15 Best Day Trips from London for First Timers

Updated: February 25, 2020 | Contains affiliate links

Bath is one of the best day trips from London
Visiting London for the first time is exciting. Having a few extra days planned to explore the places surrounding London, is even more exciting for me. After visiting this busy city, I have come to appreciate a few easily accessible places that will make your trip to England memorable. Come along with me as we explore my favorite day trips from London.

Visiting London for the first time should include a few extra days to explore other places close to London. Come along with me on my favorite and best day trips from London.

What to Expect when Planning Day Trips from London

Being able to take a beautiful day trip from London, takes some extra planning.  First, you must know what transportation option you will take. Whether it’s the train or a rental car or simply booking an organized tour from London, the choice is yours.

Secondly, London is a very large city and therefore you must also plan how you will get to whatever mode of transportation you have chosen.  Plan for extra time to get to the train station or meeting point for your tour.

1. Cambridge

Cambridge, England – Lots of people punting on River Cam on a sunny spring day.
Cambridge, England - Lots of people punting on River Cam on a sunny spring day.
See my photos from Cambridge

The city of Cambridge is a 90 minute drive or train journey from Kings Cross Station in London. We think Cambridge is one of the best day trips from London you can take.
Visit Christ’s College located on St Andrews Street. Entry is free and it’s worth visiting the College Chapel on a Thursday or Sunday evening when the Choral Evensong services are held.

The River Cam offers plenty of things to do. You can try your hand at punting or hire a guide and let them do the work while you relax. The Bridge of Sighs crosses the River Cam at St John’s College. Named after the covered bridge of the same name in Venice, it offers lovely photo opportunities.

Read More: Day Trip from London to Cambridge

2. York

York, England – The beautiful and magnificent York Minster.
York, England - The beautiful and magnificend York Minster.
See my photos from York

York is located about 2.5 hours by train from London’s Kings Cross station. Driving to York will take 4 hours by car which will make it a difficult day trip. If you’re driving, make sure you spend a few extra days in the area.
The city of York is one of the most historic cities in the UK and is a great choice as one of the best day trips from London. Visit The Shambles, a street with overhanging timber buildings, some dating back to the 14th Century and see where the city’s butchers would have displayed fresh meat for sale. More recently, The Shambles claims to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley of Harry Potter fame!

York Minster is a sight to behold. This magnificent Cathedral dates back over 1000 years, a masterpiece of stained glass and stone. Entry prices start at £11.50 and you should allow at least 2 hours for your visit.

Read more: Beautiful Walking Tour of York

3. Cotswolds

Lower Slaughter, England – Beautiful view of the center of the village and River Eye.
Lower Slaughter, England - Beautiful view of the center of the village and River Eye.
See my photos from The Cotswolds

As there is so much to see in The Cotswolds, we recommend you travel by car and drive for 2 hours into the heart of ‘King Cod’s Land’ to Bourton-on-the-Water. There is a charming model village to explore as well as Birdland, the rare breeds bird center, home to the only group of breeding King Penguins in the UK.
Cheltenham is a 2 hour train journey from Paddington Station and is home to the famous racecourse. Stay at the 5* Ellenborough Park Hotel and let the staff drive you to the course across the rolling hillside where you can gain access at your very own private entrance

Read More: My favorite places to visit in the Cotswolds

4. Stratford-upon-Avon

The home of Shakespeare is located a 2 hour drive or 2.5 hours by train from London’s Marylebone Station. Situated on the River Avon, its history stretches back to the 7th Century and warrants a mention here as one of the best day trips from London you can take.

Stratford-upon-Avon, England – Old timber home on Henley Street turned into a souvenir shop
Stratford-upon-Avon, England - Old timber home on Henley Street turned into a souvenir shop
See my photos from Stratford upon Avon

Visit the three theaters which are home to The Royal Shakespeare Company, the most famous being The Royal Shakespeare Theater. Here you can watch a performance of one of the Bard’s plays or take a tour behind the scenes.

If technology is your thing, visit the MAD Museum where you can explore all things science and technology. Entry prices are reasonable at less than £10 per head.

Read more: A Historical Tour of Stratford-upon-Avon

5. Warwick Castle

Just 2 hours by car or train from Charing Cross Station you will find Warwick castle built by William the Conqueror in 1068.

Warwick Castle, England – Majestic Warwick Castle with the impressive Guy’s Tower.
Warwick Castle, England - Majestic Warwick Castle with the impressive Guy's Tower.
See my photos from Warwick Castle

Allow time for a full day at the castle since there is so much to see and do. Visit the castle dungeon and learn all about it’s bloody history. Get lost in the maze or take time out to eat at one of the restaurants. Walk the turrets, battlements, towers and great hall. Entry prices start at £16 per person if you book in advance online.

Read more: 4 Beautiful English Castles

6. Windsor Castle

Windsor is just under an hours drive or train journey from London Paddington. It’s the oldest, occupied castle in the world and a firm favorite in our list of the best day trips from London. It is said to be the Queen’s favorite residence.

Windsor, England – A part of the Southern Wall from Windsor Castle.
Windsor, England - A part of the Southern Wall from Windsor Castle.
See my photos from Windsor

This working castle has over 900 years of history to explore. Visit Queen Mary’s Dolls House and enjoy the workmanship of the tiny fixtures and fittings. The 30 minute precinct tour will give you an insight into the castles long and varied history.

7. Bath & Stonehenge

The beautiful city of Bath is a 2.5 hour drive or a 90 minute train journey from Paddington Station in central London.

Bath, England – Pulteney Bridge and Weir is one of four bridges having shops on the full span of the bridge.
Bath, England - Pulteney Bridge and Weir is one of four bridges having shops on the full span of the bridge.
See my photos from Bath

The Roman Baths are a must-see. You can ‘take the waters’ yourself at the modern Thermae Bath Spa. Bath is still home to the only natural thermal hot springs in the UK you can bathe in.

Read More: Day Trip from London to Bath

A short 30 minute drive takes you to Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site where you can view the prehistoric standing stones. Stonehenge should not be overlooked when planning your best day trips from London journey.

Stonehenge, England – View of the stone formation from the south.
Stonehenge, England - View of the stone formation from the south.
See my photos from Stonehenge

Read More: Day Trip from London to Stonehenge

8. Leeds Castle

Take a 1 hour 20 minute journey by car or travel by train from London Victoria to Maidstone in just over an hour to visit Leeds Castle.

Leeds Castle, England – Birds flying low near Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle, England - Birds flying low near Leeds Castle
See my photos from Leeds Castle

There is so much to do here, from a round of adventure golf to the dog collar museum, all situated in over 500 acres of beautiful parkland with free flying falconry displays.

9. Canterbury

Canterbury is certainly a destination which should feature on your best day trips from London list. It is a 90 minute drive or train journey from London St Pancras International.

Canterbury, England - Westgate seen from Westgate Gardens
Canterbury, England – Westgate seen from Westgate Gardens
See my photos from Canterbury

Canterbury’s history stretches back to the Middle Ages when it was a pilgrimage site. As well as visiting the cathedral, take a guided walking tour to see the 14th Century timber-framed houses. Visit Chartham Vineyard or sample a few of the 16+ locally produced beers, ciders, gins or vodkas at the brewery on Stour Street.

Read More: Day Trip from London to Canterbury

10. Oxford & Blenheim Palace

Oxford, ‘the city of dreaming spires’ is located a 90 minute drive or train journey from London Marylebone Rail Station.

Christ Church College chapel in Oxford can be seen from the War Memorial Garden.
Las Vegas, Nevada - The Venetian Hotel.
See my photos from Oxford

Home to Oxford University, you can take a tour of the city by boarding one of the hop-on-hop-off buses which circle the important sights. Finish your journey at Oxford Castle and Norman Prison where a guide, dressed in historical costume, will regale you with snippets of history.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England – Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England – Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill
See my photos from Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is located a short distance away at Woodstock. You can learn all about its 300 year history, ride on the miniature train or take a buggy tour around the lake. Entrance tickets start from £25 and are cheapest if you book ahead online.

Read More: Day Trip from London to Oxford

11. Duxford

The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is a 60 minute journey by car or train from Kings Cross Station in London.

Imperial War Museum Duxford, England – The “Sally B” B52 bomber which played the role of The Memphis Belle in the Hollywood movies.
Imperial War Museum Duxford, England - The
See my photos from Duxford Air Museum

Duxford is the place from which the first Spitfire planes flew and you can learn all about them and the history of this important airfield used extensively during WW2 during your visit. Wander through the huge aircraft hangars and marvel at the engineering of the B52 bombers as well as appreciating the sleek beauty of Concord.

Check out their website to see their impressive list of upcoming events. Ticket prices start at £19 and children under 4 years old go free.

12. Stamford & Burgley House

England’s most impressive Elizabethan House can be found near Stamford, just over an hour by car from London or 1 hour 45 minutes from London Kings Cross.

Gorgeous view of Burghley House from the Deer Park
Burghley House, England - Another gorgeous view of Burghley House from the Deer Park
See my photos from Burghley House

At Burghley House visit the elegant state-rooms, the old kitchen and the chapel before taking a walk through the deer park.

Stamford, Lincolnshire, England – Walking down on Barn Hill toward All Saints’ Church.
Stamford, Lincolnshire, England - Walking down on Barn Hill toward All Saints' Church.
See my photos from Stamford

Stamford itself is also worth a visit, you can see Brown’s Hospital and Museum, or catch a show at the open air theater. Check it off from your best day trips from London wish list, you won’t be disappointed.

13. Audley End

This Jacobean mansion is a 90 minute drive from Central London or by train in just over 2 hours from London Liverpool Street Station.

The back of Audley End House seen from the beautiful gardens
Audley End, Essex, England - The back of Audley End House seen from the beautiful gardens.
See my photos from Audley End

Beautifully restored, the mansion is set in glorious gardens designed by capability Brown. Visit the kitchen garden and pop in to see the friendly horses in the stable yard.

Read More: 10 Beautiful English Manor Houses

14. Woburn Abbey

Take a 90 minute car journey from Central London to visit Woburn Abbey. Since the Abbey is remote, traveling by train is very difficult. However, this shouldn’t mean you discount it from your list of best day trips from London.

Woburn Abbey, England – Beautiful lake and Chinese garden.
Woburn Abbey, England - Beautiful lake and Chinese garden.
See my photos from Woburn Abbey

Woburn is home to one of the most important art collections in the world and the sculpture gallery is an inspiring place to sit for a while. In the extensive grounds, you can take a horse drawn carriage tour complete with afternoon tea. Take time to look out for the deer roaming freely in the park, many of which are tame enough to get up close to.

Important Note: Woburn Abbey is undergoing extensive refurbishment and will be closed to the public until March 2021.

15. Rye

Just under 2 hours drive and just over an hour by train from London St Pancras you will find Rye, a charming medieval village.

Rye, England – The beautiful old tower and gate on Cliff Road.
Rye, England - The beautiful old tower and gate on Cliff Road.
See my photos from Rye

Half timbered houses on cobbled streets are well preserved and you will find plenty of them on Mermaid Street. Rye Nature Reserve is home to seals and it is possible to watch them enjoying their natural habitat from hides which jut out into the sea. If hunting for an antique bargain is your thing, there are plenty of quaint shops to explore.

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