We asked notallaboutskinny co-founder Kate, Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified Coach and Dorking resident for 20 years, to share a perfect weekend getaway in her favourite town. Kate has just returned from a year abroad, visiting Asia, Australia, Central America (Belize, Guatemala and Costa Rica), Everest Base Camp, New Zealand, South America and Sri Lanka.
I’m absolutely thrilled to have been asked to write this guest blog post for Hello Dorking. I’ve been lucky enough to call Dorking my home for the last twenty years and although I’ve travelled far and wide across the globe, it’s still one of my favourite places on earth.
Now, Dorking might not be the first place that springs to mind for a weekend away but I can promise you that our beautiful, slightly off-beat, quirky market town has MORE than enough to keep you sated. Our town has so much history, more than I have the space to cover here… and so, for now, to whet your appetite here’s my guide to a perfect weekend Dorking style. Dress code (optional): eccentric English country meets Surrey yummy-mummy.
Kick off your Friday night with an aperitif in the newly refurbished White Horse on the High Street. This would be a great place to base yourself if you’re coming in from out of town too. It’s very central and has been stylishly kitted out with cosy rooms and a sumptuously decorated bar where you can unwind with a cheeky G&T or two before you head out. Be sure to check out our local gins from Silent Pool and the Gin Kitchen (Gutsy Monkey and Dancing Dragontail) to maximize your authentic Dorking experience!
Head down the High Street into South Street to the fabulous Queen’s Head for dinner. If the sun is shining, you can grab a table in the garden or, if it’s a little chilly, snag a cosy table inside in the corner (number 7 is my favourite). They serve up pub classics with a modern twist and the portions are on the large side so you certainly won’t go hungry. There’s always a terrific atmosphere in here and the bar staff are first class. Head back to the White Horse for a nightcap and a restful night’s sleep to set you up for the weekend ahead.
There’s always a great buzz on a Saturday morning in Dorking and there’s a good range of breakfast options for you, including the White Horse. … but if you’re in the mood for a good old-fashioned greasy spoon style café breakfast, head over to Pepe’s in South Street where they will cook you up the works or a terrific sausage butty on floury doorstop bread. If you’re looking for something a little less heavy on the tum, my breakfast venue of choice is the The Dorking Deli for the smashed avocado or the butcher’s choice breakfast all washed down with coffee from the local Box Hill roastery. They also have some wonderful gluten free options and some freshly made smoothies too.
Take the morning to wander the antique shops of West Street and if you’re in the mood for a spot of retail therapy, here’s a list of my favorite places:
Victoria’s Little Bra shop — a teeny, tiny, perfectly formed, lingerie boutique with the most divine chemises and sets.
Notebook — stop by for some beautifully simple fluid jersey investment pieces for your perfect capsule wardrobe. The collection changes seasonally and I literally want to buy everything in the shop.
Aya Boutique — the impossibly stylish Deborah will guide you through her fab selection of European clothes and seriously cool accessories.
If the man in your life needs a spot of smartening up then don’t miss Westdaw for an elegant selection of menswear … and a quirky stock of Happy Socks! If he’s in need of a spot of grooming, you could always encourage him into the Barbers@136 the High Street for a quick trim and an old fashioned wet shave.
Time for a rest and some light lunch or a cake? You’re spoilt for choice! Musette café opposite Pump Corner, Too Many Cooks on South Street, historic Mullins Coffee Shop on West Street, or Cake Rider Cafe all offer a delicious selection of coffee, tea and CAKE — it’s just a case of finding an available table amidst the weekend bustle.
Spend the afternoon taking in a little culture at the all volunteer-led Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre then swing by the Old King’s Head Courtyard for a browse in the Bourneside Gallery on North Street for ceramics, limited edition prints and quirky greetings cards and the John Arthur Gallery to see his Turner inspired paintings.
If it’s fine local produce you’re after, you absolutely MUST stop by the Dorking Butchery. Alex, Gary and the team have created THE most fantastic butchery for miles. Their uber-cool shop, outstanding customer service and first-class produce means that this shop is packed out 24–7. If you’re really lucky, they might have their cheese & marmite sausages on, but if not, splash out on the Cote de Boeuf. It is to die for …
Next up is a trip to The Vineyard, Dorking’s only independent wine merchant. John and the team stock an interesting variety of wines, gins and spirits and if it’s a Saturday, there are usually a couple of treats open for tasting. The friendly experts will help you select something to suit your wallet and your palate. They specialize in Amarone too, if that’s your thing.
Take a wander down the High Street via West Street where you’ll find Cobbett’s Real Ales. Sample some of Dorking’s finest offerings in their cool micro-brewery at the back where you’ll find Dorking’s ale connoisseurs putting the world to rights and you can pick up some refreshments to take home! Almost opposite Cobbett’s you’ll find The Star pub, a real Dorking institution. It’s tiny, quirky, almost always packed with locals spilling out onto the pavement tables and they often have live music or open mic nights in the evenings too.
For a special celebratory meal on Saturday night, Stephen Drake’s recently opened fine-dining restaurant, Sorrel, is just sublime. Elegant, stylish, luxurious yet understated… treat yourself to the a la carte or go the whole hog and work your way through a choice of tasting menus. Either way, I promise you won’t be disappointed. The food is AMAZING and the attention to detail from the second you walk through the door will make you feel like royalty for the night!
If you’re looking for something a little more purse-friendly without sacrificing incredible flavour, and is a tad livelier, then the Red Bar & Lounge is the place to be. Tucked away in Dene Street, this smart bar and restaurant is the perfect place for a relaxed night out.
And so to Sunday… I absolutely LOVE Sundays in Dorking. One of the joys of living here is that within minutes of the bustling town, you can step out and find yourself in the surrounding countryside of the Surrey Hills. Cycle up surrounding Box Hill, Leith Hill or onto Ranmore Common. If cycling isn’t your thing, the walks are also spectacular. Take the Stepping Stones and the path to Box Hill or drive to Friday Street and wander along the woodland walk to Leith Hill. On a clear day, the views from the top are really something.
I’ve also recently discovered the Deepdene Trail, a short walk steeped in history through gardens and land privately owned since the 17th Century. It’s home to the Hope family Mauseoleum and you can download an app which will allow you to see how it once looked in the Regency days whilst uncovering the fascinating stories and features of this hidden gem.
In the afternoon, take a trip around Dorking’s very own, Denbies Vineyard, home of some of Britain’s award winning wines. It’s fun to take one of their tours to learn about the geology and history of the estate– make sure to do the outdoor tour if the weather is fine. The trip ends with a tasting of some of their most popular wines, choose between the “Classics”, the “Sparklings” and the “Wine and Food” experience. We always take our guests here and I never tire of it. Wandering through the vineyards here on a fine day and you’ll think that you’re in Bordeaux.
And that’s your brief encounter over! I’m so proud to call Dorking my home so come and visit us soon for a slice of Surrey life. Oh… and don’t forget to get a selfie on your way out of you with the Dorking Cockerel. We’re certainly the only town I know of that has erected a 3 metre high steel cockerel on the roundabout into our town … no, seriously. We have. Welcome to Dorking!
How to get here
Dorking is only 40 minutes from London with easy access from Gatwick and the M25. It is served by three rail stations: Dorking Station and Dorking Deepdene Station are a 10 minute walk to town from the east and Dorking West is about a 15 minute walk to town. All stations are served by trains from both Victoria and Waterloo (approximately 45 minutes). For more information, please visit the National Rail website. For information on bus timetables, please visit the Surrey County Council website. Download our DorkingLoyalFree App for complete details on parking or visit the Mole Valley District website or Parkopedia.