HomeLifestyleTravelPlaces To Visit

5 Day trips less than two hours from London

BY Sarah McManus

13th Mar 2024 Places To Visit

6 min read

5 Day trips less than two hours from London
Save your annual leave and explore beautiful towns and places with day trips less than two hours from London, including Brighton, Rye, the New Forest and the Cotswolds
Mini-breaks are great, but once you add in the cost of a hotel and the days of annual leave, you find yourself wondering if you shouldn’t just be heading abroad.
Day trips offer the best of both worlds; a change of scenery, delicious food and a good walk, but you can sleep in your own bed (for free!) at the end of it and head into work the next day feeling refreshed.
Here are five of the best, all reachable from London in less than two hours.

1. Brighton

People walking down Brighton Pier
There is something for everyone in Brighton; traditional fish and chips on a pebble beach, vegan cafes and restaurants, LGBTQ+ venues and events, the Royal Pavilion, the famous pier, and independent shops—both vintage and contemporary—selling clothing, jewellery, interiors, chocolate, books and records.
Start your day wandering towards the sea via Sydney Street. Any of the small coffee shops would be a great first stop before heading to the very pink Books for Amnesty shop. Continue on, stopping in little shops like Abode and Nola, until you reach the pier. From here you could walk along the front to Kemptown or inland to the Royal Pavilion.
"There's something for everyone, from fish and chips on a pebble beach to vegan cafes and independent shops"
For lunch, Brighton has a wide selection of restaurants and cafes to suit most budgets. Burnt Orange, with its Mediterranean sharing plates, and Riddle and Finns on the Beach, which is a seafood restaurant, are worth booking in advance of your visit. Spend your afternoon exploring the Lanes or on the beach if the weather allows.
End your day with a walk round Hove, stopping at Cin Cin wine bar or Palmito, the Ecuadorean-Indian fusion restaurant.
Trains from London Bridge and Victoria.

2. The Cotswolds

Cottages in the Cotswolds
With the instantly recognisable pale-yellow stone cottages and seemingly unending supply of excellent pubs, the towns and villages that comprise the Cotswolds are well worth a visit.
Spend the morning walking around Chipping Norton, a bustling market town with shops, restaurants, cycle hire/tours, a theatre and, in summer months, a lido with two heated outdoor pools. Be sure to pop-in to Jaffé and Neale, the bookshop and cafe that has been open since 2006.
Head to the beautiful village of Charlbury, if time and interest permit, stop at Diddly-Squat Farm on the way before arriving at The Bull in Charlbury. The pub is dog-friendly and has started 2024 with a spate of excellent reviews for its food, especially the pies.
After lunch, the Daylesford Farm Shop is an impressive establishment with food, garden and home wares, and cafes in which you could easily lose an hour or two or visit Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and its gardens designed by Capability Brown.
The villages of Stow-on-the-Wold and the smaller Bourton-on-the-Water both offer a pleasant walk; Stow is full of independent shops and Bourton houses a model village. If you or a companion is a Soho House member, call in at Soho Farmhouse in Great Tew.
Trains from Paddington.

3. Margate

Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate
Those of a certain age will remember Margate as a somewhat mocked holiday location and home to Dreamland, a vintage style amusement park with rides. The children of those snobbish mockers are now moving to Margate in droves as they take advantage of the excellent transport links and the opportunities presented by hybrid working.
If Shoreditch were by the sea, it might look a bit like Margate with its galleries, second-hand clothing shops and coffee shop culture.
"The Turner Contemporary art gallery has changing exhibitions and spectacular views across the harbour"
A walk along the flat, sandy beach will literally be breathtaking on a windy day but is rewarding whatever the weather, and on a clear day you can see for miles.
One of the main draws is the Turner Contemporary art gallery which opened in 2011 to celebrate artist JMW Turner, and his connection to Margate. The gallery has changing exhibitions, is free to enter and has spectacular views across the harbour, along with a bright airy cafe that would be a perfect brunch or lunch stop.
Exploring the town, you will stumble across the aforementioned second-hand clothing shops, book shops, cafes and photogenic little streets like Love Lane.
End the day with a visit to one of the restaurants on the harbour arm–try Sargasso for modern British seasonal fare.
Trains from St Pancras International.

4. The New Forest

At over 200 square miles, the New Forest is a protected national park dotted with small towns and villages that stretches from just south of Salisbury to the Lymington coastline.
Arriving in Brockenhurst, stop in one of the coffee shops for some sustenance before heading out either on foot or by bike (bikes can be hired locally).
There are so many trails to walk or cycle, it is worth planning in advance which ones you might want to tackle, Thenewforest.co.uk is a useful resource as it has walking and cycle routes split into family, dog-friendly, longer and those that take in pubs and/or villages.
One way to narrow it down is to have somewhere for lunch as your destination and choose the walking route accordingly; while restaurants and pubs are used to seeing diners in walking boots, for your own comfort, consider bringing a change of footwear if it is a wet day.
Popular local restaurants include, Hartnett, Holder and Co, a relaxed restaurant with Italian influences at the Limewood hotel in Lyndhurst and, The Pig, a restaurant in Brockenhurst which offers “British kitchen garden food” and focuses on produce from within 25 miles (it also has a smaller wood fired oven restaurant serving pizzas and flatbreads in the summer months). Either of these or one of the many pubs in the area would be excellent stops after a morning of walking or cycling.
In the afternoon, you could continue walking in the forest–keep an eye out for the famous New Forest ponies. Alternatively, spend time exploring local villages, visit the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu or head south to the market town of Lymington on the coast for either a coastal walk or some shopping on the High Street.
Trains from Waterloo.

5. Rye

The Mermaid Inn in Rye
The medieval town of Rye in East Sussex perfectly blends the historic with the modern. The cobbled streets and historic buildings (which include Tudor and Georgian styles) house contemporary galleries, bookshops, interior shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels.
The once coastal town now has views over salt marshes and many of the Rye restaurants serve the famous local salt marsh lamb.
Begin at one of the many independent coffee shops, such as The Fig, and take a walk around the town. Wishbarn Antiques, Soap and Salvation, Rye Pottery, Rye Chocolates and Rye Art Gallery are all worth pausing for.
Rye Castle Museum is split into two sites, East Street and Ypres Tower. Ypres Tower is a small but fascinating museum in a 14th century tower but note the age of the tower means it has uneven flooring and tight staircases that may prevent some visitors from access. It is thought to be the second oldest building in Rye, the oldest being St Mary’s church which dates from the 12th century.
"The historic buildings house galleries, bookshops, interior shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels"
The more accessible Lamb House is a Georgian house with a walled garden that was visited by George I and was later home to the US novelist Henry James.
Continue your architectural tour by stopping at The Union, a restaurant and bar that serves seasonal British produce and is housed in a 15th century building.
There is plenty in Rye to keep you occupied for the afternoon, however, a trip to Camber Sands could be made by taxi, bus, bike or even on foot and would reward you with a beautiful stretch of sandy beach.
Return to Rye and visit The Mermaid Inn, one of the most famous buildings in Rye for a drink or some supper and decide for yourself if it is haunted.
Trains from London Bridge and St Pancras International.
Visiting any of the above areas out of season is a great way to avoid the crowds but be careful to check the trading hours of any businesses/attractions you plan to visit as these can be reduced in off-season.
Banner photo: Lyndhurst is one of the beautiful New Forest villages that are less than two hours from London. Credit: Annie Spratt
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...