Day tours from London are probably one of the easiest ways to see the some of the English countryside without having to change your reservations from London. Whether you want to book a trip through a company to have the whole day planned out for you or book a train ticket and plan the day yourself, there are so many options for the different nearby towns. While I was in London, I did a few different day trips with a few different companies.
Windsor Castle has been home to the kings and queens of England for over a 1,000 years and continues to be the preferred home of Her Majesty the Queen. The tour of the Castle takes about 2-3 hours to walk through so plan accordingly; you walk the grounds, parts of the castle (where you latterly go through 1,000 years of history and interior design) and the neighboring town of Eton. It is a 45-minute car/bus ride or an hour-and-a-half train ride.
Stonehenge and Bath
Personally, this is the coolest bunch of boulders you will ever see and I love them. Yes, they are a circle of rocks. No, no one really knows how they got there. They know where the boulders and stones originated from, but not how they got to Salisbury to become Stonehenge. That’s what makes them so fascinating. Or I just like the boulders in the middle of a field. The picturesque homes built out of the bath stones and cobblestones of Bath send you back in time, and with the help of the Roman Bath and Jane Austen, you do feel like you are in another time. It’s easy to wander around for the afternoon or the entire day in Bath. Stonehenge is about an hour-and-a-half drive out of London and Bath is about a two-hour drive out.
Bampton & *Highclere Castle
Bampton is most recognizable from the series Downton Abbey. It is the local town where fans flock to walk through the church, the hospital, and the homes/store fronts of some of the characters (I’m not much help on specifics, I’m only up to season 2.) Highclere Castle is a separate tour, mostly because Bampton and the Castle are a bit of a drive away from each other and there isn't enough time in the day to do both then, but you can tour the home made famous by the show. Bampton is an hour-and-a-half away from London and Highclere Castle is about an hour (Bampton to Highclere is about fifty minutes)
Blenheim Palace and Burford
Blenheim Palace is the birthplace and home to Sir Winston Churchill. If you are a history buff or a Winston Churchill fan, this is probably the best trip of all for you. The rooms Churchill lived in have been preserved/restored to as he left them and the collection of historical data fills rooms. The gardens are said to be designed similarly to the Gardens of Versailles and are worth an hour or two of wandering around. Burford is a small town in the Cotswolds just outside of Blenheim Palace. Burford is one of the many towns that tour companies will stop in for a lunch break or a break before the long ride home. There are a ton of unique shops, cafes, and shops to walk through along with the main road to walk up to the top of the hill to view the city. Burford is an hour-and-a-half drive from London and Blenheim is less than a twenty-minute drive.
Shakespeare. Oh, Shakespeare. Love him or hate him, you have probably read something by him at one point or another. Stratford-upon-Avon will plunge you right in the middle of the Middle Ages with the Tudor style homes (wooden panels on the outside considered “half timbered”). You can tour Shakespeare’s home in Stratford, but not Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Be sure to check your tours if you book one and see if they include her cottage. Some tours do not go to her cottage because it is farther away. Stratford-upon-Avon is about two hours from London by car.
Canterbury and Dover
If you have read The Canterbury Tales, the Canterbury is no stranger to you. In The Canterbury Tales, they are on a journey from London to Canterbury (in way less detail). The Canterbury Cathedral is stunning inside and out, and if you happened to be touring on a day that choir is singing, stop, sit, and listen for a while. I would strongly recommend taking a day trip itself on your own to the White Cliffs of Dover. You can’t experience them in an hour. Buy a train ticket on the National Rail, pack your walking shoes, and pack a picnic. You’ll have a relaxing day walking the cliffs, exploring Dover and the Cliffs historical past, and even take a boat out to see the cliffs from the water. The coolest part about Dover? On a clear day you can see the coast of France. Only twenty miles away.
Day Tours I Did Not Take:
*Highclere Castle, Hampton Court, Cambridge & Oxford, Brighton, Birmingham, York, etc. There are PLENTY of other options!
These are a few of the tour companies in London that have different day trip options and even weekend trip along with the National Rail for trains/transit to travel on your own:
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