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Surrey is a surreal place. It used to cover what is now south London - all the way to the Thames. Over the centuries, it has been getting smaller. County Hall is in Kingston, which is now a London borough.
When you ask someone where they live, and they say 'Surrey', it is a sign that they live in one of the London boroughs that used to be Surrey. People in Surrey say they live in Guildford, Leatherhead, Camberley (or 'a small village near Reigate').
Most visitors to Surrey are either coming to stay with friends and family, or are on business trips (with Gatwick and Heathrow on the borders, it's a great place to meet up).
The image of Surrey is 'suburban'. Affluent suburban - captured by the phrases "gin and jag", "stockbroker belt" and "patio of London".
The truth is rather more ... surreal ...... To start with, 70% of Surrey is Green Belt - land that cannot be turned into Suburbia. A lot of the land is accessible to walkers and riders (wheeled/quadruped). According to the architectural historian Pevsner, there is nowhere in Surrey that would be missed if it didn't appear in a book about architecture in Britain before 1900 .... but you could write a book about architecture in Surrey after 1900, and no-one would think a major architect had been missed. And yet town after town has streetscapes which show the charming traces of when Surrey was an impoverished county, travelled through on the way to (allegedly) more important places. In the 19th century, Surrey was the home for London's dead and London's mad (both with their own landscapes and architectures).
So what does it offer for a visitor, either as a bonus to friends and family or business, or as a destination of its own? Heritage, landscape and shopping.
Heritage: (being professionally involved - comments must be biased) both Farnham and Hazelmere Museums have been commended in a national poll for family-friendly museums. Bias showing: the crafts collection in Farnham gives the V&A a run for its money. Bias showing even more: watch out for the Lightbox in Woking
Landscape. The Surrey Hills are an Area of Outstanding National Beauty. That means "a national park quality landscape ... without the tourists". Really gob-smacking 'this is gorgeous"' landscape. Come walk, sit, relax and enjoy. You won't have to share the pleasure with crowds. There are too many trees for some people (the RNIB included, who are returning some parts to heath land - so that the birds that they protect can thrive). Surrey is the largest area of lowland heath in Europe.
Shopping. A good example is Farnham - lots of places to buy nice clothes and presents for yourself and others. And a Lidls (cheap supermarket).
Downsides: Surrey has the highest car-ownership per inhabitant in the UK, and the most cars-per-road-mile in Europe. Trying to get from A to B can be more a case of travelling hopefully than of arriving. There are two rules:
rule 1) the M25 will either be really great, or be in roadworks (so that soon it will be really great, real soon), or someone will have done something stupid, and it will be backed up to the Thames crossing (north or south).
rule 2) there will be multiple ways of getting between A and B. One will involve the M25, the M3 or the A3. One will involve lots of town centres. One will avoid both town centres and the M25 (or M3 / A3), but involve an awful lot of wiggly roads that don't appear to actually 'go' anywhere.
But those same rail networks which run many Surrey residents into London each morning also give access to the traveller.
Surrey is recommended for .... people who want a non-urban alternative to a London stay on the way in or out, of the UK. Particularly people with an interest in walking/cycling/riding, or heritage/the arts.
www.visitsurrey.com for more information and ideas