Six perfect spring getaways just outside of London

Relax, unwind, and get the hell out of the city this spring with these sweet day trip spots temptingly close to central London
Hastings Festival
© Duncan Price/Flickr
By Andy Hill |

Have you heard? Spring has officially sprung, people, and that’s your cue to escape the city and venture into the countryside. We know it’s scary outside the M25, but trust us, you won’t spontaneously combust as soon as your Oyster card stops working. Seaside spots, pagan festivals, art galleries, bluebell woods and secluded hamlets are all within easy reach, so you can be back in the world of 24-hour shops and tube journeys by tea time. We’ve rounded up the sweetest springtime spots that are only a hop, skip and short train ride away. They’re all spot-on options if you’re free over Easter weekend or have some extra leave days to fill. 

If you fancy a more ad hoc kind of day trip, check out our guide to the best places to visit within an hour of London. And if you’re in the mood to put your feet up and start suppin' at a brilliant Home Countries boozer, try our guide to perfect country pubs within reach of London.

RECOMMENDED: The best day trips from London

Spring day trips near London


For British seaside obsessives...

Go birdwatching in Dungeness

Dungeness occupies a striking promontory (a raised mass of land, to you and me) that juts into the English Channel. It boasts two lighthouses, a gorgeous shingle beach and a station serving the adorable Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch miniature steam railway. 

You can also explore the famous shingle garden at Prospect Cottage, Derek Jarman's beloved Dungeness bolthole. It's free to visit and you don't need a ticket; just rock up and potter around in Jarman's stunning selection of succulents.

The main attraction at this time of year, though, is birdwatching. At the RSPB’s stunning reserve you can chillax in a hide and gawp at waders in the wetlands or tramp along trails keeping an eye out for the welcome annual return to our shores of the Iceland gull, tree pipit and (if you’re lucky) a cheeky swallow.

£5, £2.50 under-16s, free under-fives. A little over two hours by car.

Brogale Hanami in a Hamlet

For Japanophiles...

Enjoy Hanami in a hamlet

Fans of Japanese culture will already be aware of hanami (it translates as ‘blossom viewing’), the annual celebration of springtime as heralded by the flowering of sakura (cherry trees). Well, there’s good news: this spring you need only travel as far as Kent. The pretty hamlet of Brogdale is home to the National Fruit Collection, boasting some 2,200 varieties of apple, 337 strains of plum and 285 species of cherry. So it’s the perfect spot to unfurl a picnic blanket, sink an appropriately pink-hued bottle of rosé and take some snaps. Even better, stop by on April 14 for a full-on festival of Japanese entertainments, tours and a tea ceremony.

Hanami picnic (bring your own food) from April 3-30 £11.50, £2.50 two-15s. Hanami Festival, Sat Apr 14, £9, £5 two-15s. Just over an hour by train from London St Pancras to Faversham, followed by a 15-minute bus ride. 

Ashridge Estate
© Getty Images

For nature hikers...

Hunt down the bluebells of Berkhamsted

At this time of year our nation’s woodlands become even prettier than usual, fetchingly swathed in a nodding, sun-dappled carpet of bluebells. And there’s nowhere finer than the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire to observe this easy-on-the eye phenomenon. Friendly National Trust experts will lead you on a two-mile stroll around the estate or, for hardier ramblers, a five-mile hike around evocatively named spots such as Sallow Copse, Dockey Wood and Aldbury Common to get the best view of these beautiful blooms. Pop on a pair of sturdy boots and remember to bring a packed lunch.

From £2.50. One hour and 20 mins by car.

Image: Getty Images


For gallery addicts...

Soak up some culture at Bexhill-on-Sea

Want more from your trip to the seaside than a stroll along the prom while seagulls try to steal your fish and chips? The De La Warr Pavilion on the East Sussex coast is a Grade I-listed modernist masterpiece, decked out with dramatic sweeping staircases and radical (for the 1930s) curved windows. Since 2005 it has also hosted award-winning theatre, music and comedy, plus a lot of (usually free) art in the huge gallery. And there’s a very respectable café serving breakfast, locally-caught fish dishes and great coffee. Check the website for other special events such as the Bexhill beer festival and craft workshops for kids. 

Just under two hours by train from London Victoria.

Cass Sculpture Foundation

For visual art lovers...

See sculpture on the downs

A day out at the Cass Sculpture Foundation combines all the grown-up gentility of a stroll around manicured country house grounds with the thrill of encountering cutting edge works of art. More than 50 large-scale contemporary pieces are tastefully set amid 26 acres of trees and gently undulating landscape, with two well-curated indoor galleries on hand in case of showers. The foundation is a leading investor in new and existing sculpture talent. It also hosts fun hands-on workshops for adults as well as storytime activities for kids.

There's no onsite café, though takeaway hot drinks and snacks are available, so pack a picnic and enjoy it in the grounds.

£12.50, £6.50 five-16s, free under-fives. Two hours by car.

Jack in the Green Festival
© David Fowler/Shutterstock

For secret pagans...

Get freaky in Hastings

Hop on a train this May Day weekend (May 4-7) to catch the Jack in the Green Festival, one of the oddest and most quintessentially English spectacles you’ll ever behold. In a tradition going back centuries – revived in the early ’80s by the local morris dancing club – revellers daub themselves with green paint in celebration of the coming summer and dance around like total pagans.

Live bands, giant puppets, flowery outfits, street drinking, town criers, a costumed parade through the Old Town and the slaying of Jack himself herald the (hopefully) balmy months to come in fine, tipsy style. 

An hour and a half by train from London Bridge.

Image: David Fowler/Shutterstock

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