With more wooded areas than any other county in the UK, there’s a lot more to Surrey than just ‘commuter country’.
What to expect living in Surrey
With average values of more than £500,000, Surrey gives London a run for its money when it comes to property. But then it’s in close proximity of the capital with good rail connections serviced by South West Trains, Anglia Railways, and South Central. There's also a very useful Thames Trains line that runs from Reading to Gatwick.
But Surrey itself offers a great quality of life. The county is home to some of the best schools in the country, excellent amenities and beautiful countryside. Topped off with low crime rates it's not hard to see why homes in the county are in popular demand.
Exploring houses for sale in Surrey
The Surrey property market may be fierce but it’s varied and offers a wide variety of properties from equestrian homes to modern flats, and from manor houses to Victorian terraces and inter-war semis.
Within this mix, some local Surrey councils have put affordable housing initiatives in place to help first-time buyers combat ever-rising property prices and make the first rung of the housing ladder.
Waverley Borough Council, for example, offers a council housing programme that aims to deliver an additional 30 affordable homes each year. And at least 30% of homes sold on earmarked open market developments, should also be in the form of affordable housing, such as under shared ownership schemes with local housing associations.
Surrey’s large towns such as Guildford, Woking and Farnham may offer more in the way of job opportunities – but there are dozens of chocolate-box villages in the county that offer a slower pace of life. It might be a drive rather than a walk to the supermarket, but your reward will be having the picturesque English countryside as your back garden.
Mickleham in Surrey’s Mole Valley for example, offers some delightful period properties, attractive woodland views and short walks to two friendly pubs, the Running Horses and the King William IV.
Ripley boasts an award-winning farmers’ market and historic pubs, as well as cosy coffee shops such as Pinnock’s and Nest Café – all within a 40-minute drive to London’s West End.
Oxshott is another of Surrey’s English country idylls. And the fact that some top Premier League footballers call it home gives some idea of the financial clout of its residents.
However, you’ll generally find more affordable property in Surrey’s larger urban settings, such as New Malden and Raynes Park, than in its leafy – and luxurious – villages.
Finding period properties in Surrey
With history dating back to the Romans, there is no shortage of period properties in Surrey. Shere, just a few miles east of Guildford, is a particularly pretty village with a Norman church and many buildings dating back to the Tudor period.
Farnham is notable for its surfeit of Georgian properties, which sit side-by-side with Victorian and Edwardian dwellings. A 12th-century castle, which is now a well-established training and conference centre, overlooks the town.
Things to do in Surrey
With its combination of rural and urban, you'll never be bored in Surrey. Box Hill is a notable escape from urbanites looking to back to nature. It is the oldest untouched wood in the UK and offers fantastic views over Surrey, as well as opportunities to see local wildlife. It is popular with cyclists, and featured prominently on the route of the cycling road race in the London 2012 Olympics.
Box Hill is just a small part of Surrey Hills, which covers a quarter of the county and has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Take a walk along the stunning Pilgrims' Way for a taste of what medieval pilgrims travelling from Winchester to Canterbury would have experienced.
There's a huge amount of history to be explored in Surrey, not least at Hampton Court Palace. Lovers of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall will recognise it as the home of Cardinal Wolsey. It has a rich history to explore – and, of course, plenty of ghosts.
Sport lovers can also find plenty to do. Surrey has numerous racecourses including Epsom Downs, Lingfield, Kempton Park and Sandown Park – ideal if you like a flutter.
Motorsports fans will be in their element at Brooklands Race Track near Weybridge. While the roadway itself is no longer in use, the Brooklands Museum is packed full of motoring and aviation exhibits.
If you’d rather be playing sport than watching, Surrey is home to some excellent golf courses. The internationally-renowned West Course at Wentworth hosts the annual BMW PGA Championship.
Finding jobs in Surrey
While many Surrey residents commute to the nearby capital, numerous international companies have chosen to base their headquarters in the county. These include Unilever, Toyota, Samsung, Sony and Procter & Gamble.
Attractive workplaces with more local origins include motor sport firm McLaren, film studio Shepperton Studios and childcare products company Britax.
Getting around and about Surrey
The M3, M25 and the M23 link Surrey with London and the surrounding counties, while a significant A-road network connects it to major towns and villages.
The rail service in Surrey is extensive, with many smaller villages and towns serviced by lines in and out of London. South West Trains is the main provider of services into London Waterloo, although many National Rail services run through the county to London and to other parts of the country.
In terms of international travel, Surrey is close to both Gatwick and Heathrow Airports.
Finding the best schools in Surrey
Surrey is home to some outstanding independent schools, such as Charterhouse and Tormead. But it offers some excellent options for state schools too.
According to Trinity Mirror's Real Schools Guide 2015, Gordon's School in Woking is the best state-funded school in the county, based on a number of factors including exam results. In second place was St John the Baptist Catholic comprehensive, also in Woking.
Best pubs for Sunday lunch in and around Surrey
The Three Horseshoes in Thursley is located in the beautiful Surrey countryside and serves a mean roast dinner. It's the perfect ‘stopping off point’ after a walk in the countryside, where you can fill up on lunch and a pint with a beautiful view from the garden.
The Brasserie at Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa in Bagshot are both great for a wind-down but also serve excellent food.
For something a little bit different, try the New Gurkha Kitchen in Reigate. Consistently ranked on TripAdvisor as one of the best restaurants in the county, it serves outstanding Nepalese cuisine. Dishes include the exotic Fila Bagu, which is a pork fillet marinated in rum.
Best-kept secrets in Surrey
Those-in-the-know head for the Silent Pool in Albury for some peace and quiet. It’s a spring-fed lake just a few miles south of Guildford and a peaceful and romantic spot, perfect for a picnic and birdwatching.
If you’re after great food, try Bryce’s in the village of Ockley. This family-run, seafood restaurant has great bar food, a refined restaurant menu and set meal deals. It even lays on cabaret nights.
Highly-acclaimed comedy group, Out of Bounds Comedy holds nights throughout Surrey at a variety of venues from pubs to golf clubs.
One of the lesser-known highlights of Surrey is its canal system. Escape the daily grind and float merrily down the river (or canal) on your own barge – hopping off every so often to deal with the lock.
Finally, you can even try your hand at maypole dancing at the traditional Westcott Village Fair held every June.