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Guildford Heritage Walks – An Afternoon in the Swan Valley

gothic style chapel in guildford WA

Want to combine history, nature, and exercise into one activity? This Guildford heritage walks in Perth are an ideal day out for anyone looking for all 3!

As part of our efforts to explore the surrounding areas of Perth, Australia we came across the Guildford heritage walk. We love a walk and we love nature. So it sounded perfect! Here’s what you need to know about the Guildford heritage walk in Perth.

Why visit Guildford?

Guildford is a unique and charming town to explore! There is plenty of colonial heritage to enjoy along one of the 4 heritage trails that you can walk. Along the way are 50 information points to learn more about the sites and history of Guildford.

Best of all, these heritage trails in Guildford are completely FREE! You don’t have to spend any money if you don’t want to. We paid for lunch and a slice of cake and otherwise had a completely budget-friendly day out in the sunshine. If you pack a picnic you can enjoy a day out in the Swan Valley for nothing.

stiring square gun and guildford post office

Guildford’s History

Guildford was known by local Aboriginal people as Mandoon, place of many trees. Stirling Park at the heart of the town was a traditional aboriginal meeting place.

In more recent history, Guildford, WA has been classed as a historic town by the National Trust of Australia and is listed in the State Register of Heritage Places. It was settled by Europeans as one of 3 towns in the area that made up the Swan River Colony in 1829. What makes Guildford so special today is how much of that history has been preserved through the heritage buildings constructed in the mid-19th Century.

guildford heritage house swan valley

The town of Guildford is essentially an island in the middle of the Swan and Helena Rivers. It’s connected by car and footbridges to the rest of the Swan Valley area.

What’s more, is that the town’s history has become seamlessly intertwined with modern life through the quaint cafes, restaurants, and tearooms, jam-packed antique shops, and an array of gift shops, galleries, and more.

Where is Guildford, Perth?

No, I’m not talking about Guildford in the UK… Strangely enough, that’s my hometown in Surrey so I had a particularly vested interest in visiting Guildford, WA!

Guildford is part of the Swan Valley situated 30km north east of Perth, Western Australia.

You can reach Guildford by train, bus, or car.

Train:

Catch the Midland line train and hop off at Guildford and start your heritage walks from there.

Trains leave several times an hour and takes 20 minutes.

Bus:

Catch the number 36 bus from Elizabeth Quay and hop off at James St After Johnson St in front of Stirling Garden.

The journey should take around 50 minutes and buses depart regularly throughout the day.

You can plan your train or bus journey on the Transperth website where you can see fare prices and times.

Car:

Most visitors choose to arrive by car. It gives you more flexibility with getting around and you won’t be beholden to public transport schedules. Alternatively, you could also catch a taxi or Uber, however, this is likely to be expensive.

The drive from Perth CBD to Guildford is around 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic.

A free place to park is at Barker’s Bridge. There is also a large car park at Guildford station. Be sure to check parking time restrictions or fees when you get there!

guildford town hall WA

How to Spend an Afternoon in Guildford

Start the walking trails at the Old Guildford Courthouse

Once you’re parked up, it’s time to get going! It’s good to know which Guildford heritage walk you’re interested in before you arrive. You can also check out the route maps by downloading the guide to Guildford leaflet.

All of the trails start at the Old Guildford Courthouse, now used as the Swan Valley Visitor Centre. You can pop inside and find out about the attraction in Guildford or pick up a physical map if you like.

Time to get walkin’ and learnin’!

brick building in guildford WA

Walk the Stirling Square Circuit

15 minutes – 450m – black markers

Start off with the easiest of the 4 Guildford heritage walks.

Right over the road from the visitor centre is a large square garden. Stirling Square has several benches to watch the world go by, a playground, and St Matthew’s church. You’ll also note the tall sugar gum trees where kookaburras can be find laughing away! Amongst the trees are several rose beds in honour of Guildford’s being called “the town of roses”. Aww!

You can also visit the Colonial Gaol on this trail, but we saved that for later. Instead, we chose to admire the heritage homes around the square and inspect the Stirling Square Guns.

historical gun in stirling square guildford

If you only have a short stop in Guildford, this is the heritage walk for you. In less than an hour you can see the key highlights of Guildford’s past and be back on the road in no time.

Having whet our historical whistle, we continued on.

stirling sqaure guildford wa

Follow the Captain Stirling Walk

45 minutes – 2250m – gold markers

For the bulk of your Guildford heritage trail you’ll be on the Captain Stirling Walk, the longest of the 4 walks.

Begin this trail by heading down Swan Street and crossing over to Terrace Road at the roundabout. From here you’ll be in the “Business Precint” where you could stop by the town’s general store, Padbury’s Store (built 1869) and other small cafes and heritage cottages.

colonial style shops in guildford WA

Next you’ll reach Guildford Grammar School, founded in 1896. This prestigious school is still functioning, and is representative of Australia’s interpretation of British public schools, complete with a gothic-style chapel from 1914!

gothic style school chapel in guildford WA

As you loop back around Swan Street East you’ll continue to see various heritage homes and school buildings until you’re back at the Rose & Crown which you passed at the start of this walk.

Stop at the Rose & Crown for lunch

Now seems like the perfect time to pause for a bite to eat!

The Rose & Crown is one of Guildford’s oldest heritage buildings, and is WA’s oldest continually operating pub. Built in 1841, it has retained much of its old charm without feeling worn and weathered. You can sit and enjoy a classic pub grub meal out on the verandah, or sip a cold pint in the traditionally decorated interior.

We opted for chips and lemonade as soaked in the sunshine. Would highly recommend, one portion was plenty to share between two people!

The Rose & Crown also functions as a hotel so if you’re looking for accommodation in Guildford consider staying here!

brick colonial style pub verandah in guildford WA

Continue on the Town Walk

30 minutes – 1800m – red markers

The Meadow Street Heritage Precinct is an especially interesting area of Guildford. Next to the visitor centre you’ll discover the Colonial Gaol as an early example of buildings constructed by convict labour between 1841 and 1867. It was used a police station for 100 years and was the first government building in WA! If you visit between Tuesday – Saturday, 10am-2pm you can go inside the cells for $5 per adult ($3 for children).

guildford heritage precinct jailhouse building

Right next door is Taylor’s Cottage. A peek inside and you’ll step back in time to see what life might have been life here in 19th Century Guildford. This tiny house is supposed to have been home to a family of 15!!

taylor;s cottage wooden house guildford

Further on the walk you’ll head towards the lively hub of James Street, passing the old Guildford Post Office as you go. The art deco style town hall, the Stirling Arms, and more will be key stopping points on this walk.

Expect this part of town to be a little busier, as it’s along the main road for part of the way.

This was my favourite of the heritage walks in Guildford. I enjoyed this variety of architecture which really painted a complete picture of colonial life in the town. From the prison to the theatre, it highlights how different life was less than 200 years ago.

guildford post office swan valley

Explore the Antique Shops of Guildford

You can’t visit Guildford without visiting the antique shops on James Street. This strip of shops is a walk down memory lane. There are many shops crammed with hidden treasures, furniture, ornaments, and anything else you can think of! It’s a rummager’s paradise.

antiques outside guildford shop

Have a Slice of Cake at the Tearoom

Guildford has a mix of cafes, tea rooms, and restaurants around James Street. The Guildford Hotel is an especially gorgeous building to enjoy something to eat or listen to some live music.

If you’re after something more subdued, the Guildford Village Tea Rooms will hit the spot. Alternatively, the bakery right next door makes lots of delicious sweet treats!

Tick off the Final Stops along the River Ramble Trail

30 minutes – 1500m – blue markers

The final leg of our Guildford heritage walk took us towards the Swan River. The River Ramble Trail covers many of the same sights we already saw. Stirling Gardens and the Meadow Street Heritage Precinct are all covered in this route.

As you pass back through the gardens you’ll continue onwards towards the Barker Bridge. A handful of heritage homes and the riverbank gardens are the last on your stopping points.

swan river guildford

Walk Along the Riverbank & People Watch

Having completed our heritage walk, we chose to continue our walk a little further.

Take the path off the bridge that leads down to the riverside at Moulton’s Landing. You can walk along the fields and under the trees watching boats pass for a lazy end to the trip.

For me, I looked around and truly felt I could have been back at home in my own Guildford. The sunshine quickly dispelled that idea, we don’t get nearly as nice weather in the UK!

Tips for Completing the Guildford Heritage Walks

  • Don’t feel obligated to stick to your chosen trail. Many of the points of interest overlap between trails. You can easily merge them into one larger trail like we did!
  • Respect private property. Many of the heritage buildings are still residentially, private owned homes. Don’t disrupt the daily life of the locals or trespass on their property.
  • Keep your head up! It’s easy to get bogged down with sticking to the route and burying your nose in a map. The trails are very simple and easy to spot the signposts. Enjoy the walk and the sights rather than worry about which turn to take next!
  • Bring lots of water. If you’re visiting on a hot or sunny day it’s important to stay hydrated.
  • Take your time. We completed the walk in less time than estimated by the guide. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take it slow, meander a little, and enjoy a full day with rest stops.

For more ideas on how to spend your time in Guildford and the Swan Valley, this website has an abundance of helpful info to plan your trip! From accommodation to organised tours, you can spend as little or as much time in Guildford as you like.

guildford hotel swan valley heritage building

Overall, a visit to Guildford in the Swan Valley is an easy afternoon out. Walking the Guildford heritage trails we learned a lot about Western Australia’s colonial history, and we enjoyed the charms of the town.

It may not be the most exciting place in WA, and nor is it somewhere that might interest everyone. It’s clear that the trails and estimated walking times are for a gentler pace, so it may be more suited to older visitors. Nonetheless, there is definitely something that everyone can enjoy. Whether that be history, architecture, food, shopping, or nature!


I hope this inspires you to follow the heritage walks around Guildford and the Swan Valley when you visit Perth!

 

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