20 Brilliant Day Trips from London

We all love London… but the UK is full of wonderful spots that are ripe for exploration. Planning your next adventure? Here are 20 cool day trips from London to get you started.

London is a great city – but there’s so much more to the UK to explore.

Hop on a train or into your car and you can go and adventure around some of the UK’s historic sites and beautiful landscapes.

In need of some inspiration? Check out this guide to the best day trips from London by train and by car.

Day Trips from London by Train

Oxford

Oxford, the city of the dreaming spires is an easy day out from London. It’s only an hour on the train and trains run frequently until the early hours.

The Radcliffe Camera

I’m biased as I went to university in Oxford but I really think that it’s one of the best places to visit in the UK – a gorgeous city that’s brimming with history and cool things to do.

While there’s a lot to see in the city, its small size means that a lot of the biggest Oxford attractions are within easy walking distance of each other.

From the iconic Radcliffe Camera to the world-famous Ashmolean Museum, you certainly have your work cut out when it comes to seeing Oxford in a day – but it is possible. Start with my 24 Hours in Oxford guide.

Train departs from: London Paddington and London Marylebone

Average journey duration: 1 hour

Hassle-free option: Book this Oxford day trip from London

Read more: The Best Things to do in Oxford
Finding Oxford’s Harry Potter Filming Locations

Canterbury

Canterbury has always been an important place to visit in the UK – it was the destination for many a pilgrimage in times past (hence its role in Chaucer’s famous Canterbury Tales). It still deserves to be at the top of your list of days out from London today.

Canterbury

What’s there to see? How about one of England’s great cathedrals, ye olde English pubs and quaint little streets that look like they’ve been plucked straight from medieval times? Add to that a selection of cool museums and some scenic walks and you’ve got an excellent day trip in the making.

Train departs from: London Victoria and St Pancras International

Average journey duration: 1 hour from St Pancras, 1.5 hours from Victoria

Hassle-free option: Book this day trip to Canterbury and the White Cliffs of Dover

Read more: One Day in Canterbury Itinerary

Cambridge

Cambridge is beautiful. This world-famous university town is another popular day trip outside London – and for good reason.

Cambridge
Devin Kleu / Unsplash

Visiting impressive colleges such as Trinity College and King’s College (whose chapel you simply must see) would be enough to fill your day alone. But you should also take time to visit some of Cambridge’s other landmarks – The Fitzwilliam Museum and Botanical Gardens among them.

If you’re visiting in the warmer months be sure to hire a punt and indulge in the traditional pastime of gliding down the River Cam. Bonus points to you if you don’t fall in or lose your pole along the way.

Train departs from: Kings Cross and Liverpool Street

Average journey duration: 50 minutes from Kings Cross, 1 hour 20 minutes from Liverpool Street

Hassle-free option: Book this London to Cambridge Day Trip

Read More: 27 Places in the UK That Should be on Your Bucket List

Brighton

I think that Brighton is South East England’s coolest beach destination. OK, I’m totally biased – I grew up taking day trips to Brighton pretty much every holiday and still travel down there frequently but don’t just take my word for it.

Brighton
Envato

First thing’s first – the beach is pebble – so don’t get your hopes up with dreams of golden sands. It’s still perfectly good for plumping down on your towel and soaking a few rays of the rare British sun.

Away from the beach, Brighton’s history as the seaside escape for the UK’s rich and famous has left its mark. Long rows of Regency houses, the long-standing Pier, not to mention the out-and-out fabulous Brighton Pavillion stand as testament to Brighton’s colourful past.

There’s a thriving dining and drinking scene – and a number of cool little independent shops clustered in The Lanes area. Just be sure not to have so much fun that you miss the last train home (this has totally happened to me).

Train departs from: St Pancras International (also stops at Farringdon, Blackfriars and London Bridge) and London Victoria

Average journey duration: 1 hour

Hassle-free option: Book a bike tour of Brighton (doesn’t include transport to Brighton)

Hampton Court

Hampton Court is one of the easiest day trips from London – easy transport connections and short travel time make it perfect for an impromptu trip.

Hampton is pretty much all about the palace – which was first built by the ill-fated Cardinal Wolsey before being pinched by Henry VIII.

All six of Henry’s wives lived here at some point or another, before it passed through a number of hands and was finally opened to the public during the Victorian times.

Wonderful as Hampton Court’s interiors are, I would recommend visiting during the summer months when the gardens are at their best (avoid the summer holidays if you can though, when it’s always busy). Don’t miss the maze, which is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the world.

Train departs from: London Waterloo

Average journey duration: 50 minutes

Hassle-free option: Buy your Hampton Court tickets in advance

Bath

A trip to the Georgian spa town of Bath is like stepping straight into the pages of a Jane Austen novel (not surprising, seeing as she set so many of them there).

Bath Abbey

Jaunt around town, checking out the city’s many historical sites. Start with the immersive experience of the Roman Baths (unfortunately you’re not actually allowed to bathe there any more) and the Pump Room.

You can even “take the water” at the Pump Room – sipping on the supposedly restorative waters in the fashion of the hoi polloi of old. I should warn you that the water tastes absolutely gross though.

Just across the road, Bath Abbey is one of the UK’s most beautiful cathedrals – make sure that you take a look inside too, it’s just as spectacular.

Small but entertaining, The Fashion Museum walks you through the catwalk of British fashion through the centuries.

Don’t think that Bath’s spa heritage is dead and gone – it’s still home to more than its fair share of spas that are perfect for a spot of pampering.

The reasonably-priced Thermae Bath Spa is a popular option thanks to its rooftop pool and indulgent massages, while the high-end Gainsborough Bath Spa is the place to go when you really want to push the boat out.

Train departs from: London Paddington

Average journey time: 1hr 30 minutes

Hassle-free option: Book this Bath & Stonehenge Day Trip

Read More: Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel & Spa Review

Windsor

The fact that it’s the home of the royal residence Windsor Castle means that Windsor’s many other charms often get overlooked.

Windsor is well-known as one of the best day trips from London. Even so, many visitors disembark from the train, make a beeline for Windsor Castle, have a nose around and then head straight back home. It’s a shame as Windsor is a rather charming riverside town that merits your attention.

Windsor Castle
 Toa Heftiba / Unsplash

Sure, you should start your visit with a look at the castle, which just so happens to be the oldest inhabited castle in the world. The State Rooms and beautiful grounds take some time to explore.

However, you shouldn’t make the mistake of dashing home the moment that you are finished. Stick around to visit the Royal Windsor Racecourse and it’s more famous counterpart Royal Ascot Racecourse next door.

Or why not walk around the expansive Windsor Great Park then test your skills on the water rowing or kayaking along the Thames?

Train departs from: London Waterloo and Paddington Station

Average journey time: 50 minutes

Hassle-free option: Half-Day Windsor Day Trip and Tour

The Lake District

The Lake District is a long day trip from London but it’s just about doable and worth the effort if you’re short on time and can’t stay overnight.

The Lake District

With its gorgeous green pastures, towering fells and chocolate-box villages, it’s no surprise that the Lake District tops the list of Britain’s beautiful regions. The fastest train to the Lake District takes around 2.5 hours to Oxenholme, so is easiest to tackle on a day trip from London.

Luckily, the area surrounding Oxenholme is ripe for exploration. There are frequent buses to Kendal, a pretty Lakeland town with lots of cute shops and tea rooms. You can also catch a local train (or taxi) to Windermere – the most famous of the Lakes – the walks around the lake are superb.

As I mentioned – The Lake District is not close to London, so you will need to start early and come back late to make it worth the effort. Don’t even think about doing it by car either – you can just about do it by train but you’re really much better off staying overnight if you want to drive.

Train departs from: Euston

Average journey time: 2 hrs 45mins

Hassle-free option:

Read more: Walking in the Lake District
Hotel Review: The Ryebeck – Boutique Hotels + Lake Views

York

Despite being pretty far from London, York is actually not a difficult day trip. Trains take just a smidge under two hours and run frequently enough that you can just turn up and go.

York
Unsplash

The walled city is best-known for the Gothic masterpiece that is York Minster but, with more attractions per square mile than any other UK city, there’s a lot to see here.

It’s tough to cover it all in one day – start with York Minster, the fascinating Yorkshire Museum and York Castle Museum (which comes complete with a restored street of Victorian shops) then add in a few other spots if time allows.

Chocolate-lovers will want to head to Chocolate Story – where you can learn about York’s important role in the history of British chocolate and, more importantly, gorge yourself on your own handmade chocolate bar.

Train departs from: King’s Cross

Average journey time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Hassle-free option: Book This York Day Trip from London

Lewes

Lewes (pronounced Lewis) often sits in the shadow of nearby Brighton, but there’s a lot to charm in the county town of East Sussex on a one day trip from London.

The town itself is pretty, with a few spots like Lewes Castle, the remains of Lewes Priory and the timber-framed Anne of Cleves House to lure you in for an hour or two.

A surprising number of Lewes’ medieval buildings have survived the test of time – there’s history around every corner.

Personally, I think the spectacular walks in the area surrounding Lewes are also worth the trip. I’d recommend the six-mile walk to Glynde – there are a couple of steep hills but each step comes with views out over the South Downs. You can extend the walk to Southease and back to Lewes if you’re feeling really energetic – then quench your thirst with a locally-brewed pint of Harvey’s when you’re finished.

Train departs from: London Victoria

Average journey time: 1 hour

Hassle-free option: This is a DIY trip – but it’s really easy

Colchester

Colchester is Britain’s oldest recorded town. With a long history that dates back beyond the Roman times, it was a Roman city and traces of that heritage can still be found dotted all over Colchester today.

Walking in the footsteps of the Romans, visit the remains of the Roman wall, as well as the Roman Circus – the only verified Roman chariot-racing track still standing.

Move onto Colchester Castle, which while not Roman itself, displays a few Roman mosaics and many Roman artifacts in the large Norman keep.

The castle is actually the largest Norman keep in Europe – testament to the fact that you can pretty much spy architecture from every single period in British history in Colchester.

Away from the past Colchester also happens to be the home of some very good tea shops. It would be rude not to indulge in a cream tea before you hop on the train back home again.

Train departs from: Liverpool Street

Average journey time: 1 hour

Hassle-free option: Book onto one of the frequent tours run by Visit Colchester

Whitstable

There haven’t been nearly enough seaside towns in this guide to day trips around London – time to fix that. Where better to head to than Whitstable with its picturesque, cobbled streets and famous oyster eateries?

Whitstable

There’s not a tonne to do in Whitstable – you can visit Whitstable Castle, but really, most of the appeal is wandering around the gorgeous town, seafront and harbour.

Seafood-lovers will be in their element – there’s no better place to tuck into a pint of fresh prawns or guzzle down half-a-dozen oysters.

If you’re really keen, time your visit for the annual knees up that is the Whitstable Oyster Festival. Not only can you eat all the oysters you can ever dream of (20 is my personal best), but there’s live music and markets selling local wares and wine.

Train departs from: St Pancras International, London Bridge and London Victoria

Average journey time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Hassle-free option: None – but it’s a really easy trip

Henley on Thames

More than just the annual regatta that sees it burst into life, Henley on Thames is one of England’s traditional market towns.

The best way to explore Henley on Thames is on a self-guided walking tour – be sure to stop by the River & Rowing Museum for a walk through the history of the famous sport.

It contains an immersive Wind in the Willows experience that’s just as fun for adults as it is for kids – you’re led through the eccentric world of Mr Toad, Badger, Ratty and Mole.

Henley also used to hold the dubious title of having more pubs per head than any other town in the south east. While those days are gone, the upshot is that there are still a number of cool little pubs for you to explore.

Train departs from: London Paddington, change at Twyford

Average journey time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Hassle-free option: Just hop on a train and go and explore

Margate

Margate’s renaissance has been a marvel to behold. Once the darling of the British seaside, it had a bit of a slump before transforming itself into one of the UK’s coolest seaside spots.

Margate
Mateusz Majewski / Unsplash

That transformation is complete – these days you’re more likely to hear Margate being compared with Copenhagen than with any shoddy seaside town.

There’s the Turner Contemporary of course, which turned heads when it opened in 2011 and is still doing so several years later.

Add to that an assortment of chic independent shops, contemporary restaurants and even a gorgeous tidal pool for a quick dip and you’ll start to understand why it charms the pants off of so many people.

Train departs from: London Victoria and St Pancras International

Average journey time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Hassle-free option: Check out the Thanet Tourist Board’s Page for Inspiration

Manchester

Manchester is the small city that packs a big punch. With a strong culture and identity (think the Industrial Revolution and Oasis and you’re on the right track) a visit to Manchester is a breath of fresh air.

Manchester
Envato

There’s too much to see in one day – Manchester Art Gallery, Imperial War Museum North, a guided tour of the BBC, the Museum of Science & History among them. If you’re a footie fan, a visit to Old Trafford is a must.

Seeing as you’re short on time, I’d recommend stopping off at a few museums, visiting Manchester Cathedral and fuelling up from one of the city’s cool eateries. Then, if you’re so inclined, stay for a taste of Manchester’s legendary nightlife before you head back home.

Train departs from: Euston

Average journey time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Hassle-free option:  Book a private tour with a local (transport to Manchester not included)

Bristol

Bristol is one of my favourite cities. The chilled out, easygoing city (which just so happens to be the largest in the southwest) is a brilliant day trip from London.

Bristol
Street art in Bristol

Bristol is a city of contrast – on the one hand, there are plenty of big landmarks to see – the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the SS Great Britain being two. On the other hand, a lot of the city’s appeal is the cool and quirky culture it’s fostered over the years.

A hive of street art, indie cafes (where you can guarantee you’ll get a great flat white) and alternative music venues – Bristol is just so damned cool. It’s perhaps no surprise that one of the city’s biggest claims to fame is that the street artist Banksy hails from there.

Train departs from: London Paddington

Average journey time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Hassle-free option: Book this Bristol like a local tour (doesn’t include transport to Bristol)

Day Trips from London by Car

Easy as it is to hop out of London on a train, some places are more suited to day trips from London by car.

The Cotswolds

It’s a rare event indeed when the words picture-perfect and Cotswolds aren’t mentioned in the same breath. The Cotswolds is the kind of England you find on the postcards – twee villages with thatched cottages in golden hues, rolling green hills, steaming piles of scones piled high with jam and clotted cream for your afternoon tea.

Castle Combe, Cotswolds
Envato

If it all sounds perfectly lovely, it is. There’s a reason that the Cotswolds find themselves on many a travel itinerary. Bibury and Burford are two of the prettiest villages- be sure to visit them during your trip.

If you want to see as many villages as possible, I’d recommend starting in Burford and finishing in Winchcombe, meandering through Northleach, Lower and Upper Slaughter, Moreton-in-Marsh and Chipping Camden along the way.

It’s an easy drive, but it means you don’t get much time any one spot. Alternatively, you can narrow it down to a couple of villages and add in a long walk and some afternoon tea for a much more relaxed trip.

Average driving time from central London: 2 hours

Hassle-free option: Book this full-day Cotswolds four-village tour

Stratford Upon Avon

Stratford Upon Avon – the birthplace of Britain’s famous bard, Shakespeare and a twee little Tudor town set around the River Avon.

Stratford Upon Avon
Unsplash

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Theatre dominates the town – rightly so. There’s always something fantastic to see on one of its several stages.

Away from the theatre, Stratford Upon Avon’s Tudor architecture offers a glimpse into days of yore. You can visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, as well as the home that he retired to after the bright lights of London proved too much.

His final resting place, Holy Trinity Church is said to be the most visited parish church in the country.

But Stratford isn’t just Shakespeare – hop onto a boat and row along the Avon, go on a river walk out of town, hole up in an old pub for a pint or two and appreciate the sleepy  appeal of this quaint little town.

Average driving time from central London: 2 hours

Hassle-free option: Book this Shakespeare’s Stratford Upon Avon day trip

Seven Sisters Country Park

There are few landscapes as striking as the sight of the chalk faces of the Seven Sisters rising up from the coast.

Seven Sisters White Cliffs, Sussex

These gorgeous cliffs form the focal point of the larger Seven Sisters Country Park, part of the South Downs National Park.

Strap on your hiking boots and set off on a walk along the Sisters for a refreshing day out from London. Park at the Visitor Centre (where you can also pop in to learn about the history of the country park) and take the path to Seaford Head View Point for the classic view of the cliffs.

Alternatively, why not tackle the part of the South Downs Way that runs through the country park and over the sisters themselves.

Average driving time from central London: 2 hours

Hassle-free option: Seven Sisters and South Downs day trip

The New Forest

The New Forest might be less than 100 miles outside of London but it feels like a world away. It’s the largest stretch of unenclosed pasture land and forest in the country and is famous for the wild ponies that roam across its lands.

The New Forest
Envato

In terms of attractions, The New Forest has surprisingly varied arsenal of things to see. Beaulieu, a vintage car museum, stately home and medieval monastery rolled into one is one such destination and worth seeing if you’re not a complete petrolhead.

Still, a lot of the appeal is in getting outdoors and onto the many walking trails that crisscross the region. Be sure to wear some comfortable shoes.

Average driving time from central London: 2 hours

Hassle-free option: Train to Lymington or Brockenhurst and hop onto the New Forest tour bus

So, there we are – 20 day trips outside London. I hope that you have found more than a few things to inspire your next jaunt out of the city.

Practical Tips for Planning Day Trips Out of London

  • It’s always worth checking your train times but you should be sure to do so if you are planning to do your day trip on a Sunday. Sunday train service is notoriously bad – with rail replacement buses, less frequent services or indirect connections often popping up to mess up your travel plans.
  • If you are travelling by train, try and book your tickets as far ahead as possible for the best prices. You should also consider whether it’s worth purchasing one of the many railcards available if there are a few of you travelling or you plan to do several excursions within a short period of time.

Best London Day Trips: Map

Click here to see a map of the trips featured.

Love this? Save and share on Pinterest.

Looking for more UK tips and inspiration? Check these out.

Love it? Share it!

shares