Many of my friends who have moved to London from abroad have hardly visited anywhere around the rest of the country and those of us who have moved down from around the country see no reason to leave, except to sometimes go home. We do get stuck in this bubble of bustle, culture and attractions and London is great, but sometimes you just need to escape and explore some of the other beautiful places the UK has to offer. Here are my top 5 spots within an hour, a little further or if you want to escape for a bit longer, so get your camera out and go exploring this summer!
Be there within the hour…
Cambridge is a gorgeous and relaxed university city 45 minutes away from London by train. On a sunny day, visit Cambridge to wander through the parks, find a cosy pub by the river, drop into the quaint shops or the busy marketplace or even have a go at punting on the river (or have someone punt you around the river if you’re not sure on your balance!). If you visit in summer you may spot the soon-to-be-graduates doing their graduation ritual of walking on masse into the city centre, followed by their family and friends!
Oxford had to be added to make it fair! Another glorious university city, Oxford is rammed full of beautiful architecture. Visit the Tourist Info and get yourself a guide book to explore and understand what’s behind all the buildings and make sure you visit Christ Church to see some of the settings used in the Harry Potter films. Then find a cosy backstreet pub and get yourself a Pimms, that’s the life…
Bournemouth is a lovely town to visit on a sunny day. Walk along the cliffs for some gorgeous coastal views, or just sit on the beach if you’d prefer. There’s rock, ice cream, arcades and fish and chips, what more do you need?
Winchester is a pretty cathedral city, well worth a visit. ‘Arthur’s Round Table’ and ‘Eleanor’s Garden’ are worth a quick visit up near the station, before you head down the hill and along the traditional high street, with its market stalls. Explore the cathedral quarter to see Jane Austen’s old house and pop into the cathedral to see where she is buried. The cathedral’s crypt is also home to an original Anthony Gormley sculpture and, if you time it right, you can watch Evensong before you head off to one of the quaint restaurants for dinner.
Whitstable is last on my quick list. Head out to Kent to the sleepy seaside town and enjoy some salty, fresh sea air. I recommend trying out Waltshaws – which does huge sausage rolls – amongst the many spots to grab a bite, and then explore the little shops, galleries and stock up on your antiques and fresh oysters. If you’re feeling a bit more active, try your hand at sailing!
A little further afield!
Paris is an easy-peasy two hours from London St Pancras if you fancy a little trip abroad. If you’re 25 and under you can get into the galleries, museums and exhibitions for free, so why not pop over, do some tourist-ing, visit the Eiffel Tower and eat your weight in crepes, then be back in London by bed time?
Lincoln is a gorgeous little city to visit (I’m bias as I went to uni here!). There’s the new town when you come out of the station, with all the usual shops, then head up ‘Steep Hill’ to visit the castle, the cathedral and all the cobbled streets of tea shops and pubs. You can grab some food down at the marina and Lincoln is a great night out with its high student population.
York is a great city to spend time in. There’s loads to see and do, whatever the weather. If it’s rainy, there’s a plethora of museums, exhibitions and attractions, like The Dungeons and the Viking Museum, and if it’s sunny you can walk the roman walls which scale the city, grab a boat ride down the river and just walk around the cobbled streets and pop in and out of the shops.
Birmingham is an easy and great escape from London. The train station brings you right into the Bullring, a huge shopping centre, which is enough to keep you busy! Aside from that, it’s a great city of bars, restaurants and has a great Bannatyne Spa right in the city centre that’s worth a visit. Whilst you’re here, drop into the library – it had a refurb a few years ago and is pretty swanky!
Manchester is my favourite – of course – as it’s my glorious hometown! There is loads and loads to do inside and outside of the city centre but shopping in the Arndale, a visit to one of the museums (check out the National Football Museum in the Urbis!), a wander through Heaton Park, dinner in China Town and a play at the Royal Exchange in-the-round theatre would be top of my list!
Got a weekend?
Berwick and Northumberland is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever visited. There’s loads to see here if you like a good wander and photo opportunity. There’s the Holy Island (Lindisfarne), Alnwick, Cragside and a load of gorgeous castle ruins to find. My favourite things to do were follow the roman walls around Berwick to spot Lowry picture locations, and going on a boat out to the Farne Islands to spot seals! This place is magical…
Edinburgh is, in my opinion, one of the best cities ever. If you visit in August you can catch the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with comedy, music, dance and theatre shows everywhere! As well as the Fringe, the city has the old and new town. In the old town, the Royal Mile takes you from the castle, at the top, all the way down a cobbled street of shops and pubs to the Queen’s home (Balmoral) at the bottom. Next to Balmoral sits the stunning mount of Arthur’s Seat which is well worth walking up for the views on a clear day! In the new town there’s loads of shops, museums, restaurants etc and if you grab a bus out of town from this direction, within 10 minutes you’ll be at the coast! Read about my trip there last year.
Cornwall is a long hike out of London but is totally worth it. The beautiful area has miles and miles of coastline and sandy beaches, perfect if you like exploring – or if you’re a surfer! St Michael’s Mount is very impressive, as is the Eden Project. In-between those and the number of bustling fishing towns, this is a picturesque area, with great food, great views and lots of fresh, fresh air.
Southwold in Suffolk is a great escape from the city. Perfect for a little camping or glamping trip, you can hire bikes, visit the Adnams Brewery to get a taste of one of their brews (or gins!) straight from the tap, go on slow afternoon wanders and have plenty of BBQs. Perfect for a friends weekend away.
Tenby in Wales is my last spot to visit and you’ll truly feel like you’re on holiday! There’s gorgeous beaches (they’ve won an award or two!), a crooked, pretty historic town to explore and this is the type of town where it’ll take you an hour to walk down one street as the locals are all so friendly, they want to stop and chat!
Well, there’s enough to start yourself a checklist! It’s time to explore the rest of the UK – where will you be exploring this summer?