As reliably as the hands tock around the face of Big Ben, us Britain dwellers get excited about every single bank holiday that the Queen has arranged for us. ‘Free’ holiday days where pretty well everyone else also has time off, your annual leave allowance isn’t compromised and often the sun doesn’t shine (I wish her majesty would have a word with the BBC weather team, maybe get the Royal Meterologists to divert the gulf stream for a day or two). In short, freedom.
But, sometimes those days seem to creep up (unless you’re as crazy as I am – calendar on the wall in January just in time for the year goals linkup, bank holidays marked in pink & annual leave allocation eked out as evenly as possible) and the weekend rolls around where it isn’t jam-packed with boarding flights, wrestling your way through kids or rolling the dice around a family roast.
Just think, 24 extra golden hours are for the taking. You could sleep in, haunt the house in PJs, watch back to back episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker and inhale a bathtub of popcorn. Or, how about dusting off that cobwebbed ‘one day’ list of places (warning: Pinterest porn) you’ve always meant to visit?
For me, they have to have 3 characteristics; 1) are less than a 2 hour journey from London 2) be interesting 3) have good food (though really, that goes without saying). As we’re typical Londoners who don’t need a car everyday, I’ve compiled a few of my favourite more public transport friendly trips where I can sink into a good book for a decent length of time. Heaven.
Sure, the classics are pretty amazing; Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Stratford-Upon-Avon, The Cotswolds & Stonehenge/Salisbury, Brighton, York… I could blather on. The key to any good day trip is booking ahead (use my tips to escape London on a budget), using railcards and having snacks on hand. And a charger.
A few of my favorites are;
They say never meet your heroes as you’ll only be disappointed when their humanity is revealed, but I say ignore that entirely. Sometimes you have to. Sometimes you have to get on that train, walk through those gates and simply revel in the crazy amazingness that is England. Unfortunately, there is a limited ticket season and it does get booked out quickly BUT they have an allocation of walk-up tickets first thing in the morning… ps. wear a long swishy skirt.
2 ¦ Broadstairs Beach
The slightly-less well known cousin of Margate, Broastairs is simply lovely. I lucked into all of the Great British seaside traditions; jauntily painted sea huts, Viking history, fish and chips, kids racing around with joy, the crash of waves, silky sand settling between toes, soft-serve ice cream melts and seagulls cry over fishing boat hauls.
Ps. Get in a local cab to Botany Bay for an hour or two.
3 ¦ Leeds
Great shopping arcades, fantastic restaurants (definitely try Homage to Fromage), quirky streets to wander through and the first ever Marks and Spencers. Seriously, go.
4 ¦ Rye
Tumbling out of the car after a quick brunch (Rye style, rather than Kiwi-style) we dashed onto the sand and straight into the sea (handbags, shoes and magazines clutched under our arms). Once our bones were saturated with vitamin-D, we dodged the crowds, turned tail and headed towards the pub for a relaxed evening of local wine, nipping between chalets bargaining and a rather epic ice cream parfait.
5 ¦ Hampshire
It’s probably cheating to try and slip in an entire county, but it is definitely commutable from London, which makes it perfect for day tripping. Some towns and villages are a little less public transport friendly but the cabs are reasonable or there are lovely walking trails…
6 ¦ Eltham Palace
It took a good friend and I more than a year to visit Eltham Palace. Taking into consideration the ease of getting there (there are several central London train stations which serve the 30 minute journey to the Zone 4 Mottingham Station), the Art Deco beauty that Eltham is known for and the curious architectural history of a medieval royal residence, you would think we’d have gotten our act a little more together. We did try a fair few times but as the Palace opens Sunday-Thursday for a limited few months, we kept ending up in the pub, brunching out of the rain or curled up on our respective couches in defeat.
7 ¦ St Albans
With a grand cathedral, roman ruins, quirky pubs, insanely grand coffee shops, leering gargoyles, a medieval clock tower and English Heritage listed train signal box, St Albans is a perfect afternoon wander.
8 ¦ Bletchley Park
Around an hour from London Euston on the train, the subject of The Imitation Game (starring the enigmatic BAFTA nominated Benedict Cumberbatch) sits unassumingly between Cambridge and Oxford. Contained within this little world, were some of the greatest (and craziest) minds to assist the war effort – literally saving thousands of lives by intercepting enemy code and translating it into important information for Allied troops – and shortening the war by at least 2-4 years.
9 ¦ Blenheim Palace
I adore London with all of my heart, but sometime all it takes is a 4 word message from a good friend to make me yearn to leave it. “New car, road trip?” did the trick, and before we knew it Kelly’s smurfmobile was packed full of gluten-free snacks, blasting Katy Perry and cruising down the twisting country lanes through Gloucestershire.
10 ¦ Winchester
Simply couldn’t resist my favourite recent discovery. A with burgeoning foodie scene, knights of the round table and mysterious statues in flooded cathedral vaults, why would you want to?
What is your favourite quirky day trip from London?