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st johns cambridge

Ten great escapes from London by train

Try these short journeys out of town on the Thameslink and Great Northern networks in search of something different this weekend

Time Out in association with Thameslink

Any plans this weekend? Fancy wine tasting at one of England's finest, award winning vineyards? How about escaping from it all on a stunning coastal break or losing yourself in a field of Lavender? From fine dining by the beach to vintage shopping and cosy pubs in pretty villages, read on and be inspired by our pick of great escapes. All of these destinations are easy to reach by train, too, so you can truly relax and make the most of the last days of summer.

If action-packed adventure is more your thing, get active on these eight great days out.

Or if you want to escape with the family this weekend, check out our ten great days out to keep the kids happy.

garlic and herb lobster

Watch the world go by on Brighton seafront

Riddle & Finns’ beachfront restaurant is more tuna tartare and oysters than fish ’n’ chips, but you can’t quibble with the freshness of the food or the location, right on the sea. Ideal if you want to impress a significant other…

Riddle & Finns, 139 Kings Road Arches, Brighton, BN1 2FN

Getting there: Brighton rail


Losing yourself in a field of lavender

From spring until autumn, Hitchin Lavender in Hertfordshire is a scented heaven, complete with summer film screenings at dusk (in August) and a farm shop that sell products made from their lavender. Open until Sept 18.

Cadwell Farm, Ickleford, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, SG5 3UA

Getting there: Hitchin rail

st albans

Unearthing a treasure

St Albans is easy to get to from London and is full of quirky vintage and antique shops just perfect for finding something unique for your home or for a friend. One of the best is LA James, which has been selling antiques and collectibles including Moorcroft pottery, Steiff bears and fossils for over 60 years.

LA James, 11 George St, AL3 4ER

Getting there: St Albans City rail

st johns cambridge

Tucking into first-class street food

Thirsty Cambridge has become the hippest hangout in this uni town for it’s brilliantly simple idea: an independent bottle shop (wines and beers by the bottle or refill, drink in or take away) that hosts a different food truck each day. Genius. Pick up a something good and enjoy it by the river.

Thirsty Cambridge, 46 Chesterton Rd, Cambridge

Getting there: Cambridge rail


Walking in wine country

The south of England now boasts a handful of serious winemaking contenders, including the team at Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex. The landscape of tidy rows of vines stretching out on rolling hills make it a relaxing setting for a country stroll, with the added pleasure of a tasting at the end of it.

Bolney Wine Estate, Foxhole Lane, Bolney, Haywards Heath, RH17 5NB

Getting there: Haywards Heath rail

eynsford tea room
© David Clack

Chatting over tea and cakes in Eynsford

One of England’s prettiest villages is a wonderful place to escape for a lazy afternoon as if you’ve stepped back in time. Take a stroll from the station to the nearby remains of a Norman castle (managed by English Heritage and free to visit) then head back into the village, rewarding yourselves with something sweet and home baked in Eynsford’s charming little tea room.

Riverside Tea Room, 2a Riverside, Eynsford, Kent, DA4 0AE

Getting there: Eynsford rail

kings head, winchmore hill

Drawing and drinking in Winchmore Hill

Fancy the country pub experience but haven’t got time to get out of town? A short trip north from Moorgate brings you to this leafy village in the suburbs. On the green there are a few little shops and cafés, and at the far end you’ll find the charming King’s Head pub. In summer they have weekend barbecues, and on Tuesday evenings, there’s a regular life drawing lesson – all welcome!

1 The Green, Winchmore Hill, London, N21 1BB

Getting there: Winchmore Hill rail

ely cathedral

Strolling around history

Ely Cathedral has a history stretching back to 672AD and the present building goes back to Norman times. Visit today for concerts, exhibitions and the stunning architecture, then check out Oliver Cromwell’s House or simply head to the waterside quarter, for cafés, art galleries and antique shops. On Saturdays there’s a food, crafts and collectibles market, too.

Ely Cathedral, Chapter House, The College, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4DL

Getting there: Ely rail

kings lynn, estuary

Escape from it all on a coastal break

In less than two hours by train from King’s Cross you can be in one of the loveliest towns in East Anglia. Nestled just below The Wash, King’s Lynn is a beautiful old town with cobbled lanes and lots of character. The waterfront is stunning for big skies and romantic sunsets and it’s a great place to set on of a nature walk or to simply chill out and have a wander round the boutiques before lunch.

King’s Lynn, Norfolk

Getting there: King’s Lynn rail

ye olde fighting cock
© Greg Balfour Evans

Cosying up in a perfect olde worlde pub

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans is officially recognised as England’s oldest pub by the Guinness Book of Records, so expect heaps of character and a nasty bump on the head if you don’t’ mind those low ceiling beams… They serve a great pint and excellent, home-cooked pub grub.

16 Abbey Mill Lane, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL3 4HE

Getting there: St Albans City

lavender field

Thameslink offer

Thameslink operates train services to and from the heart of London, between Bedford and Brighton via Luton and Gatwick Airport, and St Albans and Wimbledon.

Great Northern connects King’s Lynn, Cambridge and Peterborough, via Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City with London King’s Cross. Metro services run to and from Moorgate weekdays, late evening and at weekends.

Kids travel for just £2 when accompanied by an adult on our great value Off-Peak tickets, plus get 2FOR1 offers to heaps of attractions when you travel by train.


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