refreshing drink and a bite to eat; with seating for up to 200 people they can easily accommodate group visits and bookings. To plan your trip to Guildford Cathedral visit www.guildford-cathedral.org or tel 01483 547860.
The flagship of the Royal Horticultural Society, RHS Wisley offers groups a stunning day out inarelaxing and tranquil environment. Wisley spans an impressive 240 acres and the gardens offer something different whatever the time of the year.
Recently completed is the brand-new visitor centre, which adds even more to a visit.
More information on visiting Wisley when in the Guildford area can be found on www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley or calling the groups line on 0207 8213170