15 dreamy day trips from London
Smaller, quieter and (whisper it) prettier than Oxford, Cambridge has its own language: bumps, backs, quads. Start your day with a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum, then refuel at Fitzbillies and buy a box of the sticky Chelsea buns to take home. Spend a couple of hours wandering around the colleges and King’s Chapel before taking to the river for a spot of punting: behatted guides will do the hard work, or you can hire a boat of your own (beware: it’s trickier than it looks). Come tea time, head for Grantchester and feast on scones in The Orchard, just like poet Rupert Brooke.
How far? 64 miles
Get there 45 minutes by train from London King’s Cross, or one hour 10 minutes from London Liverpool Street; around two hours by car.
Biking to green and pleasant Surrey is a wheely nice way to spend a Sunday (sorry) – plus, Box Hill was part of the 2012 Olympic road-cycling route. Start in Richmond Park and pedal down past Hampton Court – it should take you about two hours. After a 1.6 mile climb and some hairpin bends (easier than it sounds!), you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the North Downs from the top of Box Hill itself. Grab a slice of cake from the National Trust café, but save space for lunch at The Tree, which serves homemade pies and crumbles. Your last stop is Box Hill and Westhumble station, where you can load your bikes on to a train back to Waterloo. Whewf!
How far? 30 miles
Get there by bike (obviously). Plan the route carefully before you set out, and take a map and a puncture repair kit, plus water and snacks.
Attached to the mainland by a causeway that floods (and pub quizzers, take note: this is the UK’s most easterly inhabited island), Mersea feels properly, peacefully remote at high tide. The big draw is The Company Shed, which serves seafood platters that pull in crowds from all over the country every weekend. It’s BYOB – bring your own bread – and they don’t take bookings, so get there before noon to make sure you can feast on prawns, smoked fish, oysters and dressed crab. Speaking of which, catch-and-release crabbing is encouraged – there are specially marked areas near the water, and shops selling the kit. Or you can book a boat trip around the bay.
How far? 69 miles
Get there one hour by train from London Liverpool Street to Colchester, then a 45 minute bus to Mersea Island; around two hours by car. Don’t forget to check the tide timetable before you set off...
Dinky, pastel-coloured Chichester looks like it’s been built of macarons – but it’s more than just a pretty face. Start at the Norman-meets-Gothic cathedral before moving onto the Pallant House Gallery, home to brilliantly curated exhibitions, a first-class bookshop and a courtyard cafe that gives Rochelle Canteen a run for its money. Some of the best bits of Sussex are an easy drive (or, if you’re feeling full of beans, a slightly less easy bike ride) away, from the Goodwood Estate to West Dean Gardens and the gorgeous sandy beach at West Wittering.
How far? 80 miles
Get there one hour 30 minutes from London Vicotoria; around two hours by car. Car is best, so you can really explore.
The Bard, of course, is the big draw here, and Shakespeare’s house, his wife Anne Hathaway’s cottage and the RSC’s home theatre are all must-sees. But Stratford’s more than just a Tudor Disneyland, you know. Take a boat tour of the canal basin to find out more about the West Midlands’ waterways, refresh yourselves in the Grade II-listed Old Thatch Tavern, stop for a scoop of Eton Mess ice cream at Hooray’s British Gelato Kitchen and pick up some local Berkswell to take home from posh cheesemonger Paxton & Whitfield (sorry, fellow travellers).
How far? 104 miles
Get there two hours 15 minutes by train from London Marylebone; around two hours by car.
Looking for more day trips from London?
Put away your passport and check out the ultimate UK break bucket list for 2019
Steamy saunas, glowing gardens and bracing winter walks
For shrimp and sole fresh from the ocean
Who’s for a booze cruise?
Picture-perfect English country villages closer than you think
Withlocals Universal Widget Paris
Snap up exclusive discounts in London
Time Out's handpicked deals — hurry, they won't be around for long...