Image credit: Mole Valley District Council
A short 40-minute train ride from central London and skirted by the M25, Mole Valley is the ideal destination for day trips and weekends away, as well as longer leisurely holidays. Coming from further afield? Gatwick airport is situated just over the border, meaning Mole Valley is the perfect base for the international visitor to explore the English countryside.
Heading south from London (whether by rail or road) you first arrive in the town of Leatherhead – the ‘gateway’ to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Leatherhead is a vibrant modern market town with the picturesque River Mole running through the town centre and under the historic Town Bridge. A few miles further south and you reach the town of Dorking – the ‘heart’ of the Surrey Hills AONB – famous for its antiques shops and heritage breed of five-clawed chicken (a statue of which proudly adorns one of the major roundabouts!). Mole Valley is also home to three large villages – Ashtead, Fetcham and Bookham – as well as numerous smaller rural villages, each with their own individual characteristics and communities.
Mentioned as far back as in the Doomsday Book, Mole Valley is a region proud of its heritage and architecture. Dorking was home to six of the Mayflower passengers who in 1620 set sail across the Atlantic; the 16th century family home of some of those passengers – the Mullins family – still stands in West Street. You can delve further into Dorking’s past by visiting the award-winning Dorking Museum.
The village of Great Bookham is home to Polesden Lacey, one of the National Trust’s most popular properties famed for its socialite and royal connections. The late Victorian mansion of Cherkley Court has been renovated and is now open as luxury country house hotel Beaverbrook House – complete with spa, golf course and opulent art deco bar. A very different example of historical architecture is Betchworth Castle, a picturesque ruin of a fortified stone house that dates back as far as the 11th century… also rumoured to be haunted!
TOURS & WALKS
Linking the towns of Leatherhead and Dorking is the Mole Gap Trail, a six mile walk along the banks of the River Mole. The walk guides you through Norbury Park, the pretty village of Westhumble and into England’s largest vineyard Denbies Wine Estate, where you can climb up to admire the view from the Surrey Hills Arts ‘Inspiring Views’ installation Radius – a sculptural seat that orientates visitors towards the views that radiate out from the hillside.
Just a 15 minute walk from the centre of Dorking lies the previously-forgotten estate of Deepdene, the landscape of which has been restored and opened up as The Deepdene Trail. The heritage trail is free to enter, open all year round and (together with the walk to Betchworth Castle) forms part of the Greensand Way route crossing Surrey and Kent. Guided tours of The Deepdene Trail can be booked through Dorking Museum.
Blessed with stunning landscapes and greenery all around, Mole Valley is home to well-known landmarks such as Box Hill and The Stepping Stones. However savvy visitors can beat the crowds by checking out the Open Spaces website to seek out lesser-known hidden gems such as Bookham Common, Holmwood Common and the Thames Down Link Walk. Perhaps take a walk around the Wotton Estate and see whether you can spot the hidden Tillingbourne Waterfall.
ARTS, CULTURE & ENTERTAINMENT
Mole Valley is rich in artistic traditions and festivals with an annual calendar that includes the Leith Hill Music Festival, Leatherhead Drama Festival and Dorking Christmas Festival. Every October the district plays host to the award winning Arts Alive festival, showcasing the wonderful wealth of artistic talent that lies within.
Art deco entertainment centre Dorking Halls has been serving the community for more than 85 years and now proudly stands as a modern theatre, cinema and conference venue. From cool comedy clubs to Plays in the Park, there is something to entertain everyone. Leatherhead Theatre also plays host to a range of live theatre events and screenings and boasts its own in-house art gallery.
For classical music lovers, be sure to take a trip to Leith Hill Place – the elegant 17th century property and birthplace of great composer Vaughan Williams. If you’re visiting in late springtime then park in the Rhododendron Wood car park and stroll through the wood up through to the house, before continuing up to Leith Hill Tower for panoramic views back across to London.
Outdoor pursuits are around every corner of the Surrey Hills. Cyclists can choose from following in the footsteps of the 2012 Olympic road-racers up the Zig Zag road to Box Hill, or exploring the off-road tracks around Leith Hill and Ranmore Common. The hills are challenging and the coffee shops welcoming! Meanwhile, golf-lovers have at least seven different courses to tee off from or if you fancy taking in some scenery on horseback there are stables offering lessons and hacking direct from the yard.
For farmyard fans of all ages the working family farm of Bocketts Farm Park (just outside of Leatherhead) makes for a great day out with enough indoor and outdoor space to guarantee fun come rain or shine. Another rainy day option is Dorking Museum, home to all kinds of exhibitions and artefacts as well as recommendations of both self-guided and guided walks. Through the museum you can also book a tour of the South Street Caves – a subterranean maze of cellars, caves and bunkers that lie beneath Dorking town centre.
If you’re after something a little different, head east from Dorking to the Surrey Hills Adventure Company (SHAC) lagoon at Buckland, to try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding or e-foiling.
SHOPPING, FOOD & DRINK
Leatherhead has a long tradition as a market town and every Thursday and Saturday the High Street comes alive with a range of market stalls. Each month the town centre also plays host to specialist Artisan and ‘Taste of the World’ markets where you can tantalise your taste buds with international flavours and delicacies from afar.
West Street in Dorking is famous for its collection of antiques shops and emporiums that draw visitors from all over the world. Shoppers can also take advantage of the free Sunday parking across all MVDC-owned car parks to browse the monthly Artisan Market or Dorking Decorative Vintage Brocante market.
If you’re in search of something to eat or drink then there is something for all tastes and all budgets; from ‘farm to fork’ producers such as Hill House Farm, to independent cafes, to the Michelin-starred Sorrel Restaurant. Beer enthusiasts can head to the Dorking Brewery for a brewery tour, whilst gin lovers can head south of Dorking to the Gin Kitchen for a cocktail masterclass.
We look forward to welcoming you to Mole Valley!
What's on in Mole Valley
For more events taking place across Mole Valley check out our Mole Valley Together Community Events Calendar.