Guildford Town & River Walk
Starting Point: Guildford Town Centre
Length: 3 Km
DIfficulty Level: 2
This walk shows how easily the hustle and bustle of the town centre can be left behind. A few minutes walking are all that is required to reach the beautiful and tranquil riverside environment of the River Wey Valley. Allow 30 mins to an hour depending on walking speed. Parts of the route, especially the towpath, may be uneven in places and muddy in winter.
- Start the walk in the Cornmarket Portico. With the Cornmarket behind you turn left and walk downhill towards the bottom of the High Street passing the Guildhall and Angel Hotel on your right. (The Guildhall is where the Mayor and Corporation of Guildford used to meet to run the towns affairs. The hall inside is Elizabethan, however, the distinctive frontage was added in 1683. The Angel Hotel is the last survivor of Guildford’s coaching Inns that catered for travellers between London and the South Coast. The frontage dates from 1820, but the actual building is Tudor.
- Cross over the main road (Millbrook) at the bottom of the High Street onto the Town Bridge. The Town Bridge is built on the site of the Golden Ford which gave the town its name.
- On your right before you cross the river is the Town Wharf. When the Wey navigation opened in 1653 barges were able to come upstream from the Thames beyond Weybridge for the first time. The treadwheel crane was used to load and unload barges.
- Cross over the river and turn immediately left before the White House pub to reach the towpath, turn right and head upstream. Until the late 18th century the site of the pub was an island in the river and Saint Nicholas’ Church was on the riverbank.
- Follow the river until you reach a pedestrian footbridge on your left at the end of the
car park. Cross over onto Millmead Island. Turn right at the lock and follow the towpath. The lock was constructed in 1762 when the navigation was extended to Godalming. It was refurbished in 2000. The National Trust maintains the Wey Navigation. (Guildford Boathouse was one of several established in Guildford during the late Victorian craze for river boating. It used to be called Leroy’s Boathouse.)
- Take the fork in the towpath. This will lead to the sluice gate. Leaving the town behind you continue along the towpath until you reach the bottom of Ferry Lane. (Ferry Lane – Named after the ferry that used to shuttle pilgrims across the river). There is a memorial poem on a plaque at the bottom of the lane. Either: take a detour up the hill to visit St Catherine’s Chapel (The Chapel dates from the early 14th century and an annual fair was held on the hill until the First World War. The Chapel has been a ruin since the end of the Middle ages.) Or: cross over the river to continue the walk.
- After crossing over the river you have a choice: Either: Go through the kissing gate directly in front of you and follow the path through the trees and on alongside the river as it skirts the fields of Shalford Meadows to the Rowing Club. Grazing cattle can often be seen here. Or :Follow the North Downs Way Signs that lead away from the river as far as the Shalford Road (A281).Turn left and follow the footpath that runs parallel with the road as far as the Rowing Club. Continue past the rowing club and take the first road on your right, Quarry Street.
- After about 100 metres you have a choice: Either: Continue along Quarry Street and turn right under the castle arch just before the Museum. Castlecliffe Gardens are on your right. Or:Turn right into Rack’s Court and go through the gates in front of you into Rack’s Close. This area used to be a chalk quarry where hard chalk for clunch was extracted for building stones. The name Rack’s Close refers to drying racks on which cloth was stretched after it had been dyed. Wool and cloth production was a major industry in Guildford in late Medieval and Tudor times. Climb the stairs to your left and follow the path through to Castlecliffe Gardens. (Remnants of the castle walls are still visible in Castlecliffe Gardens. Archaeological digs in the 1990s uncovered foundations of the 13th Century Palace about which more can be found in the permanent exhibition in Guildford Museum.)
- To continue the walk, leave the gardens behind you and cross the road diagonally towards a gate that leads you into the castle grounds. Bear right through the Castle Grounds following the path uphill keeping the castle on your left, (The Castle was built soon after the Norman
Conquest and is now dominated by the 12th Century Keep on its motte or mound. The castle flourished in the 13th century but was then largely abandoned and fell into ruins.)
- Leaving the castle behind, turn right up Castle Street. The first turning on your left is Tunsgate and there is a clear market of the cornmarket Portico at the bottom of the road. The Tourist information Centre is towards the bottom of the road on your right. Tunsgate was once the yard of the Tuns Inn. The word Gate meaning ally or passage, although common in the north of England, it is very rare in the South.