Ooh, it’s another grey day in London. The Thames is the colour of tepid tea, the tea is the colour of tepid rainwater and the rainwater is…well, the colour of rain. Living in London, I know exactly what rain looks like.
I am a big fan of London and all the things there are to do around here, but even I occasionally get urges to escape the city for some fresh air and a change of scene. My quest for nice places by the seaside has sometimes landed me in trouble – and once in Sheppey at carnival time – but there are a host of places a quick train ride away from London that’ll leave you feeling revived.
Probably the most famous seaside town in the UK, and a lot nicer than the Isle of Sheppey. The beach is stony, but there’s fun to be had on the pier and beachfront and there are a whole host of bars and restaurants around. The Lanes are full of cool alternative shops and there’s often festivals on, from Vegfest to the Sand Sculpture Festival. Plus, there’s great nightlife and you can get there in 51 minutes from Victoria. It’s a classic day-out-from-London for a reason.
2) Leeds Castle
Billed as “the loveliest castle in the world”, this Norman castle is probably worth a visit. Before you get confused, it’s not in Leeds or anywhere near – it’s in Kent. An early 2000s rail advertising campaign for the castle, and its closeness to London left me perplexed for a long time, as I was pretty sure that Leeds was nowhere near London. But, if the advert said so, it must be true…
Anyway, confusion cleared up – this gem of a castle is 1hr 11minutes out of Victoria, in a distinctly non-Yorkshire direction. That’ll get you to a station called Hollingbourne, which apparently is “unmanned and down a deserted lane”. If that’s not getting out of the city, then what is?!
Both great university towns are within easy reach of London, but out of loyalty to my Cambridge-grad sister, I’m going to say this is the one to visit. Historical colleges, romantic bridges and quaint tea shops are all part of the Cambridge experience. And of course, there’s punting on the River Cam which is lovely on a sunny day and in no way a competitive sport (trust me, you get told off if you try and race other tourists). If you want to see an unusual tourist attraction, you can also seek out the spot where my then-10-year-old brother was sick behind a bin after drinking too much Apple Tango. But it’s not compulsory.
Oh, and all this? 1hr 7minutes from Euston!
4) Roald Dahl Museum, Great Missenden
A celebration of one of the best-ever children’s storytellers, this museum is near Dahl’s old home in Great Missenden. It’s interactive and full of interesting things to look at and do. It’s set in beautiful Chiltern countryside, and if you have time you can even follow the Roald Dahl trail around the village or go walking in nearby woods. Great Missenden station is just 41 minutes out of Marylebone and the museum is a few minutes’ walk from the station.
5) The New Forest
One of Britain’s great National Parks, the New Forest is a vast expanse of space perfect for walking or cycling. It’s home to the famous Beaulieu Motor Museum, as well as pretty towns and ornamental gardens. You can do kayaking or archery in the Forest, or just wander about and soak up the atmosphere before having a pub lunch. And it’s only 1hr 30minutes from Waterloo to Brockenhurst!
So, you have a few options there. Next time you’re feeling stir-crazy, you know where to go!