I love my home city of London and cannot imagine living anywhere else.
But even I sometimes have had my fill of its museums, galleries and especially its crowds, and like to escape for the day.
This can be to breathe in a lungful of sea air, explore more of England’s history or to revel in its green and pleasant land. I always return refreshed and ready to take on the city again.
Here are my favourite five day trips from London. All of these destinations are easily accessible by public transport and can be reached within 1hr 30 mins by train from London.
Where is Brighton
Brighton is in East Sussex on the south coast of England.
Why visit Brighton
For its broad shingle beach, its cool bohemian air and an extraordinary building.
What to do in Brighton
Visit The Royal Pavilion
The No. 1 attraction in Brighton is the opulent palace of Prince George, later Prince Regent and then King George IV.
Built in three stages from 1878, it is as extravagant and eccentric as its first occupant. Indian on the outside and Chinese on the inside, it seems peculiarly out of place in an English seaside town.
Take a stroll along Brighton Pier
The Edwardians knew a thing or two about pier building and this is a splendid example. Admire the architecture, risk instant diabetes by filling your face with candy floss and try your luck in one its amusement arcades.
Go shopping in The Lanes
The Lanes are a cluster of narrow lanes that are home to independent shops, including some good antique shops, jewellery shops, and boutiques.
Did you know that Brighton has the UK’s largest Jedi population? Feel the force!
How to get to Brighton
Frequent trains depart London St Pancras International and London Victoria for Brighton. The journey time is around 1hr 15 mins.
Where is Cambridge
Cambridge is a major university city in the East Anglia.
Why visit Cambridge
For an elegant vibrant university city which is also home to one of the best museums in the country.
What to do in Cambridge
Tour the university buildings
Revel in the architecture and grounds of the beautiful central college buildings that were once home to such famous alumni as Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin by taking a tour of these buildings.
This is easy to do in a DIY fashion. But if you are short on time and want to know a littler but more about their history, why not take a guided tour.
Take a punt along The Cam
The Cam is the river flowing through the centre of Cambridge (Cam Bridge. Geddit?).
Let someone else do the hard work and glide along the river in a punt – a narrow flat-bottomed boat that is propelled with a long pole – taking in iconic sights such as the Bridge of Sighs.
Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum
In my view, one of the best museums in England, largely because of the sheer variety of its collection.
Apparently, Cambridge natives have the third sexiest accent in England.
How to get to Cambridge
Fast trains from London Kings Cross station will whisk you to Cambridge in 50 minutes.
Where is Whitstable
Whitstable is a seaside town on the north coast of Kent, five miles north of the cathedral city of Canterbury.
Why visit Whitstable
For superb day hikes, fabulously fresh seafood and beach huts galore.
What to do in Whitstable
Eat the freshest fish and seafood
Visitors come to Whitstable just to do this. Take your pick of the many places near its pebble beach. And if there’s an R in the month, it’s a native oyster season.
Splash the cash in one of Whitstable pastel-painted shops
The town has a great selection of independent shops lining its streets, including art, clothes and antique stores.
Take a hike
Get a lungful of bracing sea air by taking one of the many short walks around Whitstable.
The area around Whitstable forms part of the Saxon Shore Way, a 163-mile coastal footpath from Gravesend to Hastings.
For example, the 5-mile walk from Whitstable to Herne Bay should take you less to 2 hours to complete. There’s a train station at Herne Bay to get back to Whitstable.
The oldest railway bridge in the world was in Old Bridge Road in Whitstable.
How to get to Whitstable
Frequent trains depart London St Pancras International for Whitstable.
The journey time is around 1 hr 20 mins.
Where is Rochester
Rochester is a town on the Medway in Kent, around 30 miles from London.
Why visit Rochester
For its rich history and all things Dickens.
What to do in Rochester
Walk the Charles Dickens trail
Charles Dickens lived in nearby Higham and based many of his novels in the area.
Stop by the Tourist Information Office and pick up a self-guided Dickens tour map from £1.
Visit Rochester Cathedral
This majestic cathedral is a lesson on how to come second.
It’s the second oldest medieval church and the second most visited pilgrimage site in England.
Visit Rochester Castle
Although only a shell of the original building remains, its 12th century stone tower is said to be one of the best preserved in England and there are great views from the top.
How to get to Rochester
Frequent high-speed trains leave London St Pancras International, whisking you to Rochester in under 40 minutes.
Slower trains depart London Victoria.
Where is Bath
Bath is in The Cotswolds in Wiltshire.
Why visit Bath
For a perfectly preserved Georgian town, Roman spa and all things Austen.
What to do in Bath
Visit the Roman Baths
Bath was originally a Roman settlement and no trip to the city would be complete without visiting the Roman Baths.
Have a soak in the rooftop Thermae Bath Spa
Although you can’t even dip your toe in the Roman Baths, you can luxuriate in the rooftop Thermae Bath Spa.
Stroll around the Royal Crescent
Perhaps the most famous Georgian terrace in England, and beloved of period drama producers, this never disappoints.
Walk in the steps of Jane Austen
Bath was home to England’s beloved author from 1801 – 1806 and it is still possible to visit sites that provided inspiration for Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
Check out this excellent resource from Bath’s Tourist Office for further information.
Residents of the Royal Crescent felt that the iconic red phone box was too glaring and was therefore painted grey.
How to get to Bath
Now, after reading Bridget's expert tips on the best places worth visiting in the vicinity of London, you may also be interested in...
Best London Travel Guide: Experience London with your native British expert
…this article for best advice on traveling inside of London City limits, by Drew Farmer.