City living has some incredible perks. The United Kingdom’s biggest metropolises are a hotbed of exciting nightlife, fantastic restaurants, stand-out architecture, as well as iconic attractions that bring visitors flocking toward the action. And there’s no better example of dynamic urban life than England’s biggest city; the fancy and formidable London. As prolific author Samuel Johnson famously put it: ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’
But what if you’re actually, well, just a bit tired? City pace is tough, and Samuel Johnson clearly didn’t factor Brit’s love for the countryside. From the unpolluted air, the joyous freedom of its animal kingdom and the ever-stretching views of lush green and clear skies, it’s the perfect place to re-charge your batteries. If you want to slow things down, take a relaxing rural break to one of these awesome places to visit, all within 2 hours of London…
If you’re ready to leave the city behind, take a look at the best holiday cottages within two hours of London
Best for: An academic haven
Distance: 52 miles (83 km)
Travel time from London: One hour 30 minutes driving or 51 minutes by train (fastest route)
Home to one of the world’s elite academic institutions (and our very own commercial director, Joey!) Oxford is famous the world over. Incredibly beautiful, rich with history and packed with vintage cafes – Oxford can’t help but be totally enchanting. And not only is it a short drive from London, but the train journey from Paddington or Marylebone is shorter still!
Highlights: Walking through Oxford University colleges. Punting on the River Cherwell. Exploring the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology.
Trivia: Hitler was intending to use Oxford as his capital if he conquered England which is one of the reasons it was not bombed.
Best for: Incredible architecture
Distance: 31 miles (50km)
Travel time from London: One hour 40 minutes driving or 47 minutes by train (fastest route)
With such seaside towns as the charming Whitstable (famed for its Oysters and a symphony of wonderful restaurants), Broadstairs (home to the beautiful coastal cove of Botany Bay) and Margate (boasting the dramatic cliffs of the Thanet coast) – Kent is a southern gem. For the architecture-appreciators out there, it’s also home to the Church of England as well as the visual delight that is Canterbury Cathedral, a UN World Heritage Site, no less.
Highlights: Eating fresh Whitstbale oysters. Canterbury Cathedral. Margate’s cobbled Old Town. Viking Coastal Trail.
Trivia: Kent is nicknamed the ‘Garden of England’ due to its association with farming and the common hop fields of the area!
3. The New Forest
Best for: Peace, tranquillity and ponies
Distance: 79 miles (127 km)
Travel time from London: Two hours driving or one hour 28 minutes train (fastest route)
Designated as a royal forest by William the Conqueror in 1079, The New Forest isn’t quite as new as one might believe. Famous for its roaming ponies, relaxing hike routes as well as the lovely Lepe Country Park and beach (home to some much visited D-Day landing remains!) A haven for R&R, it’s no wonder The New Forest has become such a popular staycation spot.
Highlights: Taking a ride on one of the New Forest ponies. Fantastic walks. Charming local pubs. Exbury Gardens & Railway. The New Forest Wildlife Park.
Trivia: The New Forest has some funny and, rather rude-sounding, place names including Sandy Balls, Anthony’s Bee Bottom and Little Stubby Hat.
4. Stratford upon Avon
Best for: Terrific Tudor buildings
Distance: 81 miles (130 km)
Travel time from London: Two hours driving or 2 hours 13 minutes by train
Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire is one of the most visited destinations in the country, welcoming around 5 million tourists a year. The town owes its popularity, in part, to its status as the birthplace of arguably the greatest writer in the English language of all time – William Shakespeare. Oh, and the beautiful Tudor buildings, gorgeous river and fabulous high streets.
Highlights: A show at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Shakespeare’s home. Boat trips on the River Avon.
Trivia: Stratford upon Avon was founded by the Saxons when they invaded what is now Warwickshire in the 7th century AD. The name is derived from straet ford, the ford by the Roman road. Avon is a Celtic word meaning river or water.
Best for: A fabulous seaside party
Distance: 47 miles (75 km)
Travel time from London: one hour 30 minutes driving or 52 minutes be train (fastest route)
Brighton – the flamboyant party-starting son of East Sussex county – is a colourful and confident seaside resort town well worth a visit when breaking away from the Big Smoke. Famous for outlandish architecture (an Indian palace in the heart of southern England?!) and a kitsch pier full of funfair rides, dazzling arcades and deliciously naughty fast food.
Highlights: The British Airways i360. The Royal Pavilion. Brighton Pier and Marina. Fish & Chips and mini-donuts!
Trivia: For a town that was made famous by virtue of the sea, it is amazing that there is no sand there! Yep, you’ll see no sand castles because there’s none about, just pebbly shingle.
Do you fancy escaping the city and finding your inner Tarzan? You’ll love the high-speed zip lines, free-fall swings and 30 metre high tree top bridges at Go Ape! Perfect for groups of friends, families or a different kind of date with your partner, there are a number of Go Ape centres located across the UK.
Highlights: Getting out in the fresh air of the tree tops
Trivia: If you’re scared of heights fear not! Go Ape is proud to have helped lots of people conquer their fear of heights. Why not give it a try – you might surprise yourself!