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Despite tons of exciting things to do in London, this megacity isn’t all the UK has to offer. I strongly recommend you to spare some time to have a day trip from London to indulge in history, culture, nature, and countryside scenery. Continue to have a read on my list of recommended day trips from London!
The following day trip destinations are in alphabetical order and include travel time from London, major attractions, and for whom they are suitable:
Bath is full of history and culture where you can find traces of various historical time periods, including the Roman, Medieval, and Georgian periods. How Bath has got its name as ‘Bath’ is in the Roman Baths. During the Medieval period, it was the centre of the wool industry, while it welcomed many holidaymakers as a spa city in the 18th century.
- Travel time to Bath from London: 1.5~2 hours by train
- Great for those who love: history and heritage
- Major tourist attractions: The Roman Baths, The Royal Crescent
- Other interesting fact(s): filming location of Les Misérables (2012); Bath was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987
If you fancy an entertaining day out from London, Brighton is calling you: colourful graffiti, eye-catching shops, the Royal Pavilion with the unique Indo-Islamic exterior, and Brighton Palace Pier with an exciting mini theme park!
- Travel time to Brighton from London: 1 hour by train
- Great for those who love: culture, vacation spot, shopping
- Major tourist attractions: Brighton Palace Pier, Royal Pavilion, The Lanes
- Other interesting fact(s): the amusement park on the pier turned out a lot more fun and thrilling than I imagined!
- Related post: The 5 Charms of Brighton
Cambridge is best known for being home to the University of Cambridge, the world’s leading university along with the University of Oxford. Each college has unique features for its long history. For instance, you can find out the Tudor-style gate at Trinity College.
- Travel time to Cambridge from London: 1 hour by train
- Great for those who are interested in: education, architecture
- Major tourist attractions: King’s College Chapel, Trinity College, Bridge of Sighs
- Other interesting fact(s): punting tours give you the perfect opportunity to see the structure of the Bridge of Sighs up close
The Cotswolds AONB is a stunning sample of the beautiful English countryside. It spreads over south-central and southwest England, including Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire. The AONB stands for ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. Since the villages and towns in the Cotswolds are across the 6 counties, the best way to explore them is by renting a car. If you prefer not to/cannot rent a car, using public transportation also works. (I’ve tried both ways!)
- Travel time to Cotswolds from London: 2~3 hours by train & bus (duration varies depending on which towns/villages to visit)
- Great for those who love: idyllic English countryside
- Major tourist attractions: Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter
- Related post: Take Your Pick of the Cotswolds
Dorset is an amazing place to see the southern coast of the island of Great Britain. It attracts a lot of family travellers in the UK, presenting the geological features from the Mesozoic era. It is possible to visit Dorset as a day trip from London by public transportation, as I did; but ideally, you might want to see and enjoy more with an overnight trip and/or by car.
- Travel time to Dorset from London: 3~4 hours by train & bus
- Great for those who love: nature, vacation spot, dinosaur hunting (fossils)
- Major tourist attractions: Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Corfe Castle, Old Harry Rocks
- Other interesting fact(s): the Jurassic Coast was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2001
When I think of Oxford, two keywords pop up immediately: one of the world’s top-ranked universities and Hogwarts. Oxford is best to explore with your trip to Cotswolds or as a full-day trip for the city itself. According to the University of Oxford, as of June 2019, it has produced 27 UK prime ministers, 50 Nobel prize winners, and 120 Olympic medalists from its colleges. Furthermore, the University of Oxford has a lot of fancy titles, including a college established in 1264, the world’s oldest public library, and the oldest public museum in the UK!
- Travel time to Oxford from London: around 1 hour by train
- Great for those who love: culture, education, architecture
- Major tourist attractions: Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre
Particularly famous among Asian tourists as a wonderful photo and picnic spot, Seven Sisters doesn’t need much explanation to convince you. Tourists to Seven Sisters often visit Brighton first as a connecting point from London. With its increasing popularity for photography, falling accidents have also been reported recently. The cliffs are made from chalk, which means they are very easy to break, so be careful not to go to the edge!
- Travel time to Seven Sisters from London: 2.5~3 hours by train & bus
- Great for those who love: nature
- Major tourist attractions: Seven Sisters Cliffs
- Related post: 5 Reasons to Stroll in Seven Sisters
I’ve seen some controversies as to whether it’s worth visiting Stonehenge; some people think Stonehenge is an inspiring prehistoric site where they can expand their imaginations about its mystery. On the contrary, I’ve also encountered those saying Stonehenge is just massive rocks. If you’re on the latter side, the visit isn’t so recommended, since the entrance ticket price isn’t also appealing. If you find it intriguing at all though, I’d say you should witness it in person! Not only is it grand, but you can also find out why and how Stonehenge had been formed at the indoor exhibition building.
- Travel time to Stonehenge from London: 2+ hours by train & bus
- Great for those who love history & heritage
- Other interesting fact(s): Stonehenge and Avebury were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1986
Winchester may not be the first thing that comes to mind to recommend as a day trip from London if it’s your first time to the UK and cannot afford many days to explore further. But certainly, it’s interesting enough to pay attention if you want to browse all the corners of the UK. One of the reasons to visit Winchester is its cathedral. Winchester Cathedral is one of the biggest Gothic-style cathedrals in the UK, as well as one of the world’s longest. The ‘legendary’ Round Table at the Great Hall is possibly THE thing to see in Winchester – supposedly the Round Table from King Arthur! It’s also well known for where Jane Austen was buried.
- Travel time to Winchester from London: around 1 hour by train
- Great for those who love: history
- Major tourist attractions: Winchester Cathedral, Round Table
Does the idea of a country with a royal family sound enticing? Or have you recently found it interesting since Harry and Meghan’s announcement to step down as the (senior) Royal Family members? Or as a completely different topic, do you love Lego?
Windsor offers two grand attractions for tourists: the working royal palace as the Queen’s official residence and Legoland. Since both Windsor Castle and Legoland have a lot to see and do, if you’re considering Windsor only as a day trip from London, you’d need to choose one between the two sites. I visited each place on two separate day trips.
- Travel time to Windsor from London: 0.5~1 hour by train
- Great for those who love: history, family entertainment
- Major tourist attractions: Windsor Castle, Legoland
- Related post: Two Major Attractions in Windsor You Need to Visit
Last but not least, you definitely need to visit York. It may look far from London on the map, but the train line is pretty good and quick (2 hours from Kings Cross). The minute you come out of the York station, you’ll shortly feel as if you’re in England in the Medieval period. The Shambles was the inspiration for the Diagon Alley, and of course, you’re getting a train from Kings Cross station just like Harry Potter! One of the best afternoon teas I had in the UK is also in York. 😉
- Travel Time to York from London: around 2 hours by train
- Great for those who love: history, heritage, Harry Potter series
- Major tourist attractions: York Minster, The Shambles
- Other interesting elements: Yorkshire pudding, Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, National Railway Museum
- Related post: Things to Do in York
There are a few more that I wondered about adding to the list. But since I haven’t done a trip to those destinations, I’ve decided to leave them out till I visit. This means the list will have updates any time I make a trip, so keep posted! 🙂