London is a vibrant, ever-changing city with an almost inexhaustible list of things to do and places to see. However, even though the capital offers many ways to enjoy your weekend, sometimes there is nothing better than escaping the hustle and bustle and experiencing a change of scene and re-charging your batteries.
When you need a breather, why not venture outside of London and explore somewhere new? Within a two-hour drive, you could be ambling through beautiful countryside, paddling in the sea or relaxing beside an open fire in a country pub. There are some wonderful British destinations near London where you can slow things down for a while; here are a few of our favorites.
Rolling green countryside, signature honey-hued villages and traditional pubs with open fireplaces; there are few places as charming as the Cotswolds. When you want to escape the big smoke and experience an English rural idyll, this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a picture-perfect setting.
Indulge in an afternoon tea, drift around one of the many beautiful gardens and country houses and explore the independent boutiques, galleries and antique emporiums of storybook villages such as Bourton-on-the-Water, Bibury and Castle Combe. For walkers, there are also over 100 miles of scenic routes on the Cotswold Way National Trail, which runs between Bath and Chipping Campden.
Average driving time from London: two hours
Where to stay: Have a browse of these cozy Cotswolds cottages
Described as the ‘Garden of England’, Kent is home to a landscape of undulating hills, glorious vineyards, fruit-laden orchards and impressive country estates. At its heart is the spellbinding Canterbury Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll also find its surrounding coastline peppered with seaside towns such as Whitstable, which is famed for its oysters and Broadstairs, home to the breathtaking Botany Bay.
Flee from the city and enjoy a slower pace of life. Take part in a tour and tasting of one of the local vineyards, explore the romantic ruins of Hever or Leeds Castle, wander around the colourful gardens of Sissinghurst, or admire the scenery on a stroll across the North Downs. And don’t forget to stop in at a friendly Kentish tea room for a cream tea.
Average driving time from London: 1 hour 40 mins
Where to stay: Have a browse of these stylish Kent cottages
The New Forest
A haven for R&R, the New Forest is the perfect place to get away from it all and immerse yourself in nature and fresh air. Delight in invigorating rambles through dappled woodland, where fallow deer dart between the trees, and across heather-covered heath where the famed New Forest ponies graze. When you fancy a day at the beach, the New Forest coastline offers a wealth of sandy stretches to sunbathe, swim and build sandcastles, including the mile-long Lepe Country Park beach.
This unique holiday spot near London is made for lovers of the outdoors. From canoeing to sailing and horse riding to mountain biking, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the countryside and coast. Or you could make the most of the quaint towns and historic villages including Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Burley and Beaulieu. Be sure to make time for a proper ploughman’s lunch at one of the country pubs.
Average driving time from London: two hours
Where to stay: Have a browse of these beautiful New Forest cottages
With magnificent castles, historical houses, miles of chalky cliff tops and picturesque fishing villages, Sussex is an idyllic destination to spend a refreshing couple of days away from London. Home to some of the South Coast’s most popular seaside towns, including Eastbourne, Hastings and Bognor Regis, there are plenty of opportunities for a fun day at the beach – the vast stretch of Camber Sands is always a favorite.
Off the beaten track, you can relish fresh-air stomps along the South Downs Way or, for awe-inspiring coastal views, head to the Seven Sisters Country Park or Beachy Head with its iconic lighthouse. And offering a quiet charm – a contrast to the urban intensity of London – the cobbled medieval streets and crooked half-timbered Tudor buildings of Rye offer a relaxing place to while away an afternoon and enjoy some fresh seafood.
Average driving time from London: 2 hours
Where to stay: Have a browse of these gorgeous Sussex cottages
As you can see, whether you are looking for a family day out in the countryside or a romantic stroll along the coast, you don’t have to wander far from London to find an idyllic slice of paradise in the UK. After a long, blissful day of adventures, there’s no better feeling than returning to a relaxing home-from-home – perhaps with a hot tub to sink into or a warming wood burner to curl up by.
Holidaycottages.co.uk offers a wide selection of holiday cottages in the UK, whether you are travelling as a couple, a family or bringing the dog. From short breaks near London to longer holidays further afield, holidaycottages.co.uk aim to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.