Weekend trip for hiking/relaxing in the South of England
June 30, 2022 11:12 AM   Subscribe

We'll be in Reading in early September for a family event and would like to take a few days afterwards to hike, enjoy natural beauty, and relax. We're hoping to stay within 3.5 hours by train, which includes many, many places. Could you help us think of some ideas?

This is our first trip to the UK since 2019, but we both have family in the UK that we visited often growing up, and one of us lived in Bristol for several years. We've done all of the big tourist attractions/towns. We won't have a car.

We've been thinking of somewhere on the South Coast but are totally flexible. Here's what we're hoping for:
- Somewhere quiet, calm, and not too touristy
- Lots of natural beauty (we've been leaning toward coastal areas but open to other ideas)
- Access to hiking/walking without a car
- Easy trip from Reading and then back to London

As was the case in my previous question, our brains are so fried by the pandemic, political chaos here in the US, work, etc. that we're struggling to make choices and would appreciate any recommendations that you might have!
posted by cimton to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I can certainly recommend the South Downs way. You start in Winchester , which is on major train lines, and continue for as many of the 100 miles as time allows. Winchester is worth a day or two or exploration in itself. There’s plenty of accommodation along the way.

I would have recommended the Isle of Wight but it adds a little complication to the trip transport wise, but perhaps don’t rule it out.
posted by Lucy_32 at 11:31 AM on June 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: SouthWest Coast Path from, say, Lyme Regis [Mary Anning, fossils] 30 miles to Exmouth [trains to London 3hrs]. Most walkers go anti-clockwise, so you'll meet them rather than have the same people dogging your footsteps.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:14 PM on June 30, 2022

In 3.5 hours you can definitely get to Cumbria and/or the patch of grass between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

More seriously, Peak District, say Hathersage, or Brecon Beacons are 3-ish hours travel.
posted by k3ninho at 1:57 PM on June 30, 2022

If you're just going somewhere for a few days, I'd pick a nice village or small town in a nearby area and just relax there. On direct rail connections, Henley-on-Thames is just a few stops away, or Pewsey a few stops in the other direction.
posted by vincebowdren at 2:15 PM on June 30, 2022

Consider The Thames Path which can take you either upstream (quieter) or down stream (more famous landmarks) from Reading.
posted by rongorongo at 3:09 PM on June 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Maybe Bradford-on-Avon, 1 hr 24 min from Reading by train, or Wareham, 2 hr 39. Salisbury, 1 hr 20, is also a possibility but may be too touristy. Or, on the coast, Christchurch, 1 hr 45 to two hours.
posted by paduasoy at 10:51 PM on June 30, 2022

You might also consider the Ridgeway. You could join the trail at Goring, which is a very short train ride from Reading - and then follow west until Avebury, with all of its stone circles & Neolithic history (much more inspiring than Stonehenge imo).
posted by rd45 at 1:36 AM on July 1, 2022

There’s always the New Forest which is beautiful, amazing for hiking and wild ponies everywhere. It is a little bit touristy but that’s not a problem as soon as you walk into the countryside.

You can get there from Reading by changing at Basingstoke to Brockenhurst, should take 1.5 hours at most.
posted by Stark at 2:02 AM on July 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

You don't have to do the whole thing, but the Surrey Three Peaks is a beautiful walk with some great viewpoints. You could get a train to Westhumble via Leatherhead (probably an hour and a half or so) and then you'd be close to the trail.
posted by crocomancer at 7:41 AM on July 1, 2022

I suggest Chichester, which is about 2.5 hours by train from Reading. The city itself is lovely, with ancient walls you can walk around, a cathedral with resident falcons, and an excellent theatre. There are plenty of beautiful walks in the Chichester Harbour area, a stunning Roman Palace at Fishbourne, and regular buses up into the South Downs.

Or there's Amberley, which has similar travel times and is on the South Downs Way, with various circular walks you could take - one to the Roman Palace at Bignor. It's a very small, ludicrously picturesque village that would certainly be quieter than Chichester.
posted by kelper at 12:25 AM on July 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for these wonderful suggestions! We ended up hiking a segment of the SouthWest Coast Path and had a truly wonderful time. Looking forward to trying the rest of these recommendations over the coming years. Thank you all so much!
posted by cimton at 6:31 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

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