England

Places to visit near London: 8 easy escapes from the capital

Seek out the seaside towns, historic hubs and areas of great natural beauty that are all within easy reach of the UK's capital city.

Whether you’re staying in London for a while or traveling through, it’s worth taking the time to venture outside the capital and experience another side to this part of the world. By hiring a car or traveling out of the city by train, you can easily reach a range of celebrated locations that attract visitors through the seasons.

Stand-out places to visit near London span some of the UK’s most revered historic cities and charming seafront towns, with expanses of verdant countryside providing the ideal setting for outdoor pursuits like hiking and cycling. From inland getaways to seaside retreats, these are the destinations worth the extra journey.

Oxfordshire: Take to the water in Henley-on-Thames

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Henley-on-Thames sits on the edge of an idyllic stretch of the River Thames, amid mile upon mile of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckingham countryside, including the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Each summer brings an influx of visitors in for the 12th-century market town’s Royal Regatta, and year-round people come for the river life. Hire a kayak, rowing boat or easy-to-drive outboard motor boat to make your own way up the picturesque waterway.

The 1870-founded boat operator Hobbs of Henley also hosts sightseeing and evening events on its flagship vessel The New Orleans: Join a gin tasting cruise with the boat company’s own Mr. Hobbs gin or opt for an afternoon tea cruise. On land, peruse the riverside River & Rowing Museum and set out from the riverbank into the verdant landscape of Culden Faw Estate. Finish your day with a stop at a gastronomic hotspot like the 2020-opened restaurant, Crockers Henley.

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East Sussex: Uncover the maritime history of Rye and seek out Camber Sands

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Cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses give this medieval town of East Sussex its enduring appeal. Rye is the setting for ancient sites like Ypres Tower, St. Mary’s Church and the historic Mermaid Inn. Tourism hotspots like these provide insights into the town’s smuggling and maritime past, which you can find out more about at the Rye Castle Museum. After exploring Rye’s labyrinthine streets, head out of the town to find Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

This harbour town is also just two miles from the sea at the confluence of the Rother, Tillingham and Brede rivers. This setting makes Rye the closest town—and also connected by bus—to East Sussex’s only sand dune system, Camber Sands. People come to this idyllic two-mile golden stretch of beach to spot seals, kite surf and set out on exhilarating rigid inflatable boat (RIB) tours.

Hampshire: Explore the forested landscape of New Forest National Park

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The New Forest is a vast expanse of pasture, heathland, coastline and forest, which now all forms a National Park, across southwest Hampshire. Lyndhurst is considered the capital of The New Forest—William the Conqueror established this site as a royal hunting ground in 1079 and it has been visited by kings and queens over the years. Stop by the New Forest Heritage Centre and step into the church featuring the stained glass of William Morris.

While using this market town as a base, it’s worth hiring a bike from The Woods Cyclery. Cycling trails from here include the Lyndhurst to Bolderwood route passing through forest and the Woodland Explorer Food Trail taking in local food and drink producers. You can horseback ride from the nearby village of Brockenhurst’s riding stables and spot wildlife on a series of mapped out nature walks.

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Kent: Sample the seafood of the traditional fishing town Whitstable

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A seaside town on the Kent coast, just five miles north of Canterbury, Whitstable draws visitors for its traditional fishing harbor and beach lined with colorful beach huts, as well as its independent shops, thriving art scene and locally caught seafood. People travel from far and wide to dine at the 1856-founded Wheelers Oyster Bar, Michelin-starred Sportsman and 18th-century oyster grading house turned restaurant, The Lobster Shack.

You can start your exploration with a walk along the working harbor and from here take a trip onboard the historic Thames sailing barge, Greta. Stop by the Old Neptune pub on Whitstable West Beach and seek out the picturesque beach huts of Tankerton Beach. It’s worth spending time on Harbour Street to call into independent boutiques specializing in books, food and crafts, along with galleries, which are dotted around the coastal community.

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Somerset: Explore atmospheric sites dating back to Roman times in Bath

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Named for its famous ancient baths, Somerset’s largest city, Bath, attracts visitors from across the globe for one of the best- preserved Roman remains in the world. As well as visiting the Roman baths, tourists can uncover more of the city’s history at museums like The Jane Austen Centre, climb the tower of Bath Abbey and take a dip in the natural hot spring at Thermae Bath Spa.

You can spend hours walking the UNESCO World Heritage streets and taking in landmarks like the 18th-century Royal Crescent. Today, the city’s Roman remains and historic architecture are joined by an abundance of cafes, restaurants and independent shops selling books, crafts, local produce and art. All of this is idyllically set in the lush valley of the River Avon, opening up opportunities for activities like walking and cycling in the countryside.

Cambridgeshire: Punt down the River Cam in Cambridge university city

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Cambridge is undoubtedly best known for being home to the 1209- established University of Cambridge. Tourists come from around the world to see inside King’s College Chapel, look up at the Bridge of Sighs by St. John’s College and Mathematical Bridge next to Queen’s College and peruse the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum. You can take in the colleges on a River Cam punting tour, then hire a bike or join a bike tour to see the city on two wheels.

Cycle between sites ranging from Cambridge Botanic Garden and the fine art gallery Kettle’s Yard to the Scott Polar Research Institute’s Polar Museum. While you’re here, spend some time browsing the small shops of King’s Parade and the cobbled streets running off Market Square. Stop by your pick of tea rooms and coffee shops including the world-famous cake shop Fitzbillies, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2020.

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Oxfordshire: Find inspiration in Oxford's museums and historic colleges

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Often referred to as the City of Dreaming Spires, Oxford is celebrated for the architecture of its 12th-century established university’s many colleges. Tourists come to be inspired by landmark sites including Bodleian Libraries, the Bridge of Sighs and centuries-old Oxford Castle, and to find out more about the city’s rich history in museums such as the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology and Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

You can boat along the river, make the most of cycle hire and join a sightseeing bus or walking tour before seeking out additional tourism sites like The University of Oxford Botanic Garden and The Oxford Artisan Distillery. Outside the city, easily accessible sites within the surrounding countryside include the birth place of Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace, which is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and set amid 2,000 acres of landscaped parkland.

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Warwickshire: Pay homage to William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon

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The 16th-century birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon invites visitors in to discover a number of famous locations connected to the playwright. Visit the house where Shakespeare was born and raised, then walk around the gardens of the family home now known as Shakespeare’s New Place where he lived from 1597 until the end of his life. Step inside Anne Hathaway’s Cottage where Shakespeare courted his bride to be and catch a performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Stratford Town Walk introduces visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon’s history with walking tours of the town, as well as ghost walks. You can also see the medieval market town from the water by taking a canal and river tour starting in the canal basin. Set aside enough time to explore the interactive Mechanical Art & Design (MAD) Museum and Tudor World living history museum.

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