United Kingdom

The Best Day Trips from London to See More of England

London is a world class city.

Filled to the brim with attractions- from parks to museums, to cocktail bars, pubs and incredible restaurants, there’s no shortage of things to do in London town. There’s so much, it’s more than anyone could manage in a lifetime. Even living three years in the city, there’s loads I didn’t get around to doing or seeing.

As great as London is, there’s far more to England- gorgeous coastline, quaint countryside, craggy cliffs, and historic castles- to see.

If it’s your first time in England, I’d plan on at least four days in London, and perhaps 1-2 day trips- a great week long jaunt to the United Kingdom. Even with three years living in London, I didn’t have time to make it to all of the places I hoped to visit in England- let alone Wales or Scotland.

But, that’s also the beauty of the country- endless beauty and places to adventure.

The below picks were some of my favorite day trips I took while living in London, and are often ones I recommend to others visiting the UK.

Most are easily accessed from the capital, within 1-2 hours on a train. If you leave early morning, then return in the evening, you’ll have plenty of time to explore.

10 Day Trips from London to Explore More of England

Bath

For me, Bath is the most beautiful city in England. No where else I’ve visited has blown me away the way Bath did.

From the moment the train pulled into the station, I was breathless- the color of the stone buildings contrasted against the green countryside and blue skies, love at first sight.

Bath is a city of culture, history and gorgeous architecture. As one of England’s most picturesque towns, famed for its Roman baths, Bath draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. On my first visit, I planned a day trip, but I’m already dreaming of returning for an entire weekend in summer, or during the holiday season to shop the Christmas markets.

From London, Bath is easy to get to, direct trains run from Paddington station and take ~90 minutes. Summer is peak time to visit, but I chose to go in early September. The weather was perfect- 60 Fahrenheit and sunshine.

Rye

Rye is quintessential England, it feels like stepping back in time. Before I moved to London, Rye wasn’t on my travel radar. But, after finding a few London bloggers to follow, I quickly realized Rye was the picture perfect English seaside town.

Tudor architecture. Narrow cobblestone streets. Flowers blooming. Pints of cider. Leisurely afternoon tea. Fields full of sheep. English seaside towns. #HeartEyes

Perched on a hillside overlooking the sea, Rye is one of England’s prettiest towns. Centuries ago, Rye played an important role in defense of England’s coast. Today, it’s an adorable town to wander for a day or weekend.

Located south of London in East Sussex, it takes about an hour and a half to get to Rye from St. Pancras station if you take the high-speed trains. I only went to Rye for a day, but if you go for the weekend, there are a few cute adorable places to stay in town.

Cambridge

No doubt, Cambridge is one of the UK’s prettiest cities. Famous for its university, the second oldest uni in the English-speaking world, Cambridge is a city rich in history.

From coffee shops and tasty eateries for brunch to gorgeous colleges, and an unbelievable chapel, Cambridge is incredible. I loved walking its tiny alleyways, browsing bookstores, and popping into pubs for pints.

My favorite part of the day though? Punting.

Our guide shared great facts and stories about the colleges as we floated past their backs. Plus, it’s a  wonderful way to see architecture, like the Bridge of Sighs, you may miss otherwise. In many ways, it’s hard to believe Cambridge is a college campus- it seems too beautiful for students.

Oxford

Oxford was my first day trip outside of London when I moved across the pond.

I chose Oxford as my first day-trip outside the city, in part, because of how many Harry Potter scenes were filmed there (#NerdAlert). It also helped Oxford is only an hour from London, making it easy to explore and head back to the city in time for an evening out. 

I adored Oxford- beautiful shops, cool cafes, pubs with gardens, a magnificent underground library, and absolutely stunning college campuses.

Oxford is known for having some of the greatest universities in the world, only the best study here. Founded in 1167 by French scholars, it became England’s first university. If there’s one college that conjures ‘Oxford’, it’s Christ Church. Coming to Christ Church was one of my main motivations for visiting Oxford- several of the college’s rooms were used in the filming of Harry Potter.

Whatever your motivation for visiting, if you’re like me, you’ll find Oxford hard to leave- it’s that beautiful.

The Cotswolds 

Visiting the Cotswolds has been on my travel list since I saw The Holiday years ago. Villages that look like they’re straight out of an English novel surrounded by rolling hillsides? Sign me up.

Once I realised I could explore Northern Cotswolds towns by taking a train from London and then a local bus around the area, I picked a weekend in May and started planning the day.

If you aren’t familiar with the Cotswolds, they’re an AONB, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which runs through five counties- Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Wiltshire. An area of picturesque villages dotted throughout rolling farmland, it’s easy to see why so many visitors flock to the Cotswolds yearly. As for the name, ‘Cotswolds’, it means ‘sheep enclosure in rolling hills’.

Each town in the Cotswolds is like a fairy tale village, full of charm.

The best way to explore the Cotswolds is by car, you’ll be able to easily come and go village to village. If you don’t want to rent a car though, you can still explore different villages, you’ll just need to be mindful of the bus schedule- some stops only happen every hour or two.

On our visit, we took a train (~1.5 hours) from London to Moreton-in-Marsh return. From there, we took buses to Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton, Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter. I loved the Cotswolds so much, I’m eagerly anticipating another a venture back one day to explore the southern region.

Whitstable

Whitstable in Kent was on my day trip radar since a friend went during my first summer in England and raved about the fresh oysters and sandy, seaside pints.

With trendy restaurants, delicious chippers, seaside pubs, charming, historic homes, a cool harbour area with a farmer’s market, and plenty of gorgeous, local shops, Whitstable is the perfect escape from London.

Margate

Margate, a colorful, salty, quintessential British beach town.

An old amusement park, sandy beaches, cute pubs, cool modern art museum, plenty of ace vintage shops, and endless Mr. Whippy. An A++ day by the sea.

With direct trains running hourly from King’s Cross, getting to/from Margate for a day seaside is easy. On my venture, it only took about an hour and a half each way.

The Seven Sisters

Heard of the white cliffs of Dover? The white cliffs at The Seven Sisters are said to be whiter and more scenic than Dover.

If you’re ready for a day of hiking, take the train to Seaford. If you’re not driving to The Seven Sisters, you can catch a train to Seaford, Eastbourne or Brighton (which is slightly further away). From any of those stations, you can hop on the coastal bus to the entrance of the park, Seven Sisters County Park.

There’s a trail along the cliff side that you can safely follow. Eventually, we made it to Birling Gap, where we treated ourselves to a Mr. Whippy, and watched swimmers for a bit before jumping on a bus back to the park entrance.

All in all, a gorgeous day on the coast.

Windsor Castle

The first time I visited Windsor Castle over 10 years ago, it was a cold, blustery January day. I don’t remember much from that visit, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I recall thinking the town of Windsor was adorable, but when I visited Versailles in France a few years later, I recall being blown away by the opulence and grandeur.

I’ll blame the British weather for my first impressions of Windsor, because revisiting the castle and town with my sister during early August exceeded all of my expectations, and left a lasting impression on me as Versailles did.

As the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, Windsor is a must-see for all royal family fans. It’s the Queens official residence, and she’s known to spend time there when she isn’t working.

If you’ve ever wondered what a royal palace looks like in person, Windsor is the place to see it. Castle tours are offered via multimedia, don’t forget to grab a headset on your way in. If you listen to all of the prompts in the State Rooms, Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, St. George’s Chapel, and surrounding grounds, the tour could easily take a few hours to complete.

The castle may be the highlight of Windsor, but there’s much more to do if you’re visiting for a full day or even weekend. The town itself is full of restaurants, shops, tea shops and plenty of souvenir stands. And of course, quintessential British pubs, with quirky charm everywhere.

Hever Castle

A fan of the Tudors growing up, I was fascinated by the legacy of Henry VIII and his wives. On my first visit to England, touring Hampton Court was a must.

Having crossed a second visit to Hampton Court off my ‘London to-do’ list last summer, I set my sights on another Tudor related escapade- visiting Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.

Open year round, the castle offers plenty of activities for visitors- you can wander the castle, explore all of the beautiful gardens, lose yourself in a maze, practise archery or catch a joust.

The castle grounds are so idyllic, it’s hard to believe they’re the backdrop to a sequence of events that changed the course of England’s history. Of course, I’m talking about Henry VIII breaking from the Catholic Church and marrying Anne Boleyn.

The castle itself is everything you’d want in a castle- moat, drawbridge, maze, extensive gardens, and a Grand Hall.

The gardens, in particular, were one of my favourite parts of the visit.

In Boleyn’s time, the gardens were nice but it wasn’t until the Astors took over ownership that they were really transformed. Simply put, the Italian gardens took my breathe away. At the far edge of the gardens, there’s even a picturesque lake you can rent boats to paddle around. Talk about tranquil perfection.

Have you ever been to London or taken day trips around the English countryside?

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2 comments

  1. I’ve only ever been to Oxford and Windsor Castle as a day trip from London. However, I’m dying to see the Cotswolds, as I’ve been enchanted by their quaintness since earlier this year! Should I return to the UK, that region’s first on my bucket list!

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