London has something for everyone, but sometimes it’s nice to escape the big city and head to the beach, the countryside, or just get a change of scenery for the day.
If you’re looking for ideas for a day out with the family, a romantic excursion with your other half, or just want to explore some of the picturesque locations that are only a train ride away, try one of these day trips from London.
You can’t beat a day at the seaside and Brighton arguably offers the best of the British seaside experience along with a bustling creative arts scene and some of the best live music outside of London. Brighton is also the unofficial LGBT capital of the UK and the whole city has a laidback, alternative vibe.
Where to go: Take a walk along the historic pier, sunbathe from a deckchair on the pebble beach, shop at independent boutiques and eat at cool cafes in the Laines, and enjoy a beer at the Brighton Beer Dispensary.
Get there: There are frequent trains to Brighton from London Victoria, London Bridge, and St Pancras, some of which take less than an hour.
With its thermal spas and beautiful architecture, the Roman city of Bath makes a great choice for a couples or girls day out. There is also so much history to explore, including the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey, and Royal Crescent, making it an interesting and educational family trip with the kids.
Where to go: Take a look around the Roman Baths and then enjoy the thermal waters yourself by having some treatments at the Thermae Bath Spa. Enjoy a walk along the Royal Crescent and stop off for afternoon tea at Sally Lunn’s teahouse.
Get there: Trains leave London Paddington twice an hour and take around 90 minutes.
The eyes of the world were on Windsor recently as the location of the latest royal wedding, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in seeing the castle. Royals aside, Windsor is a charming and picturesque town that’s nice to spend a day exploring, and it’s also the location of the family favourite, Legoland.
Where to go: The castle is well worth a look and kids and miniature enthusiasts will love Queen Mary’s dolls house on display inside. If it’s a nice day, a stroll or picnic at Windsor Great Park is a must. The town itself is full of quaint boutiques, coffee shops, and eateries.
Get there: Trains from London Waterloo and London Paddington run regularly and take around 45 minutes.
The pretty university city of Cambridge is a popular London escape. Take a walk around the grounds of the university to admire the architecture, or take to the river for a punting trip or picnic. There are also several museums worth a visit and the Arts Theatre and Corn Exchange host regular theatrical performances.
Where to go: Exploring the grounds of the University and the River Cam is a must. For an educational trip check out one of the museums including the Polar Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum, or the Centre for Computing History. For a different kind of education try the Cambridgeshire Wine School, The Cambridge Gin Laboratory, or join a beer tasting tour.
Get there: Trains from Kings Cross or Liverpool Street station reach Cambridge in around an hour.
Canterbury is most famous for its cathedral and the town itself is a picturesque location for a wander with medieval streets, historic ruins, and “The Canterbury Tales” themed tours. The River Stour is also particularly tranquil and a cycle path and punting tours means you can enjoy it from several different perspectives.
Where to go: No visit to Canterbury would be complete without seeing the cathedral, but don’t forget other historical sites such as St Martin’s Church and St Augustine’s Abbey.
Get there: Regular train services run from London Victoria, St Pancras, and Charing Cross in under an hour.
6. The New Forest
If you’re in need of some nature, the New Forest offers the best of the British countryside with hundreds of walking and bike trails, country pubs and tea rooms, and of course the famous New Forest Ponies.
Where to go: The New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst is a good starting point to learn more about the national park and the kid-friendly museum is great for families. After working up an appetite and pony spotting, stop off at the Ringwood Brewery for beer tasting or enjoy some tea and scones at the Captain’s Cabin in Buckler’s Hard.
Get there: The New Forest is spread over a large area and is best explored by car. It’s a two-hour drive from central London via the M3.
The seaside town of Whitstable is a lovely place to while away a day drinking coffee, people spotting, and enjoying a lunch of fresh oysters. There’s also a five-mile cycle trail that goes along the seafront and plenty of places to rent a bike.
Where to go: Tankerton Beach has beach huts for rent and is a lovely spot for a walk. If you’d rather explore by bike, rent one from Whitstable Cycle Hire. You’ll find oysters everywhere but check out the Whitstable Oyster Company for some of the best with gorgeous views. End your day with a drink at the Old Neptune – a white clapboard pub right on the beach.
Get there: The train from London St Pancras or Victoria takes around 90 minutes.
At a road-trip distance of over two hours, the Cotswolds are just a little too far for a day trip for most, but you can get a taste of their pretty cottages and cobbled lanes in the Sussex coastal town of Rye. Rye is a great spot for browsing for antiques and there are plenty of historic buildings for history and architecture buffs including Rye Castle and the Church of St. Thomas the Martyr.
Where to go: After a wander down the picturesque Mermaid Street and a look in the shops (check out Vintage Stockroom for 40s and 50s furniture and vintage Americana) you’ll be ready for lunch. Being a coastal town, Rye has some great seafood – try the Globe Inn Marsh with its contemporary menu and range of local ales. Kids will love frolicking in the dunes of Camber Sands just 10 minutes out of town.
Get there: There are two trains each hour from London St Pancras, taking around 90 minutes.
9. Mersea Island
Tiny 7-square-mile Mersea is the UK’s most easterly inhabited island and is connected to the mainland by a causeway that floods at high tide. The pretty pastel beach huts make an Instagram-worthy photo backdrop and you can take a boat trip around the bay, or head further out for fishing or birdwatching.
Where to go: The Company Shed seafood restaurant is the most famous spot on the island and is a must-visit. They don’t take bookings and queues can be long, so try to get there before midday. The small Mersea Island Museum offers an interesting look into local history.
Get there: Trains from Liverpool Street Station take less than an hour to Colchester and it’s then a 20-minute taxi ride to Mersea Island.
If you think York isn’t realistic as a day trip from London you may be surprised that just a two hour train journey from London Kings Cross, making it more accessible than many closer destinations. So if you fancy a trip up north, you can’t really go wrong with York. The city offers plenty of shops, bars, and cafes – many of which are located in original buildings dating back to the 14th century. There’s also the cathedral York Minster to explore, as well as York Castle and other historic buildings.
Where to go: Start by exploring the city’s oldest street – The Shambles – which leads up to York Minster. When it’s time for refreshments, the Perky Peacock Coffee Shop located inside a medieval tower has great cake and a view of the river. If you can stay until after dark be sure to join one of the ghost tours – York is reportedly Europe’s most haunted city.
Get there: Trains leave every 30 minutes from Kings Cross Station with the fastest service being 1 hour and 50 minutes.