October 23, 2023

Destination: London


Best Day Trips from London

It may seem a slightly odd thing to say about one of the world’s great capital cities, but London is a very easy place from which to escape. It’s brilliantly connected to the rest of the UK, making it easy to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city in just a short drive or train ride.

Whether you fancy a country walk, a cultural visit to the iconic Stonehenge, or a trip to the seaside, there are several places you can reach in less than two hours by train, from London.

Here’s our pick of 10 of the best day trips from London.

1. Bath, Somerset

Canal boat on the River Avon in Bath

Not only is Bath one of the UK’s most handsome cities, but it’s also compact and mostly manageable in a day. It’s famous for its beautiful Georgian architecture, the Roman Baths (Romanbaths.co.uk), the Jane Austen Centre (Janeausten.co.uk), a great culinary scene, and even beautiful walks, like the Bath Skyline (Nationaltrust.org.uk)

For a midday snack, grab a legendary bun from Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House (Sallylunns.co.uk), a must-visit in Bath. And if you’re visiting over the festive season, be sure to visit Bath’s Christmas Market (Visitbath.co.uk). 

How to get to Bath: Take the train from London Victoria to Bath, which takes 1 hour and 20 minutes.

2. The New Forest, Hampshire

Outdoor dining at The Pig at Brockenhurst

Brockenhurst is a small, quaint village in the New Forest. It’s home to a couple of cosy pubs, cafes, and the famous The Pig (Thepighotel.com), which has a menu showcasing food sourced within 25 miles, as well as much grown on their grounds, too.

Before you settle into the delights of The Pig, though, go for a leisurely walk in the beautiful New Forest. Or why not hire some bikes and tackle the trails on two wheels?

How to get to the New Forest: Take the train from London Waterloo to Brockenhurst, which takes 1 hour and 30 minutes.

3. Oxford, Oxfordshire

Harry Potter Dining Room at Christ Church College, Oxford

Oxford is a magical place, with stunning architecture and museums filled with ancient treasures. It also has a thriving music and art scene, and if you’re a Harry Potter fan you can walk in the wizard’s footsteps, as the Great Dining Hall and famous staircase are inside Christ Church College.

Blenheim Palace (Blenheimpalace.com), the birthplace of Winston Churchill, is just a short bus ride away, where you can tour the gardens and huge country house. There’s also a brilliant Christmas market during the winter. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even tour Oxford by boat (Oxfordrivercruises.com).

How to get to Oxford: Take the train from London Paddington to Oxford, in just over 1 hour.

4. Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Stonehenge with clouds and blue sky background

Needing little introduction, Stonehenge is the most visited attraction in England (outside of London).

The best way to understand the history is to book a tour with Stonehenge Tour (Thestonehengetour.info). Available in 10 languages, onboard commentary will guide you through the gentle, rolling landscape, sharing historical tales. 

How to get to Stonehenge: Take the train from London Waterloo to Salisbury, which takes 1 hour and 30 minutes. You can then take a Stonehenge Tour bus to the site, which takes 35 minutes. Alternatively, take a taxi.

5. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Sudeley Castle & Gardens - Tithe Barn and the Castle by Elliott Brown

Cheltenham is on the edge of the Cotswolds, so it’s a great base from which to explore the many beautiful walking and cycling routes, while also staying close to easy transport links.

Take a walk around Sudeley Castle and Gardens (Sudeleycastle.co.uk) – take the ‘W’ bus from Pittville Street to the War Memorial and walk 15 minutes – explore The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum, (Cheltenhammuseum.org.uk) and visit the famous Cheltenham Racecourse (Thejockeyclub.co.uk)

Most walks begin a little outside of the city centre, like Cleeve Hill walk (a 15-minute drive away) and Crickley Hill (a 10-minute drive away).

How to get to Cheltenham: To get to Cheltenham, take the train from London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa, which takes around 2 hours.

6. Margate, Kent

Boat on the mud at Margate Harbour

On the southeast coast of the UK is Margate, a seaside town with sandy beaches, quaint shops and deliciously fresh seafood.

If it’s a warm day, be sure to take your swimmers so you can go for a dip in the sea. But before you do, take a visit to the Turner Contemporary Gallery (Turnercontemporary.org), right on the seafront, to soak up the artwork first. 

If you like thrift shops, there are a few dotted around the town, too, like Handsome Freaks and Peony Vintage.

How to get to Margate: Take the train from either London Victoria or London St. Pancras International to Margate, both of which take between 1 hour 30 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes.

7. Chippenham, Wiltshire

Chippenham High Street decorated with British flags

In just over an hour, you’ll be out of the busy big city and into the peaceful Cotswolds. 

The historical market town of Chippenham is nestled on the banks of the River Avon. There are colourful street markets on weekends and characterful pubs where you can grab some lunch or a drink in the garden or by the fire.

Take a stroll through John Coles Park (Chippenham.gov.uk) in the heart of the town and visit Lacock Village, which you may recognise from films like Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts. It’s an 11-minute drive away or you can take the X34 bus.

How to get to Chippenham: A train from London Paddington to Chippenham takes a minimum of 1 hour and 11 minutes.

8. Brighton, East Sussex

Deck chairs on the beach in Brighton

Brighton has a bit of everything: seaside fun, cliff-top walking routes, retro shops, great restaurants, contemporary art, and progressive culture. The Lanes are full of vintage shops like Beyond Retro (Beyondretro.com) and Our Daily Edit (Ourdailyedit.com). And if you like coffee, it isn’t hard to find a quirky little boutique cafe. 

The pebbly beach is about 5 miles long, where you can either brave the cold sea or instead grab a deckchair and some fish and chips from RYBKA (Rybka.fish) and tuck in.

How to get to Brighton: There are a few different ways to get to Brighton. The ThamesLink from either Farringdon, London Bridge, or Blackfriars to Brighton (under 1 hour 30 minutes); or the Gatwick Express, from London Victoria to Brighton, which takes about 50 minutes.

9. Box Hill, Surrey

Garry Knight - Play Trail At Box Hill in Surrey.

Visiting Box Hill is a great Sunday out from London. It isn’t too far and there’s a great coffee shop at the top selling cakes, sausage rolls and hot drinks.

If you’re not arriving on two wheels, then take a walk on one of the many hiking trails. You can either wander around the top of the hill, where there’s a Gruffalo Trail offering great family fun, or do one of the more strenuous hikes, like this 8-mile circular route (Nationaltrust.org.uk). 

How to get to Box Hill: Take the train from London Waterloo to Box Hill in as little as 50 minutes. Or, if you like cycling, grab your bike. It’s about a 30-40 mile round trip, depending on where you start and finish and how much you deviate on the country roads. Plus, you can always take the train home if you don’t want to cycle back.

10. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Cambridge by PublicDomainPictures

Cambridge is packed with things to see and do. You can marvel at the architecture, go punting down the river, visit the market stalls, lose yourself in the Botanical Gardens (Cambridgeppf.org), or soak up some culture at The Fitzwilliam Museum (Fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk). 

A few must-visit foodie spots are Jack’s Gelato (Jacksgelato.com), for some unusual flavour combinations, and Fitzbillies (Fitzbillies.com), for a Chelsea Bun, which they’ve been making since 1920 – they also do brunch, lunch, and afternoon tea.

How to get to Cambridge: Take the train from London King’s Cross to Cambridge, which can be as fast as 1 hour 9 minutes. 

If we’ve whetted your appetite and you fancy exploring the British countryside on foot, check out our walking tours of the Cotswolds. Alternatively, we offer a unique London cultural tour to help you experience the very best of what the capital has to offer.

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