From the splendor of Windsor Castle and historic Canterbury through to mystical Stonehenge, here’s a guide to five great day trips from London.
Winding your way along hedgerow-lined country lanes at your leisure as thatched roof cottages, spindly church spires, and cozy village tearooms pass by. It’s exactly what the quintessentially English experience is all about.
Not far from the bright lights of the cosmopolitan capital, you can discover a green and pleasant land of historic hamlets, friendly villages and picturesque seaside towns, full of culture and intrigue.
From the wild roaming New Forest ponies and magical splendor of Stonehenge to the legend of King Arthur and bohemian buzz of Brighton, there’s no shortage of possibilities for a day trip outside of London.
Whether an avid naturalist, energetic thrill-seeker, staunch Royalist, or take-it-easy cake-eater, we’ve drawn up a list of five day and weekend trips outside of the capital just for you. And if you can’t fit them all in on this visit, then that just gives you the perfect excuse to return another time, doesn’t it?
Pomp and ceremony rule Windsor, where you can experience perfect British pageantry with the changing of the guard at one of the Queen’s most famous residences, Windsor Castle.
While following in the footsteps of a succession of world-class kings and queens on a tour of the grounds, take a moment to look up. If you see the Royal Standard flying high from the Round Tower then you’re in luck. Her Majesty is most certainly at home.
As the oldest occupied fort in the world, Windsor’s 900-year-old attraction is a must-see, but there’s much more to discover in this affluent town on the Thames, which is located just an hour’s drive from London.
Take in some of the trails at the nearby Windsor Great Park and you might spot the UK’s majestic red deer roaming freely in all its splendor. Don’t overlook The Savill Garden either, a haven of horticultural tranquility with elegantly sculpted gardens accessed from the east side of this expansive lush and sprawling space.
Finally, for a complete change of pace and for those visiting Windsor with children, the visually spectacular Legoland theme park is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Salisbury is a charming and beguiling city, shrouded in mystery and magic – not least because it’s home to one of the most important, and bizarre, wonders of the world. Ancient Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument comprised of towering stones, slabs and boulders arranged in a circle.
Thought to have been built around 5,000 years ago, making it older than Egypt’s pyramids, it’s widely believed that Stonehenge was once a burial ground. It’s an enchanting place to visit, not least for the beautiful scenery that surrounds it.
Booking advance tickets is highly recommended as it’s the only way to guarantee entry for your preferred day and time. It also gives you a discount on the ticket price. Stonehenge’s busiest times are from June to September, so if you’re heading there during this period it’s a good idea to get there when it opens, or later before it closes to help beat the crowds.
While you’re in the area, you can clamber over the ramparts of Old Sarum fort from its lofty position on a hill on the outskirts of Salisbury. Stand in the settlement and dream up the sights, sounds and smells of the Romans, Saxons, and Normans, who once lived here.
But you don’t have to go looking for architectural wonders as the city itself is also blessed when it comes to historic treasures. Explore Salisbury Cathedral, which has the tallest spire in England, tour the grand stately manor houses of Mompesson, Wilton, and Philipps, or simply wander the bustling but quaint streets.
A half-hour drive outside of Salisbury sits the New Forest National Park. It’s a place for hiking, cycling or just driving through and admiring the native New Forest ponies that have been roaming freely around the forest for the last 2,000 years.
If you’re considering options for weekend trips from London, look this charming city up straight away – it’s a little over a two-and-a-half hour drive away.
Steeped in Medieval mythology, the turbulence of Winchester’s rich past is reflected everywhere here – from the desperate words of some of the city’s former inmates carved into the walls of the old prison, to the remains of Winchester Castle.
Only the Great Hall of the castle still stands but it’s here where you can find the greatest symbol of medieval mythology, King Arthur’s Round Table. Well, a 13th Century take on it, at least.
Displaying the names of various legendary Camelot knights, including Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad, it’s thought to have been created by Arthurian enthusiast King Edward I for a jousting tournament held near Winchester in 1290 to mark the marriage of one of his daughters.
Don’t pass through Winchester without witnessing this, or the old prison walls and their carvings, which are now part of the Westgate Museum. Then there’s the awe-inspiring Winchester Cathedral, the final resting place of celebrated English author Jane Austen.
Further afield, the city’s Marwell Zoo is home to 130 different species, while Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium will excite curious minds with two floors packed with over 100 interactive exhibitions and live shows that transport visitors from the Earth to the far-flung reaches of the solar system. Historical attractions aside, if you’re planning day trips out of London by car with children, be sure to spend some time here.
If picture-postcard English seaside towns are your thing, a highly recommended day trip outside of London is to Canterbury. The city itself, with its vibrant university scene, is not only stop-worthy in its own right but ideally placed for discovering some charming towns. Just follow the coastal road, the salty sea air and the cries of gulls.
Herne Bay’s two-mile shimmering coastline is within easy reach, as is Whitstable, where you’ll find the freshest of oysters. Soak up the atmosphere, paddle in the sea and enjoy a bracing walk, before indulging in crispy, battered cod and piping hot chips.
But back to Canterbury, which carries its fair share of culture and tradition including stunning Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. Greyfriars Chapel, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and the city’s Norman Castle are also worth a visit. History buffs won’t be disappointed and neither will those seeking rest and relaxation.
One of the finest ways to experience this exquisite city is by river boat tour, gliding serenely along the River Stour and discovering Canterbury’s hidden nooks and crannies. Fully restored, meander along the King’s Mile, a beguiling network of streets laden with independent shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Brighton is a city like no other in the UK, with a reputation for creativity, color, diversity, hedonism, fun and – above all else – individuality. It’s arguably the best of the seaside towns near London and perfect for a weekend trip. Brighton does archetypal English seaside – fish and chips, deckchairs, ice cream, gift shops – but with a funky twist.
Brighton’s appeal is that you never quite know what to expect. It’s best not to make much of a plan. Instead, just pitch up and see what you find. Visitors will inevitably head to the seafront, with its beachside bars and cafes, and the Palace Pier will delight the young and young at heart.
Brighton still technically has another pier too, and there remains something hauntingly mesmerizing about the darkened wreckage of the destroyed West Pier, rising defiantly from the English Channel.
Shoppers will be thrilled by the quirky stores tucked in and around The Lanes, Kemp Town, and North Laine, while lovers of architecture will be wowed by the spectacular Royal Pavilion, built as a seaside palace for King George IV with nods to both Indian and Chinese influences. The list of reasons to visit this energetic seaside city seems limitless – if you’re planning an itinerary of short trips from London, Brighton has to be a contender.
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