Being based in London, which is home to Heathrow, arguably the most well-connected airport in the world, we’re guilty of not seeing more of what’s closer to our doorstep. (When you can get to Italy in under two hours, you find that you often do.) But you’d also be taking for granted some very charming spots which are just a train ride away. Next time you need a change of scenery for the weekend and can do without the hassles of air travel, check out these UK destinations. No passport check, no security queue. Here are our top five.
The CotswoldsThis area, which covers a pretty large territory – almost 800 square miles – and runs through five counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire), is famous for a reason. The Cotswolds is full of quintessentially English villages of in honey-coloured stone and rolling hills.
Our favourite is the uber-quaint village of Chipping Campden, which is a great place to start your trip. Stay at the Cotswolds House Hotel & Spa - they have a lovely restaurant. From there, you can take a local taxi to the medieval market town Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, and explore other villages.
Getting there: London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh is one hour and 38 minutes, with Chipping Campden then a 10-minute car ride away.
If marina sunsets, fresh oysters and cycling by the sea sounds like your ideal weekend, then you need to head to Whitstable. It’s one of the loveliest seaside spots in the UK. Start off with a pick-me-up at Coffee and Books then rent a bike from Whitstable Cycle Hire and pedal along the five-mile seafront Oyster Bay Trail. Stay on the beach for a drink as the sun sets: Whitstable is one of the few towns in the country with a pub, the Old Neptune, right on the dock.
Getting there: One hour 20 minutes by train from London Victoria or one hour 10 minutes from St Pancras International to Whitstable; around one hour 40 minutes by car.
The New Forest
An English version of the safari, the New Forest has wildlife, woodlands and coastline. As you make your way down the heather-covered heath you’ll see the area’s famous ponies, which have grazed there for thousands of years, plus free-ranging Highland cattle and pigs. It’s best to rent a car, hire a two-seater electric Twizzy buggy to explore in, or book a horse at one of the stables.
Getting there: one hour 30 minutes by train from London Waterloo to Brockenhurst; around two hours by car.
Stonehenge & SalisburyBuilt nearly 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge is the most popular prehistoric monument in the world. And it really is a sight to see. No matter how many pictures you've seen online of this landmark, watching it rise up from Salisbury Plain is truly enchanting. A new visitor centre opened a few years ago with a reconstructed Stone Age village and a restoration of the ancient landscape around the stones themselves, plus the opening of an excellent museum. Take a tour, it’s worth understanding the history. After, head to Salisbury to visit the city's nearly 800-year-old cathedral. Among its highlights are the best preserved of the four remaining copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, the world's oldest working mechanical clock, and - at 404 feet - the tallest spire in Britain.
By train: Trains from London Waterloo to Salisbury leave 20 minutes and 50 minutes after the hour throughout the day. The trip takes about an hour and 20 minutes. Salisbury Reds run regular bus services from the train station to the Stonehenge Visitor Center.
Camber Sands & Rye
Beach person? Head to Rye and Camber Sands on the East Sussex coast, an historic medieval town and beach for the perfect two-day trip. With steep cobbled streets, past medieval buildings, Georgian townhouses and Tudor houses. Rye is deservedly considered one of the prettiest towns in England. And Camber Sands is famous for its long ridges of sand dunes leading down to miles of soft golden sands. The perfect place to listen to crashing waves, sit and read a novel all day.
Getting there: One hour 10 minutes by train from London St Pancras International, with a change at Ashford.