London makes the perfect base camp for taking day trips to visit scenic and historic destinations all within a couple of hours.
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Best day trips from London
While planning your visit to London, make sure to add these top day trips if you love nature, scenic views, striking architecture, and/or history.
- The Cotswolds is the best day trip from London – only 80 miles northwest (depending on which village you visit – from Burford to Bath) – and features charming fairytale houses, stone wall enclosures, historic inns and pubs, and rolling hills throughout the 800 square miles of this region.
- Windsor Castle (the oldest and largest residential castle in the world) and St. George’s Chapel in Windsor England (the final resting place of 11 royal monarchs including Queen Elizabeth II) in Windsor is only about 25 miles from London – making it an easy day trip.
- South Downs including Beachy Head and The Seven Sisters – majestic white chalk cliffs along the English Channel separated by dry valleys – Devil’s Dyke, and The Long Man. This area ranges from 60 to 90 miles from London so expect a true all-day trip.
- Oxford, located 56 miles from London, offers a full day of activities (or more – I spent five days there and still didn’t experience everything I wanted to do). You’ll find magnificent architecture, historical sites, nearly 40 colleges, lots of chapels, churches, and steeples, a castle, and much more.
- Bletchley Park is home to the beautiful country estate and park and the famous World War II codebreakers – a must-do historical site located in Milton Keynes, about 55 miles north of London. See my full review about my fascinating experience: A guide to the historic Bletchley Park – home of WWII codebreakers.
I plan to create a blog series and dedicated posts about my three-week workcation adventures in England. Until then, here is an overview of the best scenic and historic day trips from London.
Best day trip guide to the Cotswolds
This section features the best villages to visit in the Cotswolds – so far – as they are the four that we toured on our guided day trip. They include Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford, and Bibury. I plan to return as the area offers many more charming and historic villages I would love to explore. And adding the Cotswolds Way to my hiking adventures – a 100+ mile hiking trail through the region.
The Cotswolds – Bourton-on-the-Water
Our family’s favorite European city is Venice. And after visiting the Cotswolds, our favorite village in this region is the charming and historic Bourton-on-the-Water. Its nickname is Venice of the Cotswolds.
You’ll fall in love with the five historic and beautiful stone bridges arching over the serene River Windrush – a tributary of River Thames. They were built between 1654 and 1911.
We especially loved walking along the river and did a quick tour of the miniature model village – a scaled replica of Bourton-on-the-Water. Other top attractions and things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water include Cotswolds Motoring and Toy Museum, Birdland Parks and Gardens, Greystones Nature Reserve, Cotswolds Brewing Company.
The Cotswolds – Stow-on-the-Wold
Stow-on-the-Wold, another fairytale Cotswold village, earned a place in our hearts. This medieval historic place was the site of the last battle in the English Civil War back in 1646. Of special note is The Porch House, which dates back to 947 AD, making it the oldest inn in England (verified by Guinness Book of Records).
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you will definitely want to add the Cotswolds village of Stow-on-the-Wold to your itinerary. Many speculate that the door framed by old yew trees that leads into St. Edwards Church was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Doors to Durin. He was a frequent visitor to Stow-on-the-Wold while a professor in Oxford.
The Cotswolds – Burford
Burford, considered the gateway to the Cotswolds, is home to England’s oldest pharmacy, dating back to 1734 (when you go inside it looks like a modern pharmacy). We especially loved the architecture of the historic St. John the Baptist Church and surrounding graveyard. Built between 1160 and 1475, St. John the Baptist Church is one of the largest wool churches, which was funded primarily by rich medieval wool traders.
The Cotswolds – Bibury
Bibury was once coined the prettiest village in England. This Cotswolds village is where you’ll find the historic and protected Arlington Row – a series of connected stone homes built in 1380, which are featured on the inside cover of every U.K. passport.
England’s oldest working trout farm is also nearby. I also recommend stopping by the Church of St. Mary to marvel at its beautiful architecture. Established in 899, this Anglo-Saxo church was built in the late 11th century.
The South Downs – Beachy Head, The Seven Sisters, and Devil’s Dyke
You may have heard of the Cliffs of Dover in the North Downs (which I would love to visit). However, we took a guided day trip to the South Downs not too far from Brighton, England where our stops included The Long Man, Devil’s Dyke, Beachy Head, and The Seven Sisters. Here you’ll take in panoramic views of valleys, dramatic white sea cliffs made of chalk, a lighthouse, and the coast of the English Channel.
Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel
I arrived in England during the mourning period of Queen Elizabeth II and walked the queue to her lying-in-state. The line to pay your respects snaked around the River Thames for miles and at one point meant more than 24 hours to wait. So we were surprised to learn that our self-guided tour of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle allowed us to view her final resting place in the Royal Vault. It was a very moving experience.
Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest castle in the world that’s still inhabited by residents. Your tour will take you to the queen and king apartments where you’ll experience lots of history, beautiful architecture, and stunning furnishings.
Guide to an Oxford day trip
While you could spend weeks in Oxford and still not see everything (I stayed five days and it wasn’t long enough), a day trip from London is doable. My top three recommendations for a day trip include a walking tour of Oxford colleges, audio tour of Christ Church, Oxford Castle & Prison – and stop in and eat or drink at The Turf Tavern, which dates back to 1831. Oxford’s version of the Bridge of Signs is near the alleyway that leads to this old pub.
Watch for a future post on other cool things to do and see in Oxford, including:
- Christ Church – especially Grand Hall if you’re a Harry Potter fan
- Bodleian Library – Divinity School and Duke Humphrey’s Reading Room (both filming locations for Harry Potter)
- Oxford Castle & Prison
- Tour of Oxford colleges (there are 39 of them!)
- Carfax Tower
- Oxford University Museum of Natural History
- The Turf Tavern – dating back to 1831
- University of St. Mary the Virgin and Tower
- Oxford Botanical Garden
- Punting or other boat tour on River Thames or River Cherwell
- Bridge of Sighs
- Radcliff Camera
- Oxford University Press (if you’re a word nerd like me)
- And more
Visit Bletchley Park; Milton Keynes, England
I am so grateful that Bletchley Park hosted me on a self-guided audio tour of Bletchley Park. This historic site was the secret home of the famous World War II code breakers, including Alan Turing.
The tour of this beautiful estate takes you on a journey of the past with immersive films, interactive displays, and historic buildings. It’s a perfect day trip for those who love history and learning more about WWII or anything techy. See my full review of my Bletchley Park experience (opinions are always my own.)
A list of the best day trips from London and distances
How far away are the best day trips from London? Here are the estimated miles to some of the top day trips from London.
- The Cotswolds featured villages:
- Bibury: 102 miles
- Bourton-on-the-Water: 88 miles
- Burford: 73 miles
- Stow-on-the-Wold: 84 miles
- Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel; Windsor, England: 25 miles
- Beachy Head; Eastbourne, England: 87 miles
- The Seven Sisters: 67 miles
- Oxford, England: 56 miles
- Bletchley Park: 55 miles
Best day trips from London I still need to do
While I experienced a lot during my three-week workcation in England, it still wasn’t enough time to visit every place on my list. Here are a few more of what I’m sure are some of the best day trips from London for next time.
- Blenheim Castle
- Cliffs of Dover
- Downton Abbey filming locations (Highclere Castle, village of Bampton, etc.)
- Harry Potter tour at Warner Bros. Studios
- Leeds Castle
- Warwick Castle
- And many more
Did I miss any of your favorite day trips from London? Let me know in the comments.