As Samuel Johnson famously said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” That may be true enough, but sometimes you just want to escape the city for some fresh air and a change of scenery. These weekend breaks from London certainly offer that, and a lot more too.
Think of heading to the beach, the countryside, or perhaps another city? There are plenty of great locations within just a few hours’ travel that make for the perfect weekend trip away.
1. The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds chocolate box villages are the image that immediately springs to mind when you think of the English countryside. This area makes a great rural retreat for anyone wanting to escape London for the weekend.
Some of the prettiest villages in the area include Burford, Bourton on Water, and the Slaughters – the walk between Upper and Lower Slaughter along the banks of the River Eye is a must-do.
The area is rich in archaeological sites and historical buildings. There are also some beautiful parks and gardens. There are also plenty of traditional English pubs to retreat to if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Get there: 2 hours by car, or 1 hour 30 minutes by train from Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh
Scones with clotted cream and jam, Cornish fudge, pasties, and seafood – Cornwall is a foodie paradise. It also offers some of the best coastal views, sandy beaches, and surf breaks in the UK.
Cornwall is at its best in the summer months but it can also get very busy. Try a weekend break in the shoulder season during June or September. The weather is still good at this time, but it’s a lot quieter and accommodation is cheaper.
Get there: 4 hours 40 minutes by car, or 4 hours 30 minutes by train from Paddington Station.
For a classic British seaside trip, you can’t go wrong with Brighton. Deckchairs on the beach, fish and chips, and a stroll along the pier – what more can you want?
Of course, there is actually a lot more on offer. Brighton has great nightlife, is a cultural and creative hub, and there’s shopping galore – The Lanes is Brighton’s historic shopping district with dozens of independent boutiques
Brighton is also famous for being one of the UK’s most LGBT-friendly and inclusive cities, and the annual Pride event is not to be missed.
Get there: 1 hour 45 minutes by car, or 1 hour by train from Victoria Station.
Oxford’s dreaming spires have been attracting visitors to the city for thousands of years. But if you’re not interested in academics or architecture there’s still plenty to keep you occupied here for a weekend.
The city’s history covered market is a must-visit for the best the area has to offer in food, drink, and local crafts. There are also some great weekly farmers markets for the foodies.
As a cyclist-friendly city, hiring a bike is a great way to see the city, or you can try your hand at punting down the river. The botanic garden and arboretum in the city centre is Britain’s oldest and well worth a look too.
Get there: 1 hour 30 minutes by car, or 1 hour by train from Paddington Station.
5. The Peak District
If you’re craving some fresh air and open spaces, head north to the beautiful scenery of the Peak District.
The area offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, caving, rock climbing, and other outdoor pursuits. Keen cyclists must try out the Tissington Trail. For a more leisurely activity, explore the grounds and tearooms of the several stately homes such as Chatsworth House or Haddon Hall. You can also while away an afternoon browsing the antiques shops in picturesque villages such as Matlock or Ashbourne.
Get there: 3 hours by car, or 2 hours by train from St Pancras or Euston Station to Derby
Fast train connections make the medieval city of York a popular choice for a weekend break. There’s plenty to see and do, and it makes a nice change of pace from hectic London life.
York is full of history, and walking its streets can make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. The 14th century shambles is a must for history buffs as well as for shopping and exploring quaint cafes.
The city is particularly pretty at Christmas time when it becomes quite magical, lit up with fairy lights and with a festive traditional market running annually from mid November.
Get there: 4 hours by car, or 2 hours by train from King’s Cross.
7. The New Forest
If woodland walks and cute ponies sound like your idea of a great weekend, head to the New Forest. This ancient woodland provides a picturesque backdrop for a whole host of outdoor activities such as horse riding, hiking, cycling, and water sports.
There are plenty of rainy day activities on offer too including a tasting tour around Ringwood Brewery, the National Motor Museum, Hurst Castle, and plenty of spots to enjoy afternoon tea or explore the shops.
Get there: 1 hour 45 minutes by car, or 2 hours by train from Paddington Station to Lyndhurst.
There’s possibly no better place for a relaxing city break than Bath with its elegant Georgian architecture and thermal spas. The Thermae Bath Spa is the city’s most famous and has been around since roman times, fed by natural springs which contain over 42 minerals.
Once you’re suitably relaxed, Bath has several interesting archaeological sites to explore. This contrasts with a modern and buzzing city centre that offers shopping and dining opportunities for every taste.
Get there: 2 hours 30 minutes by car, or 1 hour 30 minutes by train from Paddington Station.
Dorset and its stunning coastline lend themselves perfectly to long walks with a side of fossil spotting. There are also plenty of castles, forts, gardens, and stately homes to explore. Many of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories are set in areas around Dorset, so you can relive your childhood dreams of adventure in the real world.
Shopaholics can happily browse the fossil and local pottery shops for hours. If you fancy a tipple, there are some great breweries, micropubs, and vineyards.
Get there: 2 hours 30 minutes by car, or 3 hours by train from Waterloo Station.
10. North Norfolk
The calming waterways of North Norfolk make the perfect backdrop for a relaxing weekend break. The area is best in the spring when the weather is pleasant, but the summer tourists haven’t yet started to arrive.
There’s plenty to do including some gorgeous coastal walks on the beaches of Holkam and Brancaster Staithe. There are also some impressive stately homes in the area with extensive grounds such as Holkam Hall and Houghton Hall. If you’re visiting in the winter months, make sure to stop off at Blakeney Point to see the seal pups.
Get there: 2 hours by car, or 3 hours 45 minute by train from King’s Cross