Get out of the city, ASAP, to destinations like Margate, the South Downs and Oxford.
A day trip out of London has never been more essential in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Samuel Johnson once said that ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’. But we’re pretty sure he might have changed his mind about that if he’d had to live through endless Zoom parties and weekly Deliveroos to east London during lockdown.
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease in England as we head into spring and summer, exploring the sights of the UK has never been more appealing. And with global air pollution down during lockdown and more of us now inclined to enjoy staycations and day trips in the UK instead of hopping on a short-haul flight more than ever before, we can’t think of anything better than hopping in a car with our lockdown bubble or on the train to reduce our carbon footprint and enjoy what’s on our doorstep in the UK.
From fish and chips at the seaside to punting along some of the country’s most picturesque rivers, the island offers travellers some of the best day trips.
Here is a list of the best day trips from London:
A range of chalk hills that extend for a whopping 260 square miles across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from Hampshire to East Sussex, the South Downs are a must-see when considering a day trip out of the Big Smoke.
There are several ways to explore the Downs but we suggest doing so by foot on the Seven Sisters route which covers approximately 3.7 miles (2 hours) and overlooks the sea.
Distance from London: 61.4 miles
How to get there: London Waterloo to Petersfield via train (1hr 3mins)
If you’ve visited Margate and Brighton more times than you can count then it’s time you packed up your rucksack and headed down to Deal for the day. A Kent coastal town often dubbed ‘Margate’s little sister’, Deal is a quieter seaside spot full of shops, galleries and eateries, and even hosts a market on a Saturday which delivers delectable food offerings.
During your visit, make sure to check out Deal Castle, the Taylor-Jones and Son gallery and Hut 55 on the beach, where they sell coffee beans locally roasted in nearby Hoath, cakes and sandwiches.
Distance from London: 82 miles
How to get there: London St Pancras International to Deal (1 hour 40 mins).
Derived from the the Old English ‘hlaews’, meaning ‘hills’ or ‘mounds’, Lewes is one of our favourite spots in Sussex.
With its steep streets, adorable cafés along, Lewes Castle, Harvey’s brewery and pubs like The Lewes Arms and Lamb of Lewes, you can’t go wrong with a day trip to this sweet town. Better yet, the shopping is phenomenal.
We recommend heading to The Fifteenth Century Bookshop, a Harry Potter-esque building with a swinging sign, Silverado jewellery shop and the pièce-de-résistance – Lewes Flea Market. After just one trip here we came away with a handful of trinkets, homeware and vintage clothing for bargain prices.
Come Bonfire Night, Lewes celebrates one of the biggest events in the world, with a procession through the streets involving 17 burning crosses to represent the 17 Lewes Martyrs.
Distance from London: 69 miles
How to get there: London Victoria to Lewes (1 hour 2 mins).
The Suffolk seaside town has plenty to offer those needing some rest and relaxation away from London. While most people will tell you to visit The Red House (the former home of composer Benjamin Britten) in Aldeburgh, we advise treading a less frequented path.
Pay a visit to the Aldeburgh Cinema, an old-fashioned picture house that’s been screening films since 1919, the four-metre high steel scallop on the beach and the boating lake, Thorpeness Meare.
The best fish and chips will be found at Aldeburgh fish and chips (we suggest the haddock) and ice cream at Harris & James Store. What are you waiting for?
Distance from London: 109.3 miles
How to get there: London Liverpool Street to Saxmundham to Alderburgh via train (2hr 45mins).
Located in Hertfordshire just north of London lies Hertford, a beautiful market town with castles, Georgian townhouses and pink-hued cottages. Dating back to Saxon times, the town is a perfect pitstop during a day out from London if you enjoy exploring England’s history and wandering around 15th century castle grounds.
For more sporty types, you can even cycle from London along the River Lea towpath to Hertford and stop off at several of its local shops along the way or cosy pubs such as the nearby The Alford Arms in Frithsden just down the road.
Distance from London: 30 miles
How to get there: London Liverpool Street to Hertford East via train (50 mins).
The hills are alive with spectacular sights south of London.
With more than 60 incredible areas to explore in the Surrey Hills, from The Gibbet and the Devil’s Punchbowl to Leith Tower and Frensham Ponds, we’re seriously impressed by the expanse of this area, which covers one quarter of Surrey.
Take a flask of tea and a picnic and make your way across what is known as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the summit at Leigh Hill.
Distance from London: 25.6 miles
How to get there: London to Surrey Hills on the A3 in the car ( 1hr 18mins).
A perfect day at the seaside in Whitstable starts with a coffee at the Scandi-chic café Blueprint followed by a walk along the pebble beach where you can skim stones and take a dip.
We recommend planning lunch early, picking up some local seafood at the Lobster Shack (a former oyster-grading house) and shopping along Harbour Street and in Herne Bay for everything from bags and hats to beadwork and vinyl records.
There’s also the Whitstable Coastal Trail (five miles) which starts at Whitstable Harbour and ends at Herne Bay Pier which is ideal for those wanting to walk off their lunch in the sunshine.
Distance from London: 59.7 miles
How to get there: London St Pancras International to Whitsable via train (1hr 14mins).
A real life Hogwarts, Cambridge is a magical city (get it?) filled with Gothic architecture, university students and bicycles galore.
We suggest organising a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and tours of King’s College Chapel and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.
After a punt along the River Cam, head to The Punter pub along the ‘Backs’ of several of the university colleges’ for a delicious plate of fish and chips before making your way to Grantchester for a dessert of scones at The Orchard Tea Gardens.
Distance from London: 64 miles
How to get there: London Liverpool Street to Cambridge via train (1hr 23mins).
Most famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Straford-upon-Avon has long been regarded as one of the most beautiful and historically-rich spots in the UK.
Located in Warwickshire along the banks of the river Avon, the city it home to the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre, Anne Hathaway’s cottage (the former home of Shakespeare’s wife) and the Holy Trinity Church where the playwright is buried.
For a special treat, book a table at Salt or No 9 Church Street for some outstanding food and head down to Vinology and Paxton & Whitfield to source some of England’s finest wine and cheese, respectively.
Distance from London: 82 miles
How to get there: London Marylebone to Statford-Upon-Avon via train (1hr 58mins).
If you’re heading out of London any time soon, make sure to add Chichester to your list of ‘must-visit locations’.
A small and quaint city, famous for its Roman history and location in the dukedom of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Chichester is home to a unique cathedral with England’s only campanile.
It also boasts the largest Roman residence at Fishbourne Roman Palace, the estate of Goodwood House, the luscious lawns of the West Dean Gardens and a harbour which is perfect for sailing aficionados.
When it comes to food and drink, make your way down to St Martin’s Organic Coffee House for some healthy grub and the Crab and Lobster pub at Sidlesham for some lip-smacking traditional English and Mediterranean cuisine.
Distance from London: 81.4 miles
How to get there: London Victoria to Chichester via train (1hr 31mins).
Head out of London to Kent today and you’ll find Caterbury – a cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re into your history and architecture, make sure to walk around the city to see the 6th Century ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey, The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, Westgate Towers (which is one of the main gates to the city and almost 640 years old) and, of course, a wander through the Norman-era cathedral.
The city also has some adorable cafes like Café St Pierre and Tiny Tim’s Tearoom and we suggest booking a table for gin cocktails at Bramleys Bar.
Distance from London: 54 miles
How to get there: London to Canterbury via train (1hr 29mins).
A seaside town in Kent, Margate is a popular tourist destination for day-trippers from London in search of sand and sunshine. You can be walking along its beach from now in around the same time as it would take you to watch an episode on Netflix.
While there, we implore you to visit the Turner Contemporary gallery, named after artist JMW Turner, the amusement park Dreamland, the Winter Gardens and The Shell Grotto – a bizarre 70 ft of winding passages decorated with 4.6 million shells.
Full of bustling cafes, retro shops and artists, Margate is Kent’s version of Shoreditch but with a sea breeze.
Distance from London: 81.6 miles
How to get there: London St Pancras International to Margate via train (1hr 27mins).
This little-known estuary island in Essex has everything to offer day-trippers in search of food, sunshine and coastline.
Book a table at the West Mersea Oyster Bar, Mehalah’s at Oysters & Ale or the ever-popular Company Shed for some seriously tasty shellfish and fish and chips. Then take a boat trip with Lady Grace Boat Trips around the bay to see the 19th-century oyster-packing sheds.
Cudmore Grove Country Park makes a perfect picnic pitstop, which conveniently slopes down onto the beach. There’s also a spot where you can sip on locally-made beers and wine so we suggest booking yourself on a tour at the Mersea Island Vineyard and Brewery.
Booze and beach – what more could you want from a day trip?
Distance from London: 50 miles
How to get there: London to Mersea Island via ca via A12 i in the car (1hr 51 min).
Located in Hampshire, the Forest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land in the south of England and was once a royal hunting ground for William the Conqueror.
Covering an area of approximately 566 square kilometres, it’s the best place to spot deer, ponies and cattle in the woodland while on a walk, cycle or horse ride.
There are also several tea rooms and traditional pubs, as well as restaurants in the coastal town of Lymington (we suggest booking a table at the Lanes of Lymington).
Distance from London: 69 miles
How to get there: London to The New Forest via M3 in the car (1hr 41mins).
Popping in for a cuppa with Queen Elizabeth might not go down well in Windsor, but a day trip to the southeast of England town certainly won’t go a miss (or get you arrested).
Home to Windsor Castle, a famous residence of the British Royal Family, which was built by William The Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor has become increasingly popular over the years following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding at St George’s Chapel in 2018.
Royal fans are advised to pay a visit to Frogmore House (the location of the couple’s wedding reception and burial grounds for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) as well as taking taking a stroll down the Long Walk – a historic three mile avenue from Windsor Castle to the Copper Horse Statue.
Distance from London: 24.6 miles
How to get there: London Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central via train (22mins).
Much like Cambridge, this city’s university history lies at the heart of its popularity.
With its impressive medieval architecture, it’s no wonder its nickname is ‘The City of Dreaming Spires’. We suggest starting the day with a spot of sight seeing, exploring the famous Bodelleian library, the Radcliffe Camera and the Oxford Botanic Garden.
A spot of lunch at the Eagle and Child pub (a popular hangout for Tolkien and CS Lewis back in the day) or a pub lunch at The Perch located along the history common stretching from Jericho to Wolvercote is a must.
Additionally, fans of Harry Potter, Lewis and ghosts would do well to book onto one of the city’s famous walking tours.
Distance from London: 56.3 miles
How to get there: London Paddington to Oxford via train (53 mins).
Famous for its ancient Roman Baths, there’s plenty to do in this adorable city for the day.
A visit to the Thermae Bath Spa (the only natural thermal hot springs in Britain) is a must, as well as a walk around the Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge, the Holbourne Museum and the incredible range of speakeasy bars located in the vaults underneath the city.
There are also plenty of spots to dip your toe into open water swimming at the likes of Vobster Quay, Tarr Steps Nature Reserve and Claverton Weir.
Distance from London: 114.7 miles
How to get there: London Paddington to Bath Spa via train (1hr 21mins)
Famous for its bustling nightlife, arts scene, shopping and festivals, we couldn’t think of a better and more famous seaside resort town to escape to from the city.
With amusement arcades, jewellery shops lining The Lanes and regency-era buildings, there’s plenty on offer at this beach spot, in addition to its pebble-shoreline where it’d be rude not to take a dip or tuck into a bag of fish and chips.
A popular commuter spot, its proximity to London makes it even more appealing for those in need of a bit of sea-breeze and an escape from the Old Smoke for the day at a moment’s notice.
Distance from London: 47 miles
How to get there: London Victoria to Brighton via train (1hr).
Located near Tunbridge Wells, the Forest is an ancient woodland that was once part of one of the medieval forests of the Sussex High Weald.
Fallow and roe deer inhabit the area making it the perfect place to stretch your legs and feel at one with nature.
A series of footpaths cross through the area, our favourite being the Medway Upstream (5.3km) and the more adventurous Bigborough Run (12.7km).