London Daytrips
August 24, 2004 7:26 PM   Subscribe

Londonfilter: I'm going in a few weeks. I've been there before (a lot), so need interesting daytrip ideas. I don't drive, so make it accessible by public transportation, and interesting/educational/cultural/fun, 2 hours or so from London. (MI)

I'm planning on doing a day in Brighton, and have done Windsor Castle in the past so that's out. Ta! Cheers! Thanks! : >
posted by amberglow to Travel & Transportation around London, England (33 answers total)
Obvious choices you may have already seen:
- Hampton Court
- Greenwich
- Richmond

They are all easily accessible from central London by boat or train.

Other than that Oxford and Cambridge are close, easy to get to by public transport, and very interesting places to visit.

Oh, and if you've never spent the day wandering around the Tate Modern I can highly recommend it.
posted by arha at 7:38 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: Tate Modern didn't exist the last time i was there, so it's going to be my first stop, arha. (and V&A is my favorite museum in the world, so that's second.) : >

I've heard Hampton's dull--just walking around a building and the grounds. Is it?

Are any of the big Cathedrals close enough for a daytrip? like York? Any really good regional museums?
posted by amberglow at 7:46 PM on August 24, 2004

blackpool -- fish'n'chips'n'mushy-peas. good times! it's like the coney island of albion (or is that brighton I'm thinking of...?)

(also, the beautiful south like to sing nasty things aboot it)
posted by dorian at 7:49 PM on August 24, 2004

Leicester has some fantastic curry houses and a nice little regional museum.
posted by jmgorman at 8:01 PM on August 24, 2004

It's not the chapest trip in the world, but I made a day of going to Paris. The first chunnel train leaves at 5:30 AM or so from Waterloo, and gets into Gare Du Nord a couple hours later. You can head back around 8:30 or so in the evening. Plenty of time to catch all the major sites - the mother of all cathedrals among them - and hang out at the Centre Pompidou (which, if you're into the Tate, might be just your thing).

There's something amazing about going from the center of London to the center of Paris on a train. Utterly surreal and delightful. Strongly recommended.
posted by aladfar at 8:43 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: I did that to Brussels years ago (i think it was the year they opened the chunnel, or the year after) was totally fun, and amazing that it was so doable. I'll check and see if they're still doing the cheap daytrip thing...thanks!
posted by amberglow at 8:46 PM on August 24, 2004

okie I had planned to restrain myself from commenting that versailles was merely a suburb of londinium, but aladfar made me do it!
posted by dorian at 8:47 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: no more cheap daytrips on eurostar that i can see --
($90 each way is the cheapest--i did the daytrip to brussels for 100/rt i think way back when)...oh well.
posted by amberglow at 8:56 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: oop--i spoke too soon--if i do it on a sunday, it's 47 one way. : >
posted by amberglow at 8:58 PM on August 24, 2004

Check out SouthWest Trains and the Days Out list. My wife and I did the package that included a bus tour around Salisbury and guided walking tour of Stonehenge. Provided a nice change-of-pace from tromping around London all the time -- easily do-able in one day and not an extremely long train ride (I think 75 minutes each way).
posted by PeteyStock at 10:18 PM on August 24, 2004

Bath is a lovely place to wander around & is a 90-minute-ish train ride from Paddington.
posted by misteraitch at 12:11 AM on August 25, 2004

Hampton Court is dull, dull, dull. I also thought that the Tate Modern was badly curated, and not much fun (a few pearls, lots of swine).

If you're into foodie things then Borough Market is bustling and great fun. It's open Fridays and Saturdays, and is just round the corner from Southwark Cathedral. Whitstable is also a bit of a shellfish mecca, but it's a pain to get to and can come across a bit blue-rinse. Worth considering if you're hungry and at a loose end though.

Kew Gardens is absolutely beautiful if the weather is good. Take a picnic and go for the whole day. You can get there either by BR (not sure which station, maybe Waterloo?) or Gunnersbury station on the District Line.

It's not totally what you asked for, but bear in mind that Brussels and Paris are not much more than 2 hours away by Eurostar. Brussels is definitely good for a day or two if you haven't been before.

I'm guessing you've done most of the good London galleries / museums etc. already? It's worth checking what's on at the V&A when you're here - they've had some great art deco / nouveau exhibitions recently, as well as an Aubrey Beardsley exhibition that was very cool.

If you can make it any further than 2 hours away, then Cornwall could be worth a visit, there are quite a few interesting things, including a monkey sanctuary in an absolutely breathtaking location, but you might want to check that it's open when you're here as it's seasonal. The New Forest and the Forest of Dean are both also good for that nature hit, although the lack of car might be a problem.

Interesting towns for a day-trip: Warwick, Oxford, Bath, Hereford. I wouldn't bother with Stratford-upon-Avon.

(on preview: I can see you're talking about Eurostar already, but I can't be bothered to edit my post... :-p)
posted by bifter at 2:28 AM on August 25, 2004

Come to Manchester.

Its a 45 minute flight (cheaper to fly than go by train if you book in advance). Its a great place with loads of galleries (Whitworth Gallery and Manchester Art Gallery) Museums (including the Imperial War Museum North), amazing industrial architecture, countless bars and clubs.

If you did make it up here for a visit, you'd be safe in the knowledge, on your return to the US, that you've been to a part of Britain nearly everyone's heard of but nobody's visited.
posted by davehat at 2:33 AM on August 25, 2004

I 2nd what davehat says. Manchester is a great city, great atmosphere (Canal St, evening, summer-time for example), a lot of character....easy to get to the centre from the airport....if you have enough time I recommend the north in general (north England, Scotland) ('specially if you've been to London before).
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:16 AM on August 25, 2004

Response by poster: great ideas...thanks all! I've heard Bath is dull, so that's out. And i've done Edinburgh/Glasgow already--loved Glasgow!

they've been pushing Manchester to us US fags for years now (due to queer as folk i think), but no one i know has the cheap airlines fly up there? (easyjet, ryanair, etc).
Do you guys have any fast trains to the north yet? Any northern cities closer?

How is Winchester or Canterbury? Is Bristol too far? Cardiff?

and the chunnel's cheap seats avail. coming back from Paris
posted by amberglow at 5:13 AM on August 25, 2004

Winchester is nice / twee, Bristol is not too far, but isn't that fantastic really (depends what you want to do while you're there...?) Cardiff is great, but right at the edge of your 2 hour travel limit.
posted by bifter at 5:34 AM on August 25, 2004

Have a look at the independent's '50 best' collection. Each one has 50 recommendations for touristy things to do, most of them relating to the UK. Relevant examples are the 50 best free activities in London, the 50 best ... hidden London, 50 Best Reasons to visit Manchester as well as guides to pubs, clubs, places to meet, bicycling trips, where to shop for X, Y and Z.
posted by biffa at 5:53 AM on August 25, 2004

Well I'm assuming there's a meetup in there somewhere!

And I'll bet you lots of money that I can show you stuff around Brighton that anyone else here wouldn't even think have my e-mail ;-)

If you want a big cathederal then you want Salisbury - the tallest spire in the country and as already mentioned, Stonehenge.

It could be a long day out but Bath, Wells & Glastonbury (Roman, Cathederal, Avalon stuff respectively) is good.

Alternatively Coventry Cathederal(s) - just over an hour from London. Cov isn't the sexist place on earth but the area around the original (bombed in WW2 & now a very moving memorial to the Blitz) and modern (voted building of the millennium in the UK) is very fine and you can get to Warwick (one of the best castles & walled market towns in the world), Leamington Spa (Regency spa town - posher version of Brighton) and Stratford-upon-Avon (that writer bloke's birthplace) easily.

Hey, I may even be able to be your tour guide as my folks live in the area. We can go & annoy biffa at work ;-)
posted by i_cola at 5:54 AM on August 25, 2004

...and I do owe you for that cab ride...
posted by i_cola at 5:59 AM on August 25, 2004

I second the call for a meet. Let's take it to MeTa.
posted by armoured-ant at 6:17 AM on August 25, 2004

Lincoln is another cathedral city (just about) within 2 hours of London, but further off the tourist track. I've not been, but I've heard that one can enjoy a good day out there. And Nottingham is a fun place to visit.
posted by misteraitch at 6:35 AM on August 25, 2004

Don't give up on London too easily. The less well known sights can often be the most rewarding. Have you been to the Soane Museum, for example? Or Dulwich Picture Gallery? Or the Wallace Collection? Have you spent a Saturday or Sunday exploring the City of London on foot, visiting churches like St Bartholomew the Great? Have you wandered round the great Victorian cemeteries at Highgate and Kensal Green? Have you been to Hampstead to visit the Freud Museum, or Erno Goldfinger's house at Willow Road with its modern art collection? How about Spitalfields?

But to answer your question. Oxford and Cambridge are the obvious day-trips from London. (Oxford: 90 mins by coach from Victoria. Cambridge: 1 hr by train from King's X.) Winchester Cathedral is marvellous, though I'm not a great fan of Winchester as a town; if you want the ambience of an English cathedral city, you might prefer a more old-fashioned town like Salisbury, 90 mins by train from Waterloo. I am very fond of Guildford, and the gloriously eccentric Watts Gallery at Compton. Canterbury I would not recommend: it's a regular stop on the coach-tour itinerary, so the cathedral is always full of tourists, and the town itself is unprepossessing (though I admit I saw it in the pouring rain; perhaps it's nicer on a sunny day).

Further north: you could do York as a day-trip (2 hrs by train from King's X), but the big cities (Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool) are only worth doing if you can stay a few days and explore properly.
posted by verstegan at 6:42 AM on August 25, 2004

You got my email, amberglow - maybe you wanna see the smallest Cathedral in England? It's attached to Christ Church College, which is set in meadowlands just near my flat.

We also have The Ashmolean, one of the oldest established museums in the World, and the Bodleian, one of the oldest libraries. Just outside town is the only non-royal palace in the country, Blenheim Palace, with it's Churchillian connections. We could do a walking tour of the colleges, tho that's not usually my thing. Or punt on the river from my mate Roger's boathouse has a great restaurant next door, and a lovely riverside pub just a short punt away...

We will definitely have a meetup, just need to decide where...
posted by dash_slot- at 7:12 AM on August 25, 2004

amber, if you're at all impressed by the ancient, by all means, visit Stonehenge. I've been fortunate enough to have visited and been moved by some of the great archeological sites around the world, and I put Stonehenge in a class of its own. There's something so... majestic... about it, and yet, it's so simple. It can be crowded there but if you give it some time, there's an ebb and flow to the tour buses, and by being patient, I was able to be quite alone there (well, with a travel companion) for half an hour or so.

If you haven't already been, Greenwich is a particularly pleasant 'day trip.' Accessible via one of those Thames tour boats (which is also a nice view of London you may not have seen) or of course via the tube, there are plenty of stops both interesting and informative. The great park itself is nice for just sitting about and reading. Much of Greenwich has a bit of a nautical air about it, if that's appealing to you.

FWIW, I'm jealous of anyone's getting to spend time in London. I'd probably move there in a heartbeat if it weren't for, well, you know, the whole "not independently wealthy and they don't encourage hiring Americans" thing.
posted by JollyWanker at 7:21 AM on August 25, 2004

Response by poster: so many options, not that much time....thanks tons, all! maybe i'll go by mefi residency? (ensuring a drink with a friend at the end of a nice day sightseeing) : >

verstegan: i've actually done 80% of those things, but thanks for the other 20. I've been going to London since the mid-80s (and spent 2 months there back then too, so really got to see a lot of stuff.)

oh, what neighborhood are those newish galleries in? is it mile end?
posted by amberglow at 8:30 AM on August 25, 2004

if you take Peteystock's advice and go to Salisbury, you'll pass through the quaint town of Whitchurch where I live, which is lovely. You're more than welcome to have a cup of tea, see the town and feed the fish in the river test!

And, when you pass by Andover - no matter how much it cries, no matter how much it begs, don't leave the sanctuary of the train, it's evil and wrong!
posted by triv at 11:27 AM on August 25, 2004

Response by poster: Andover's evil and wrong--why? (see--now i want to go there! or is that a quote from something?)
posted by amberglow at 1:14 PM on August 25, 2004

i_cola, didn't you vote for Coventry in a crap town thread sometime? I just don't think there's enough here to justify a trip, maybe if you're popping in here on the way to Warwick, perhaps also with a quick visit to Leamington, but that's not so easy if you're relying on public transport as Warwick is quite poorly served (though definitely worthy of a visit. Of course, all the interesting things are on the other side of the city from where I work. Oh, go on then, let me know if you're in the area.
posted by biffa at 1:21 PM on August 25, 2004

It was a local quote courtesy of my social circle, mixed up with the gremlins tagline. And really, if you visit, you'll never get those hours of your life back amberglow!

The offer of tea stands though, if you like. I'd drive you to Andover - there are 100s of towns like it, all non descript with one of everything, a Macdonalds, too many card shops and people with six toes.

I realise that this potentially might make it sound inviting. It shouldn't, it isn't.
posted by triv at 1:46 PM on August 25, 2004

Response by poster: after that ringing endorsement, i think we have to go annoy biffa in coventry!
(and stop off at triv's for a little visit, of course, and dash's and everyone's.) Do you have a car, i_cola? Can i dress you up in a uniform and call you James? ; >

email me--all of you.
posted by amberglow at 2:39 PM on August 25, 2004

Email you? I think this calls for a Wiki!
posted by dash_slot- at 7:42 PM on August 25, 2004

Second the recommendations for/have you considered Oxford, Bath, Soane Museum, Iveagh Bequest, Courtauld Institute, Greenwich (esp. Old Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum), Imperial War Museum, Southbank (incl. Globe, Tate Modern (which has awful traffic patterns but a great Rothko room), Museum of the Moving Image), Regents Park, Guards Museum at the Wellington Barracks on Birdcage Walk, Original London Walks walking tours, walking around Little Venice, et cetera, et cetera.
posted by Vidiot at 11:48 PM on August 25, 2004

Response by poster: fixed a spam attack on the Wiki

what a good idea! : >
posted by amberglow at 5:18 AM on August 27, 2004

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