Now it’s summer there are ample opportunities to enjoy the sun. Many may already have big trips planned, but being in the UK means there’s a lot of destinations just a few hours away perfect for long weekends or last minute holidays.
This article will give some spots in the UK and even abroad that are only a few hours drive or flight away from London. With everything from cities, countries, beaches, festivals and more there’s a lot to cover.
There’s a lot of great beaches all over the UK each with their own charms, villages and natural wonder. Here are just a few places to keep in mind when planning, or just deciding, to head to the beach from London.
Starting south some of the most popular beaches are found in Cornwall. It’s a popular place because of its rolling hills, consistently good waves for surfing and its all-around laid back lifestyle that attracts families, parties, campers and holidaymakers. Some famous stretches of sand include Watergate Bay, Newquay (North Cornwall) and Porthcurno, near Land’s End (South Cornwall).
Cornwall is about 4-5 hours from London and just near is Devon, which also has many beautiful beaches. Saunton Sands is three miles of un-tamed bliss found in the Northern part of Devon. Behind it is Britain’s biggest sand-dune system as well as beautiful foliage filled with butterflies, and the Exmoor National Park just nearby.
If you want to spend a day or two exploring the Southwark coast then Walberwick is a delightful and quiet stretch of sand and shingles. During the summer they have crabbing events for children and there’s also designated camping areas for families and groups. It’s less than three hours from London so definitely worth staying a night camping or in a B&B, with natural paths for hiking and small towns to explore.
There are also some incredible camping spots all over the UK, many by beaches and others including the Peak District. Here’s a recent article laying out some of the best spots for camping across the UK.
Cities and Daytrips
Whether by car or train there’s a bunch of places outside of London with history, beautiful grounds, as well as whole other cities with their own unique charms and character. Whether for a day, a weekend or even a whole week here are some top choices of where to visit.
Brighton & Hove could have been suggested here or above as the seaside destination is in proximity to some beautiful Southern coastlines. However, Brighton is an exceptionally fun place for all ages with beautiful Victorian architecture, hundreds of unique pubs and restaurants as well as unique shopping streets and a bustling nightlife. There’s also the famous pier with rides and games and the pebble beach lined with bars, with sandy beaches not too far in Eastbourne and Hastings.
Many visitors and residents alike love a spontaneous trip to Oxford. It’s only a couple of hours by car or train and once there you can explore the grounds, the iconic university buildings and the local museums. Just near is Blenheim Palace, an incredible country house open to visitors. Next to that is the idyllic village of Woodstock, perfect for a quick lunch or just a look around.
The Cotswolds is a massive range of rolling hills and valleys filled with Jurassic limestone and historic stone built villages. It’s a popular place to explore, particularly in the summer. It’s recommended to do this by car if possible as you’ll want to drive around and explore as many of the towns and natural sites as possible.
Another great city to visit is Bristol in West England, just 2 hours away by car or train. It’s a university town so filled with great pubs and good nightlife. It also has a beautiful harbour that’s great to sit by in the summer, as well as Cathedrals, museums and the famous suspension bridge. The historic city of Bath is also just a half hour away, named after the still standing Roman bathhouse. It’s easy to walk around for hours exploring the Victorian architecture and Roman remains, making it easy to visit both cities over a long weekend.
Finally, if you’re willing to fly North then in just under an hour you could be enjoying a few days in Edinburgh. Scotland’s capital is great for a quick escape with its Medieval buildings, unique culture and countless museums and activities. Over the summer there’s the Edinburgh festival for all things arts, theatre and comedy that draws huge crowds. Definitely worth considering for a short break.
Festivals are in a bit of a grey area of whether it’s a ‘holiday’ or a ‘party’, but since it includes being away for a few days and camping we’re going to count it. Particularly as festivals in England are huge, popular and seasonal to the summer attracting the world’s best artists. Between June and August there are festivals big and small across the UK, but here are a few of the biggest ones close enough to London.
Isle of White Festival – June 13th to 16th
The Isle of White Festival goes back to 1968, running for three years until being revived in 2002. It’s held every year in Newport, accessed by a quick ferry ride from any of four main ports. There are 12 areas for food drinks, dance floors, smaller stages, and dozens of bands. The lineup in 2019 has Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, George Ezra and Biffy Clyro.
Reading – August 23rd to 26th
The Reading and Leeds Festival happen every year at the end of August over the bank holiday weekend, both with the same billing. Weekend tickets and day tickets are available each year to see some of the world’s most successful bands. This year the lineup includes 21 Pilots, Post Malone, Foo Fighters, The 1975 and more.
Boomtown – August 7th to 12th
Boomtown is a hedonistic electronic music festival that’s been around since 2009. It has different ‘districts’ all to a set theme across four main areas, there are incredible art pieces and stages and charitable events coinciding. It’s truly a special festival built for those with a passion for the music and open atmosphere that comes with it.
A great part of being in England is you can simply drive over to France in a few hours and from there go further to some beautiful locations. Either by ferry at multiple ports, including Dover and Southampton, or taking the Eurotunnel, taking a car over to France and Belgium is a viable and cost-friendly holiday plan that only takes roughly 3 hours from London.
It’s very easy to get to Calais from London and spend a day exploring things like the Town Hall, the World War II museum, or simply enjoy a day by the beach. Going further you can get to Lille, which is filled with fun activities and sites like the Cathedral, Modern Art Museum, the Birthplace of Charles De Gaulle and more. It takes just over 4 hours to reach Lille from London.
Bruges is another option, a quaint medieval town that has gained popularity in recent years. There’s a lot of great restaurants, canals, and museums including the Gruuthesmuseum, Diamond Museum and fun activities like the Bruges Beer Experience. This wonderful city is roughly4 hours of driving time from London.
Honfleur is a nice town in Normandy and well worth a visit, not only is it by the ocean but it has a thousand years of Medieval history behind it. Visitors can enjoy seeing the old churches and cathedrals, like Notre-Dame de Grace and the Saint-Catherin church, take in some of the museums and eat delicious seafood at one of the many harbour restaurants.
Naturally, flying is always an option and with continental Europe on the UK’s doorstep, there are almost countless destinations to fly to in just a few hours. Whether it’s Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris or beach trips to Portugal or Spain, there is really is something for everyone looking for a quick break. As there are so many options here are just a few of some of the most popular destinations only a few hours flight time away:
- Costa del Sol, Spain
- Algarve, Portugal
- Crete, Greece
- Mallorca, Spain
- Sardinia, Italy
- Ibiza, Balearic Islands
- Guernsey and Sark
We hope this article gave some ideas for an amazing impromptu holiday. Of course, be sure to check the local Sixt branches to find great deals on quality vehicles so you can explore as much as possible by car.