You may very well be wondering – “but why would I want to take a day trip when there’s so much to see in London?” – and the truth is there is plenty to do here, especially if you’re only indulging in a short trip in the capital or enjoying a relaxing spa break in London. There’s rarely enough time to see everything you’d want in London on account of its monolithic size and with the COVID restrictions, limited opening times of tourist attractions and a great focus on social distancing on the streets of the city, a short escape might actually elevate your city break.
For starters, London is only one side of England, and whilst it boasts incredible history, culture and entertainment opportunities, there are other sides to the country as well. Like with many capital cities, London is an experience in and of itself, but it doesn’t necessarily represent the character of the rest of the country, which can be as little as an hour outside the city. Thanks to London’s well-connected train lines, it’s easy to get exploring a fine menu of other counties, towns and regions and be back at the Montcalm Hotel in time for some well-earned rest.
Below are some of the best day trips in London, all of which are reachable by train in no more than two hours.
Oxford is just an hour outside of London with trains running from Paddington and Marylebone. Located in the west of England and overlooking the pastoral idyll of the Cotswolds, this Medieval city is home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe and some of the most famous museums in the world. Thanks to its relatively manageable size, many of the most eye-catching tourist attractions and museums are within walking distance of each other, making Oxford a perfect day trip from London.
With hour train journeys starting from many stations in London, Brighton is a south coast gem that comes especially alive in the summer. Again, this is a small city, so tourist attractions such as the Brighton Pavilion and Palace Pier are all within walking distance of each other, whilst the promenade nightlife and cool vibe of the North Laines could see you getting the first train home rather than the last!
For something a little quieter, a day trip to Lewes, which is just 15 minutes outside of Brighton and 45 from London, is an ancient town nestled in the Ouse Valley. With the beautiful river of the same name running through its centre, you can explore castle ruins, old monasteries and even the story of the Lewes Martyrs, 17 protestants who were burnt at the stake on the outskirts of town during the reformation period of 1555. If you’re looking for something a little less quiet and a lot louder, try visiting Lewes on November 5th – Bonfire Night – to see the town come alive with fireworks and very explosive processions.
An hour and 45 from Kings Cross St Pancras, Margate is a perfect day trip for sea starved guests at budget hotels in London. This Kentish coastal town harks back to the seaside resorts of old and is a little quieter and manageable than the buzzing crowds of Brighton. Here you’ll find funfairs, piers and the famous coast side Turner Gallery, in which modern art and the classics collide, all with a view of the serene North Sea.
Norwich is a mere hour and a half from London Liverpool Street Station before a 40-minute connection to Cromer and the Norfolk Coast. The Broads will transport visitors from London into an entirely different environment from the capital city, a forgotten corner of the UK. Its vast marshy wetlands and canals have a real serenity about them and exploring the sleepy seaside town of Cromer will whisk you to a classic Victorian pleasure beach. It might be a long day, but it’s well worth it for the fresh North Sea air.
If it’s the city itself you’re interested in visiting, Norwich is a great budget day out to rival that of London hotel deals. WIth cheap eateries and world-class pubs, the city rose to prominence on account of its ancient cathedral and castle ruins. Here you’ll see classic Medieval architecture meld with the modern, and the culture of theatre, music and film will give you plenty to entertain you into the evening.
Cambridge is a university city with a long history to rival that of its main competitor Oxford. Dating back hundreds of years, it won’t take you that long to travel from Kings Cross St Pancras (just 50 minutes). Make sure to take a tour of its gothic spired Kings and Trinity College, whilst the Fitzwilliam Museum and Botanical Garden are also worth a wander around. One popular activity during the summer months is the renting of punts and enjoying a leisurely sail up the River Cam.
The official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, Windsor Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in the world and overlooks the inland stream of the River Thames. Here you’ll find tours of the stunning staterooms and the expansive grounds of the Windsor Great Park. Royal history and present really collide here, giving visitors an insight into just how grand the English royalty have it.
Departing from Kings Cross, York takes just an hour and 50 to reach and is well worth the trip up north on account of its unique walled city and medieval heritage. Make sure not to miss a trip to York Minster, which was consecrated in 657 AD and boasts a jaw-dropping gothic spire. That’s not all the sightseeing you’ll be doing in York, the Yorvik centre examines the Viking history of the city whilst the Yorkshire Castle Museum will give you even more insight into the long history of this beautiful city.