‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’ – Samuel Johnson
I’m a born Londoner but raised in the Geordie land of Newcastle. I do love London and I used to often agree with the quote above but it’s not true. In my opinion, when you are tired of London you just need a change of scenery and to come back with a new zest for one of the most global & exciting cities in the world. Getting out of London can be the much-needed break Londoners are thirsting after. I, myself took a 3-year break from London to Oxford and learnt the lesson of slowing down.
So as Londoners despair that they can’t hop on a flight from Heathrow, London City or Gatwick to get relief from that ‘London hustle’ how about a day trip outside London in the UK? I share 6 summer outdoor day trips that you can take by car or public transport outside that M25 ring.
Please check government travel advice in the UK. I share about outdoor trips as we can socialise with up to six people from different households outside. This reduces to two households if socialising indoors. The term household signifying those that live together irrespective of the number. If you want to turn any of these day trips into staycations and plan to stay overnight somewhere you can only do so in groups of up to two households – that’s the current guidance so please bear this in mind when making plans.
Note: Due to constantly changing government advice do check on each attraction’s website for opening times & restrictions they may have in place due to Covid. Some attractions are issuing limited tickets or time slots to maintain social distancing
For all these destinations if want to travel by car find a friend who has a car as I suggest in my ‘How to plan a Staycation‘ blogpost or hire a Zipcar for the day and use your phone as a satnav or an old school map.
1. Hitchin Lavender Farm, Hertfordshire
Set in the North Hertfordshire village of Ickleford, Hitchin Lavender Farm is an absolute delight to all your senses as you amble down the rows of lavender – taking in the mood-relaxing, smells surrounding you. Best enjoyed on a gloriously hot summer’s day you are hit with the purple of the field and can indulge in a delicious lavender flavoured ice cream as I did. I hope next time to try the lavender cake – my waistline had to decide between the two so I opted for the ice cream.
Unfortunately this year there is no cutting of lavender stalks but luckily, the farm gift shop of all things lavender is open for you to purchase goodies from soaps and lotions to jams and honey, scented with this divine aroma. (Can you tell lavender is one of my favourite scents?) Picnics are allowed and I can think of no better location to soak in the ‘purpleness’ of it all.
Tickets cost £6.45 (includes booking fee), are issued in time slots for entry and need to be booked in advance. There are also discounts for groups of 4 and 6 so get those friends and form a family.
How to get there:
By car – Postcode: SG5 3UA. There is an area for parking that is free for those visiting the farm
By public transport – From King’s Cross station buy a ticket for the Thames Link line to Arlesey. Once at Arlesey walk to The Old Oak and take a bus to The Green and from here it will be a 5-minute walk to Hitchin Lavender Farm.
2. Epping Forest City of London, Essex
Epping Forest is a green space managed by the City of London Corporation and technically parts of this woodland fall within the M25 as it straddles both Greater London and Essex. It is a wonderful place to get lost in, removed from the hustle and bustle and to just enjoy the pure nature of this forest land. The tranquility of Epping Forest means I know I will come back to this place time and time again and its an excellent place to start if you are beginning to take up walking or hiking.
The High Beach visitor centre, which provides maps of different walks and is a great resource, is unfortunately currently closed. However, you can obtain maps for the nine waymarked trails online. I have walked the Beech trail which starts in the heart of the forest and I’ve often finished off my visit at the Robin Hood Thai Restaurant housed in a traditional pub yet serving the yummiest of Thai cuisine.
No tickets or pre-booking is needed to roam the forest so you can truly have a spontaneous day not restricted by entry times.
How to get there:
Since there are many different trails and thus starting points within this large forest I’m going to share only the direction details of the Beech trail that I did.
By car: Postcode – IG10 4AF. Unfortunately, there is a ‘no parking’ order in effect at the High Beach visitor centre which does usually have parking so you will need to google for the nearest parking to here.
By public transport: The tube can be taken to Loughton station on the Central line (red) and then from here it is a 45 minute walk to the centre. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or Uber (since you are still in London)
3. Cliveden National Trust, Buckinghamshire
Cliveden is a country house and vast estate straddling the border of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire and has been home to many of the English royal gentry of princes, earls, dukes and viscounts. The house has been turned into a hotel but it is the grounds that are its star attraction. You can also still feel like you are visiting a bit of London as the truly splendid gardens and woodlands of Cliveden overlooks the River Thames.
I visited a few years back in autumn and the colours encountered were spectacular. The gardens in view of the house are manicured to perfection that you almost don’t want to walk amongst it so as not to upset the symmetry. For the walkers amongst you, this is a lovely day trip option and you also have the opportunity to hire a boat on a self-drive basis, which you can book online in advance via boatingatcliveden.co.uk to meander along the river.
Tickets cost £10 for adults and are released every Friday and must be pre-booked for arrival within your 30 minute set time slot.
How to get there:
By car: Postcode – SL1 8NS. Car parking is free for National Trust members – a bit of an incentive to get National Trust membership! The woodlands car park is currently closed so head for the main garden entrance car park
By public transport: Take a train from London Paddington to either Taplow or Burnham on the Reading main line. Unfortunately, there are no buses to Cliveden and it’s not advised to walk along the main roads so hop in a taxi from the station and share the cost with friends.
4. Kingsgate Bay, Kent
They say life feels better when at the beach. I’ll say it’s better at the right beach and with perfect weather; life can feel like you are living it in a different country entirely from the UK. It was last summer my friend suggested we head to the beach and despite our misadventure of getting lost on our drive back and having to knock on a stranger’s door at night to charge our phones, it was one of my favourite UK days out when we visited Kingsgate Bay.
Situated near Broadstairs, Kingsgate Bay is one of many of Kent’s gorgeous sandy beaches flanked with white chalk cliffs and Kingsgate Castle overlooking it. It is the quieter of the beaches compared to its neighbours of Botany Bay and Joss Bay (a hotspot for surfers), which one can walk to and this is due to the parking not being great. Whilst here I napped on the beach catching rays, had a dip in the sea and I actually bumped into friends who had had the same idea to come out for a trip here so we played volleyball. It was a perfect summer’s day and a day out here will put you in the most fabulous of moods.
How to get there:
By car: Postcode – CT10 3OH. I had a delicious seafood linguine at Captain Digby’s which overlooks the beach and thus this is where I parked since I was a customer of the eatery. Alternatively, you can at the larger car park of Joss Bay and walk to Kingsgate Bay.
By public transport: Take a train from London Victoria or London St. Pancras to Margate and then a bus. A train can also be taken to Broadstairs, however, it is not direct and can involve 2 to 3 changes and then a bus from the seaside town to Kingsgate Bay.
5. Bleinheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Sometimes when we are travelling the world we want to visit that ‘must-see’ UNESCO World Heritage Site but do you know our own UK has some of those too that you can explore? Introducing Bleinheim Palace, one of the 32 UNESCO sites in the UK and found in Oxfordshire, it is known as ‘Britain’s Greatest Palace’ and home to the Duke of Marlborough. This day trip will be loved by those who love period dramas and visiting stately homes with impressive grounds as walking here transports you to the past.
There are five formal gardens to walk around, including my personal favourites of the Water Terraces and the Rose Garden. Having lived in Oxford I was able to visit here several different times and each time was a new experience. My first visit was my favourite as it was the first day of real fun I had had with new friends I had made since I had moved.
The Palace to my surprise is open (yay) but please check exactly what sections and/or exhibitions are open so as to avoid disappointment if you have your heart set on seeing a particular thing. Again remember you can only visit inside if attending as two households.
Tickets for adults are £28.50 if you want to enter the palace and £18.50 for the park and gardens. With the £28.50 ticket, you can upgrade to a 12-month annual pass to visit again and again at no extra cost. There is a 30% discount on tickets for those who arrive by train so contact email@example.com for the online discount code to use when booking online.
How to get there:
By car: Postcode – OX20 1UL. Free parking is available
By public transport: A train can be taken from London Paddington direct to Oxford or a coach from London Victoria’s bus station. A bus can then be taken from the train or coach station to the gates of Bleinheim Palace.
6. Cammas Hall Farm, Essex
The last time I went fruit picking was decades ago as a little kid up North and I remember all the fun I had so I thought why not do so again as an adult? Cammas Hall Farm is a fruit farm on the Essex/ Hertfordshire border where you can pick a variety of fruit depending on the season. When I visited I was able to pick strawberries, raspberries (which I made into jam) and gooseberries (which I had never tried before) but they also grow blackberries and blueberries.
There are rows and rows of fruity goodness as you look for the perfect enticing fruit that you later will devour and its a very amicable day out as you soak in the sun and blue skies. There is also a farm shop to pick up any fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, cheeses and other delights.
It is open from June to October and requires advance booking online and tickets are £3.25 (booking charge at 25p) cost of which is redeemed against the amount of fruit you pick. I spent a grand total of approximately £15 on top of the ticket price with all the fruit I picked. There are allocated entry time slots when purchasing your ticket and these are released only a day or so before the date, you want to attend.
How to get there:
By car: Postcode – CM22 7JT. There is free parking available.
By public transport: It is, not the easiest location to get to without a car. One can either take a train to Bishop’s Stortford from London Liverpool Street or Stratford. Another alternative route is to take a coach from Stratford to Stansted Airport Coach station. From either Bishop’s Stortford or Stansted Airport (going in the direction of Bishop Stortford) then a bus can be taken to Barnfield, then from here, it is an 18 minute walk to the farm. Another and quicker alternative is to share a taxi from the train or coach station with friends – there is no Uber out here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my round-up of day trips outside the M25 a.k.a from London. Let me know if you go on any of them or want any more info by interacting in my comments box below.
And she said all you need is a day trip to have that burst of fun!
Lots of ‘fruity’ love,
The Five to Nine Traveller