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10 day trips from London to do this May Bank Holiday

·8-min read

What’s that? A day not spent pacing the same five streets and boring your local barista with the same morning coffee order?

With the forecast for this bank holiday looking positively sunny, and non-essential day trips back on our list of freedoms, this weekend is prime for a getaway.

Hopping on Southern Rail might not be quite the tropical spring break you had planned but after months spent in a bleak and icy lockdown, any chance to leave the house feels like a holiday - especially if there’s a beach involved.

Mercifully, London’s easy transport links mean we don’t all have to flock to Margate. From browsing bookshops in trendy Clifton to seaside strolls in Deal, this is your guide to the (lesser-known) London day trips to add to your post-lockdown bucket list.


 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

USP: Cobbled streets and medieval charm

Time from London: One to two hours

Rudyard Kipling was inspired by this medieval East Sussex town and it’s not hard to see why, with its tranquil seaside and charming character - expect cobbled streets, quirky antique shops and bookshops and a fabulous nature reserve by the harbour.

Take a stroll down the town’s famous Mermaid Street, explore Rye’s historic castle, and venture a further 15 minutes in the car for a dip in the water at Camber Sands.

Where to eat and drink: Start with sourdough and Turkish eggs at Whitehouse Rye, a perfect breakfast spot. Later, grab an ice-cream from The Mermaid Street Café (choose from eleven flavours) and finish off with a drink from the modern country Globe Inn Marsh pub.


USP: Picnicking on the Thames Path

Time from London: 45 minutes

A quaint Thames-side village with a surprising celebrity link - George Michael’s former £3.4 million mansion draws a regular summer crowd who like to view it from the towpath.

Goring offers a picturesque greenery and natural scenery - The Thames Path is popular with walkers and picnic-goers and you can climb Lardon Chase nearby for views over the town and nearby Streatley (the towns share a train station). Finish with a wander down the pretty high street with two historical churches, a few quaint shops and many a sunny pub garden.

Where to eat and drink: Pierreponts Café serves fresh and delicious breakfast, brunches and lunches, with all ingredients locally sourced and homemade sweet treats for post-walk indulgence. The Miller of Mansfield serves Michelin-recommended food and The Catherine Wheel is your spot for a pub lunch and post-walk pint - pick a warm day and you can sit out in the garden.


Sandwich (Kent Wildlife Trust)
Sandwich (Kent Wildlife Trust)

USP: Salt marshes and seal-spotting

Time from London: One hour and 40 minutes

Sandwich actually has very little to do with the nation’s favourite lunch - the Fourth Earl of Sandwich who popularised the snack had few links with the Kent town itself - but at least it makes for a good Instagram tag. The historical town is full of ancient buildings and half-timbered houses and has a pretty quayside, perfect for your lunchtime, um, sandwich and trips up and down the River Stour.

The town is also the perfect bolthole for a day in nature, with the peaceful ruins of Richborough Roman Fort just down the road and Sandwich & Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve only 10 minutes out of town. Head there for windswept walks among the wildflowers and salt marshes and keep your eyes out for seals.

Where to eat and drink: For a relaxed lunch, head to the courtyard garden at The Mermaid’s Locker for great atmosphere and fresh dishes to choose from. Or try The King’s Arms for some good old pub classics.


Clifton (Shutterstock)
Clifton (Shutterstock)

USP: Georgian architecture and Somerset cider

Time from London: Two hours

The best bits of village and city life. Bristol’s Clifton area is an enticing mix of grand Georgian architecture and urban buzz, and picturesque streets lined with independent cafes, shops and boutiques. Browse the eccentric antique and vintage markets of Clifton Arcade, take a hike up to Clifton Observatory and finish with a Somerset cider at one of the pubs overlooking Clifton’s famous Suspension Bridge.

The Lido Spa - a 24-meter heated outdoor pool, spa tea room and poolside restaurant - is popular with visitors, as are the African Penguins at Bristol Zoo.

Where to eat and drink: The best way to discover Clifton’s food scene is to follow your nose, but East Village Café is popular for all things plant-based - the banana bread is a must. Sip on a Somerset cider at The White Lion, with a wonderful al fresco dining area overlooking the Suspension Bridge and Gorge.


USP: The best fish and chips in Kent

Time from London: One hour and 40 minutes

Your classic seaside town, without the crowds of Margate or Whitsable. The higgledy-piggledy Kent coastal town has all the hallmarks of a British trip to the seaside: a traditional pier, vintage fishing boats, and fish and chips and ice cream galore.

To make a day of it, start with a trip to Deal Castle, a stone’s throw from the beach and built under the order of King Henry VIII and excellently preserved with ancient graffiti on the roof.

Where to eat and drink: Pop Up Café is your spot for fresh bakes and coffee - pick it up en route to the beach. 81 Beach Street serves a killer salt and chilli squid with sriracha mayo, and for the best fish and chips in Kent, head to Middle Street Fish Bar for a seaside lunch.


 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

USP: Cotswolds stone and period drama appeal

Time from London: Two hours

The best of the Cotswolds, without the crowds of Bourton-on-the-Water or Cirencester. Expect honey-hued buildings, charming boutiques and cute little tea rooms.

The thriving market town is also home to the Elizabethan Chavenage House (as seen in Poldark) and you can drive five to ten minutes down the road to discover Prince Charles’ Highgrove House and its inspiring royal gardens.

Where to eat and drink: Try the popular lunch spot outside at Café 53 for locally sourced produce and a glass of wine, or spoil yourself with afternoon tea or Sunday lunch at The Snooty Fox.


USP: Farm animals and dog-friendly pubs

Time from London: One hour

Hertfordshire is an short drive from London if you’re looking for easy-access countryside and proper country pubs. In Hertford, the capital, the River Lea makes a lovely spot for a peaceful walk and picnic lunch and Panshanger’s sprawling country park just outside the centre of town is popular with ramblers looking for lakes, rivers and wildlife.

It’s also rich in history. The Grade-I listed Normal Hertford Castle and its historic grounds are right in the centre of town and families will enjoy a trip to Foxholes Farm to meet chickens, sheep and rabbits.

Where to eat and drink: Enjoy a drink at The Black Horse, welcome to families, ramblers, cyclists and dogs, and offering great homemade pies. Or for coffee and cake lovers, try Hertford Coffee Lab or Giambrone’s lovely Deli and Coffee Bar, a family run business with wonderful Italian goodies.



USP: Shakespearian magic and Tudor buildings

Time from London: Two hours

Stratford-Upon-Avon is mostly commonly known as the birthplace to William Shakespeare and is rich in history, with Tudor buildings, a bustling Henley Street full of souvenir shops and cafes, and the home of Shakespeare’s birthplace.

Even if theatres and Royal Shakespeare Company aren’t open yet, you can still book a guided outdoor tour of the Shakespearian town and enjoy a wander along the canal paths of the River Avon. If you’re feeling ambitious, the 26-mile Stratford to Birmingham canal walk takes you past bandstands, canal boats and plenty of pubs.

Where to eat and drink: Stop for tea in the hidden garden of one of the town’s most historic buildings at Hathaway Tea Rooms or treat yourself to the most decadent brownie at Box Brownie Coffee. In the mood for something more savoury, see the menu at 33 The Scullery for great local cuisine including seafood, game dishes and tasty veggie options.


Henley (Shutterstock)
Henley (Shutterstock)

USP: Riverside meadows and messing around in boats

Time from London: 45 minutes

Henley is most famous for its annual regatta but you can take your parasol and settle in for a riverside picnic anytime - minus the rowing blazers. On a hot day, locals suggest hiring a canoe and seeing the town from the water yourself.

If you’d rather stay on dry land, pack your walking boots and start with a wander in the Chiltern hills or past the locks along the Thames path, then settle into one of the town’s multiple riverside pubs.

Where to eat and drink: With outdoor seating, The Crooked Billet shouldn’t go a miss for a wonderful pub lunch and drinks. And for the sweet-toothed, get to The Chocolate Café for its Ultimate Hot Chocolate or Chocolate Nut Sundae.


 (AFP via Getty Images))
(AFP via Getty Images))

USP: Cathedral spires and cobbled streets

Time from London: One hour

Winchester’s gothic cathedral is one of the largest in the world (and where Jane Austen was buried). The best way to see it is to wander there from the town centre (preferably on a market day) then follow the cobbled streets round into the old part of the town, past Winchester college and olde worlde bookshops. If you’ve got your walking boots, continue past the college and up to St Catherine’s Hill overlooking the city.

If you’ve got the car, the giraffes and tigers at Marwell Zoo are just down the road.

Where to eat and drink: Start your day with brunch at Forte Kitchen- a delicious smoothie and pancakes, followed by a midday pint from gastro-pub Chesil Rectory. For something more special, and expect to splash the cash, book a hut in the garden at The Black Rat for a Michelin star menu.

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