People often worry that to be a travel blogger they have to jet off to all corners of the world every weekend or they won’t have enough content. Well, to that I say phooey. There are so many amazing quirky day trips from London that you can take in England (even turning them into leisurely weekends away.) This isle has wizards, giants, knights, princes, castles, Raven warders and ancient stories that never cease to amaze. It also has a tourism economy that you can help to support where you can.
Partially, it’s a change of mindset. When you’ve lived in an area all of your life, or even years, it’s so easy to take your home for granted – and giggle at the tourists transfixed by an ancient doorway that you’ve walked past for ever.
I can guarantee that there is something quirky only a drive or train ride away from where you are sitting right now. An art installation, an ancient church with an incredible story, a lane with an unusual business, a mysterious museum (such as these London museums) or even a garden with a tale. Sometimes it’s a habit of tapping a search into Googlemaps for attractions, looking for little plaques, a search on TripAdvisor, consulting the local tourist centre or doing a quick google for interesting blogposts from someone out of the area.
Something to be aware of before you travel: during the Covid-19 pandemic, some places are going to have reduced operating hours and changed opening days – make sure you check before going – and you may need to make [genuine] reservations at restaurants.
For an Indian palace and Instagram-worthy candy coloured house fronts:
Brighton is one of those cities where the pulse thrums with music, the taste of fun is in the air and streets are filled with more than a glimmer of mischief. The culture is a little offbeat, the locals are friendly and the coffee is AMAZING. Neighbouring Hove is a little more reticent and refined, but Brighton is where the fun starts – and when the train companies behave it’s only an hour or so away from London. The beach is rocky, but that doesn’t seem to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm or exclude it from this list of quirky day trips from London.
For code-cracking Hollywood legends and World War II spy history:
Around an hour from London Euston on the train, Bletchley Park, 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.
For rambling, infamous raspberry jam and a castle so old locals forget they have one:
Serving as the first capital of Roman Britain, and claiming to be the oldest recorded town in Britain, Colchester has been home to the Romans, Saxons, Normans and Victorians all leaving their mark on the landscape. Claiming to be the birthplace of several nursery rhymes – Humpty Dumpty (Richard III’s defeat in the battle of Bosworth Hill), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (written by Jane Taylor in the 19th Century) and Old King Cole (a derivation of Cole’s Castle) – even the High Street is rather fascinating.
For Disney movies come to life and tinchy teashops:
When I discovered that 400 years ago Pocahontas – the daughter of Powhatan, the paramount chief of a network of Native American tributary tribal nations in the Tsenacommacah, encompassing the Tidewater region of Virginia, not to mention Disney princess legend – sadly died in a small, ancient Kent town called Gravesend I just knew we had to visit her final resting place.
For dream-snaffling Giants and intriguing countryside rambles:
At the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, with everything from ranging the author’s actual backyard office complete with original dust (baked to remove anything that could spoil the rest of the display) to complete collections of his books and original Sir Quentin Blake illustrations, we spent a lovely morning drifting through the fascinating literary collection which is less than 40 minutes by train from central London.
For Stone Age myths, ephemeral sensations and occasional visits by Morris Men:
As we crested the hill, the patchwork Hampshire countryside of Butser Farm and the rolling South Downs spread out at our feet. Over green fields of waving maize, bright yellow bobbing blooms of rapeseed (#aliterationwin), baby lambs were bounding and trees gently swayed. Below us the ancient farm buildings of several major time periods in the UK waited for exploring.
For penguins, Pygmy goats and a stunning ‘Treasure House’:
Harewood, Leeds was designed by architects John Carr and Robert Adam, it was built between 1759 and 1771 for wealthy plantation owner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood. The 1,000 acres of landscaping and gardens surrounding the majestic residence were designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
For a surprising airport stop off and a library that doubled in the Dark Knight Rises as Batman’s Wayne Manor:
I didn’t realise that whilst wandering through the house and grounds of Osterley I would discover a bluebell glade, uncover a Hollywood batcave entrance, hitch a leg over gate stiles in front of some judgemental kids, learn some quirky London history, drink too much coffee (no surprises there thought), browse through fresh veges, admire priceless paintings, go on an Easter bunny hunt and discover a luxurious summer home. (The National Trust should put that on their website.)
For Druidic mysteries and Neolithic landscaping:
One of the best things to do at this time of year living in Britain is to hop in your car with some great company, a picnic, a map, your favourite music and go for a road trip, especially when your destination is a great big pile of rocks. Voila, Stonehenge.
To eat world-famous oysters whilst the ocean laps nearby;
We watched the weather report with the fanaticism of the British and the stiff upper lips of antipodeans in need of Vitamin D. When it dawned clear and bright, we hauled ourselves onto the Whitstable train armed with coffee, chatter and a swift touch of Google research straight past Canterbury, towards the Kent coast.
Oh England, you beauty.
And, as if that isn’t enough inspiration, I wrote a very previous post of 10 UK day trips you don’t need a car for, or, you could just visit a few of the 15 secrets of London that the tourist crowds miss. Some days I feel like I should work for the UK tourism board – but that’s one of the joys of being a permatourist.
What are your favourite quirky day trips from London?