If you’re planning a trip to London, you might consider taking a day or two to visit some areas outside the city. While London itself can provide weeks, even months, of things to do and see, you may find yourself wanting a break from the hustle and bustle, and the areas surrounding London are the perfect change of scenery. Even if you love every moment in the big city, there are a few stops nearby that you won’t want to miss!
Replete with history, Bath is full of things to see, easy to navigate, and perfect for walking around. If you only have time for one stop, it has to be the Roman Baths. Centuries old, the baths allow you to step back in time to the Roman occupation, when people traveled from afar for a dip in the hot baths. If your schedule allows, the Fashion Museum, Bath Abbey, and the Royal Crescent are great to visit, but I also recommend simply strolling the streets, getting coffee or tea, and taking in the atmosphere. Very easily accessible by train, the trip from London takes about an hour and a half. Click here for more on Bath or day trips from Bath.
Hampton Court Palace
Home to seven of Britain’s monarchs, Hampton Court is a delightful day trip. Getting there couldn’t be easier, as a train travels directly from London’s Waterloo station to Hampton Court in about 35 minutes. You could easily spend most of the day just wandering the grounds, which include the palace and gardens, complete with a maze. Guided tours are available, but I’m very partial to the audio tours, which allow you to move through independently and see things at your own pace. Tickets and more information are available on the website www.hrp.org.uk.
Although York is in northern England, it takes less than two hours to travel from London by train, making it a viable option for day trips and an excellent chance to experience another city. Like Bath, York has considerable Roman influence, and the inner city is still surrounded by an ancient wall. The “must see” in York is the enormous Gothic cathedral, called the Minster. Ideally, I’d travel from the station to York Minster by cab, take the tour, then start walking southeast through the Shambles, probably the most picturesque, quaint street I’ve ever seen. York is walker-friendly, but is probably too large for some people, so you may need to catch a cab back to the station.
Stratford is a great day trip for anyone who loves Shakespeare, and it’s hard to visit England without thinking of The Bard. Located on the Avon River – thus the name – Stratford is a quaint town best known as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. There are numerous sites relating to his life and education, and you can purchase admission to all of them with a single pass. The river and swans are beautiful and peaceful, and the town’s website, www.stratford-upon-avon.co.uk, offers several suggested walking tours depending on what you want to see. A bit trickier to get to, the trip from London is about two and a half hours by train, or three and a half by bus, with a good deal of variation in schedule.
I really strongly recommend tours, and some of my best experiences in Britain have been with a guide. I love not having to worry about where to go or making it to the train in time, and traveling by car makes it easy to see several great sites in one day. The one negative is that you’re not completely independent, and you’re tied to the group schedule. Although there are many, many companies operating, I’ve had great experiences with Evan Evans Tours, and they offer a diverse selection of all-day tours around London. If your time is limited, but you want to see several things, this is definitely the way to go.
No matter what you choose to do – enjoy your trip! England is full of history and culture, and London is an excellent hub for your day trips and excursions. I can’t wait to go back!