It’s no secret that London is one of the most exciting places in the world, but it can also be pretty exhausting at times. So, pack the car or hop on the train and, before you know it, you’ll be eating oysters in Whitstable, strolling along the prom in Southend or sipping a glass of bubbly next to the river in Henley. Here are our 10 top holiday spots that’re just a short trip from London.
Sitting on the English Channel in Kent, this pretty port town has a fascinating history and a spectacular coastline. If you like walking in beautiful surroundings, you’ll love Folkestone. Explore the East Cliff and Warren Country Park where you might spot a seal or two. Families will enjoy walking in the Lower Leas Coastal Park with its sandy beaches and adventure playground. For a romantic stroll in the evening, take a walk at Folkestone Harbour Arm where you can stop for a drink at one of the many bars and coffee shops on the way. And if you’re looking for a memento of your stay, head to the Creative Quarter where you’ll find handmade gifts, art and clothing.
If you revel in a day out at the races, you’ve might have already been to this picturesque town in Berkshire. Aside from the fantastic racecourse, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Newbury. Downton Abbey fans should check out the grand Highclere Castle; the setting for Lord and Lady Grantham’s stately abode. If you’re visiting in early spring, a highlight in Newbury is the carpet of snowdrops that cover the ground at the stunning Welford Park. Snelsmore Common Country Park is also a must for nature-lovers with its spacious picnic areas and rambling paths. Looking for something to do in the evening? There are some fantastic restaurants and the Corn Exchange is the place to go to watch comedy, theatre and music.
This classic seaside resort is around 40 miles from central London and around a 50-minute train ride; it’s a great choice for London-dwellers who want to escape to the coast for the weekend. There’s something for everyone in Southend. The glittering stretch of sandy beach is perfect for families seeking somewhere to relax, build sandcastles and go for a dip. In the evening, the nightlife is vibrant and exciting, making it a great choice for hen or stag weekends. Couples will love strolling along the pier (which is the longest pleasure pier in the world!) and stopping at a quirky café for a little light refreshment. And if you want to see a quieter side of Southend, head to Old Leigh – a quaint fishing village just three miles down the coast.
Board a train from London Victoria and in around an hour you’ll be in the gorgeous village of Pulborough, on the banks of the River Arun. The pretty Georgian buildings, the RSPB Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve and the atmospheric remains of Pulborough Castle are a treat for the eyes. There are also some fascinating historical sights to see in this large village, such as Bignor Roman Villa and St. Botolph’s Church. For a relaxing day out, why not take a ride on the South Downs Light Railway before taking a tour of Stopham Vineyard? There are some gorgeous gastropubs nearby, including The White Hart, so if you want to enjoy a cosy meal out in the evening, you’ll have plenty of choice.
The historic market town of Faversham, nestled in the South Downs, is famous for its amazing farmers’ markets. Why not spend the evening cooking up a tasty dish at an amazing holiday rental? Not only will you find local produce at the market, from sausages to cider, but there are also antiques on sale, live music and arts and crafts, meaning a browse here is a morning well spent. Other must-dos include a walk around the Oare Marshes Nature Reserve, a tour of the Shepherd Neame Visitor Centre and Brewery and watching a show at the Arden Theatre.
Henley is renowned for rowing. The town’s main event each year is the Henley Royal Regatta which has been taking place for over 175 years. If you want to watch the race and join the celebrations this year, book a break in Henley on 29 June – 3 July, but be quick! Tickets are selling fast. But the regatta isn’t the only reason to say “goodbye” to London and “hello” to Henley for a while. This countryside retreat is packed with things to do, such as sampling some locally brewed craft ale at Lovibonds Brewery, finding out about the history of rowing at the River and Rowing Museum and exploring the peaceful Warburg Nature Reserve.
When it comes to shopping, London is pretty hard to beat. But if you’re looking for specialist shops and boutiques that are just a stone’s throw from beautiful countryside, Maidstone is for you. There’s an eclectic mix of shops selling everything from kitchen gadgets to vintage clothes. There are plenty of ways to keep the whole family entertained, such as exploring Leeds Castle, petting the farm animals at the Kent Life heritage centre and relaxing with a picnic in Mote Park. And for something completely different, how about a visit to Teapot Island? This family-run café has the largest collection of teapots in England and have a few (well, around 4,000) for sale too!
This pretty village tucked away in Surrey is the perfect romantic escape for couples needing a weekend away from the Big Smoke. Despite easy links to the M25, Chobham has retained its traditional English village charm. As the largest National Nature Reserve in the south east of England, Chobham Common is ideal for long countryside walks surrounded by beautiful scenery. Look out for rare species, such as the sand lizard and the silver-studded blue butterfly. Don’t forget your camera! After a day exploring the area, tuck into some proper pub grub at The Four Horseshoes or The Sun Inn in the heart of the village.
One of Lewes’ most notable events in the calendar is the annual bonfire celebrations on the 5 November. The Daily Telegraph once described the night as “a head-on collision of Halloween and Mardi Gras”, so if you’re looking for something different this bonfire night, book a rental in Lewes. There are lots of other events taking place throughout the year, including the family-friendly Faerie Festival in May, the beer and cider festival in June and live theatre performances at Charleston. If you’re into opera, then you’ll love the festival at Glyndebourne House. It recently won Festival of the Year at the 2016 International Opera Awards, so you’re in safe hands.
When you think of Whitstable, oysters may spring to mind. That’s because this seaside town on the north coast of Kent is world-famous for this delectable seafood dish. In fact, Whitstable is so proud of its fishing heritage, there’s a festival dedicated entirely to oysters. Events include live music, mud tug ‘o’ war and, of course, a magnificent harbour food fair. When you’re not indulging in oysters, Whitstable is swimming with things to see and do. Soak up the sun on Tankerton Beach, explore the atmospheric Whitstable Castles and Gardens or peruse some exhibitions at the Horsebridge Arts and Community Centre.