London is a great city with plenty to see, but there are loads of other amazing places to visit outside of the capital and many of them can be reached within an hour or so. So here are five interesting day drips from London.
The lovely University City can easily be reached using the frequent trains from London Kings Cross (about 50 minutes) and London Liverpool Street Stations (about 70 minutes). More information about train times and fares can be found on the National Rail website. You should be aware that Cambridge Station is over a mile from the city centre. There are frequent bus services from the railway station to the city centre. At the time of writing, routes A, U, 1, 3 and 7 take you to the centre. See this map showing where to get your bus.
A viable alternative to the train is to take a coach (a bus with comfy seats). National Express runs frequent services from London (Victoria Coach Station) to Cambridge. Journey times are only a few minutes longer than the train, fares are usually cheaper, especially if you book in advance, and, best of all; coaches go right into the city centre saving valuable time.
Cambridge City Centre is fairly compact and many streets are closed to traffic, so it is easy to walk around and take in the sights of the historic university buildings, shops and houses. A walk along the River Cam is very pleasant as is a trip on a punt. In the summer when the students are vacationing, it is possible to look round the colleges for payment of fees. More information is available on the University website.
The Fitzwilliam Museum (free admission, closed Mondays) is well worth a visit and holds many artifacts from the ancient world as well as an amazing collection of medieval suits of Armour.
Details of other attractions, tours and events can be found at the Visit Cambridge website.
The other great English historic University City is, of course, Oxford. The City is easily accessed by train from London Paddington station (about 70 minutes) or London Marylebone (also about 70 minutes). The railway station in Oxford is much better positioned than Cambridge’s in relation to their centres. Check the National Rail website for times and fares.
Oxford is another great walking city with plenty of historic buildings and great shopping. Details of tours, events, attractions etc can be found at the Oxford City Guide site.
The University colleges can be visited in the summer. Information can be found on the University website.
Bill Bryson calls the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford “Just about the most beguiling museum there is”. You have to pay a visit; admission is free and it is open Tuesday to Sunday.
Historic Windsor can be reached by train from London Paddington (40 minutes) or London Waterloo (70 minutes). See National Rail for details.
Green Line Coach route 702 run by Reading Buses has regular services from the Green Line Coach Station in Victoria to Windsor. This service also calls at Legoland if that attraction is of interest. I’ve actually been there myself; it’s pretty good, especially if you have young children with you.
The main attraction at Windsor is of course, the magnificent castle which is still a royal residence. You can easily spend all day at the castle and the surrounding Great Park. Details of entry fees, opening times, special exhibitions etc can be found on the official website.
The historic town and Eton next door with the famous school is well worth exploring. More details can be found on the official website.
Brighton is a Victorian seaside city on the South coast. Trains take about an hour from London Victoria (see National Rail). There is also a coach service run by National Express, but, unlike the first three destinations, there isn’t a direct motorway link, therefore the journey time is much longer at two hours so the train is a much better option here.
In my view, the main attraction is the stunning Royal Pavilion, re-built in its current form 1815-23 as a pleasure palace for the Prince Regent. It is probably Britain’s most exotic building. Full details can be found here.
The Brighton Palace Pier is one of the finest Victorian pleasure piers left in the UK. A good place for lunch is the famous fish and chip restaurant on the pier.
I would also recommend a ride on the Volks Electric Railway, which runs along the sea front when the weather is better (between Easter and the end of October). It was built in 1883 and is the world’s oldest operating electric railway. See the Volks website for more details.
See the Visit Brighton website for details of other attractions etc.
My final recommendation for a day trip is the historic waterfront city of Portsmouth, especially if you are interested in Naval history. Trains leave London from Waterloo station and take about 90 minutes. See National Rail.
The main attraction here is the historic Naval Dockyard. Some of the things to see there include:
- The Mary Rose, this 16th century ship was rescued from the bottom of the sea. Many of the Tudor artifacts found from the wreck can also be seen.
- HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s famous flagship
- HMS Warrior, built in 1860 and is the world’s first iron hulled warship
- The Royal Navy Museum
Portsmouth was the birthplace of Charles Dickens and, for fans of the author; you should plan a visit to the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum. Details are here.
The emblem of Portsmouth is now the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, which stands at 170m and should be experienced for great views.
Details of other attractions in Portsmouth as well as other visitor information can be found on the Visit Portsmouth website.
There are plenty of other places that can be reached from London and I will post more suggestions later.
Enjoy your trips!
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