Our Top Day trips from London
As much as we adore our city, sometimes it's nice to break out and explore. All of these suggestions can be done in a day by car or train.
· Cambridge - Stroll amongst the beautiful old University colleges and take a punt along the Cam under the famous Bridge of Sighs. 50 minutes from London Kings Cross.
· Hampton Court - An easy train ride out of Waterloo, walk in the footsteps of King Henry VIII and his wives through the famous red brick Tudor courtyards, explore the magnificent baroque palace built for the reign of Mary II and William III and visit the sumptuous state apartments of the Georgian kings and queens.
· Hitchin Lavender Farm - see our blog post here about this lovely summer outing. 52 minutes from London Kings Cross.
· Brighton - Pebble beaches, quirky shops, a historic pier and fantastic nightlife in this popular, lively seaside town. Fast trains are 53 minutes from London Victoria.
· Windsor - Historic market town famous for its Norman Castle, still the preferred residence of the British Royal Family, and the oldest inhabited castle in the world. The town has great shopping and restaurants. Around half an hour by train from London Paddington, changing at Slough.
· Hever Castle - Childhood home of Anne Boleyn, it was later lived in by Anne of Cleves and the American Millionaire Waldorf Astors. You can explore the sumptuous rooms, with decor dating from the early 1900s, a collection of Tudor paintings, instruments of torture, and extensive gardens. 42 minutes from London Bridge to Hever, then a 20 minute walk.
· Hemel Dry Ski Slopes - Open for experts, beginners and everyone in between, the centre also runs a wide range of lessons. Warm up afterwards in the Alpine themed Lodge Bar and Kitchen. 30 minutes from London Euston to Apsley then a 15 minute walk.
· Epping Forest - Feel like you've escaped the city just off the London underground, as you wander through acres of ancient woodland. Check our blog here to read about other autumnal walks in and around London. Take the Central Line to Theydon Bois.
· Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve - Just outside of London in Purfleet, you can drive or catch the train from Fenchurch Street then walk. Bring your binoculars as you explore a huge range of habitats in the Thames Estuary and see how many bird species you can spot!
· ZSL Whipsnade Zoo - 36 miles north of London in rural Bedfordshire, the sister zoo of London Zoo, is famous for its herd of elephants that go for walks around the site holding each other's tails. Better to drive - Whipsnade is only 20 minutes from junction 21 of the M25. Otherwise catch the train from London St Pancras to Luton, and take a taxi the final 10 miles.
· Oxford - The City of Dreaming Spires - explore its historic university buildings or one of its museums: Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean are both excellent. Visit the quirky Alice in Wonderland shop or the Bodleian Libraries. 1 hour from London Paddington.
· Bath - Absolutely gorgeous Roman spa town and home of Jane Austen - treat yourself at the Thermae Spa (the rooftop pool is stunning), or soak in the beautiful architecture of the Roman Baths, dating from 70AD, the Abbey and the Royal Crescent - Bath is the only place in the UK to achieve World Heritage status for the entire city. 1 hour 30 from London Paddington.
· Stratford upon Avon - Shakespeare's home - visit his birthplace, the magnificent Tudor house where he grew up and also lived for the first 5 years of his marriage. Next, walk 5 minutes to New Place, a beautiful garden marking the site of the house, sadly demoslished in 1759, that Shakespeare owned for 19 years and where he wrote many of his later great works. He died there in 1616. You could also take in a play at the Swan Theatre or take a rowing boat out on the Avon. About 2 hours from London Marylebone, changing at Leamington Spa.
· Leeds Castle - Situated confusingly in Kent, Leeds Castle, has 900 years of history within its walls. Home to 6 Medieval queens, including Henry V's widow, Queen Catherine de Valois, it has also belonged to King Henry VIII and his wife Queen Katherine of Aragon, became a private mansion in Jacobean and Georgian times, a socialite's dream party venue in the 30s and a hospital during WWII. It has fantastic exhibitions and seasonal falconry displays.
About an hour's drive from London, or catch the train from London Victoria to Bearsted (1 hour) and pick up a bus from there.
· Clacton on Sea - Fancy a trip to the sea? Enjoy sandy beaches, entertainment arcades and a historic pier in this traditional British sea side town about an hour and a half out of London Liverpool Street Station.
· Portsmouth - Historic naval town, the birthplace of Charles Dickens and home to Nelson's Flagship HMS Victory, the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the pride of Henry VIII's fleet, the Mary Rose, painstakingly reclaimed from the seabed. 1 hour 38 from London Waterloo
· Stonehenge - This prehistoric monument lies about 90 miles west of London. You can catch a train from Waterloo to Salisbury and then pick up a tour bus to the visitor centre, but for ease, take one of the many coach tours that leave from London. One of the most famous landmarks in the UK, Archaeologists reckon it is between 4000 and 5000 years old. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1986.
· Paris!!!! The ultimate day trip - Up for a mad one? With Eurostar trains leaving London St Pancras as early as 5:40am and arriving in central Paris within 2 hours 16 minutes, you can definitely hop to the city of love for the day: wander the boulevards, visit the Eiffel Tower, have lunch in Monmartre, some shopping, a glass of wine in a street cafe, before heading home again. Of course if you want to fit in any of the magnificent art galleries, you'll need to make it an overnight stay. Shame...