The best day trips from London to take this summer
You don’t have to leave the country to enjoy a city break or seaside escape. Here are the day trips from London worth taking this summer
Cobbled lanes, antique shops and ancient pubs are just some of the things that make Rye a popular day trip from London. While you’re there, pay a visit to the Tiny Book Store and pick up a vintage copy of a classic. Then, take a trip to Camber Sands, just a 10-minute drive from Rye, and walk along its vast, rugged shoreline.
Once back in Rye, enjoy a pint of local Kent ale in the Globe Inn or the George in Rye (which also offers boutique hotel rooms for those looking to stay overnight).
Where to eat: The Standard Inn is the place to head for a delectable meal in cosy, 15th-century surroundings
How to get there: 1h 10 mins by train from King’s Cross St Pancras
Since Roman times Bath has, as the name suggests, been a city known for bathing. A proper day trip here should include both a visit to the ancient Roman Baths (which are a stunning-to-behold, look-but-don’t-dip attraction) plus a trip to the modern Thermae Bath Spa, home to the only natural thermal hot springs in Britain in which the public can bathe.
Wander around the Royal Crescent, which dates back to 1767, and admire the honey-coloured Georgian buildings that line its circumference. Then head to the Jane Austen Centre for afternoon tea, or simply to learn more about the great British author, who made Bath her home between 1801 – 1806. If you’re a green-fingered gardener, don’t leave without visiting the Botanical Gardens in Royal Victoria Park, which date back to 1887.
Where to eat: Try Acorn, a vegetarian restaurant serving up award-winning, plant-based dishes in an intimate Georgian dining room
How to get there: 1h 30 mins by train from London Paddington
Oxford boasts one of the country’s most prestigious universities and a trip there wouldn’t be complete without exploring one of its more historic colleges. They are dotted all around the city, so part of the fun is peeping through the grand gates and deciding which college to explore. The crowds flock to Christ Church college, the setting of Brideshead Revisited and where the Great Hall scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed. Another favourite is Magdalen College, (also used as Hogwarts setting), where you can get lost in the Botanic Garden and deer park before going punting on the River Cherwell.
Once back on terra firma, head next to the stunning Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera. This domed building dates back to 1602, making it one of the oldest libraries in Europe. Today, it remains the main research centre of Oxford University. Just round the corner on Turl Street, The Missing Bean is our favourite spot for a coffee stop. Next, mooch around the Covered Market for snacks and souvenirs. If you fancy something sweet to round it off, try a branch of G and D’s café for homemade ice cream. Finally, make your way to the Pitt Rivers museum to gaze upon all sorts of interesting artefacts, calling in at second-hand book shops along the way.
Where to eat: Try Turl Street Kitchen for modern British dishes in a rustic setting
How to get there: 50 minutes by train from Paddington or 1h 10 minutes from Marylebone. Or the (very cheap) Oxford Tube bus leaves from Victoria and goes via Marble Arch and takes around 1h 30 minutes, depending on traffic.
With its winding lanes, pebbly shores and laid-back, liberal vibe, a trip to Brighton feels like a holiday as soon as you step off the train and breathe in the fresh sea air. Amble through the twisting alleyways of the Old Lanes, peering into the windows of jewellers and fudge shops as you go. Then hop across to the North Laine for a lazy morning coffee break, a veg-fuelled lunch or vintage shopping galore. While you’re there, mosey around indoor antiques emporium Snoopers Paradise, or check out the day’s offering of comedy, spoken word and cabaret at the Komedia.
If it’s your first time visiting the city, book a tour around the Royal Pavilion. Built in the late 1700s, the building is famed for its quirky, indo-islamic architecture. And, don’t leave without taking a stroll along the promenade and down to the end of Brighton Palace Pier, which boasts fairground rides, amusement arcades and stunning views of the charmingly decrepit West Pier.
Where to eat: Try Silo, the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant, for locally-sourced, exquisitely-compiled dishes. As the staff say here: ‘Trash is for tossers’
How to get there: 50 minutes by train from Victoria or 1h – 1h 20 mins from London Bridge, King’s Cross, or Blackfriars
Like Oxford, a trip to Cambridge offers the chance to explore the hallowed halls a historic academic institution. We recommend Trinity College, the sister college of Christ Church in Oxford, which has exquisite grounds and dates back to 1546. Or, head to the even older St John’s College, founded by the Tudor matriarch Lady Margaret Beaufort in 1511.
Peer inside the neighbouring King’s College Chapel and marvel at its moody Gothic architecture. Be sure to pass the Corpus Clock, a large, golden sculptural outside the Taylor Library famed for the ‘time-eater’ monster that sits atop it and its ripples alluding to the Big Bang Theory.
If the weather is fine, pick up a Chelsea buns from Cambridge institution Fitzbillies and go punting along the River Cam. Plan your route so you pass under the breathtaking Bridge of Sighs. Built in 1831, the bridge crosses the River Cam between the Third Court and New Court at St John’s College, and is named after the original bridge in Venice.
If you have time, visit Kettle's Yard, one of the city’s best art galleries that boasts an impressive collection of 20th-century works as well as modern and contemporary art.
Where to eat: Try the Cambridge Chop House for hearty, meaty dishes in an atmospheric, vaulted cellar
How to get there: 45 minutes by train from King’s Cross or 1h 10 minutes by train from London Liverpool Street
Perched on the north Kent coast, the quaint seaside town of Whitstable offers instant respite from cosmopolitan London. Adopt a slower pace and take your time ambling down its pastel-coloured streets, stopping to pore over the wares being sold inside its chocolate-box shops.
Get your caffeine fix from Blueprint on Oxford Street, a pared-back, Scandi-style coffee shop serving coffee from New Zealand-born, London-loved roastery Ozone. Next, explore Whitstable’s thriving art scene. Visit the Fishslab Gallery, a former fishmonger turned gallery showcasing emerging artists' work. Visit too Chappell Contemporary and browse the vast selection of prints for sale.
Whistable is nicknamed England’s Oyster Capital, so whether you like yours straight up or doused in lemon, Tabasco and with a glass of champagne on the side, it would be rude to leave without slurping at least one. We recommend either Whitstable Oyster Company or Wheelers Oyster Bar. Finally, a trip to a seaside town isn’t complete without battling against the British elements on the beach. Whatever the weather, be brave and set up camp in front of the colourful wooden beach huts that line Whitstable’s shores, and dip your toes in the icy sea.
Where to eat: Try the Old Neptune for local ales and home-cooked food, or The Lobster Shack for distinguished seafood. Both are right on the water’s edge and offer unparalleled sunset views on clear evenings
How to get there: 1h 10 minutes from St Pancras or 1h 20 minutes by train from London Victoria
Straddling the banks of the River Avon, the medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon is best known as the birthplace of the Bard. As such, a day trip here should begin with a tour around Shakespeare’s Birthplace, followed by a visit to the cottage owned by his wife, Anne Hathaway. If you’re with little ones, take a trip to the Butterfly Farm and marvel at the colourful, fluttering inhabitants of this tropical greenhouse structure.
If you’re full of energy, hire a rowing boat and glide along the willow-flanked river, feeling at one with the natural world. Try to catch a matinee at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), or its sister site the Swan Theatre. Debrief on what you saw at the Dirty Duck, an 18th-century pub overlooking the river that’s popular with touring actors and locals alike.
Where to eat: Enjoy fine dining and seasonal produce at Salt, a tiny Michelin-starred restaurant by Paul Foster
How to get there: 2h 15 minutes by train from London Marylebone
Since the opening of the Turner Contemporary gallery in 2011, Margate has seen a cultural boom that has plucked it from the ranks of ‘seaside town in decline’ and into the camps of seriously hip and cool places to visit. Since then, Margate’s formerly grotty Dreamland amusement park has seen two renovations – in 2015 and 2017 – and now comfortably fits the identity of a retro, charming theme park with its arcade games, fairground rides and trendy roller disco.
But there’s more to Margate than a trip to Dreamland or a wander along its wide, sandy shores. Begin your day with a coffee from Scandi-chic, plant-adorned cafe Mala Kaffee. Then, search for bargain buys among the town’s many vintage shops – try Rough Trade and Peony Vintage for clothes, and Margate Retro Fort Road Yard or Fontaine Decorative for antique furniture.
If you have time, stretch your legs with a walk along the Viking Coastal Trail near Botany Bay, and don’t leave without peering inside Margate’s Shell Grotto: a network of passages studded with an estimated 4.5 million sea shells which was discovered in 1835.
Where to eat: Try Hantverk and Found, a tiny art gallery-cum-seafood restaurant serving top-notch, fish-led small plates
How to get there: 1h 25 minutes by train from St Pancras International
Despite being only a 40-minute train ride from London, Windsor has a regal, old-worldly look and feel to it, largely because of its historic castle, the official home of the Queen. Since it was built by William The Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor Castle has accumulated over 900 years of royal history, and was most recently under the spotlight when Prince Harry married Meghan Markle there in May 2018.
Windsor is also a town of quaint shops and cafés, and offers tours by open-top bus or boat for those keen to learn more about its history as they explore.
Where to eat: Try the three Michelin-starred Waterside Inn in nearby Bray for top-notch French cuisine and pretty Thameside views
How to get there: 41 minutes by train from Paddington or 54 minutes from Waterloo. Or, travel in style travel from Waterloo to Windsor by the Royal Windsor Steam Express: the train is running throughout the summer, offering old-fashioned carriages and a champagne brunch
Stonehenge is not only one of the most famous sites in England, but one of the best-known ancient wonders of the world. With its ring of standing stones, each around 13 feet high and seven feet wide, it’s no wonder this prehistoric monument in Wiltshire was once a Druidic site of worship and a place of pilgrimage as far back as 5,000 years ago.
The site is two miles west of the quaint parish town of Amesbury – a fine example of an English countryside town, for those visiting England from further afield. You can also visit Stonehenge on a day trip from London: get the train to Salisbury and take a peek inside its famous cathedral before taking the bus out to the site.
Where to eat: Pack a picnic
How to get there: 2h 14 minutes by train from London Waterloo to Salisbury then a nine-mile bus ride