London, of course, is a world-class destination, but one of the best things about the city is how easy it is to get away. Those visiting for more than a week — or living there — might want to get away from it all, whether it’s a respite from traffic or the hustle and bustle of Westminster.
If you’re looking for a day trip without the chaos of airport delays or the dreary prospect of changing currency, here are seven of the best getaways from London. Some exude country charm, while others invite seaside getaways, but all are less than three hours away by train or car, where you can grab a pint in a pub and toast too where the DNA discovery was announced.
Good weather is not guaranteed, however. Pack your umbrella.
1. New Forest
Less than 90 minutes by train or just over two hours by car is the New Forest. Don’t be fooled by the ‘new’ in the name: William the Conqueror created the woods for hunting after his successful invasion in the 11th century. Around a thousand years later, it’s a natural retreat, with over 5,000 wild ponies roaming freely in the national park, making it a memorable place to hike.
If you’ve worked up an appetite during your walk, there are plenty of cozy pubs to cool off in afterwards.
‘The New Forest is the most magnificent of ancient landscapes,’ says Lotti Bruce, marketing manager of the Pig Hotel in nearby Brockenhurst. “Walking roads, moorland and miles of coastline. There are countless walks and cycle routes to explore, with ponies and cattle being the only traffic you really have to deal with.
She says just under half of the hotel’s guests are from London and the quiet, restorative appeal of the forest is what makes this place so special.
Car enthusiasts should visit the National Automobile Museum in Beaulieu.
Getting There : Take the train from London Waterloo to Brockenhurst.
2. The Cotswolds
Covering an area of nearly 2,072 km2 of rolling hills, quaint stone-paved villages and stately homes, the Cotswolds have been a classic escape for affluent Londoners for good reason. David and Victoria Beckham have a home there, and Meghan Markle hosted her bachelorette party at Soho Farmhouse, a retreat in the Oxfordshire countryside.
Bleinhem Palace, home of Winston Churchill and a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, sits on the edge of the Cotswolds and is open to visitors who can find decorations for their own palaces in one of the many shops. antiques scattered in the neighboring villages.
Access: Take the train from Paddington Station to Moreton-in-Marsh.
Embrace seaside kitsch in the home of the Shell Grotto and Scenic Railway, the country’s oldest operating roller coaster, located in Margate Dreamland amusement park.
But it’s not just about Margate’s retro seaside past: the town is now an arts destination, thanks to the Turner Contemporary. Based on the site where artist JMW Turner stayed, the gallery celebrates the city’s connection to the Romantic painter. Admission is free and offers a rolling program of modern exhibitions.
Getting There : By train it is one hour and 40 minutes from Victoria station to Margate station.
Of course, this city has been a wellness destination since Roman times. But don’t miss the stunning architecture, including the Royal Crescent, which is a street filled with Georgian stone townhouses that retain their 18th century look and feel so much that the street has been in many shows and films, including including Bridgerton and Keira The Duchess of Knightley.
There’s plenty of intellectual pursuits too: author Jane Austen was the city’s most famous resident, and Bath has its own Jane Austen Museum.
Get a taste of life during the Regency era as you talk about one of his walking tours to see a side of the city the scribe of Pride and Prejudice would have known.
But yes, the baths are still a big attraction. The Thermae Bath Spa has Britain’s only natural hot springs in which you can bathe, and it offers exclusive spa treatments and facials. After all those walks, it’s time to relax!
Getting There : By train it is 90 minutes from Paddington Station to Bath.
Whitstable is full of colorful beach huts and shingle beaches where you can stroll to get your fill of sea air. This town on the Kent coast is best known for its native oysters, which have been harvested there since Roman times.
Whitstable’s oldest restaurant, the Wheelers Oyster Bar, with its pink facade, is worth a visit. But if you’re feeling fit, bring your bike and ride the 10km Crab and Winkle Way to Canterbury Cathedral, one of England’s most famous.
Getting There : By train it’s an hour and 20 minutes from Victoria Station to Whitstable.
Yes, of course, Oxford is great too, but Cambridge is easier to cover in a day. Its university in the heart of the city has notable alumni such as Isaac Newton, Zadie Smith and John Maynard Keynes, but there’s still plenty to do even if you don’t write an essential book on economic theory.
Visit King’s College Chapel, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture dating from 1446. Then hire a boat to ‘punt’ down the River Cam.
Top it all off with a pint in the same pub where Francis Crick and James Watson interrupted the customer’s lunch hour to shout that they had discovered the secret of life, DNA, in 1953.
Getting There : By train it is 50 minutes from Kings Cross to Cambridge.
The cobbled streets, with names like Mermaid and Wish, date back to Rye’s history as a medieval port, and you can feel the past with every step. In the 13th century, it was one of the most famous stops for pirates, and it has a legacy of being a haven for smugglers.
In the past, goods such as wool, cotton and liquor were transported from Rye out of the country; now the town is a tourist destination on the Sussex coast.
And wine lovers can rejoice as Chapel Down, the home of English sparkling wine, is just 11km away by car.
Getting There : By train it’s an hour and 40 minutes, although there is no direct route. Change at Ashford. –Bloomberg