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Art day-trips from London

We round up the best arty excursions within easy reach of the capital


A quintessentially curvy example of 1930s modernism, the De La Warr Pavilion gets a fittingly slinky summer show in ‘Bridget Riley: The Curve Paintings 1961-2014’, a retrospective of the op art pioneer’s most ravishing works, ranging from classic black-and-white examples from the swinging ’60s to a recent wall painting in red hot hues that’s never been seen before in the UK. 

While you’re there: You’re right on the beach, so pack your flip-flops (there’s great ice cream at the chippy over the road, by the way).

De La Warr Pavilion, East Sussex TN40 1DP. www.dlwp.com. Train from Victoria one hour 40 minutes. Until Sep 6. Free.


The Tardis-like Fry Art Gallery packs a massive amount into its quaintly diminutive premises. The collection is built around the work of Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, local artists who defined the look of graphic art in the WWII era, and its these and other famous Essex lads who are celebrated in ‘From Eric Ravilious to Grayson Perry’

While you’re there Run by English Heritage Audley End House and Gardens is a jewel of a Jacobean mansion, with grounds remodelled by the eighteenth century go-to guy for giant lakes and ha-has, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

The Fry Art Gallery, Castle Street, Saffron Walden, CB10 1BD. www.fryartgallery.org. Train from Liverpool St to Audley End, 49 minutes, then bus. Until Oct 25. Free. 


Walter Sickert (1860-1942) is synonymous with scenes of London’s theatreland and grim Camden lodging houses but for more than 30 years he spent nearly every summer in Dieppe, living there permanently between 1898 and 1905 with a mistress (who ran a stall in the fish market). ‘Sickert in Dieppe’ looks at his enduring affair with the Normandy town, while a smaller display examines Sickert’s influence on subsequent generations of artists including David Bomberg and Frank Auerbach.  

While you’re there: With a fine, permanent collection of British modern art featuring works by Richard Hamilton and Howard Hodgkin, a restaurant and ace second-hand art books for sale in the shop, Pallant House is a great place to lose a few leisurely hours. Also check out modernist gems by John Piper, Graham Sutherland and others at Chichester Cathedral, where you’ll also find a stained glass window by Marc Chagall.

Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, PO19 1TJ. www.pallant.org.uk. Train from Victoria one hour 32 minutes. Until Oct 4. £5.50-£9.


The Jerwood Gallery is located next to Hastings fishing beach, with the English Channel practically lapping at its doors,so it’s no surprise that its temporary exhibitions often have a maritime theme. As part of the summer Festival of the Sea you can see specially created drawings of local characters in underwater pursuits ‘Life Under Water – A Hastings Celebration’ by the Kent-born illustrator Quentin Blake. The lesser-known seaside paintings of one of Britain’s most beloved painters are showcased in the two-room display: ‘Lowry by the Sea’. And ticking the contemporary art box is Rachel Howard’s sublime abstract paintings in ‘Rachel Howard: At Sea’, which evoke the sense of drifting across waves and misty watery vistas.

While you’re there: Do your best Johnny Depp ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ impression as you explore the sandstone depths of St Clements Caves, where smugglers used to hide their treasure.

Jerwood Gallery, East Sussex, TN34 3DW. www.jerwoodgallery.org. Train from Charing Cross/Victoria/St Pancras International one hour 30 minutes. Until Oct 15. £8, £3.50-£5.50 concs. 


A rebel of the Romantic period, JMW Turner would thoroughly enjoy ‘Grayson Perry: Provincial Punk’. Never one to conform, our favourite cross-dressing artist presents his witty and subversive work from the past 30 years. The show includes rarely seen super-8 films and recent tapestries. But it’s the extensive display of Perry’s glazed pots that have the most impact. 

While you’re there: Scream if you want to go faster on the rides at the recently restored Dreamland Margate, an old-school amusement park revived to its candyfloss-coloured best.

Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, CT9 1HG. www.turnercontemporary.org. High-speed train from St Pancras International, one hour 28 minutes. Until Sep 13. Free.


Durslade Farm on the outskirts of the small town of Bruton was transformed into a thriving multi-purpose art centre by the commercial art powerhouse Hauser & Wirth in 2014. The gallery celebrates its first year with a beautiful Piet Oudolf-designed garden now in full bloom and a wordy conceptual art exhibition ‘Jenny Holzer: Softer Targets’. The American artist’s LED sculptures light up the Threshing Barn and adjoining galleries, while in the courtyard her stone benches allow for some contemplative respite with their poetic odes. 

While you’re there: Give yourself enough time to sample the delicious seasonal fare at the gallery’s restaurant Roth Bar & Grill (all produce is either from the gallery’s working farm or sourced locally) or take a perch at the brilliantly chaotic bar designed by artist Dieter Roth’s son and grandson.

Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Dropping Lane, Bruton, BA10 0NL. www.hauserwirthsomerset.com. Train from Paddington, around two hours (change at Westbury for Bruton). Until Nov 1. Free.


Everyone’s favourite patricidal loony painter of luminously detailed fantasies, Richard Dadd, is the focus of ‘The Art of Bedlam: Richard Dadd’ which includes his masterpiece ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke’ (1855) on loan from the Tate. Dadd is an exact contemporary of doughty Victorian symbolist George Frederic Watts, who first opened this purpose-built museum dedicated to his work in 1904. Refurbished in 2011, it’s a gem of a gallery that contains a permanent display of 100 paintings by Watts as well as temporary exhibition spaces and a shop.

While you’re there: Stroll round the corner to the Watts Chapel, the fantastically ornate arts and crafts building which Mary Watts had built in memory of her husband. In fact the whole outing can be done as an easy seven-mile walk from Wanborough to Godalming across the North Downs Ridge (www.walkingclub.org.uk). 

Watts Gallery, Down Lane, Compton, Guildford, GU3 1DQ. www.wattsgallery.org.uk. Train from Waterloo to Guildford, 33 minutes, then bus number 46. Until Nov 1. £3.75-£8.50.


Contrary to this show’s subtitle The Painter that Britain forgot’, William Gear hasn’t quite been erased from public memory. But, he’s not as well known as his contemporaries such as Alan Davie and Roger Hilton. Which is a shame because Geer, who in addition to being an accomplished painter was Towner’s curator from 1958 until 1964, was a controversial modernist whose work is in prestigious public collections including the Tate. He trained under Fernand Léger in Paris in the 1930s and, while Geer liked to put his fondness for dividing his paintings with thick black lines down to subconscious memories of the pit-head winding gear of his youth (the son of a coalminer, he was born in Fife in 1915), the influence of his mentor looms large. This show features more than 100 works. A second, smaller display focuses on his influence as a curator.

While you’re there Why not treat yourself to afternoon tea at the Grand Hotel (£25.50 per person), then walk it off by strolling to Beachy Head, an hour’s walk along a stunning stretch of coast.

Towner, Devonshire Park, College Rd, Eastbourne, BN21 4JJ. www. townereastbourne.org.uk. Train from Victoria, 1 hour 28 minutes. Until Sep 27. £3.50-£7.


‘Laura Ford at Strawberry Hill House’ is the ideal first contemporary art exhibition at Horace Walpole’s gothic castle – a house that was designed to create surprise and wonder. Within the renovated interiors you’ll find curious cloth and ceramic works playfully lurking in the shadows, while life-size sculptures of pensive cats pace about on the lawn.

While you’re there: After all the gothic musings you’ll be in need of a potion or two, so head to Twickenham Fine Ales to sup some craft nectar at London’s first microbrewery.

Strawberry Hill House, 268 Waldegrave Rd, Twickenham, TW1 4ST. www.strawberryhillhouse.org.uk. Train from Waterloo, 40 minutes. Until Oct 31. £10.80; £5.40 concs; free under-16s.

As much as we love London for its museums and galleries, sometimes a day out is what's called for, which is why we've selected our favourite art-filled trips out of town. All the excursions listed below, including Turner Contemporary in Margate and Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, are within an hour and a half of the capital by train, so pick your destination then get planning!

Get outta town: art day-trips venues

Bexhill-on-Sea: De La Warr Pavilion

Commissioned in 1935, the Grade I listed De La Warr Pavilion is the UK’s first Modernist building. Designed by Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, this bold concrete and steel structure reopened in 2007 after an £8 million restoration project. With no permanent collection, the De La Warr’s versatile exhibition space offers a dynamic programme of cultural events by exhibiting some of the most contemporary talent, art, and live performances.

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Chichester: Pallant House Gallery

Reflected even in its architecture; a combination of a Grade I listed townhouse dating back to 1712 and a contemporary wing added in 2006, Pallant House Gallery creates a perfect contrast between Modern British Art and its central location in the old historic city of Chichester. Pallant House is home to some of the best works of Modern British Art housing both temporary and permanent exhibitions ranging from Post-Impressionist works by Walter Sickert, to Surrealist pieces by John Armstrong and Eileen Agar, to Peter Blake’s Pop Art. 

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Colchester: Firstsite

Firstsite is a visual arts organisation founded in 1994 exhibiting both established and emerging artists. Based in Colchester, the crescent shaped building which appears to weave around the natural landscape, reflecting light on its shimmering copper-aluminium cladded exterior is the vision of the design competition winner Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly. Through its extensive programme of exhibitions, events, screenings and workshops, Firstsite aims to make contemporary art accessible to all.

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Eastbourne: Towner

Towner is a contemporary art museum best known for its collection of modern British art including an extensive body of work by Eric Ravilions. The museum was born in the early 1920s when 22 paintings were bequeathed by John Chisholm Towner with the intention of forming a public art collection. Originally opening to the public in 1923, the Towner collection grew from 22 works to now around 4000. In 2009 the new Towner building was opened in order to accommodate the expansion and today the museum offers a rotating permanent collection as well as temporary exhibitions, free daily guided tours and is currently working on getting their entire collection available to view online.

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Hastings: Jerwood Gallery

Made up of seven exhibition rooms and housing a collection of 20th and 21st century art, the Jerwood Gallery is one of the UK’s major collections of Modern British Art. Overlooking the fishing beach in the Old Town of Hastings, the permanent collection at Jerwood includes paintings and prints by Lawrence Stephen Lowry, Sir Stanley Spencer and Augustus John. The Foreshore Gallery, situated on the ground floor, is the home of regularly changing temporary exhibitions showcasing some of the best modern and contemporary British visual arts.

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Margate: Turner Contemporary

Bold and dramatic, the Turner Contemporary art gallery designed by David Chipperfield opened in April 2011. Situated on the Margate harbour, the building stands in the same place as the famous ‘Cold Harbour’ guesthouse in which Turner stayed on his many visits to Margate. The views of the North Kent Coast and Thanet light that can be seen from the gallery are the same views which inspired much of Turner’s work. Whilst ensuring to always have at least one of Turner’s works on display at the gallery, the Turner Contemporary has no permanent collection and instead relies on loans from other galleries and its dynamic temporary exhibitions.

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Saffron Walden: Fry Art Gallery

The Tardis-like Fry Art Gallery packs a massive amount into its quaintly diminutive premises. The collection is built around the work of Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, local artists who defined the look of graphic art in the WWII era.

Read more

Somerset: Hauser & Wirth Somerset

The Swiss-owned commercial art gallery Hauser & Wirth opened their Somerset outpost in 2014. On the outskirts of Bruton, the Grade II listed farm buildings of Durslade Farm, including a Farmhouse, Stables, Cow Sheds, Piggery and Threshing Barn, were transformed into the multipurpose art centre by parisian architects Laplace. In addition to the five galleries that showcase a varied contemporary art programme throughout the year, Hauser & Wirth Somerset can boast one of the prettiest perennial meadows designed by the renowned landscape designer, Piet Oudolf, which has now become the home of the Radić Pavilion (Serpentine Gallery 2014 Pavilion).

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Surrey: Watts Gallery

Victorian symbolist George Frederic Watts, who first opened this purpose-built museum dedicated to his work in 1904. Refurbished in 2011, it’s a gem of a gallery that contains a permanent display of 100 paintings by Watts as well as temporary exhibition spaces and a shop.

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Twickenham: Strawberry Hill House

The restored Strawberry Hill House, created by Horace Walpole in the eighteenth century and recognised as one of the finest examples of Georgian Gothic revival architecture, reopened to the public in 2010. Walpole's private rooms are now open to the public – after major restoration – for the first time since the 1700s. You will at last be able to admire the lavish decor in Walpole's bedroom, the Turkish motifs on the tented ceiling over the breakfast room and the study in which Walpole effectively invented the Gothic novel: here he wrote 'The Castle of Otranto'.

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Strawberry Hill