London is an amazing city, with loads of things to do and see, but there are some great places visit either by car or by train. Here’s a few ideas (in no particular order) for your next day trip:
This picturesque city is home to one of the UK’s oldest universities and there are plenty of walking tours around the campus: don’t miss King’s College Chapel and the Bridge of Sighs. You could try punting (riding a flat-bottomed boat) down the river Cam – this can be expensive, but the student-led tours are cheaper and just as fun. The Botanic Gardens are wonderful to walk around on a dry day, and if it’s wet, the Fitzwilliam Museum has plenty of art and sculpture to keep you occupied. If you visit the museum on a Saturday, they have craft classes for families too (check the website for details). You can drive to Cambridge (approx. 90mins) but you’ll need to pay for parking. I’d recommend the taking train (less than 50mins).
Another very old university is in Oxford, and like Cambridge, the best way to see it is by joining a walking tour. The tour will almost certainly take you to Christ Church College and the Bodleian Library, both of which are lovely. Parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed in Oxford so there are lots of themed walking tours if this is your thing (expect long queues). The Ashmolean Museum has a large collection of art and archaeology which will keep you busy for hours, but if you prefer something more intimate, check out Kettle’s Yard – a once private house with an eclectic collection of 20th-century antiques, art, and textiles. Oxford Castle and Prison is well-worth a look, as is the Covered Market. By car (100mins), by train (55mins), by coach (120mins but cheap!)
3. St Albans
St Albans is an extremely old city. There has been people living here since Roman Times, and you can visit Verulamium Park and Museum to see what remains. St Albans Cathedral dates from Norman times and is home to medieval art, tours are free! The centre of the city is a lovely place to wander round and check out the independent shops and Cassiobury Park has lots of open space and playgrounds for children. A little further out of the city is Willows Activity Farm, where you can get close to farm animals and take tractor rides. Britain’s oldest aircraft museum, The De Haviland, is also well worth a look.
Windsor is home to the main residence of the British Royal Family, and while you’re very unlikely to see the King, you can tour the historic castle, grounds, and chapel. Legoland Windsor is a nice idea for the children with thrill rides, Lego statues and themed rooms. Windsor Great Park is a lovely place for walks and bike rides and there’s an adventure playground that looks great (the café in the visitor centre is also excellent). By car (under an hour), by train (under an hour).
Heading to the South Coast, why not pay Brighton a visit? The pebble beach isn’t great for sunbathing, but you can swim in – or just admire – the sea. Ruined Brighton West Pier makes for a great photograph and Brighton Palace Pier is home to fairground rides, bars, and restaurants. The iconic Royal Pavilion (inspired by Indian palaces) has restored rooms, tours and live music in the evening (check website for details). Moving tower Brighton i360 offers stunning views over the city and the sea and if you want to get into nature, check out Devils Dyke: a V-shaped valley with walking trails and refreshments. Don’t miss The Lanes, a shopping district full of quirky little shops. Kemptown is home to Brighton’s LGBTQ+ community, with loads of bars, clubs, and shops. By car (125mins) by train (160mins).
6. Royal Tunbridge Wells
This is another picturesque town, Southeast of Central London. The town centre is a nice place to explore, and Spa Valley Railway has restored track, steam and diesel trains and a tearoom. Tunbridge Well’s other offerings are outside of the town, so I’d recommend taking a car, if you have access to one. Scotney Castle has medieval ruins and a Victorian Manor House, all in a huge estate with gardens and walking trails. Penshurst Place and Gardens is a fortified manor house with an adventure playground and woodland trails. If you’re up for some water sports, check out Bewl Water, where there’s sailing and kayaking, as well as a big adventure playground. 90minutes drive from Central London.
7. Maidstone and Rochester
These two towns are quite close to each other, so you could easily visit both in a day. If you head for Maidstone, check out the Maidstone Museum, with art and artefacts in an Elizabethan manor house. Mote Park has woodland trails and a lake where you can go kayaking. Nearby Leeds Castle has loads of activities for the family, including golf, zip slides and falconry, as well as the castle itself. Near Rochester is the Historic Dockyard at Chatham where there are warships of the Royal Navy and an 18th century museum. Close to the dockyard is Upnor Castle, an Elizabethan fort with peaceful gardens and noisy cannons! By car (65mins) by train (160mins).
8. Epping Forest
Northeast of London lies Epping Forest, a huge area of woodland that you can wander around in for hours. There are scores of trials that you can follow, but make sure you have a map as it’s easy to get lost. Why not take the tube out to Epping or Theydon Bois and walk back towards Buckhurst Hill. Take your nearest exit out of the park for food and refreshments.
Easily accessibly by rail or tube/overground, Kingston-upon-Thames is a great place to aim for as a day out. Nearby is Hampton Court Palace, residence of King Henry VIII. As well as the palace, there’s an intricate Maze to solve. Bushy Park is also close, with a huge area of woods and grasslands, where you can see both red and fallow deer and a water garden. Jump In adventure has rock climbing and trampolining and it’s not too far to Chessington World of Adventure, a big theme park with rides and rollercoasters. Less than half an hour by train from Central London.
10. Warner Bros Studio Tour
If a Harry Potter walking tour in Oxford wasn’t enough for you, what about visiting the studio where they made the film? See the soundstages, scenery, props, and costumes as well as temporary exhibitions on black magic and much more. Watford Junction Station is only 20mins from Central London and there’s a special shuttle bus to the studio from there. Tickets aren’t cheap but it’s sure to be an amazing day out for the family!