Need To Escape London? Here Are 11 Easy Day Trips In The UK
It’s no secret that London is one of my favourite cities in the world. Its world-class museums, fabulous weekend markets and beautiful architecture could keep you entertained for hours! But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a little break from the hustle and bustle during your trip to the U.K.
I went on two day trips during my 6 weeks in England. (I clearly love London too much to leave it alone for more than a day.) But there were definitely some bucket list destinations in the U.K. that I definitely want to go back and see!
Until my inevitable return to the U.K. – where a road trip clearly needs to be had – I reached out to some top travel bloggers to share their favourite U.K.-based day trips from London. Here are…
11 Easy Day Trips from London
Hitchin Lavender Farm
Recommended by Suzanne Wolko of PhilaTravelGirl.
I’ve been visiting London a few times a year for over twenty years and it wasn’t until recently when a friend surprised me that I realized how much of England there is to see outside of London. You’ll look at the photo and not believe that I was only an hour outside of London at the Hitchin Lavender Farm.
Just being outside on this warm and sunny June day was magic. The purple landscape seemed almost surreal, as if someone had painted the scene adding in clear blue skies, puffy clouds and wisps of gold and green. The sweet fragrance of lavender dancing with the wind. The bees buzzing around my head quickly brought me back to reality that this was a real vision of England.
From mid-June to the end of August, you too can wander the fields of lavender (late summer sees Sunflower fields), cutting your favourites along the way. It’s a lovely way to spend a sunny day outside of London. After our visit, we drove a short way down to the local pub for pints because while the lavender is normally associated with France, the pub is quintessentially British.
You can reach the Hitchin Lavender field by train from London’s King’s Cross station. Once you arrive at the Hitchin station, take a local cab to the lavender farm. The entrance fee per person is less than £5 for a bag and scissors to go out and pick your own lavender (sunflowers are extra). The farm has an on-site café, picnic tables to bring your own and a gift shop for all things lavender, including ice cream!
The town of Cambridge is most known for its university. As the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world, Cambridge University draws visitors from all over the world to its stunning universities and colleges. I was lucky enough to visit my cousin- who was a professor there- and his wife for a personalized tour of the town and the campus grounds.
At about an hour’s train ride from King’s Cross station in downtown London, the small town of Cambridge is perfect for a day trip from London. The town and university are steeped in history, tradition and stunning architecture. I really enjoyed visiting King’s College and Trinity College for their unique colours and architecture. It was also incredible to see the campus from the punting tour I went on along River Cam. If you’re in Cambridge for the day, I’d highly recommend doing a group tour- many of which are guided by Cambridge students.
I also found it very interesting to learn more about the Cambridge-Oxford rivalry. For those who may not know, Cambridge University actually came to be because of a kerfuffle between Oxford scholars and townspeople. But throughout most of the ‘upbringing’ of Cambridge and Oxford universities, they were the only two universities in Wales and in England. This led to many competitions between the two schools. For instance, Oxford produced more prime ministers, but Cambridge has more Nobel laureates.
Or my personal favourite: Did you know that the oldest hockey rivalry in the world is actually between Cambridge and Oxford universities? As a Canadian, this blew my mind a little bit.
Remmended by Lindsay Mickles of The Neverending Wanderlust.
The Cotswolds have been and always will be my favourite day trip destination in England. I’ve taken a few small-group tours, and have been fortunate enough to have a personal tour guide, a.k.a. my friend, drive me through as well. There are so many little towns and villages to explore, and each one of them has their own charm.
My absolute favourite places to stop are at Avebury Stone Circle, Castle Combe, Bibury, and Lacock (for Harry Potter Fans). Stonehenge is also located in this area, and there are many day tours that leave out of London and Bath, that will stop in many of these towns.
The best time to visit the Cotswolds is when the flowers are blooming. The churches, pubs, and cottages truly come alive in the springtime. (Although they are beautiful no matter what time of year!) If you are planning a trip to London, do your very best to carve out a day to spend in The Cotswolds. It is an absolutely stunning area in the English Countryside.
Recommended by Oceana Setaysha of Maps And Mandalas.
There are many wonderful castles in England, but to me there are few that are as stunning in ruin as Bodiam Castle. Just over 60 miles from London, it makes for the perfect day trip from the city, and a chance to step back in time to the splendour of the medieval past. Bodiam Castle is every bit the medieval castle I dreamt of as a child reading fairytales. The large moat, the long spiral staircases, the battlements to look out from, and just enough ruins that you can imagine the castle in it’s splendour.
What I love about Bodiam Castle is that it’s not considered to be a ‘big ticket’ location, so it’s still affordable for entry (just £10 per person to enter the castle and £3 for parking) and it isn’t impossibly busy. Aim to arrive as early in the morning as possible, but not so early that you won’t be able to hang around for one of the free castle tours. The guides dress up in medieval clothing, and they’re really knowledgeable about the castle and history, as well as being very entertaining!
If you take your time, and you love a good castle, you could easily spend a few hours wandering around inside the castle and out. There are free guided walks not just in the castle but also around Bodiam village and the surrounding countryside, which is gorgeous. The National Trust also runs events at the castle to help people get into the medieval spirit of things.
Recommended by Christine Leger of Tapped Out Travellers.
Cardiff is a beautiful city to visit and is the capitol of Wales. Get immersed in the local history that is Cardiff Castle or Llandaff Cathedral (just on the outskirts of town) and get your inner nerd on at the Doctor Who Experience. Visit the Wales Millennium Centre and the Water Tower, home of the Torchwood Base and invisible lift. Mermaid Quay and area have a wonderful view of Cardiff Bay.
If you’re needing a break from touring, exploring the local cuisine at The Hayes, you’ll find amazing choices like The Duke of Wellington, Bill’s, Ask Italian, and our resident favourite- Jamie’s Italian. It is a great family restaurant to have a quick bite of gourmet food, at great prices. It is also neatly located next to the sculpture Alliance and The Queens Arcade; a two building, two level shopping centre in the heart of the city.
There is so much to see and do (and eat) in Cardiff, you will want to visit again and again!
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Recommended by Sarah Edwards of Not Another Travel Blog.
Less than 100km from London, you’ll find the beautiful university city of Oxford. It’s the perfect spot for a day trip if you’re a fan of stunning architecture and picturesque countryside! Convenient transport links make it a simple day trip. Buses and trains run regularly from central London and take between an hour and an hour and a half.
Once you arrive, check out some of the city’s iconic buildings like the Radcliffe Camera, the Bridge of Sighs and Oxford Castle. You should also try to visit at least one of the amazing colleges! Christ Church is a great choice as it features the ‘Great Hall’ used as a film location in the Harry Potter movies. Christ Church meadow is another popular spot. It’s perfect for a picnic lunch after a busy morning of sightseeing.
If it’s a sunny afternoon, you can’t beat a spot of punting on the River Cherwell. Navigate yourself along the river on a traditional punt if you’re feeling brave, or if you’d rather chill out and enjoy the gorgeous rural scenery then perhaps opt for a chauffeured punting experience.
In case it’s not quite the weather for punting (always a possibility in the UK!), then visit one of Oxford’s brilliant museums – we love the Pitt Rivers Museum of Natural History, although the Ashmolean is another a good choice.
Finish off your day with a drink in one of Oxford’s famous pubs – we’d suggest The Eagle & Child which was once a popular spot with JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis – before heading back to the big smoke.
Recommended by Kathryn Burrington of Sussex Bloggers.
Eastbourne, on the south coast of England, is a fine example of a Victorian seaside town, showcasing the best of what typifies an English coastal resort. Its sweeping 3.5 mile long seafront, lined with palm trees, is very grand.
The stunning Victorian pier, with its gold dome gleaming in the sunshine, is a must see; as is the seafront’s beautiful bandstand where regular concerts are held from April through to October. The town also boasts an impressive modern art gallery and the fascinating Redoubt Fortress built during the Napoleonic Wars.
If you fancy stretching your legs further, a local bus will take you to Seven Sisters Country Park for stunning scenery and magnificent views of the famous white cliffs and the meandering Cuckmere River.
Back on the seafront promenade, visit The Beach Deck for a view of the sea while you tuck into a traditional English breakfast or stop by for lunch or an evening meal to try their delicious fish dishes including the nation’s seaside favourite, fish ‘n chips.
Regular trains connect the town with London, taking less than an hour and a half from Victoria Station, making Eastbourne a great day out from the city, especially on a sunny day.
Recommended by Anisa Alhilali of Two Traveling Texans.
I’m not sure any place can match the architecture, history, and collection of priceless art and artifacts of Windsor Castle. Plus, Queen Elizabeth likes to spend her weekends there. As you can imagine, it is very popular so get your tickets in advance to avoid the long lines. Arrive early so that you can catch the changing of the guard at 11 am.
The audio tour (which is included in your admission price) is fantastic and will guide you through the castle. This includes Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, the State Apartments, and St. George’s Chapel. Everything is over the top, just like you would expect at a castle.
Some of my favourite rooms in Windsor Castle were the Waterloo Chamber, Crimson Drawing Room, Grand Reception Room, and St. George’s Hall. Fun fact: State Banquets are held in St. George’s Hall at a table that can hold up to 160 guests. There really is so much to see at Windsor Castle. I would be sure to allow 3-4 hours to see everything.
Recommended by Jonathan Sacks of Everybody Hates A Tourist.
While it might seem like York is a long distance from London, it’s just two hours away by train. The medieval city makes for a great day trip. History is around every corner, from Roman times to the conquest by the Vikings, through the Middle Ages, and into the modern day.
You can take a walk along the city wall for great views of the area, including the River Ouse. Famous historic buildings include the iconic York Minster and Clifford’s Tower & the York Castle Museum. The quaint, narrow streets of the famous Shambles are home to great shops, pubs, and restaurants. No day in Yorkshire is complete without at least a round or two in a pub!
On a sunny day, the Museum Gardens are a great place to relax next to Roman ruins. If the weather isn’t as good, kids & grownups alike will enjoy the National Railway Museum, which houses historic trains & showcases the history of rail travel in Britain.
Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a nice day out in shops & cafes, York makes for a fantastic day drip from London.
My first introduction to Brighton was through its notorious night club scene. At that point, I had yet to go to Brighton, but its reputation had made its way across the pond and through several provinces in my home country of Canada. Although Brighton is still known for its night scene, it’s also England’s most quintessential beach town.
The seaside town is roughly an hour and a half outside of London by train. Enjoy the glimpses of English countryside as you make your way to the heart of Brighton. Once you’ve arrived, I’d recommend making your way over to Brighton Beach.
Take a walk along the rocky shoreline and relax to the gentle crashing of waves. While you’re breathing in that crisp, salty air, explore the many restaurants, cafes and shops lining the boardwalk. If you’re looking for more of an adrenaline rush, try the arcade or the carnival rides on the iconic Brighton Pier!
When you feel like walking around the seaside town a bit more, go explore Brighton’s narrow and colourful streets. They are home to many festivals, markets and many art & culture events. They are also filled with incredibly talented buskers, which really adds to the city’s artsy vibe!
My favourite building to walk around was the Royal Pavilion, which was King George IV’s beach house. (Though technically, it’s a palace.) The pavilion’s architecture draws from a mix of English regency, China and India, making it an incredibly innovative and impressive building.
So grab a friend and enjoy that salty, sea air!
Recommended by Claire Martin of Claire’s Footsteps.
Only an hour outside the British capitol, the majestic fortress of Hever Castle is definitely one of the best castles near London. It’s most famously known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn- Henry VIII’s most famous wife- and is a must visit for anyone interested in one of Britain’s most compelling historical eras.
The castle is quintessentially British, with all of the medieval defensive fortifications typical of that era. Its rooms are open to the public, where it showcases what the castle was like throughout the ages and offers a lot of history about its Tudor residents.
William Waldorf Astor restored the castle in the twentieth century. He created the gorgeous Italian gardens which remain a popular feature of Hever Castle today. The castle is fun for the whole family! Other attractions of the Edenbridge, Kent castle include a maze, a water maze and an extensive children’s playground. And if you’re needing a sit down after the exploring, the Japanese Tea House offers delectable brews!
What are your favourite U.K. day-trips from London?
Share your destinations & stories in the comments below and let me know if I forgot any must-visit towns and cities!
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