6 of the Loveliest Day Trips from London
There is a saying attributed to George John Gordon Bruce: “London is a splendid place to live in for those who can get out of it.” And it’s true—even the most devoted Londoners need a break from its all-consuming buzz every once in a while, although they never leave for long. If you find that the non-stop sightseeing, shopping, and Tube-hopping gets a bit much, it’s possible to reach somewhere with an entirely different pace of life in around two hours from the UK capital. We’ve put together a list of some of the greatest escapes to get you inspired.
The UK’s favorite spa city is enjoying renewed interest of late, thanks to its starring role as a filming location in Netflix’s Bridgerton. Visitors can retrace the steps of the famous family as they promenade past the Georgian residences decorating Royal Crescent , through the pleasure gardens near The Holburne Museum , and along the banks of the River Avon. Ancient fixtures like the The Roman Baths and Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House & Museum will make you feel as though you are walking through history itself. And don’t miss Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein —Bath's newest attraction—which promises an immersive experience for lovers of sci-fi and scares. Timeless relaxation can be found at the Thermae Bath Spa , with its panoramic rooftop pool and decadent treatment menu. Foodies can flock to The Walcot for a sumptuous pre-departure dinner, or pick up a tempting tipple at the The Beckford Bottle Shop .
Getting there: Take the train from London Paddington to Bath Spa.
Journey time: 1hr 20mins.
Home to the prestigious lecture halls that gave us Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, and Sir David Attenborough, Cambridge is all about brains and beauty. Breeze down the cobblestoned lanes and passages on a morning bicycle ride, pausing to purchase a steaming coffee from Bould Brothers Coffee and have a “mooch” (wander or browse) around the Cambridge Market Square . Marvel at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden and intricate architecture of the 31 individual University of Cambridge colleges, which will take you easily up to lunchtime. Insatiable carnivores will love the loaded ciabattas at Bread & Meat , but try Thrive Cambridge Cafe if your tastes are more plant-based. Then, drag your full belly over to the River Cam for a spot of punting! Not unlike the Venetian gondola, punting involves floating along on a narrow boat steered by a chauffeur with a long pole. A typical punt will have you drifting under the oft-photographed Bridge of Sighs and the wooden Mathematical Bridge.
Getting there: Trains run from St. Pancras International, King’s Cross and Liverpool Street stations to Cambridge.
Journey time: Varies from 48mins to 1hr 33mins depending on which service you use.
Stratford-upon-Avon, England CV37
It’s likely you already have a passion for theatre if you’re visiting London, and Stratford-upon-Avon is another must-do pilgrimage all thespians and stagey folk must take when in the UK. This Warwickshire market town is where William Shakespeare was born and died; the world’s most renowned playwright and mastermind behind Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Learn more about The Bard’s life at Shakespeare's Birthplace and the gardens of Shakespeare's New Place , built on the site of his last home. Step inside the charmingly timber-framed Anne Hathaway's Cottage , former abode of Shakespeare’s wife (not the Hollywood actress of the same name), but don’t miss the final call to take your seats for a matinee performance in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre . Grab a post-show meal at the The Rooftop Restaurant before heading back to the bright lights of London.
Getting there: Hop on a rail service from London Marylebone to Leamington Spa where you can change for a connecting train to Stratford-upon-Avon.
Journey time: 2hrs 8mins.
4. Port Lympne Reserve
Aldington Rd, Lympne, England CT21 4LR
At a glance, you would think Port Lympne Reserve was located somewhere in Southern Africa as opposed to the south of England. But, however surprisingly, this 600-acre wildlife park and country estate is only a stone’s throw from London in the green county of Kent. You’ll find rare and vulnerable animals under conservation at the reserve, such as Amur tigers, Malayan tapirs, and spectacled bears. Whether you explore the walking-only routes, take a guided safari drive, or upgrade to a close encounter with the likes of black rhinos or gorillas, you’re set to have a truly special experience. There are also gift shops and plenty of eateries to refuel in over the course of the day, including Babydoll's wood-fired pizzeria and the stunning The Garden Room at Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve , an orangery-style restaurant set within the grounds of the park’s mansion house hotel.
Getting there: Catch the train from St. Pancras International for the fastest connection to Ashford International station. You can then take a bus or taxi to Port Lympne from there. Alternatively, you could rent a car and drive.
Journey time: Up to 1hr 40mins.
For many Londoners, Brighton possesses a similar dynamic energy to Soho or Shoreditch, but with the added bonus of being right on the coast. There is a big emphasis on creativity here, reflected in the rows of artisanal cafés, vintage stores, and jazz bars found woven throughout its streets. If you can, coordinate your visit with the Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe, two annual cultural celebrations of creativity, diversity, and performance art. Of course, no visit to the British seaside is complete without a wander along the seafront. Continue down the Brighton Palace Pier for all the fun of the fair, or up the British Airways i360 Viewing Tower tower for a bird’s-eye view of the city and its surroundings. Then there’s only one possible way to end your day: with a fish-and-chip supper in front of the Brighton West Pier at sunset.
Getting there: Trains for Brighton depart from London Bridge station.
Journey time: 1hr 20mins.
6. The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are known for uninterrupted countryside and cookie-colored cottages. This ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ reaches across six separate counties, making it seem impossible to navigate in only one day. But the best-loved places in this particular region are the small towns and villages of Stow-on-the-Wold, Broadway, Chipping Campden, Lower Slaughter and Bourton-on-the-Water, which are all within a short drive of one another. Lunching in a cosy gastropub is an unmissable treat in the Cotswolds—try The Wild Rabbit or The Wheatsheaf Inn for something super indulgent. Fill your basket with delicious local produce, luxurious homewares, and Bamford toiletries at Daylesford Organic Farm before spending your afternoon getting lost in Hidcote Manor Gardens . Be sure to leave time for a bracing hike along a stretch of the Cotswold Way walking trail followed by a refreshing drink or two at The Porch House , the oldest inn in England.
Getting there: Take the train to Moreton-in-Marsh station from Paddington. Then use a hire car, taxis, or local buses to access the surrounding villages.
Journey time: 1hr 30mins.