Day trips from London:

by Hadi Al Khatib

London is the perfect base to explore a little more of England on a day trip – and the city’s extensive railway network makes day tripping easy. You’ll escape the city, get a taste of Britain’s different regions and witness the country’s rich history up close. The scenic train trips are hugely enjoyable in themselves, as you watch the city give way to the great British countryside and an entirely different way of life.

With day trips from London by train, you’ll discover medieval streets, ancient deer parks, fishing fleets, battle fields and picture-perfect countryside castles. Read on for our guide to the most inspired in-a-day destinations from the capital.


Visit Bath and you’ll step into a romantic, Regency dream. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen-style romance, you’ll be familiar with the city’s golden hues, as many films and TV shows set in the period are filmed here. It’s so pretty that it does sometimes seem like a film set, but Bath is so much more than that. Get ready for a characterful and unique city that’s positively humming with history and culture.

Bath is very compact, so you can walk to all the main attractions in a day. Just 1.5 hours away on the train from Paddington, Bath was founded by the Romans as a thermal spa – and the Roman Baths will undoubtedly be the highlight of your day trip from London. An important center of the wool industry in the Middle Ages, Bath came into its own during the reign of George III in the 18th century. This was when Bath transformed into an elegant town filled with neoclassical Palladian buildings.

It’s worth spending a couple of hours touring the Roman Baths, as they take you back in time very effectively with a fascinating and immersive walkthrough tour. Back out in the sunlight, Bath Abbey and Pulteney Bridge are both a short walk away, and you could lunch at Sally Lunn’s Historic Teahouse and Museum, built in 1483.

Literary fans, head over to the Jane Austen Centre. This is a fun museum where costumed guides welcome you to the author’s England with dressing up clothes, a Regency tasting menu and writing with a quill pen. Afterwards, walk the iconic Royal Crescent and your day is perhaps complete. You’ll find it hard to drag yourself back into the 20th century, but you can make the transition gently on the train back to modern-day London.

For more in-depth intel on things to do in Bath, check out what locals had to say to The Window Seat.


These two gems lie southeast of London, in the county of East Sussex. On a quick and direct train route from Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Bridge stations, they’re ideal as a refreshing history-and-seaside day trip combo.

You’ll reach Battle station in one hour and 32 minutes – the pleasant walk to the Abbey taking just 12 minutes. Here, the invading Norman-French army fought a bloody, all-day battle against the English army under King Harold Godwinson on 14 October 1066. By the end of that day, Harold was dead, and the duke was William the Conqueror.

Take the evocative audio tour – there’s a separate, funnier version for kids – and hear the story unfold as you walk around England’s most famous battlefield. Later, you’ll see the exact spot where Harold died as you tour the evocative ruined abbey.

On leaving Battle Abbey, grab a bite to eat (there’s a café in the Abbey too), and return to the station to await the next train to Hastings (the last stop on the line) – there are two every hour. With the London crowds far behind you, this is a beautiful, rural train route to the sea.

Once you step aboard, it’s a 10 minute walk to the beach and a wander along the shoreline towards Rock-a-Nore. Eventually, you’ll see a number of brightly colored fishing boats on The Stade (the old Saxon term for “landing place”), home to Britain’s biggest beach-launched fishing fleet. You might see one returning with its haul, clouds of seagulls flocking around the hull.

Behind the boats, you’ll find the net shops. These unique, tall wooden sheds used to house the fishing gear. There’s a fascinating Fishermen’s Museum and a Shipwreck Museum along this strip, too.

Turning back towards the town, you’ll notice two cliffs (the East and West Hill) towering above the medieval Old Town. Hastings, a very desirable seaside resort in Victorian times, is a treasure trove of antiques and bric-a-brac, so take a wander. Hungry? Time for some late-afternoon fish and chips from one of the many cafes along the seafront. You’ll return to London feeling refreshed and replete after your very traditional seaside jaunt.


This truly iconic prehistoric monument nestled in the Wiltshire countryside was erected in 2,500 BC, yet the site itself dates back to 4,500 BC. Some believe that the giant ring of stones was once a religious site or some kind of astronomical observatory. The direct train to Salisbury from London Waterloo takes just one hour and 23 minutes.

You can catch the Stonehenge Tour bus from the station (with or without the tour itself) or take a taxi for a quick 15-minute journey to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre.

Book ahead and you can download a useful audio tour before you arrive. Your ticket will also include the Stonehenge Exhibition, featuring archaeological treasures, all discovered on site. You can also visit the reconstructed Neolithic houses, built using authentic materials and techniques.

You can catch a shuttle bus to the stones themselves, or take a half-hour walk and approach slowly. The stones are remarkably charismatic up close, and you’ll want to linger a while. Take your time and, if you’re savvy, you’ll have brought a picnic to eat on the grass.

If time permits, take in the medieval masterpiece that is Salisbury Cathedral, home to the tallest spire in Britain. It houses the best preserved of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta, written in 1215 CE, as well as the oldest working clock in Europe (1386). A gentle walk back to the train station takes less than 15 minutes, and you’ll board the train back to London dreaming of ancient Britain.


The Cotswolds (an area of countryside spanning five counties) are loved for their typically warm and welcoming English character. This is a gentle, fairytale landscape of verdant hills, stone walls, idyllic woods and historic towns and villages. Many of the buildings are constructed from beautiful, honey-colored Cotswold Stone. Our itinerary will have you happily sauntering between some of the best, on the perfect day trip from London by train.

Take the direct train from London Paddington to Charlbury, a typical Cotswolds market town nestled in the Evenlode Valley, surrounded by the ancient Wychwood Forest. Charlwood was well known for glove making during the 18th and 19th centuries – take a look around for a flavor of what the Cotswolds are all about. Then, catch the train to Kingham around late morning – it’s only a 10 minute ride.

Surrounded by hills, pretty Kingham has a large village green, flanked by stone and thatched cottages. There’s a shop, a pub and two hotels. You could grab a taxi to the very swish Daylesford Organic Farm. Here, you’ll find all manner of organic meat, groceries and baked goods, as well as a collection of homeware. There’s also a cookery school, a wine stall, two lovely cafés and a restaurant. Note that Kingham station isn’t manned, so you’ll need to book your taxi in advance.

Back at Kingham, take the train to Moreton-in-Marsh – it only takes eight minutes to reach this lively old market town located on the Fosse Way. There’s a pretty 35-minute walk from the town to the beautiful Batsford Arboretum, via the Monarch’s Way. From Moreton-in-Marsh, it’s worth taking the local bus (half an hour) or a taxi (15 minutes) to the picturesque town of Bourton-on-the-Water, the “Venice of the Cotswolds”. The River Windrush, dotted with old stone bridges, flows right through the center.

Finally, take a taxi back to Moreton-in-Marsh for a direct train to London Paddington (1.5 hours). A proper taste of English country life, a world away from the bright lights of the city.


Windsor Castle is an absolute wow, whether you’re a royalist or not. It’s the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, and as such it embodies almost a millennium of architectural history. Your easiest route is to take one of the half-hourly trains to Windsor & Eton Central from Waterloo Station (40 minutes). From there, the walk to Windsor Castle takes just six minutes.

William the Conqueror chose the site for Windsor Castle in 1070, high above the river Thames, on the edge of a Saxon hunting ground. Today, it remains a working royal palace and is home to around 150 people.

The audio tour takes a couple of hours, so it’s perfect for a day trip from London by train. See Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and the State Apartments, and pay a visit to St. George’s Chapel, the final resting place of Queen Mary, Henry VIII and the late Queen Elizabeth II. Famously, St. George’s Chapel hosted the marriage between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Windsor Castle is open to the public five days a week. Be sure to book ahead, as it’s closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And if you do have any spare time, take a little peek around the town of Windsor. It’s a buzzing commuter town with a picturesque riverside setting.


Knole is fragile and beautiful, vast and beguiling. Lying in the heart of the English countryside in Kent – the “garden of England” – Knole is one of the nation’s most important, and complete, historic houses. Knole rests atop a hilly medieval deer park, said to be first enclosed back in 1406. Built between 1455–1568, it’s reputed to be a “calendar house” with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards.

Travelling to Knole on a day trip from London is easy. Take a direct train and you will reach Sevenoaks in 24 minutes. The entrance is a couple of miles from the station, so a taxi is probably the way to go. As you make your way down the long, winding driveway, you’ll leave the modern world behind.

Inside, the quiet and mysterious rooms hold precious fragments and souvenirs from England’s history. Bedclothes, goblets, clothes and chairs: these everyday objects are unrivalled links to the past. The King’s Room is just one highlight, showcasing the so-called “King’s Bed”, a magnificent state bed, hung with gold and silver brocade. The bed was either a gift from Louis XIV to James, Duke of York (later James II), or ordered by the duke himself from Paris.

A seductive mix of stunning countryside and unparalleled history, Knole will stay in your memory for a long time after your day trip ends.


Canterbury Cathedral is an architectural superstar, a dramatic and awe-inspiring monument to religious faith and architectural vision. Yet inside you’ll be greeted with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Considered the most important cathedral in the Anglican faith worldwide, Canterbury is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England.

You can book regular guided tours within the Cathedral, available in several different languages. Among many other highlights, you’ll witness the amazing stained glass windows, including the Miracle Windows, among the oldest of their kind in the world. Don’t miss out on seeing the exquisite masonry on the exterior walls of the cathedral, depicting archbishops, kings and queens associated with the building.

While you’re in Canterbury, take the chance to visit Westgate city walls and the Norman Canterbury Castle, one of the three original Royal castles of Kent.


Stratford-upon-Avon, a medieval market town in the Warwickshire countryside, is the 16th-century birthplace of William Shakespeare, the “bard of Avon”. It’s only two hours from the city by train, making it an excellent choice for a day trip from London for anyone keen to learn more about Shakespeare and life in the Tudor period.

Leaving Stratford in his early twenties, Shakespeare became an actor, playwright, and theater manager in London. By 1592, he was the joint owner of the Globe Theater, eventually retiring and returning to Stratford for the last six years of his life. Shakespeare is considered to be perhaps the greatest author and dramatist of all time. His treasured plays are endlessly celebrated at the renowned Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre on the banks of the River Avon.

Take the time to explore Shakespeare’s birthplace on Henley Street, a small and well-preserved 16th-century half-timbered house. His statue is nearby, and his grave is in Holy Trinity Church, where he was also baptized and married to Anne Hathaway. King Edward Grammar School & Guildhall is also close to his home and very likely where Shakespeare studied as a child.

For lunch, see if there’s a table at the legendary Dirty Duck, a must-visit 18th century pub that’s ever-popular with the town’s Royal Shakespeare Company actors. Afterwards, take a stroll on the bucolic riverside promenade to see the town’s famous swans before exploring Stratford’s Old Town. As you glide back to 20th-century London on the train, why not peruse Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays?


Cambridge is a surprisingly small and very beautiful city, dotted with extraordinary architectural gems, emerald lawns and a glittering river. Here, cloistered colleges and medieval lanes deliver a powerful dose of history. And you’ll see bicycles absolutely everywhere. Just 51 minutes away by train (a little longer from some stations), Cambridge might possibly be the ideal day trip from London.

Buzzing with students, there are lots of fun, independent cafés here. Cambridge is great for a relaxed mooch around the antique shops, too – with the emphasis firmly on books. This is a city with music at its heart, and there’s oodles of entertainment to check out, with colorful flyers posted all over the city’s railings.

Punting along the River Cam (by means of a long, thin stick in a long, low boat) is definitely the most pleasurable way to see the city’s picturesque colleges and university grounds. You can easily book a ride from the quayside, touring the upper or lower river. Don’t worry – you won’t actually be doing the punting! Ideally, buy your tickets online in advance, as the prices are lower and you can book a specific time.

Kettle’s Yard is a highly individual art gallery-in-a-home and a beautiful place to spend time away from the crowds. Its original owner, Jim Ede, was a curator at the Tate Gallery, and his outstanding collection of 20th century art is complemented by objects and artifacts gathered by a family over time.

Next, step inside the city’s crowning glory, King’s College Chapel. Founded in 1441 by King Henry VI, the Chapel is regarded as one of the greatest examples of late English Gothic architecture. The stained-glass windows and wooden chancel screen are among the finest of their era – and you can only fully appreciate them from inside. This magnificent building should be the highlight of your day trip from London – and if you time your visit well, you can witness the sublime singing of world-renowned King’s College Choir. Choral evensong takes place here every day, at 5:30 pm.


Even Paris is accessible as a day trip from London, thanks to the direct Eurostar train from St. Pancras station. Book well in advance and the ticket prices are very reasonable, too. You’ll be there in just over two hours.

To maximize your time in the City of Light, it’s best to plan your day trip from London yourself. St. Pancras is a little north of central London, so if you’re catching an early morning train, check bus and Tube schedules online. Lines can be long, and you want your chosen method of transport to get you there in good time.

When it comes to refreshment, Paris has to be one of the best cities in the world for luxury eating on the hoof. Pop into any patisserie and you can pick up the most delicious fresh breakfast croissants, picnic lunch or afternoon pastry. Buy a set of tickets once you’re there and you can relax for the day – although you’ll probably want to stay above ground. Memories of this delectable city will stay with you for a long time.

One idea is to take the metro, bus or taxi from Gare du Nord to your first destination, then work your way back along the River Seine. Paris is entirely walkable, so relax and enjoy the moment. Just make a note of everything you want to explore next time!

For example, you could head straight across to Paris legend the Eiffel Tower. Ride the lift up or admire it from a distance as you stroll to the Arc de Triumph and the Champs-Elysées. Then take the metro to the Jardin des Tuileries, where you could pause for a picnic or dive into one of the many bars and restaurants.

From here, head over to the Louvre and Cathedral Notre Dame. Crossing the Seine, take in the Marais district and gorgeous Place des Vosges, the quintessential Parisian square. Depending on when you visit, you could hop on a bus tour and see the city light up at sunset or catch a boat tour and see Paris from the water. The city is yours for the day – so go exactly where the mood takes you. Eventually, you’ll hop on the metro or in a taxi and head back to Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to London.

Why not splash out a little at the Train Bleu, the exquisite and hugely glamorous brasserie that’s a stone’s throw from the Eurostar platform? A sublime end to an unforgettable day.