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Sometimes its easy to get stuck in the London bubble, with plenty to do in the capital city you forget that there is so much happening in the rest of the UK. I know I’ve been guilty of that. So last year I vowed to explore more of my home country during my weekends – I started exploring parts of England that are accessible by train, whilst easy enough to do in just one day.
From seaside towns to historic castles to UNESCO cities – here is my list of the best day trips from London (my criteria is that each train journey should be around 2 hours or less by train by one way).
For the cheapest train fares I recommend booking in advance at thetrainline. I sometimes book my seats almost 3 months in advance for crazy cheap prices.
Tip: If you are a couple or travel regularly with the same friend, then it might be worth investing in a ‘two together’ railcard – this card enables you to receive a 1/3 discount on both your train tickets. Purchase your Two Together card here.
Table of Contents
A favourite with London day trippers, there are many things to do in Brighton. This seaside town has something for everyone – quirky cafes, vintage shops, seafront bars and an iconic pier full of amusement park rides are some of the delights you will find here. Brighton is very liberal with the town having the UK’s biggest gay scene. Don’t miss the newly built BA i360 which rises more than 500 feet above the seafront, and the stunning Royal Pavilion – a flamboyant residence with a mix of Indian and Chinese styles.
Brighton is 1 hour by train from London Victoria or London Bridge. Search for train tickets here
This small cycle friendly city is home to one of the UK’s oldest universities and is a great destination to tick off your Great British bucket list. Boating, (or punting) down the River Cam is a very popular activity – you can rent a punt yourself or have a professional punter steer for you. The University Botanical Gardens and King’s College Chapel are other sightseeing highlights.
Cambridge is 45 minutes from London Kings Cross or 1 hour 10 minutes by train from London Liverpool Street. Search for train tickets here
This historic coastal town in southeast England is known for the famous 1066 Battle of Hastings. Home to the steepest funicular railway in the UK – take the trip up to the top of West Hill in one of the original wooden Victorian coaches for great views over this charming town. The iconic pier has recently been renovated and holds regular events throughout the year.
Hastings is 1 hour 30 minutes by train from London Charing Cross or London St Pancras; and 2 hours from London Victoria. Search for train tickets here
The coastal town in Kent is famous for its shellfish, with beachfront oyster shacks being extremely popular during the summer months. Stop for a pint at the famous Old Neptune pub situated on the pebble beach, and eat at the nearby Whitstable Oyster Company. The town also holds a yearly Oyster festival every July.
Whitstable is 1 hour 20 minutes from London Victoria or 1 hours 15 minutes by train from London St Pancras. Search for train tickets here
Oxford is a very pretty city and home to the oldest university in England, dating back to the 11th century. Parts of the films Harry Potter and tv programme Inspector Morse were filmed here. Climb to the top of the Saxon Tower for a great view over the city, or jump on the bus to visit the UNESCO world heritage site of Blenheim Palace.
Oxford is 1 hour by train from London Paddington or London Marylebone. Search for train tickets here
Stratford-upon-Avon is famously known as Shakespeare’s England, and this small and quaint town is also his birthplace. Catch one of William Shakespeare’s plays at the RSC, take a stroll along the river or have dinner at one of the many historic pubs.
Stratford-upon-Avon is 2 Hours by train from London Marylebone (with a change at Leamington Spa). Search for train tickets here
Known as “Shoreditch-on-Sea”, this coastal town has become a bit of a hipster’s paradise in recent years. The Dreamland theme park reopened in 2015 with a new retro style look. Explore some of the vintage shops, visit the Turner contemporary art gallery and dine at one of the many cool cafes.
Margate is between 1 hour 36 minutes and 1 hour 53 minutes by train from either London Victoria or London St Pancras. Search for train tickets here
Nestled between Margate and Ramsgate is this cute vintage seaside town where you are spoilt for choice for beautiful sandy beaches – the horseshoe shaped Viking Bay being the most popular. Other highlights include the Charles Dickens Museum and two retro 1950s ice-cream parlours. If you are feeling active, visit nearby Botany Bay with its stunning chalk stacks (approx 1 hour walk away).
Broadstairs is approx 1 hour 45 minutes by train from either London Victoria or London St Pancras. Search for train tickets here
Located on the southern coast in Kent, this town is famous for it’s ferry port (the worlds’ busiest) and the iconic White Cliffs of Dover. The historic Dover castle is situated on top of the hill overlooking the quaint town, with great views of the English Channel.
Dover is 1 hour by train from London St Pancras or 1 hour 50 minutes from London Charing Cross. Search for train tickets here
More UK blog posts
- Top things to do in Liverpool, UK
- A local’s guide to Bath, UK
- Visiting the Village of ‘Beer’ in Devon, UK
- Exploring Belgravia: a sweet and savoury food tour
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All photography unless otherwise stated is by Caroline Keyzor and copyright protected