Discover a Bank Holiday getaway with SWR

10 great Bank Holiday getaways

10 May 2021

May really is the gift that keeps on giving, with not one, but two Bank Holidays granted at the start and end of the month. Spring is also in full swing, with lighter, longer evenings and milder weather creating the ideal conditions for you to explore somewhere new.

Whether you’ve got a single day to spare or the whole Bank Holiday weekend at your feet, check out our favourite getaways. Starting with the closest to the capital, each destination can be reached by a direct train, saving you the hassle of crawling Bank Holiday traffic and pricey city-centre parking. There are gin tours, underground tunnels, royal weddings and more waiting for you.


Train time from London: 53 minutes
For royally grand May Bank Holiday days out, look no further than a trip to Windsor. Get the gang together and join Windsor Castle’s Royal Weddings Tour (opens in a new tab), which only takes place on Mondays. Revel in the smugness of not being at work as you enjoy a private talk about the 900-year-old nuptial traditions, before a tour of Windsor Castle.

If you’re looking for things to do in Windsor with kids, then it’s got to be the plastic-brick nirvana: LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort. You’ll want more than a day to cover the plethora of attractions and amusements here, so why not book to stay at the LEGO-themed hotel on site? Any stay during Spring Bank Holiday includes special perks, like second-day free entry to the theme park and early access (aka no queues) to the brand new Haunted House Monster Party and 4D Movie. Everything really is awesome.

Find out more about things to do in Windsor, or check out our family weekends guide to Windsor.


Train time from London: 2 hours
Seriously nautical and also very nice, Portsmouth is a port of two halves. On the one side, you can submerge yourself in maritime history at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (opens in a new tab), with no less than four historic warships on show, including the HMS Victory and Henry VIII’s Mary Rose.

On the other side, you can saddle up alongside the clouds over at the Spinnaker Tower (opens in a new tab), which rises 170 metres above the city with views across the harbour and beyond. It offers one of the best things to do in Portsmouth on May Bank Holiday with its Sunset Sundays. Kicking off the weekend before Spring Bank Holiday, these ticket-only events grant exclusive access to the tower’s 3 viewing decks, as well as a complimentary glass of something fizzy to clink as the sun goes down.

Find out more about things to do in Portsmouth, or check out our guide to family weekends.


Train time from London: 56 minutes
Let the Bank Holiday be gin! Lesser-known Overton is under an hour from London by train and home of the world-famous Bombay Sapphire Distillery (opens in a new tab). Laverstoke Mill is the postcard-pretty setting for the production of the strong stuff, set on the banks of the River Test and neighbouring a mind-bending glasshouse. Speaking of glasses, each tour of the distillery includes a free drink in the Mill Bar, as well as a behind-the-scenes look into how your drink of choice is made. Expect a heady mix of scent-sparking botanicals and a new-found respect for the artistry behind each drop that goes into those sapphire-coloured bottles. We’ll drink to that.

Find out more about things to do in Overton.


Train time from London: 1 hour 30 minutes
Salisbury wears ancient history like it’s the latest fashion, with a soaring spire, half-timbered buildings and prehistoric stones that are impossible to miss. A weekend away in Salisbury can cover lots of historical ground, starting with a trip to Salisbury Cathedral (opens in a new tab) in the centre of town. Its neck-craning spire is the tallest in the country (123m to be precise) and if you listen closely, you might just hear the workings of its 14th-century clock. The cathedral’s Chapter House is arguably one of the most famous museums in Salisbury, where you can get nose-to-glass-cabinet with one of the original copies of the Magna Carta.

If that ancient history feels a little too fresh for you, then board a bus from outside Salisbury train station for the 9-mile trip to Stonehenge (opens in a new tab), a ring of prehistoric stones rising up on Salisbury Plain. Standing in their shadow is a spine-tingling experience and one of the best things to do in Salisbury on May Bank Holiday.

Find out more about things to do in Salisbury.


Train time from London: 57 minutes
Topping the 2016 list of best places to reside in the UK, Winchester is a charming and compact place that is ideal for a Bank Holiday day trip – and gives you a chance to see how the other half live! We’d be happy too if we had their close-knit network of medieval streets, literary legends and stunning South Downs on our doorstep.

Start your Spring Bank Holiday Sunday with a mooch around Winchester Farmers’ Market (opens in a new tab). Tuck into all manner of locally-made breakfast sandwiches or pick up a few items to enjoy on a picnic later that afternoon. Winchester’s history is as satisfying as that Hampshire fry-up, with Winchester Cathedral, The Great Hall and the remains of Wolvesey Castle (all open in new tabs) all within strolling distance and all totally unmissable on a weekend in Winchester.

Find out more about things to do in Winchester, or check our weekend break guide.


Train time from London: 32 minutes
At just over half an hour from London, there’s no chance you’ll be late for your very important Bank Holiday date with this Surrey market town and bolthole of choice for Lewis Carroll. There are bags of things to do in Guildford city centre, from conquering Guildford Castle (opens in a new tab) to browsing the racks in the swish Tunsgate Quarter (Guildford is known as the luxury shopping capital of the UK, so do bring your credit card).

If you’re more into Guildford’s great outdoors – and trust us, those acres of Surrey Hills really are stirring – then join a free walk (opens in a new tab) along part of the North Down’s Way on Saturday 4 May. Organised by the Surrey Hills Society, this ramble is one of the best things to do in Guildford on Early May Bank Holiday and will leave from Guildford Town Bridge at 11am.

Find out more about things to do in Guildford.


Train time from London: 1 hour 55 minutes
If the Bank Holiday gods are smiling and glorious weather is forecast, pack your beach bag for a weekend away in Bournemouth. This seaside resort is blessed with seven miles of sands, two iconic piers and one quirky land train.

Beach days by numbers start with hiring one of the colourful huts that line Alum Chine, Durley Chine, Bournemouth, Boscombe, Southbourne and Fisherman’s Walk. From just £40 for a whole day’s rental, this is a pocket-friendly way to enjoy the beach and views out to the Isle of Wight. If your mind is set on seeing more of the resort (and really, you must), board the Bournemouth land train and pootle along the promenade, between Boscombe and Bournemouth piers and up to Bournemouth Gardens. An ice cream stop along the way is seaside law, if you didn’t know.

Find out more about things to do in Bournemouth.


Train time from London: 2 hours 20 minutes
Bristol and artistic expression go together like Banksy and provocative murals, which you can feast your gaze on during the Bristol Street Art Tour. Kicking off every Saturday and Sunday at 10am, it’s one of the best things to do in Bristol and a fitting start to your Bank Holiday weekend in the hip, riverside city.

If that sparks your appetite for head-tilting, debate-sparking art, then carry on the conversation down at the Arnolfini (opens in a new tab). This former tea warehouse-turned-gallery is a Bristol institution, with three floors dedicated to contemporary art in all its many forms – last time we checked there was spoken word poetry, international architecture and sounds of the Japanese underground electronic scene. The news that the gallery’s café has teamed up with the Bristol Beer Factory will also be music to your ears. Make a pit-stop for a pint of Milk Stout or their new session ale, Fortitude.

Find out more about things to do in Bristol.


Train time from London: 47 minutes
Forget frantic airport dashes after work – followed by cabin baggage anxiety – in pursuit of fine continental wining and dining this May Bank Holiday. Instead, whisk yourself a mere 50 minutes beyond London to Dorking, where you’ll find pop-up food markets and the UK’s largest vineyard.

Formerly most famous for its chickens, this historic market town is making new waves thanks to the award-winning sparkling wine and rosé production at Denbies Wine Estate. As a special early May Bank Holiday event, the fine folk at Denbies are offering free tours of the vineyard (opens in a new tab) aboard their wine train, which is one of the best things to do in Dorking. Booking is essential for this 45-minute tour, where you can soak up some of the most beautiful viewpoints the vineyard has to offer before supping on a glass of the good stuff.

Find out more about things to do in Dorking.


Train time from London: 3 hours 20 minutes
This ancient city has way more to uncover than a normal weekend would allow, making it an ideal place to spend your bonus Bank Holiday day off.

Top of the list of things to do in Exeter is delving into its Underground Passages, a network of 400-metre tunnels that snake beneath the surface of the city and are the only ones in the UK open to visitors. Armed with a hard hat and a dollop of bravery, focus your tunnel vision on tales of ghostly happenings and war-time hiding places.

Come up for fresh air and freshly-baked cakes over at Exploding Bakery (opens in a new tab). Expect seismic effects on your taste buds, rather than cake on your face, with hand-made tray bakes of almond brownies, apricot flapjacks and sour cherry blondies.

Find out more about things to do in Exeter.