Today I want to bring you my guide to taking a day trip to Polesden Lacey from London. This Edwardian house and estate in Surrey was the home of Margaret Greville, a British socialite who entertained everyone from celebrities to royalty in the early 20th century. Spending a day here will allow you to see her country retreat and surrounding gardens as you follow in the footsteps of kings and queens.

Day trip to Polesden Lacey

Day Trip to Polesden Lacey

Polesden Lacey is an easy day trip from London. The home was a party house for Margaret, who worked her way up from an illegitimate birth to a confidante of kings and queens. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth even came here on their honeymoon.

Polesden Lacey was purchased by Margaret’s wealthy father, William McEwan, in 1906. He bought it for his daughter, who married the Hon. Ronald Greville, one of the closest friends of the future King Edward VII.

After her husband’s death in 1908, she used it as a weekend retreat for entertaining wealthy and elite guests including Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Queen Ena of Spain, and generations of British monarchs.

Polesden Lacey garden

A lover of everything from fine jewels to witty conversation and splendid architecture, Margaret made her mark on both her social circle and the English countryside.

When she died in 1942, she left the house to the National Trust and bequeathed her jewels to Queen Elizabeth. Many female royals still wear her earrings, necklaces, and tiaras today.

Now Margaret Greville’s home at Polesden Lacey is a museum with beautiful gardens and 1,600 acres (647 hectares) of grounds in the Surrey Hills.

Polesden Lacey house

Visitors come from all over to see the opulent rooms where one of the greatest society hostesses of the age entertained guests.

They also visit to walk through the walled gardens and along the paths in the woods. Many bring dogs, so keep an eye out for adorable pups!

How to Get to Polesden Lacey from London

If you’re wondering how to get to Polesden Lacey from London, you can easily reach it by car or train.

Polesden Lacey Clock Tower

Polesden Lacey is located 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the UK capital in Great Bookham near Dorking, Surrey. It’s so close to the city you can even make it a half-day trip from London or add a late pub lunch to your itinerary.

If you drive, the property is around 1 hour and 15 minutes away, depending where in London you depart from and what traffic is like along the way. There’s a small fee for on-site parking.

If you take the train, Polesden Lacey is around an hour’s journey from London. The property is located 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from Dorking and Leatherhead stations, which are each a 40 to 60-minute train ride from the UK capital.

Polesden Lacey Hall

There are taxi ranks at both stations where you can continue your journey to the property.

Polesden Lacey Tickets

Another nice thing about taking a day trip to Polesden Lacey is that there’s no need to pre-book tickets in advance. You can just show up and buy them at the front desk when you arrive.

Better yet, it’s a National Trust property so you can go for free if you’re a member. Membership grants free entry to all properties in Britain for a year, and you can get it here.

Polesden Lacey

A friend and I have purchased our tickets on arrival, and now we’re excited to delve into this historic world of dreamy gardens and regal entertainment.

Polesden Lacey Tour

After buying our entry tickets, we stop at the cafe in the Stable Courtyard for a quick bite. In addition to the coffee shop by the parking area, it’s a good place to get food and drink here.

Our appetites sated, we start our tour of Polesden Lacey. We walk under a tall brick water tower and follow a big map on the other side to get to the house in the middle of the grounds.

Polesden Lacey Water Tower

The Edwardian House

As we walk up to the home, we take in the facade and the clock tower on top.

Once inside we discover rooms full of fine art and impressive decor. Margaret Greville wanted this place to be fit for entertaining the best of society, and she succeeded.

She even had the interiors remodeled by architects Mewes and Davis, who had just refurbished The Ritz in London when she hired them.

Polesden Lacey Dining Room

The result is inspiring. From rooms with ornate gilding to Italian maiolica pottery, books, fine French furniture, jeweled animals by Cartier, and the largest group of Faberge objects in the National Trust, it’s easy to see why kings and queens felt at home here.

As we go from the dining room to Margaret’s study and the library, we take in walls hung with paintings by famous British artists like Allan Ramsay and Henry Raeburn. They’re punctuated by works by Dutch Masters and other impressive names.

The piece de resistance is the Saloon. It was designed to impress maharajahs, and it certainly wows us. There’s gilding everywhere, and the carvings, panels, and mirrors are opulent. There’s even someone playing the piano while we’re here.

Polesden Lacey Saloon

There are guided tours visitors can take of the house, but we’re satisfied hearing from the helpful volunteers in each room. They tell us stories about Margaret’s wit and character, as well as the decor and history of the house.

Polesden Lacey Gardens

Leaving the home, we pass by the Garden Room second-hand bookshop as we walk out to explore the grounds.

There’s an impressive array of spaces to stroll through, from walled gardens to orchards, herbaceous borders, and bird hides. There’s even a small pet cemetery and a Kestrel Corner play area.

Polesden Lacey Walled Garden

As we make our way around the estate, we take in views of Ranmore Common and rolling parkland. The landscape here is said to be nearly unchanged since medieval times, and it’s beautiful to see.

We cross over footbridges and walk down stone staircases, paying homage at Margaret’s grave in the Ladies Garden and watching people play croquet on the lawn.

We end our visit with a loop around the Preserve Copse, where we see the tall trees on Admiral’s Walk and the picnic tables by New Lime Walk. Eventually we pass by the Blossom Lawn and Walnut Lawn as we work our way back to the Stable Courtyard.

Polesden Lacey grounds

Before we get to the exit, we can’t help popping into the gift shop. It has a range of local products, books, plants, clothing, and garden accessories for sale. It’s a fun place to pick up souvenirs before we hop in the car to drive back to London.

How Much Time To Spend at Polesden Lacey

In all, we’ve spent 3 hours here. We could have spent longer if we’d explored every inch of the grounds or taken time to sit in the chairs on the South Lawn and soak up the views of the Surrey Hills.

But we’re hungry and lunch awaits at a nearby country pub called The Old Plow in Stoke D’Abernon. A 15-minute drive from Polesden Lacey, it has great historic-meets-contemporary decor.

Country pub in Surrey, England

It’s the ideal spot to tuck into heaping plates of fish and chips and monkfish curry after a big morning of exploring Polesden Lacey.

Day Trip to Polesden Lacey from London

After lunch we get back in my friend’s car for the drive back to London, watching as the countryside scenery transitions into an urban landscape as we go.

We’ve enjoyed our Polesden Lacey day trip from London, and we’ve been inspired to learn more about its charismatic former owner.

Polesden Lacey garden walk

So much so that my friend has already bought a book called The Maggie Greville Story by Pam Burbidge. I can’t wait to borrow it when she’s done. If you want to read it, you can get it here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about our visit and that it’s inspired you to visit this impressive house yourself. It’s a fun day out from London, and a great place to get into both history and nature.

If you’re interested in more trips like this, you can take a look at my blog post about the best stately homes near London. It has lots of other houses you can visit near the UK capital.

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Day trip to Polesden Lacey

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