Best Day Trips From London

Although we loved London, most of our favorite memories are tied to our day trips from the city! While planning our trip, we knew that we wanted to spend part of our time in a large city {aka London}, and the rest of our time in the old, cozy little towns you can find scattered across England’s countryside. So, since part of our party had already visited Northern England, we decided to focus solely on day trips located in the Southern part of the country. 

With the time allocated for England, we were actually able to take three different "Day Trips" from London -- some being true day trips, while others were actually overnight trips to help out with the logistics. Each day trip offered a different type of experience that added SO much variety to our trip.  From the jaw-dropping scenery to iconic landmarks, to off the beaten path hidden gems --  we would highly recommend these stops for those looking to escape the city! 

Day Trip 1: Canterbury, Dover & Rye

Drive time - London to Canterbury: 40 Minutes | to Dover: 30 Minutes |to Rye: 57 Minutes

Traveling with a WWII fanatic AND with the recent release of the movie “Dunkirk,” the Cliffs of Dover easily became a top priority on our “England Bucket List.” After exploring the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and falling in love with the feeling of standing on the edge of the world, we were curious to see if Dover would give us that same sensation.

In our adventure to see the Cliffs of Dover, we made our first pit stop along our route in Canterbury. Made known to many through Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” it’s a popular stop for tourists on their way to beach destinations. The most sought out attraction in the city is the Canterbury Cathedral, which acts as a shrine to Archbishop Thomas Becket who is today considered to be a Saint and martyr amongst the Roman Catholic Church. After visiting the church, you can stroll down High Street and shop at local shops, get a drink at One Pound Lane, or eat at one of the many local shops that line the street.

After stopping in Canterbury, our next stop was Dover and the long sought after cliffs we had traveled so far to see! And boy, they did NOT disappoint! Most people know Dover for its town’s heroic acts during WWII as the town rallied to save soldiers stranded along France’s beaches with their own personal fishing boats. Made out of chalk, the National Trust calls the cliffs England’s most iconic landmark, with “the white chalk face a symbol fo home and wartime defense.”  They might not be as large as Moher’s but their contrast of colors and striking beauty does make them appear just as grand. You could easily spend a majority of your day wandering along one of the many trails that criss cross back and forth over the cliffs’ head. For those looking to spend a little bit more time in Dover as well, be sure and check out Dover Castle!

Our last stop before heading home was in probably one of our most favorite little towns we’ve ever stumbled upon: Rye. Our only regret is that we did not get to spend as much time in it due to our arrival being close to sunset {tip: plan a whole day here!}, but it ended up being the perfect place to wrap up our day trip! Rye is full of cobblestone streets, shops full of candy, art, and homemade goods to purchase as souvenirs, and even a couple of Michelin starred restaurants to dine at. There’s a slowness to the city that brings a sense of peacefulness to you after an endless day of travel. If you stick around for the night, grabbing a nightcap at Mermaid’s Inn is a MUST simply for its eclectic interior design and roaring fire you can snuggle up to with your significant other. Just be careful before making the drive back to London — it’s easy to get lost in the atmosphere and cocktails at this Inn!

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Day Trip #2: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge & Bath

Drive time - London to Windsor: 40 minutes | to stonehenge: 73 minutes | to bath: 46 minutes

Our second-day trip consisted of royalty, gin, and rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. We started the trip with a visit to the Queen’s home in Windsor. Windsor Castle is exactly what you would imagine it to be: large, impressive, and nestled in a little town that screams British heritage. We elected to choose the walking media tour guide so we could wander around on our own, while still gaining plenty of information about the history of the grounds we walked on. Located on the grounds is also St George's Chapel, which, if you keep up with the Royals Family like we do, is where Prince Harry & Megan Markle were wedded in 2018. So basically you should visit for that fact alone! Before going, be sure to check out the times for the changing of the guard. It’s quite an experience to watch, and if you have small kids they will love the details of the procession. {Okay, you don’t have to have kids… we loved it just as much too!}

After leaving Windsor, we headed to one of England’s biggest unsolved mysteries: Stonehenge. Considered to be one of the few “Wonders of the World” today, it’s a popular tourist attraction for those visiting Southern England. Most of its mystery revolves around the construction of the Stone Circle that dates back to the Stone Age — making its name quite appropriate. When visiting, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes since there is a short walk from the visitor’s center to the stone formation. BUT, the walk is worth it! Although Stone’s don’t talk, you can only wish that you could ask them questions after seeing the stones in person. Who made them? Why? How did they get so rounded? How did the people lift them to sit on top of one another? It really is quite extraordinary when you think through the logistics of how Stonehenge came to be. Definitely a site that should be included on your bucket list!

The last stop for the day was in Bath! One of the many perks of traveling during the Fall included the drive through the countryside into the city. The view from the top of the city with the Fall foliage surrounding it was in our eyes, postcard-worthy. Since Bath was one of the larger cities in our route, there were plenty of activities to fill the remainder of our day with! Our first stop was at the legendary Roman Baths. Although the baths are still considered to be ruins by archeological standards, they are still one of the most preserved Roman remains around the world today giving you an authentic glimpse into history that most historical sites lack. After visiting the Baths, you can walk around the city to view some of its architectural feats such as The Royal Crescent, Queen SquareBath Street, and Jacob’s Ladder at the Bath Abbey.

As much as we loved the city of Bath, there are three call outs we have to make that will make your trip even better. First, for accommodations make sure and stay at Brooks Guesthouse for the cutest bed and breakfast experience you could ever ask for. Second, if you have the chance to eat dinner during your visit, Sotto Sotto is a must! But make sure and make reservations beforehand and if available we would strongly recommend dinning in the domed room for a one of a kind dining experience. {Domed room — they’ll know what you’re talking about.} Third, for fans of Jane Austin and gin, you MUST end your night at The Canary Gin Bar for an “Austin inspired” cocktail. We weren’t gin fans going in, but we are now! We’d also highly recommend grabbing a bottle of their Bath Gin to bring home — we only wish we would have grabbed more!

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Day Trip #3: Cotswolds and Oxford

Drive time - Bath to Castle Combe: 40 Minutes | To Stow-on-the-Wold 67 Minutes | to Oxford: 43 Minutes

After knocking back a Gin & Tonic with Jane Austin in Bath, we decided to step back even further in time, and explore the sleepy villages of the Cotswolds. Spread throughout six counties, the Cotswolds are a series of rural villages made famous for their thatched, honey-colored stone buildings, medieval architect, and rolling “wolds”, or hills, that surround them. When wandering down the cobbled streets, you can’t help but feel like you’ve been transported to a simpler time before industry and technology. Our favorite village to visit {and most popular in comparison to the rest} is Castle Combe. Think “The Holiday” meets “Beauty & The Beast” — yes it’s THAT perfect. Don’t let the mysterious village names {Stow-on-the Wold, The Slaughters} fool you away from the picturesque beauty that awaits you — there’s a reason people deem Castle Combe the “prettiest village in England!”

If you want to be an overachiever and REALLY take a stepback in time, then make a pit stop in Stow-on-the-Wold, and you could potentially unlock the door to Middle Earth… {Yes I know, I know. We are such sci-fi geeks.} This little town offers the perfect break along your route to Oxford where you can grab tea and biscuits at Lucy’s Tearoom before walking to St. Edward’s Church. Some believe that the famous door at this church was an inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Doors of Durin” in his award-winning movie franchise “Lord of the Rings,” and it’s not too hard to believe the rumors once you see the aging architecture of this door that gives it a somewhat mythical appearance.

Last but not least, the last stop along our day trip was to the “City of Dreaming Spires” — AKA Oxford! Famous for its ancient universities, Oxford has been home to famous scholars from around the world {and the occasional royalty}. With Oxford University holding the title of the oldest university in the English-speaking world, we found it imperative that we tour the campus… plus, some of the Harry Potter scenes were filmed within the different schools, and you know we don’t ever pass those up! {For a listing of HP sites in Oxford click here.} Unfortunately, it rained during our visit to the city, but even with the gloomy weather, there was still plenty of places to shop both locally or at major retail brands, crooks and crannies to explore, or pubs to grab a quick drink at! One place we would recommend is The White Horse. Located in the center of the city, it’s a quick walk to the different schools if you’re looking for a guided tour, or to the shopping district. Dating back to the 16th century, this bar is the perfect place for a pint and to wrap up your tour of the English countryside before heading back to London!

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