As UK coronavirus lockdown restrictions slowly ease, more of us will be looking to find the best day trips from London to escape busy crowds and embrace the great outdoors.
London’s bustling streets are part of why we love it so much – whether it’s an Oxford Street busker drawing us into a crowd or a stroll down lively Southbank in the evening. But the spread of coronavirus has made everyone feel differently about big crowds of people. Social distancing is hard to do under the bright lights of Leicester Square, so locals are looking for new ways to escape London by taking day trips to destinations outside of the city.
There are several towns outside London that are perfect for a day trip this summer, with their long stretches of greenery, clean air and open spaces. Whether you want to take a road trip from London or a cycling trip from London, read on for our all-time favourite areas for some summer fun.
Road Trips from London
Royal Leamington Spa
A day trip to Royal Leamington Spa will be bursting with history, beautiful green spaces and friendly locals. It’s no surprise this dreamy Midlands town was voted the ‘happiest place in the UK’ by residents. In Victorian times, visitors from all over the world flocked to Leamington’s spas, believing that a quick soak in its famous thermal baths could cure ill health. Nowadays, the town enjoys a quieter reputation.
On your visit, you’ll want to see The Royal Pump Rooms (their last surviving thermal spa), a Grade 2 listed building which has been renovated into a public art gallery, museum and library. The interior is closed for now, but the gardens are open to the public and a great place to set up shop with a picnic. Victoria Park is also nearby, with 10 tennis courts available for booking. Avid walkers might want to take an evening trek to Chesterton Windmill. Entry is free to this unique 350-year old landmark, which is at the top of a hill so you can treat yourself to a panoramic view of the Warwickshire countryside in sunset once you reach the top.
Can I travel to Royal Leamington Spa from London?
It’s just under 100 miles to make a day trip to Leamington Spa from the heart of London, so about a 2-hour drive down the M40. St Peter’s car park is a 5-minute walk from the Pump Rooms and costs £2 per 2 hours.
Don’t miss a day trip to Oxford, ‘the city of dreaming spires’ – the architecture will take your breath away. Stroll past the Bridge of Sighs and snap a selfie (after all, it’s as close to Venice as you can get for now), before spotting the dome of Radcliffe Camera in the distance. You won’t be able to take any photos with this camera, though – it’s a mid-eighteen century architectural delight, known as ‘Rad Cam’ to locals. From Radcliffe Square, you might want to buy a tray of flaky Banbury cakes at a nearby store – it’s an Oxford speciality! Or head straight over to University Church of St Mary the Virgin and watch the decorated spire catch the afternoon sunlight. You can even take a trip to the top for the highest view of Oxford’s skyline.
Can I travel to Oxford from London?
Oxford is an ideal place for a day trip in a car under the new UK lockdown rules. It’s around a 60-mile drive down the M40/A40 to Oxford, so it should only take 1 hour and 10 minutes to drive there from London. Gloucester Green car park is a 15-minute walk to the Bridge of Sighs and costs £6 for 2 hours (free if you are an NHS staff or critical care worker).
Take a day trip to Cambridge to see how it rivals Oxford for architectural brilliance (amongst other things). Take a walk through the University Grounds and catch a glimpse of the dramatic spires of Kings College reflecting off the lazy River Cam. From there, take a selfie by The Mathematical Bridge (a famous spot for punting) or rent a bicycle in Lamma’s Land, a beautiful park with an outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts and swathes of green grass for picnics in the sun. If you’re looking for a quieter spot, try Milton’s Country Park and go blackberry picking, keeping an eye out for native dragonflies and damselflies on the way. There is also a public maze (made out of maize!) which is a whole new level of fun.
Can I travel to Cambridge from London?
While you can’t stay overnight, a day trip to Cambridge should take around 1 hour and 30 minutes to get there by car, as the drive from London is 65 miles down the M11. Parking at Queen Anne Terrace Car Park is 5-minutes walking distance from Kings College and costs £1.60 per hour.
Cycling Trips From London
The day trip to Windsor would be worth it just for a visit to the Great Park, home to deer, swans and even the Queen Elizabeth rose. This new flower was planted to commemorate Her Majesty’s record-breaking reign at the top. From there, take a peek at Windsor Castle, the Queen’s home for part of the year. The 11th-century castle is temporarily closed, but a stroll up the Long Walk offers a gorgeous view of the castle. Visit the Windsor Farm Shop to pick up one of their legendary hampers, complete with local bitter, cheese, crackers and Windsor chutney and take up a perch by the gorgeous lake in Home Park to enjoy your goodies!
Can I travel to Windsor from London?
A day trip to Windsor by bike is a great way to get some fresh summer air, but you’re also free to drive. It’s a 28-mile journey from the heart of London, but the route will be a lot shorter if you travel from a West London location. The trip should take a little over 2 hours by bike.
Take a day trip to Epping Forest to explore this 6,000 acre stretch of ancient woodland near Essex that was once used for royal hunting – keep an eye out for wild badgers, rabbits, hares and deer on your trip. There are 109 lakes spread across the forest, many of which are man-made (some were a result of bombs landing in World War Two). Angling is also permitted in 24 lakes and in the summer months, you can try your hand at boating in Hollow Pond for a small fee. Walk your bike up Yardley Hill and you’ll be treated with the best view of London’s skyline in Epping Forest.
Can I travel to Epping Forest from London?
It’s an easy day trip to Epping Forest by bike or car. It’s a 15-mile journey, which will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes if you are biking from the heart of London (the cycling trip will be shorter if you’re travelling from East London).
Colne Valley Regional Park
This 200km stretch of woodland, farmland, canals and over 60 lakes is the perfect place to escape London and breathe some lovely country air. On your day trip to Colne Valley, spot many-a colourful houseboat bobbing along the waters of the canals in tareas that are populated by the boating community. There are a variety of cycling paths and country walks, with Black Park being particularly popular with families and groups of picnickers. The lakes here are also used for angling and several organisations are currently taking members if you’d like to have a go at catching your own fish. Stocker’s Lake homes Canada geese, herons and even friendly Dexter cattle, which help keep the meadow nice and trim by munching on the lush grasses!
Can I travel to Colne Valley from London?
Taking a day trip to Colne Valley by bike will take roughly 2 hours, covering just under 20 miles. Whether you’re driving or cycling, the trip will be shorter if you’re travelling from West London.
Have we missed anywhere off the list? Let us know about your favourite countryside day trips from London in the comments below.