England has a wealth of historical sites outside London and even the most ardent fan of the city will want to get away from it at times to visit the world outside. Here we choose the best ones that can be done in an easy day trip from London, either by a direct train journey or on a coach tour.
London is centrally placed in the south of England, with plenty of historical sites in the environs. We have chosen the most significant sites for the history enthusiast to visit, and all of which can be reached by a direct train from London, so there is no need to change trains at any time. It is also possible to get tours to these locations if you would rather have someone else do all the work, allowing you to sit back and watch the countryside go by before you are delivered to the doorstep of your destination.
So if you are looking to get out of London for the day, have a look through this list to see where might take your fancy.
Possibly the most famous prehistoric monument in the world, the Stonehenge site is about 5,000 years old and is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in England. You can explore the site, the museum and the Neolithic houses, but bear in mind that it is not possible to touch the stones.
London to Stonehenge by train
You can easily take a direct train from London Waterloo to Salisbury. They leave about twice and hour with a duration of around 90 minutes, and can cost as little as £18 for a day return if you book in advance. Book your ticket or set an email reminder for when the cheapest train tickets go on sale >>
Walk about 10 steps out of Salisbury Train station and find the Stonehenge Tours bus which will take you there and back at your own pace. You can stay as long as you like at the stones, get a bus back to Salisbury and visit Salisbury Cathedral or Old Sarum, have a leisurely meal in a medieval pub - whatever you fancy, before getting the train back to London when it suits.
Find out how to visit Stonehenge for free >>
London to Stonehenge Tours
Alternatively, you can get tours directly from near Victoria in central London and which come with audio guides in various languages, or you can combine a visit to Stonehenge with other places such as Bath, Windsor or Oxford. There are plenty of options available.
The Georgian town of Bath is famous for its Roman Baths, stunning architecture and Jane Austen, but you can also visit the Abbey, the famous Sally Lunn's, or take a river cruise or a hop-on hop-off bus tour to see the sights.
The Roman Baths are essential viewing; book your ticket online to avoid the queues. In the summer months the Baths stay open until late and can be seen by torchlight with a glass of prosecco. The return trains to London run until 11:30pm so you will have time to do this and get back without having to stay overnight.
London to Bath by train
You can get direct trains from London Paddington which leave every 30 minutes, last about 80 minutes and which will get you into the centre of town. Book your ticket or set an email reminder for when the cheapest train tickets go on sale >>
London to Bath Tours
The ‘dreaming spires’ of this ancient University town have some incredible architecture and historical sites.
You can take hop-on hop-off bus tours, walking tours, a river cruise, or just wander around the college quads. You can visit some of the free museums such as The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, the incredible Pitt-Rivers Museum or listen to Evensong in one of the beautiful college chapels for free. The world famous Bodleian Library does tours and is most definitely worth a visit to see the ancient manuscripts.
London to Oxford by train
Trains go directly to Oxford from either London Paddington or London Marylebone several times an hour and take just over an hour. Prices can be as low as £12. Book your ticket or set an email reminder for when the cheapest train tickets go on sale >>
London to Oxford Tours
HIGHCLERE CASTLE, BERKSHIRE
Highclere Castle is not just the incredible setting for Downton Abbey, but the home of Lord Carnarvon who financed and was present for the opening of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1923.
The basement is filled with some of the treasures he brought back from Egypt, as well as replicas of the pieces which are in Egypt. The castle is set in beautiful landscaped grounds and has some stunning rooms to visit as you go round.
London to Highclere by Train
You can catch a train from London Paddington to Newbury. They leave twice an hour and last about 70 minutes. You will then need to get a taxi to the castle. Book your ticket or set an email reminder for when the cheapest train tickets go on sale >>
Bear in mind that Highclere is not open all year round.
London to Highclere Tours
This ancient university town makes the perfect day trip. Home to some of the oldest and most beautiful colleges in England, Cambridge is also famous for punting on the River Cam.
You can take a hop-on hop-off bus tour, a walking tour with an ex- student, be punted down the river to look at the colleges or even have a go at punting yourself. The Fitzwilliam Museum is free, as is the Wren Library. You can hear the Kings College Choir for free at Evensong every night and still be back in London before it gets too late.
London to Cambridge by Train
Trains leave from London King's Cross, St. Pancras or Liverpool Street and can be under an hour depending which one you take. Tickets can be about £14 if you book in advance.
London to Cambridge Tours
Stratford-Upon-Avon was Shakespeare’s home town and his packed with heritage. You can visit his birthplace, his bride’s cottage, mother’s farm, daughter’s home, his schoolroom or his grave; or watch one of his plays performed by the experts at the RSC.
London to Stratford-upon-Avon by Train
Trains leave from London Marylebone (currently with one change at Dorridge) and last about 2 hours. Tickets can cost £15. Book your ticket or set an email reminder for when the cheapest train tickets go on sale >>
London to Stratford-upon-Avon Tours
WINDSOR CASTLE, BERKSHIRE
Home to Windsor Castle which was built in the 11th century and has been home to the Royal Family since Henry I, Windsor is a great place for a historical day out.
You can take a hop-on hop-off bus tour around the town and Eton, a Sunday lunch or an afternoon tea cruise on the River Thames through the town, or walk to nearby Eton, where you can do a guided tour of the prestigious school. The huge Windsor Great Park is free to explore, or you can attend Evensong for free in St. George’s Chapel, built in the 14th century and the location for many Royal services.
London to Windsor by Train
Trains leave from London Waterloo or Paddington (both currently with one change) and can cost as little as £11. Journey times vary between 25 minutes and an hour. Book your ticket or set an email reminder for when the cheapest train tickets go on sale >>
London to Windsor Tours
The Cathedral Close has the excellent Salisbury Museum, a museum dedicated to The Rifles Regiment and the home of former Prime Minister, Ted Heath. St. Thomas’ church has the largest and best preserved Doom Painting in the UK from 1470, or you could even visit the Medieval cinema.
London to Salisbury by Train
Trains leave from London Waterloo and take about 90 minutes, with no changes. If booked in advance, tickets can cost as little as £18. Book your ticket or set an email reminder for when the cheapest train tickets go on sale >>