It’s time to put your 26-30 railcard to good use: book train tickets to these beautiful places ASAP.
If you’re anything like us, sometimes you feel like you just need to get away from it all. And now that travel restrictions within the UK have eased, you can. And what could possibly be better than a day trip on the weekend to somewhere new and easy to get to?
From Bath’s stunning architecture, to the cosiness the Cotswolds, there’s nothing quite like hopping on a train and leaving London behind for the day.
And according to Snaptrip, though, most people living in the UK have only seen around 30% of the country – with Scotland at the top of their must-see list. If you’re in the mood for a Highlands adventure, check out our ultimate guide to the land of dramatic landscapes, Highland cows and pure white sandy beaches.
However, if you’d prefer to start your travels closer to home, don’t despair: with so many beauty spots sitting less than a two-hour journey from London, it’s easier than ever to hop on a train and pay a visit somewhere new. Whether you fancy going just for the day, to try out a country walk or a new pub, or you want to spend the night at a romantic (and budget-friendly) hotel, there’s lots of choice.
To help you plan your trip, we’ve compiled a list of the most beautiful places to visit by train from London below.
Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Royal Tunbridge Wells is a small town tucked on the western edge of Kent, with lots of cute, winding lanes and beautiful countryside to explore.
Best place to eat and drink: the Grade II ‘listed’ The Mount serves classic pub grub that will be perfect after a day of exploring the Area of Outstanding Beauty.
How to get there: From Charing Cross or Cannon Street, the train takes under an hour.
For years now, Margate has been establishing itself as the cool little sister of Brighton, as more and more trendy cafes, vintage shops and cute interiors brands pop up here. As well as the beach, make sure you visit the pastel-hued mini-theme park Dreamland and explore the shops.
Best place to eat and drink: The Greedy Cow cafe boasts a seasonal menu of fresh, locally sourced food and good coffee - all palm oil free.
How to get there: Get the train from Victoria or St Pancras International, it’ll take about an hour and a half.
From its interesting little galleries to amazingly fresh seafood, Whitstable is the ideal seaside spot to visit to get some fresh air and take in an ocean view, too.
Best place to eat and drink: it has to be Wheelers Oyster Bar, which was founded in 1856.
How to get there: It’ll take around one hour and 30 minutes to get there from Victoria or St Pancras International.
In recent years, Folkestone in Kent has transformed itself from a sleepy seaside town into a bustling hotspot for creative types. And with stunning views of the sea, it’s a calming place to be.
Best place to eat and drink: you might not think to try Turkish cuisine in a traditional British seaside town, but Aspendos is a great choice for refuelling.
How to get there: Leaving from St Pancras International, the train will take you just over one hour to arrive.
It may be a classic choice, but the coastal city of Brighton has a lot to offer – from a great LGBTQ* scene to multiple galleries and museums – it’s definitely worth a day trip or two.
How to get there: Hop on the train from Victoria Station and you’ll be there within the hour.
If Bath’s Roman and Georgian architecture isn’t enough to entice you to go see the city for yourself, then its swish spas certainly will.
Best place to eat and drink: Experience contrasting flavours, textures and temperatures with English, Indian and Asian influences at Menu Gordon Jones.
How to get there: Leaving from Paddington Station, you’ll arrive in Bath in one hour and 30 minutes.
If you’ve yet to try punting along the riverbend in Cambridge, then what are you waiting for? Not only is it an incredibly unique thing to do in the city, but it’s also enjoyable, too. And with plenty of great restaurants and museums to see, it’s certainly worth travelling to.
Best place to eat and drink: seeking a tasty bite after a nice stroll (or punt) along the river? Try Restaurant Twenty Two for inventive yet fulfilling food.
How to get there: Hop on the train from King’s Cross and you’ll arrive in Cambridge in 60 minutes.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
From its elegant Georgian townhouses to historic Tudor buildings, the market town of St Albans is perfect for a peaceful day away from the hustle and bustle of London.
Best place to eat and drink: serving the native cuisine of Cyprus, Bar Meze is a great spot for both food and drink.
How to get there: Leaving from St Pancras International, you’ll arrive in St Albans in under 20 minutes.
If you’re a bookworm then a trip to the university town of Oxford is in order. Not only has its breath-taking architecture inspired many a novelist – such a Phillip Pullman and Lewis Carroll – but it also has an array of cosy pubs to try, too.
Best place to eat and drink: Kazbar may be a student favourite, but that doesn’t mean you should give it a miss. For stunning Moroccan decor and incredible cocktails, it’s definitely worth a trip.
How to get there: Hop on the train from Paddington Station and you’ll be in Oxford within an hour.
Rye, East Sussex
Fancy catching a train to the coast? From its cobbled lanes to thatched roofs and hidden passageways, Rye is one of England’s quaintest towns – making it hard for any visitor to not instantly fall in love with it.
Best place to eat and drink:
How to get there: Leaving from St Pancras International, you’ll arrive in Rye within an hour.
Not only does Bristol have a vivid street art scene but the city is full of great restaurants serving up ethical and local cuisine, too. One day in Bristol is never quite enough but it will give you a flavour of a city very different from London.
Best place to eat and drink: for something a bit different, try the Michelin starred Wilks Restaurant.
How to get there: Hop on the train from Paddington Station and you’ll arrive in Bristol in under two hours.
From its rolling fields of lavender to tiny thatched-roof cottages, the Cotswolds is as romantic as you’d expect. The area itself covers a huge 800 square miles and runs through five different counties, so there are plenty of sites to stop off on your tour. Oh, and it has some of the best cheese shops in the country, too.
How to get there: Leaving from Paddington Station, it’ll take you less than an hour to reach Oxford, where you can find local trains to your chosen Cotswold destination.
If quaint independent cafés, shops, museums and churches bursting with history are your interest, Norwich can offer you a lot. But the city isn’t only an important part of British history - the modern marketplaces are filled with restaurants serving both traditional and modern food, as well as dozens of authentic pubs.
Best place to eat and drink: wine bar The Wallow is the perfect place to sit and sip after a day taking in the city by foot.
How to get there: you can make it to East Anglia in just under two hours, departing from Kings Cross.
This historic city is one of the oldest in the UK and boasts picturesque cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and one of the most famous cathedrals in the country.
Best place to eat and drink: try the beautiful courtyard garden at The Bishop on The Bridge to whet your whistle by the waterside.
How to get there: Leaving from Waterloo station, it will take about an hour to reach Winchester.
Additional writing: Amy Beecham / Images: Getty / Unsplash