Alice is a normal young girl with a normal sort of life until she is reading a normal book on a sunny afternoon by the river and follows a white rabbit down a rabbit-hole and tumbles headfirst into Wonderland. Since a young age, I’ve always been taken by this charming world jam-packed with fantastic pictures and interestingly bizarre conversations, mad tea parties, croquet matches, riddles, races and a full host of peculiar characters. Now while you may not be able to join Alice as she journeys through the wonderland where nothing is quite as it seems, it shouldn’t stop you from taking a trip down to Guildford, Surrey where you can relive some bits of the book and indulge on this magical trail. This Alice in Wonderland Trail is sure to leave Lewis Carroll fans excited and content. Click here other Guildford trails and walks. And now… here’s how to start this one:
If you make your way from Guildford Railway station this would be your first stop after 9mins of walking and before heading into town: The Statue of Alice with her sister watching the rabbit go down the hole is in Millmead by the River Wey and opposite Debenhams. This statue was created by local artist Edwin Russell in 1984 and is the first inkling of the relationship between Guildford and Lewis Carroll.
Across the river, a 6 mins walk will take you to the Guildford Museum housed in beautiful, historic buildings next to the Castle Grounds. The exhibitions are free to visit and include a variety of changing exhibitions, plus a permanent collection of memorabilia of Lewis Carroll and Alice. Including but not limited to first book covers, ad’s, photographs of casts from the play etc. Also, a great place to pick some themed postcards and stationery up.
Everything from here on is a stone throw away from each other.
Wander through the Guildford Palace. The palace gardens make it is easy to imagine the Red Queen darting to and fro, the Red King snoring under a tree, and Humpty Dumpty trying to keep his balance on the remaining bits of castle walls. The lawns make a beautiful place to have a picnic or to enjoy a leisurely stroll. Lewis Carroll finished Through the Looking Glass during his 1871 visit to Guildford. One of the most touching memorials is the modern sculpture by Jeanne Argent. Erected in 1990, Alice Through The Looking-Glass is on the eastern side of castle gardens and near the back garden of the Chestnuts.
The Chestnuts on Castle Hill remains intact and its memorial plaque sports figures from Alice. Although Carroll lived in Oxford, he spent Christmases, holidays and many weekends with his sisters in this home, in Guildford. Currently in private ownership, so one cannot go in, but still worth a glimpse from the outside.
Make a pit stop and grab a drink in this quaint lil’ pub filled with graffiti of its namesake The March Hare, a character most famous for appearing in the tea party scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. “The March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won’t be raving mad – at least not so mad as it was in March.”
Right next to The March Hare you will find The Mad Hatter, a traditional hat shop that turns heads. They make an amazing range of fascinators and hats from a wide selection of different designers, both British and international. If you fancy meeting the mad hatter you better go in and find one that fits!
Much of the Guildford that Carroll knew and loved survives. Make your way to St Mary’s Church in the town centre. The author, whose real name was the Rev Charles Lutwidge Dodgson preached here. St Mary’s is the oldest church in Guildford. The tower dates from around 1050 AD.
It was on his Christmas visit to Guildford in 1897 that Carroll caught influenza, and died. After a funeral service at St Mary’s, he was buried in the new cemetery on The Mount, which can be reached after a 10 min tough uphill climb out of town. It’s off course and better reached by car or bus, to pay homage to this great writer.
But if you’d rather end your day trail on a more pleasant note, feel free to walk through town and discover all the other lil’ gems of Guildford High-street. My favourites spots are:
- Coffee Shop: Surrey Hills Coffee Guildford
- Music: Ben’s Collectors Records Store
- Afternoon Tea: The Tea Terrace Restaurant & Tea Room
- Sunday Roast: The Royal Oak
- Markets: During normal shopping hours on Fridays and Saturdays on North Street
- Shopping: Endless options 🙂
If you’re arriving by car: Park at the Castle Car Park and it will be easier to do this walk starting from the bottom of this list.
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.
Enjoy your walk!