I don’t think I’ll ever tire of London. It’s one of those cities I can return to over and over and love it more with each visit. Yet, despite how much I love London, I do enjoy a break from the city. The following ten daytrips from London are among the easiest for first time, as well as frequent travellers to London. There are countless companies that offer great packages to these destinations for a hefty price. However, I love the experience of putting together my own journeys for my children and myself. All of the following destinations are reachable by public transportation thus making it easy for families like mine.
A day trip to Greenwich is the easiest day trip to take. Greenwich is located about 20 minutes from central London but seems like a world away. We spent half a day here but could have easily spent an entire day. My favorite bucket list activity was straddling the Prime Meridian for that perfect photo at the Royal Observatory and touring the Cutty Sark Ship.
Getting here is easy. Take the Docklands Light Railyway line to Cutty Sark Station (about 20 minutes) or ride the Thames Clipper from Embankment for a leisurely cruise to Greenwich (about 45 minutes). Either way, Greenwich is an absolute joy.
Canterbury, London is another excellent day trip from central London. SInce I majored in English in college, The Canterbury Tales became one of my favorite collections of stories. On our last trip to London, I wanted to make sure we had time to include a day trip to this historic town. We were not disappointed. We started our day with a river punting tour. This was such a great way to learn more about the history of Canterbury. Next, we found a delightful restaurant along the river for lunch after walking along the many medieval streets of Canterbury. Last, but not least, we toured the famed Canterbury Cathedral. AMAZING! Next time, I think we will plan on an overnight stay to get an evening feel for this beautiful town.
Getting here is easy. We took the direct train from St. Pancras Station to Canterbury West. Canterbury East Station may require a change of trains on the route. Total travel time was just a little over an hour.
Graceful best describes this magnificent small city in the Cotswold countryside. If you are limited on time, than a daytrip here can give you a taste of what this extraordinary city has to offer.Bath is also a great launching point to the Cotswolds. On a daytrip, leave London early and arrive within 1.5 hours. Tour the Roman Baths and Abbey, take a walking tour to the Circus and Royal Crescent (stately Georgian homes), then head back towards the center of town stopping at the Pulteney Bridge and Parade Gardens. Bath is delightful for senses.
Warner Brothers Studio Harry Potter Tour
I am a total Harry Potter geek! I am not ashamed to admit it. I’ve read all the books (numerous times) and watched all the movies (more times than I care to admit). When news broke of Warner Brothers Studios creating this park for Harry Potter fans, I quickly began searching for plane tickets to London. For those serious about visiting, please note that tickets should be reserved well ahead of time. Drink some butter beer and take plenty of pictures. Plan on spending the day to fully enjoy this magical place.
There are several ways to get here. The easiest is pay for a shuttle service and tour from central London or DIY. Leave from Euston Station to Watford Junction, and then take the quick shuttle bus from the station to the studios entrance. The entire journey takes about 40 minutes.
I fell in love with Oxford before I ever set foot in Oxford. Being the home of famous scholars and a world famous university, Oxford exudes intellect. It’s easy to feel smarter just being here. Oxford is very walk able. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the train station to the center of town. Plan on touring Christ Church College as well as some of the other 30 colleges located in Oxford. Also, hire a student to take you on a punting tour on the river Thames.
Getting here is easy. Travel from Paddington Station to Oxford Station. Trains leave almost every hour and arrive in an hour.
Cambridge, sixty miles north of London, is famous for its university by the same name and for its illustrious alumni (Wordsworth, Newton, Tennyson, Darwin, and of course Prince Charles). Like Oxford, Cambridge is an hour from Central London but can feel a world away. Plan on spending an entire day here to really get a good feel for this town. Although Cambridge can get congested, everything is within a pleasant 25-minute walk from the train station. The local tourist office is a wealth of knowledge for activities and walking tours.
Getting here is easy. Take one of the three hourly trains from London’s King’s Cross Station and arrive in Cambridge in time for brunch. From the train station, you can take a quick taxi, bus, bike, or walk into town.
Windsor Castle is the top attraction for most first time visitors to Windsor. One can spend an easy two hours touring the castle. However, Eton College is also located here and rightly deserves a visit as well. Windsor is located 20 miles from London and is one of the quickest trips to take from London.
Getting here is easy. From London Paddington Station, trains leave every 30 minutes. London’s Waterloo Station also serves Windsor but Paddington Station (despite one change) is still the quickest service.
Salisbury and Stonehenge
Whenever we arrive in London via Gatwick Airport, Salisbury is our first stop before heading into London. If you are already in London, Salisbury makes a great daytrip with a side of some world famous ancient stones, Stonehenge. From London’s Paddington Station, Salisbury is 1.5 hours by train. Once there, tour the immense Cathedral with the tallest spire in England. Afterwards, grab some lunch before hopping on a frequent double-decker bus for Stonehenge. By going to Stonehenge in the afternoon, you can avoid the trove of tour busses that arrive in the morning time.
From London’s Victoria Station, Brighton makes for a great daytrip. The journey from London takes an hour but you feel as if you are a world away. The Royal Pavilion is well worth the trip. However, lively boardwalk and great restaurants with ocean views adds to the atmosphere. My boys thoroughly enjoyed Brighton and cannot wait to go back.
Located southeast of London, Dover offers visitors a spectacular natural setting (the White Cliffs of Dover) and a military fortress (Dover Castle) worthy of a couple of hours visit.
Our family loves to be outside when we travel. The miles of walking trails around the White Cliffs of Dover meet our needs for a good family hike. Be aware of the signs. All too often, these cliff signs are ignored which lead to dangerous outcomes.
Dover Castle has withstood centuries of attacks. The English Heritage Society has done an excellent job of bringing history to life. Wear good walking shoes here. You’ll need it.
Getting here is easy. St. Pancras Station has direct trains leaving every half hour for Dover. From Dover Train Station, we took a £10 taxi to Dover Castle. The walk takes about 30 minutes from the train station to the castle but we wanted to save our walking for the Cliffs. From the castle, it’s a 20-minute walk to the White Cliffs Visitor Center. The town of Dover is just average so a stop there is not necessary.
London has so much to offer visitors from around the world. However, to truly enjoy England, venture further from London to see why so many choose England as their home.