Now that lockdown is past us, eyes are on making the most of our new-found freedom. And whilst London is a truly spectacular city, there’s a whole world out there worth exploring.
We’ve picked out nine great days out from London – all easily accessible by train and all worth a day away from the city to explore the great outdoors.
Great for: cyclists
The green and pleasant Surrey is all-the-more sweeter when you’ve had to work for it a bit first. Head to Richmond station with your bike and cycle down past Hampton Court (you can follow our recommended route or make your own), and continue to Box Hill. After a solid mile-and-a-half climb and a few hairpin bends through Surrey’s equivalent of a Tour de France alpine stage you’ll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views in the south of England – the peak of Box Hill.
The New Forest is just 100 miles from London – but you’d think it was another continent. Free-roaming pigs and highland cattle roam alongside the wild ponies – who’ve enjoyed freedom of the land for thousands of years.
Getting around is easy too – head to Brockenhurst for all-day cycle hire, and drop them back off when you head to catch the train home. Fancy an easier way to get around? Hire a two-seater electric Twizy and zip about to your hearts content – just remember that the animals have right of way!
Horror movie buffs will remember that Guildford Cathedral featured in hit film Omen (and you can see where movies have been made in our filming locations blog), but there’s a lot more to this city! Sunny days mean a dip at Guildford Lido, or keep your feet dry and lounge at Dapdune Wharf. Beer lovers can also head out to the Hogs Back Brewery for a tour and tasting session.
Dominated by the royal residence that is Windsor Castle, the rest of beautiful Windsor is often overlooked. Stick around and you’ll find a charming riverside town with parks filled with wildlife, world-class horse racing, and a beautiful stretch of the Thames to test your skills at the helm of a kayak.
An easy trip to Salisbury station means you’re just a bus ride away from the iconic monument that is Stonehenge. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the debate over just what the purpose of these stones was still rages today (although popular opinion still remains that the location was a sight of prayer).
A sunny day helps to make the most of the gorgeous English scenery – but Stonehenge itself is spectacular all year round.
Isle of Wight
Great for: dinosaur hunters
With the recent discovery of Vectaerovenator inopinatus – closely related to the T. rex – it’s a timely reminder of why the Isle of Wight is known as the “Dinosaur Isle”! The beaches here are awash with fossils (check out our recommendations on fossil-hunting by train) and it’s a rare day where you don’t leave with something.
But there’s still plenty more to see! Walkers will enjoy a ramble across the Ventnor Downs, or to see the medieval lighthouse known as the pepperpot, and sunbathers can make use of the ample beaches at Sandown and Shanklin to relax and unwind.
Great for: fans of Tudor history
Home of the oldest surviving hedge maze in the world, Hampton is all about the palace. Home of Henry VIII (and all six of his wives at some point or another), the palace is less than 45 minutes from Central London, and just a short walk from Hampton Court station.
Outside the palace, you’re within easy reach of Hampton and Bushy Park, plenty of museums, and gems like the Temple to Shakespeare – and it’s easy to get home in time for tea.
Great for: fans of period dramas
Four years since the last episode, but period drama Downton Abbey still captures our hearts. But did you know it was filmed here in the heart of Hampshire? Head toAndover for a 20-minute taxi trip to this beautiful spot.
Highclere Castle is open all year round, with castle tours, cabaret shows and informative talks about what goes into maintaining a castle and grounds of its size taking place throughout the year. There are also plenty of walks through the public footpaths that cross the grounds, even when the castle isn’t open for visitors.
Great for: literary fans
The nation’s favourite novelist penned some of her most famous works here – and now it’s a hands-on, no-dust-involved museum just a short trip from Alton. You’ll be able to read some of Jane Austen’s personal letters, see the desk where she wrote some of the world’s foremost pieces of literature, and explore the property where she lived. Sunny days make the beautiful cottage garden alone worth a trip.