While London’s metropolis provides no shortage of things to see or do, there are a lot of great places outside of the city as well. From university cities to spa towns to the countryside – England outside of London has a lot to offer. Here are three perfect day trips to make the most of your time outside the city.
Day Trip 1: Bath
About Bath: Set in the rolling countryside of southwest England, the city of Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its Roman bath houses and honey-colored Georgian architecture. Bath makes a great day trip destination that is compact and can easily be seen on foot.
What To See and Do:
Pulteney Bridge and Weir
Once you’ve arrived at Bath Spa station, it’s a short walk over to the Pulteney Bridge and Weir. The Pulteney Bridge is notable because it is one of only four bridges in the world with shops across the full span on both sides. Designed by Robert Adam and completed in 1773, it overlooks the impressive Pulteney Weir. In warmer months, boats leave from the Weir for rides along the River Avon.
Sally Lunn Bun
Dating back to 1483, Sally Lunn’s Eating House is Bath’s oldest house and more famously known as the home of the Sally Lunn bun.
The legend goes that Sally Lunn was a Huguenot refugee who fled France for Bath in 1680 to escape persecution. She found work in the kitchen of the bakery, and began baking a rich, generous brioche bun similar to the French breads that she would have been familiar with at home – what we now know as Sally Lunn’s buns today.
A Sally Lunn bun is comprised of a sweet top bun, and a bottom savory bun. You’re able to order a sweet top bun, savory bottom bun, or full bun to experience both!
An absolute must-do in Bath is a visit to The Roman Baths. Built by the Romans in the 1st century AD, and later rediscovered by the Victorians, the baths are fueled by hot springs that output over a million liters of hot water each day. You can wander the rooms that made up the baths, including the large open air ‘Great Bath’, and learn about the history of Bath Spa. Make sure you get a taste of the “bath” water served at the end of the tour. Prices for entry into the Roman Baths can be found here.
As a striking crescent of houses designed by John Wood and completed in 1774, the Royal Crescent is a prime example of architecture that shows off Bath’s rise to fame as a Georgian spa city.
While most of the houses remain residences today, No. 1 Royal Crescent is a home along the Royal Crescent that has been turned into a heritage museum. It is redecorated and furnished to show how it might have appeared in the late 18th century. Entry to the museum is £10 per adult (£7 for seniors/students, £4 for children).
Getting There: Bath is a 1.5 hour train ride from Paddington Station. Once in Bath, all attractions can be seen by foot.
Day Trip 2: Cambridge
About Cambridge: While Cambridge is most well known for the university bearing its name, there’s much more to the town that just that. Take a ride on a punting boat, eat a delicious Chelsea bun, and marvel at quaint streets and open-air markets.
What To See and Do:
Fitzbillies, a popular Cambridge cafe, has been producing their famous Chelsea buns since 1921. A Chelsea bun is a British currant bun similar to a cinnamon roll, but with raisins. Eat in or take one to go as you walk along the River Cam.
Punting Boat Ride
Punting boat roads on the River Cam are popular must-do in Cambridge. A punt is a flat bottomed boat, and is pushed along with a pole by the punter. As we kept snug on the boat with blankets, our punter pushed us by the scenic backs of the various Cambridge colleges and gave us a bit of history on the school.
Tour of Cambridge’s Colleges
Through Visit Cambridge Official Tours, there are tours of Cambridge’s colleges. I did the medieval college walking tour, visiting Pembroke College and Queens’ College. Pembroke was founded in 1347, and Queens’ College in 1448. Pembroke College also has a Chapel that was built by Sir Christopher Wren, who also built St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Getting there: Cambridge is a 45 minute train ride from Kings Cross Station or a 1 hour train ride from Finsbury Park Station. Once in Cambridge, all attractions can be seen by foot.
Day Trip 3: The Cotswolds
About the Cotswolds: The Cotswolds are the quintessential English countryside – picture rolling hills marked by villages with quaint cottages, cozy pubs, and traditional tea rooms.
What To See and Do:
Broadway Tower is located in the aptly named Broadway village. Broadway Tower was built on Broadway Hill, the second highest point in the Cotswolds.
Completed in 1798, Broadway Tower was the brainchild of the great 18th century landscaper Capability Brown (who also designed the gardens at Highclere Castle, better known as Downtown Abbey!). It was built for Lady Coventry, who wondered whether a tower on this hill could be seen from her home 22 miles away in Worcester, which it could.
Today you can visit and climb up the tower (admission is £5 adult/£4.50 concessions/£3 children) to learn about the tower’s history in exhibits on each landing, and to take in the spectacular views across the Cotswolds from the top.
Village of Broadway
The village of Broadway has been named the “Jewel of the Cotswolds”, and not without reason. The wide grass-fringed streets lined with honey-colored limestone buildings, many dating back to the 16th century, create a pleasant setting in this village. The High Street is lined with a variety of shops, cafes, and art galleries.
Sudeley Castle and Gardens
Sudeley Castle is the former home of Catherine Parr, King Henry VIII’s 6th wife. After King Henry VIII’s death she lived in the castle with her true love, Thomas Seymour, but died shortly after giving birth. She is buried in St Mary’s Chapel, on the castle grounds.
There’s more to Sudeley Castle than Catherine Parr though; exhibits on the current family that have owned the castle for a few hundred years can be seen. You can also spend time walking around the award winning gardens.
Getting there: The Cotswolds will require a car. You can either rent one from Oxford (a 1 hour train ride away) and drive 40 minutes to the Cotswolds, or rent a car directly from London and drive 2 hours.
What’s your favorite London day trip? Which of these would you most like to visit?