15 day trips from London

by Jan

London has a diverse range of attractions for its many visitors and there is something to suit everyone’s tastes.  However, if you need an escape from the capital, there are many fantastic day trips from London.

If you want a change of scene or slower pace for the day, this travel guide will show you some of the best alternatives to London.   It will give you suggestions of places to visit and ideas on how to get there, so that you can plan your day out from London.

Historic cities, castles, seaside towns and trips to the countryside all make great day trips from London. Even better, you don’t need a car to get there.

Read on for some of the best day trips from London:-

I have only included day trips from London that are accessible by train.  I have given an indication of how long it would take, but London train times vary depending on the time of day and day of the week, so you would need to check using The Train Line.

The royal town of Windsor is probably one of the closest day trips from London.  Windsor has a rich mixture of history and culture and is a must-see destination for first time visitors  to England.

The top attraction in Windsor is the magnificent Windsor Castle, the weekend home of the Queen.  If you go in the morning, you can see the changing of the guards in front of the castle.

Alternatively, you could also enjoy a walk along the Thames or a visit to Great Windsor Park.  Formerly a royal hunting ground, the park is still home to over 500 deer and is a beautiful green space within reach of London.

Across the bridge from Windsor is the historic village of Eton, famous for its public school, Eton College.  Eton is an easy walk from Windsor and you’ll find a selection of independent shops and cafes.

Queen Victoria Statue, Windsor, Berkshire, England

For more information on things to do in Windsor, read:

Best things to do in Windsor

How to get from London to Windsor:

By train:  From London Paddington Station to Windsor & Eton Central (approx. 35 minutes)

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is another of Britain’s magnificent royal historic houses.  This palace was a favourite of King Henry VIII.  Go on a tour of Hampton Court to discover life in Tudor times, explore the spectacular gardens or get lost in the maze.

Afterwards, cross the road from Hampton Court Palace to Bushy Park.  Bushy Park is one of London’s eight royal parks and another place to spot free-roaming deer.  Within the park you can see the Diana Fountain or the beautiful Woodland Gardens.

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, UK

How to get from London to Hampton Court Palace:

By train:  From London Waterloo to Hampton Court (approx. 30 mins)

Cambridge

Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge, UK

One of the most famous cities in Britain is Cambridge, a beautiful city in South East England.  Less than an hour from Kings Cross by train, Cambridge is ideal for a day trip from London.

This city is most famous for the legendary world-class Cambridge University and is bursting with English history, tradition and stunning architecture.

One of the best things to do in Cambridge is take a punt on the River Cam.  From here you can see many of the famous colleges and admire the beautiful buildings from the comfort of your boat.  You’ll also drift under the 25 ancient bridges that cross the connect the colleges.  Look out for the famous Mathematical Bridge or the Bridge of Sighs.

Another great way to get round Cambridge is by bike.  You’ll see cyclists everywhere you look and it is easy to hire a bike for the day.

Alternatively, you can walk.  Cambridge is a fairly small city and it’s easy to enjoy the highlights by foot.

For more information on the best things to do in Cambridge, read:

A visit to Cambridge, UK

How to get from London to Cambridge:

By train:  From London Kings Cross (approx. 54 mins) or London Liverpool Street (approx. 1 hr 23)

Oxford

Another historic city, renowned for its prestigious, ancient university and fine architecture is Oxford.  You can wander the old streets admiring the colleges or looking for film locations for the Harry Potter films.  You could go punting here too, or visit the botanical garden.

How to get from London to Oxford:

By train:  From Paddington station to Oxford (approx. 50 mins)

Bath

The Roman Baths, Bath, Somerset, England

Bath is a beautiful, historic city in the county of Somerset, South-West England.  In fact, Bath is the only UK city to be a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety.

Bath’s most popular historic attraction is its Roman Baths, a legacy from Bath’s Roman times.  Inside the museum you can see the  remains of the ancient spa used for public bathing by the Romans.  The Roman Baths are on the site of unique thermal springs, which provide the spa with natural hot water.

Overlooking the Roman Baths is the Pump Room.  Named for the water that is pumped from the spa into its room, the Pump Room is now a stylish restaurant.  It’s the perfect place for a quintessentially English afternoon tea.

Whilst you are in Bath, head for the Royal Crescent, a row of elegant Georgian houses.  You can even go in number one, to see the typical furnishings for a Georgian gentleman.  Bath has plenty of other museums, including Bath Fashion Museum and Jane Austen House.

Brighton

If you are looking for day out at the seaside, head for the city of Brighton.  Less than hour by train from London Victoria, Brighton is one of the closest beaches to London and is ideal for a day trip.

Brighton does not have a sandy beach.  In fact, Brighton Beach is famously full of pebbles.  However, what it lacks in sand, it makes up for in atmosphere and continues to be one of the most popular beaches for a day trip from London.   Another famous landmark at the beach is Brighton Palace Pier, a mini seaside theme park on the sea.

In Brighton city centre, you’ll find plenty of shops, including the quirky independent shops in The Lanes.  The other top attractions in Brighton are the 18th Century Royal Pavilion, Brighton Sealife Aquarium and the i360 Viewing Tower.

If you have got time to stay over, the nightlife in Brighton is buzzing.  You’ll find a vast choice of nightclubs, bars and pubs and an amazing music scene.

How to get from London to Brighton:

By train: From London Victoria to Brighton (approx. 53 mins)

Portsmouth

View looking up at Spinakker tower, Portsmouth framed in blue sky, Hampshire

Another fantastic waterfront city for Londoners wanting to escape the city is Portsmouth. Portsmouth is home to one of England’s most historic dockyards and naval bases.

The top attraction is Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where you can find all you need to know about Portsmouth’s maritime heritage.  You can also see the warship HMS Victory and the ancient Tudor ship, Mary Rose.

Once you’ve had your fill of maritime discoveries, head to Portsmouth city centre.  You can climb 170 metres up The Emirates Spinnaker Tower to get 350 degrees panoramas of the city and ocean.  Alternatively, you could head to the popular Gunwharf Quays designer shopping outlet shopping.

How to get from London to Portsmouth:

By train:  From London Waterloo to Portsmouth & Southsea (approx. 1hr 32)

Hever Castle & Gardens

Image of Hever Castle, Kent, UK

Another magnificent medieval English castle within easy reach of London is Hever Castle.

The breath-taking Hever Castle is the childhood home of Ann Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII.  It is located near Edenbridge in South East London.   Hever Castle is only 40 minutes by train from London, but you will need to get a taxi to reach the castle.

Hever castle is fairly small, but in excellent condition.  You can enter the castle to see the rooms where Ann Boleyn grew up.  You’ll also see collections of armour and torture instruments from that era.

In addition, Hever Castle has exquisite gardens, with a lake, topiary and Italian gardens.  If you are travelling with children, they will love the two adventure playgrounds and mazes.

For more information on Hever Castle, read:

A visit to Hever Castle & Gardens

How to get from London to Hever Castle:

By train:  From London Bridge to Edenbridge Town (approx. 38 mins) You will then need to take a taxi to Hever Castle.

Canterbury

Canterbury is known as the pilgrimage site of the Middle Ages.  It is a historical, cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most visited cities in England.  Canterbury is still rich with history and heritage and offers a range of attractions for visitors.

How to get from London to Canterbury:

By train:  London St Pancras to Canterbury West (approx. 54 mins)

Salisbury

Salisbury is a medieval cathedral city in Wiltshire. The magnificent gothic Salisbury Cathedral, boasts England’s  tallest spire and holds the best-preserved copy of the Magna Carta.  It is near to the historic site of Old Sarema, which was the original site of Salisbury.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK

Just outside Salisbury is the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge.  This unique stone circle is probably the most famous pre-historic monuments in the world and is well worth a day trip from London..  It has a very good Visitors’ Centre and replica Neolithic houses to experience life in former days.

How to get from London to Salisbury & Stonehenge:

By train:  From London Waterloo to Salisbury (approx.1h 3o) You can then take the Stonehenge tour bus to the Visitor Centre.

Stratford-upon-Avon

Although Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the furthest of the day trips from London, it is still a very popular trip.  It is a must-see visit for those who love literature and drama, as it is the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Of course, on a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, you can find out more about the life of this world’s most famous playwright, by visiting where he was born and spent his early years.   You can also attend a performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

How to get from London to Stratford-upon-Avon:

By train: from London Marylebone to Stratford up Avon (approx. 2hr 12)

The Cotswolds

View of quaint Cotswold village, stone houses nestled amongst trees

If you are looking for a change from the hustle of London, an escape to the rolling hills of the Cotswolds is one of the best days out from London.

The Cotswolds covers almost 800 square miles of beautiful English countryside.  It is home to a collection of picture-box villages with quaint stone cottages and grand stately homes, such as Blenheim Palace and Sudeley Castle.

If you enjoy hiking, you can take on the challenge of the Cotswold Way or a hike up to Broadway Tower.  Or head to the Cotswold Water Park for a day of water sports.

For more information on how to spend 3 days in the Cotswolds (visiting Upper & Lower Slaughter and Bourton on the Water), read:-

3 days in the Cotswolds

How to get from London to the Cotswolds:

By train:  From London Paddington to Gloucester – 1h4 45 (change in Swindon) or to Moreton-in-Marsh – 1hr 30

Surrey Hills

View across rolling Surrey Hills

If you want to escape the hustle of city life, take a day trip from London to the Surrey Hills.

The Surrey Hills is an Area of Outstanding Beauty that covers a quarter of Surrey in the South-East of England.  With its ancient woodland, chocolate-box villages, and stunning natural landscape it is an area that is ideal for walking. It has some of the most stunning countryside in South East England and makes the perfect escape from city.

One of the most popular day trips from London is to Box Hill.  Here you’ll find a choice of trails and viewpoint that gives you panoramic views over the nearby countryside.

As well as hiking and nature, the Surrey Hills has some impressive period houses, such as Polesdon Lacey and Loseley Park.  There are also many charming villages, where you can stop for food and enjoy a traditional pub lunch.

Click here for some of the best walks in the Surrey Hills.

How do you get from London to the Surrey Hills:

By train:  from London Victoria to Dorking (approx. 55 mins)

The New Forest

Another great way to escape to the great outdoors is to take a day trip from London to the New Forest.  This area of natural beauty in the South East is one of the largest areas of unspoilt woodland and heathland in Southern England.

Although it is called the New Forest, it is in fact very old.  Historically, William the Conqueror proclaimed it a royal forest and it has since become one of England’s National Parks.

One of the highlights of a visit to the New Forest is always seeing the delightful wild ponies, who roam freely across the park.

The New Forest England, trees with pink Heather

How to get from London to the New Forest:

By train:  There are 8 different stations in the New Forest.  A popular route is London Waterloo to Brockenhurst (approx 1h 29)

How to get there:

Have you tried any of these fabulous day trips from London?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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