On the top of Stag Hill, so called from the time when monarchs would hunt deer there, stands an imposing, impressive Anglican cathedral, the centre of Christian worship for Guildford and the surrounding area. You can see it for miles around, but instead of just admiring it from afar, one day you should climb the hill to explore it further.
It overshadows the University of Surrey's main campus, set in the very centre of Guildford, which lies a short train journey out of central London. A powerful mix of Gothic and Modernist architecture, it is designed by Sir Edward Maufe. It remains a work in progress though, as the cathedral continues to develop, adding statues for example.
Bare, sweeping swathes of white stone culminate in a majestic interior. The architect's original plan had been "To produce a design definitely of our time, yet in the line of the great English cathedrals, to build anew on tradition." Elegant and austere, sublime and unique, Guildford cathedral is an impressive place. If you want to follow up it's history, the website does have a lot of information, demonstrating the community's pride in the place.
As you wander around the outside, you notice small details such as the decorated drainpipes. Bearing the date of 1939 (in Roman numerals), it bears witness to the effect of the Second World War on British building - construction had to pause and although it was started in 1936, it wasn't finally consecrated until 1961, the last Church of England cathedral consecrated on a new site.
Outside the east end is placed the Ganges Cross, which was set down in 1933 to mark the site of the new cathedral. Standing proud on the hilltop, it demarcates the Christian character of the space in a clear, striking, simple way.
At the east end also lies the Seeds of Hope Children's Garden, opened in 2008. A peaceful area, divided into four sections to represent the seasons, it provides a multi sensory, interactive garden for children to visit, designed to help them explore loss in a natural environment. There are fun elements like a small labyrinth too. The sculpture in the middle, honouring children, is by Christine Charlesworth. Signs around the area remind you to respect the consecrated land, but also encourage participation. It's a tranquil, beautiful place.
With guided tours, and organised school visits, the cathedral does its best to be a welcoming environment even for those who aren't Anglican. Open 365 days a year, there are also many daily services which are open to the public. This includes regular Mattins, Holy Communion and Evensong, the great pillars of the Anglican worship tradition. Two resident choirs, organists and a music outreach programme bring the joy of music to the community.
There is limited parking for cars and buses at the cathedral, but it's also only a short (10-15) minute walk from Guildford station, which is a major train station.