Best places to visit in England
March 17, 2008 7:53 AM   Subscribe

What are the best places to visit in England, preferably around London?

I have been living in London for two years and a half, but apart from the city itself, Oxford and Cambridge, I don't know anything about England.

What are the best places to visit around London, preferably for one-day trips?
What are the nicest seaside places?

I would like to go to Brighton, Bath and Stratford upon Avon, but any more original idea would be welcome. I am open to all sorts of suggestions. I just want to discover more areas in England - areas worth taking pictures of if possible as I am into photography.
posted by celine to Travel & Transportation around London, England (24 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I loved Durham Cathedral and Castle. And the train ride up to Edinburgh was awfully pretty.
posted by santojulieta at 8:02 AM on March 17, 2008

Definitely Brighton, but avoid it during summer week-ends, it's simply too crowded for comfort.
Bath is wonderful. Haven't been to Stratford yet but am going next month.

Is this rail trips or can you drive to these places? That will help with suggestions.
e.g. checking out Roman Britain around Chichester is great but you'd need a car. Same for some of the wineries (yes, you heard me!) in Sussex.

The Seven Sisters near Eastbourne is a beautiful place for photographs, and it would be a rail + bus connection from London. Same for Herstmonceaux, one of my favorite day trips in Sussex.

Right now the countryside around the South East is covered in cherry blossom and daffodils and soon it will be time for the Bluebell walks (Google Bluebell walks and South East). Many of the staely homes have beautiful gardens if you like that sort of thing.
posted by Wilder at 8:09 AM on March 17, 2008

Durham sounds a bit far for a day trip. I'd consider the Cotswolds perhaps as not being too far afield. Brighton's not bad but I think if you're going that way it's worth looking into the smaller seaside towns on the south coast as well.

Worth looking into some of the older towns around the place, and there's a few castles and stately homes that'd be worth a look perhaps, if you like that kind of thing. Leeds Castle (not near Leeds), Windsor, Blenheim all spring to mind as being pretty close to London (and can probably be included as just one part of a day out) and I'm sure there's more.
posted by edd at 8:12 AM on March 17, 2008

There's plenty of seaside closeish to London. Brighton is probably the nicest (ie without the very English slighty run-down feel) town, but if you want run-down then pretty much anywhere else in Kent or Sussex (Margate, Hastings, Eastbourne, Folkestone to name a few). Scenery wise there are the Sussex Downs, Beachy Head, White Cliffs of Dover, Dungeness, Rye, Isle of Wight.

Away from the sea and within 2-3 hours by train from London, there is Winchester, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Avebury, The New Forest, Bath. Train company websites have information on the main touristy sights within their region, and might be a good place to start, even if you're not planning on taking the train.
posted by jontyjago at 8:13 AM on March 17, 2008

Around two hours out by train:

Nottingham - Nottingham Castle, Galleries of Justice, City of Caves, Tales of Robin Hood, excellent shopping, pubs, and an extremely biased former American who loves to big up her home.
Birmingham - Bullring, Cadbury World, National Sea Life Centre and loads of brilliant shopping.
Leicester - National Space Centre, Jewry Wall Museum, and a strong Asian community.
Lincoln - Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle (including the Magna Carta).
Sheffield - Meadowhall Shopping Centre and Magna Science Adventure Centre.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:47 AM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Suffolk has some quite interesting places which are not too hard to get to from London and yet are off the main tourist drag: towns like Woodbrige on the river Deben and then out to the coast for Orford, Aldeburgh, Southwold and others. You can get there fairly rapidly by train although some of the more interesting places are probably best approached by car.

Further north the Norfolk coast (eg around Cromer) and the Norfolk Broads (which are maybe best seen from a hired boat) might also interest you.

Finally - if you are considering a train journey consider Eurostar will take you well into continental Europe in the same time that it would take you to get to, say, Durham.
posted by rongorongo at 8:56 AM on March 17, 2008

Salisbury gives access to Stonehenge and Avebury (I've heard Avebury is actually more impressive) but I was most taken with the Salisbury cathedral and its original copy of the Magna Carta. The town itself was also a really nice daytrip.
posted by jacalata at 9:40 AM on March 17, 2008

Canterbury? Salisbury/Stonehenge?

No offence to Katemonkey, but don't go to Birmingham, and if you do, don't go to the Bullring. It's just a big newish shopping mall. If you're actually in Birmingham and need to do some shopping, maybe, but to travel to it from London would be demented.
posted by Phanx at 9:48 AM on March 17, 2008

Come to Bristol on your way to Bath :) It's about 2 hours or so away from London on the train, ye olden and extremely photogenic (starting straight from when you get off the train in Bristol Temple Meads). If you can come in August, you'll have the Bristol International Balloon Festival to play with, alongside the WWII pockmarked churches, lots of street art and graffiiti, hundreds and hundreds of years of historical buildings, Ashton Court, magnificent landscapes from the Avon Gorge, and plenty more. The Bristol Flickr pool (disclaimer: I post there regularly, so it's a bit of a self-link) is very active if you want to see more for yourself.
posted by saturnine at 9:55 AM on March 17, 2008

e.g. checking out Roman Britain around Chichester is great but you'd need a car.

Not necessarily. Get the train to Swindon. A bus to Chichester leaves hourly. Warning: involves going to Swindon bus station.
posted by randomination at 9:56 AM on March 17, 2008

Actually, on the subject of places you can get to from Swindon, have you thought of walking along the Thames to its source?

You can get a train to Swindon, a bus to Cricklade (a quiet Saxon village, almost completely devoid of tourists), find the Thames which by this time is smaller in width than the textarea at the bottom of the page, and see how far you get :)

More info: The Thames Path: Cricklade to the source

Kemble is the end of the river, it's a tiny place, but amazingly it has a railway station with direct trains back to London.
posted by randomination at 9:59 AM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Argh. I got Chichester confused with Cirencester. I always do that.
posted by randomination at 10:01 AM on March 17, 2008

If you go to Salisbury Cathedral, the tower tour is incredible.
posted by Jahaza at 10:43 AM on March 17, 2008

How much of the outskirts of London have you seen? Richmond, Hampton Court, Kew, Twickenham, Kenwood on Hampstead Heath, Chiswick House, etc. They're all far enough out to feel like you're not in London any more, but very easy day trips -- some that you can do by boat.

As for the seaside, think about going to Hastings (or rather, to Battle) for the history, and Rye for the seaside. You have the long beach at Camber Sands, and the tranquillity of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

East Anglia offers some great train journeys. If you take the commuter train out from Liverpool Street, there's a point after Manningtree where all the Essex-based workers get off, the land flattens out, and the sky suddenly gets massive. The other great ride involves taking the northern route via Peterborough, and east via Ely to Norwich or Ipswich (or all the way to Great Yarmouth). But to get into the best bits -- the coastal runs, the little old Saxon churches dotted across the landscape -- you probably need a car.
posted by holgate at 10:52 AM on March 17, 2008

The new Bullring in Birmingham is worth seeing if you are into contemporary architecture.
posted by galaksit at 11:36 AM on March 17, 2008

Just an FYI, it took 3 - 3.5 hours by BritRail from Kings Cross (I think) to get to Durham. We did it in a day and had plenty of time at Durham.
posted by santojulieta at 11:43 AM on March 17, 2008


We have coast, from the tacky (Southend, Clacton) to the twee (Frinton, Maldon technically not coast but nearly), we have ancient towns (Colchester), we have beautiful villages (Dedham, Finchingfield) and we have the oldest wooden building in the world, which is just a mile or two from the Secret Nuclear Bunker.
posted by essexjan at 12:18 PM on March 17, 2008

Okay, I'm going to cheat a bit on the "England" part. If you have any love for books at all, you need to go to Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border. It's a little hole in the wall. There is nothing there. Except, you know, 41 bookstores. YES, FORTY ONE. It is freaking glorious, I tell you, glorious. I went there for two hours with my best friend and boyfriend on our two week post-high-school vacation, on the way back to London from Snowdon, and we got so many books we had to buy another suitcase to take them all home. It's book bliss.

Actually, you know, Wales is a beautiful country, so if you can swing a weekend trip, I highly recommend it. But Hay-on-Wye itself is only a couple of hours out from London, IIRC.
posted by bettafish at 12:20 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you go to Bath (which you should) also stop by Wells and tour the Cathedral, which contains the most beautiful arches you've ever seen.
posted by Scram at 12:25 PM on March 17, 2008

Check out London Walks, they have day trips outside of London, you get the benefit of some really sharp tour guides. I loved the Salisbury/Stonehenge trip. If I'd done it on my own I would have just headed out to Stonehenge and totally missed the cathedral and even if I'd wandered the cathedral on my own I would not have learned/seen nearly as much as the guide was able to share
posted by legotech at 1:01 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh and do get in touch if you want to visit either Hastings (Battle) and/or Rye. I'd be happy to pick you up and show you around my neck of the woods!
posted by Wilder at 1:18 PM on March 17, 2008

Dungeness is wierd. Nuclear power station, dead artist's house, micro railway, light house. Romney Marsh and the Royal Military Canal are nearby.
The Isle of Portland is similarly wierd....Prisons, radar station, naval base and many photogenic quarries. Too far away for a day trip but combine it with Abbotsbury for a weekend.
If you have a car get a copy of England's Thousand Best Churches and head off in any direction that takes your fancy.
posted by Dr.Pill at 5:46 PM on March 17, 2008

Also about 2.5 hours by train from London: Brussels.

[Actually I think that 2-3 hours is rather too far away for a day trip. You have to come back again and by the time you crash out back in London there's really no escaping the fact you spent as long or longer sitting on a train as you did at your destination.]
posted by genghis at 12:17 AM on March 18, 2008

I suppose that's alright if you're really keen on Trappist beers, or really want to go somewhere they don't speak English: otherwise it sounds a bit like saying: Also about 2.5 hours by train from New York: Toronto.

To add to holgate's outskirts theme, Greenwich has lots of stuff worth seeing (Maritime Museum, Queen's House, Observatory): also good to walk up through the park to Blackheath and see that little-known gem the Ranger's House.
posted by Phanx at 2:59 AM on March 18, 2008

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