You can enjoy an entire vacation in London and never leave the city center because there is such a wide range of famously-fabulous things to do. But, if you find yourself wanting to explore the glorious English countryside, there are several places you can escape for the day. Most lists name Oxford, Cambridge or the Cotswolds as the popular day trips, but we’ve discovered a few lesser-known to the English outsiders. Here’s the inside scoop!
Seven Sisters – Less than two hours from London, this section of the South Downs national park has it all—hiking, rolling green hills, seaside and stunning white chalk cliff coastline. Pack a picnic and comfortable walking shoes and plan to stay all day. Cuckmere Haven beach is made of smooth stones but hard to walk on barefoot, so bring water shoes if you want to wade or swim.
Durdle Door – This destination, about 2.5 hours from London, is in Dorset on the Jurassic coast (named for its prehistoric findings). It has a sandy beach lined with white chalk cliffs and a stunning centerpiece rock arch outcrop. It’s a steep hike down to the sea, but beautiful clear blue water greets you to cool off at the bottom. I recommend avoiding a visit on a hot weekend because crowds can be intense.
Rye and Camber Sands – I loved this day trip because we got a cute medieval village and expansive beach all in one. Rye, less than two hours from London in East Sussex, is adorable and worth a stroll through the town on cobbled streets to see well-preserved, wonky houses from Shakespearean times. Just 10 minutes away, the enormous sandy beaches of Camber Sands offer plenty of space for a walk or afternoon lying in the sun.
Marlow – This small village an hour from London in upscale Buckinghamshire boasts a beautiful, 19th-century suspension bridge over the Thames river and a hidden Michelin-starred gastropub. Walk from the bridge along the Thames footpath toward Bourne End, admiring the gardens and homes lining the river’s edge. A short train ride brings you back to the town center where you can enjoy a pint or a memorable meal at The Hand and Flowers, the only pub in the UK with two Michelin stars (reservations required).
Richmond – I couldn’t leave Richmond off the list, because it’s our hometown and (in my opinion), the perfect day trip to get green space and fresh air near London. Just 20 minutes from Waterloo train station, Richmond was once the home of a royal palace and hunting grounds, which is now London’s largest park, Richmond Park. The 2,500-acre respite is teeming with hundreds of deer, walking paths and lakes, as well as a direct view of the city in the distance. Also on the Thames, Richmond has a lively river walk with pubs, gardens and restaurants. In the summer, you can even take a boat ride from Richmond all the way to Tower Bridge. But before you go, grab a pint from the historic Cricketers pub or gelato from the infamous Danieli and soak up the atmosphere outside on Richmond Green.