My recent article, London Best Bets, highlighted what to do, see, and eat in this amazing town on the Thames. If you have a few extra days in your itinerary, consider a day trip outside the city. There’s plenty to explore within a few hours radius with transportation by private tour, rail, bus, or group tour:
Stonehenge & Bath:
Built over 5000 years ago, the story behind this famous Mesolithic-period monument is still up for debate. The unique stone circle is aligned with the movements of the sun and was created by a sophisticated pre-historic people. Leave extra time to visit the newly renovated Visitor Center chock full of archaeological treasures. Afterwards, head to Bath a lovely countryside town well known for its stately 18th-century Georgian architecture (like the sweeping Royal Crescent) and Roman Spa and springs that still flow with natural hot water. Combined, a visit to Stonehenge and Bath will be a full-day excursion.
A county on England’s southern coast, about an hour from London, Hampshire is well known for picturesque villages, manor house hotels, golfing, biking, equestrian, and outdoor sports steeped in history like fly-fishing and clay shooting. It’s your country home away from home. Even if you’re not a “Downton Abbey” fan, Highclere Castle, the massive, real life home of the 8th Earl & Countess of Carnavon is worth a visit. Satisfy your inner “Indian Jones” with a visit to the castle’s lower level – the Egyptian Exhibit displays King Tut’s artifacts discovered 100 years ago by the 5th Earl of Carnavon and archaeologist Howard Carter.
Hampton Court Palace:
It’s easy to spend hours exploring the rooms of this historic royal Tudor/Baroque palace on the Thames plus the added attraction of 60 acres of formal gardens with lush topiary, privy gardens, and hedge maze. Go in the spring to witness one million flowering bulbs.
This medieval market town in the West Midlands, is most noted as the 16th century birthplace of The Bard, William Shakespeare. Take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare or Swan Theatre; visit Anne Hathaway’s house (his wife, not the American actress); climb to the top of the Theatre Tower; or have a pint in one of the many pubs.
Located northwest of London, this quaint city revolves around the prestigious 12th century university composed of 38 colleges. If the weather is good, take a biking or walking tour. Want to pair your educational excursion with a bit of retail therapy? Check out nearby Bicester Village Outlet Shopping home to 130 fashion and lifestyle boutiques.
Not far from Oxford, explore this region of quintessential English villages and lively market towns. It’s brimming with natural beauty any time of year. Rent the Kate Winslet/Jude Law rom-com The Holiday for the best travelogue. If you are not short on time, visit Blenheim Palace, and get lost in this proverbial country manor home which just happens to be the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The grounds have been featured in numerous Hollywood flicks including Mission Impossible, Spectre, and Harry Potter.
Located north of London, this college town is home to the legendary university founded in 1209. Take a walking tour and soak up some of that knowledge and be inspired by the many museums, galleries, and majestic college buildings. Science, math, and history buffs know there is no shortage of Hollywood biopics filmed here honoring the lives of famous Cambridge alums: The Theory of Everything (Steven Hawking), The Man who knew Infinity (Srinvasa Ramnujan), and The King’s Speech (King George VI).
One of three official residences of the Queen, it’s the largest inhabited castle in the world. Time your visit to see the changing the guard; view the State Apartments; and gaze at St. George’s Chapel which recently hosted the wedding seen ‘round the world: the marriage of Prince Harry and Princess Meghan Markle.
Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, this Renaissance castle pairs well with a visit to nearby Stratford-upon-Avon. The castle offers medieval-age appropriate crowd pleasers like jousting tournaments and plenty of child friendly activities including Falconer Displays, Adventure Maze, and the Hall of Armor.
Making of Harry Potter:
No London day trip list is complete without the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, a permanent exhibit which displays an authentic behind the scenes look into all things Harry Potter. The studio tour explores two sound-stages and a back-lot filled with original sets, animatronic creatures and plenty of special effects. Interactive activities will put you into the action, with opportunities to purchase a frothy cup of Butterbeer, of course!
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