Exploring a crystal cave and a few follies

Magical adventures into the countryside are entirely possible even if you aren’t a character in a children’s story. What you will need is an accomplice and a means of transport preferably Falkor, the Luckdragon from the film The NeverEnding Story. But if he’s not available take the car. So, one summer bank holiday my trusted buddy Pam and I, set off on a quest to see a crystal cave and some other follies.

A bit of background
The crystal grotto is found in Painshill Park which is in the leafy-green suburb of Surrey, it’s near the village of Cobham. The original park was designed and completed in the 18th century by Hon. Charles Hamilton. He was inspired by two grand tours of Europe, which I assume must have been a bit like a gap year – ya. Upon his return he acquired the land for Painshill Park and started on his version of a Neverland but without the zoo and the mega music career. It fell into disrepair over the years but is being restored.

Back to present day escapades, we set off on our tour with a map in hand and our creative sense of direction. Hamilton installed small structures called follies as points of interest throughout Painshill, an eccentric rich dude.

A home fit for an evil Snow Queen
When I think of a crystal cave I imagine a place bedecked in jewels like a Swarovski shop. I envision a place where a Snow Queen lives surrounded by shards of piercing light and scuttling little minions. With my imagination inventing brilliant structures I was pretty enthused about exploring a crystal cave although it’s officially called a grotto. Maybe there would be puppets like in that David Bowie film Labyrinth.

The reality didn’t match my daydream, from the outside the crystal cave looked a bit horrifying. There was something about the mineral formations that had me thinking skulls. I remember not looking at it directly as it looked nightmarish. This is where a trusted buddy comes in handy, Pam guided me. Thanks Pam!

Skulls from afar cave

Inside the cave, the diffused light was beautiful making the space ethereal. A man-mad miracle. Each rock was fused to the ceiling or wall, a real labour of love that’s still standing. (I wonder if Westfields will survive as long as that?)

The crystals were not diamond like as I had thought they would be but were shades of milky greys and blues. They were mesmerising and could have been stared at for hours like an optical illusion.

And who, pray tell, lives in a cave like this?

Lifestyles of the not-so-rich
Another folly which stood out was the Hermit’s Hovel. Hamilton decided to make solitary living something to be marvelled. Originally a hermit was hired to live in the hermitage on a seven year contract. And the best part of this story being that he was fired for absenteeism.

Defo no WiFi here

An aside…
Throughout the route that Pam and I covered, we noticed that everyone else was going in the opposite direction. Odd. We carried on anyway.

A bit of Wonderland
A folly which really had an air of majesty about it was the Gothic Temple. There were chequerboard squares and giant chess pieces which all looked pretty befitting of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. The view from the temple was panoramic (it’s well worth taking a sweeping photo). From the other side of the lake, it’s possible to see the same but opposite view from the Turkish Tent folly.

One folly, two folly, three – spot the Gothic Temple, Crystal Grotto and fancy bridge

Not all ruined
It was at the ruins folly that Pam and I re-enacted the open mic night scene from 22 Jump St, (yeah, I know a normal blog/article would make no mention of such things). Obviously you had to be there for the amazing rendition – ahhh memories! OK back to important matters like food. At the Gothic Tower some way up there is a quaint little cafe serving tea and freshly made baked goods. Be warned it is very small so chances of getting served at busy times might be tricky depending on your commitment to cake (I am very committed to the cause of cake).

Ruined it
We brought the house down, well kind of

A happy ending to the aside
At the end of the walk was when we noticed that we had in fact gone around the sites backwards, we had started at the end and finished at the beginning! Well, I think this is perfectly acceptable as why follow the crowd when you can take a different route to see views from another perspective. That’s what being *creative is all about!

Two Canadian wonders in the Painshill Park kitchen garden

*Pam is very creative and when she’s not going on adventures with me, she is a producer/editor/camerawoman, as can be watched on her vimeo link.

And if you’re interested here’s the link to Painshill Park.



  1. Really nice post, will have to check it out considering I work in Surrey. (Not location wise). I wonder what else there is in Surrey I haven’t explored yet.


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