6 of the Best London Day Trips for a Change of Scenery

Buildings in Bath

In need of some escapism? You don’t have to travel far to experience a change of scenery from the London skyline, whether that be historical buildings or rolling countryside views. Embrace the principles of slow travel and explore somewhere new at your own pace with these London day trips.

1. Bath

The picturesque city of Bath became a World Heritage Site in 1987 due to its Roman ruins and hot springs. There is plenty to do in Bath, including visiting the famous Roman baths, taking a dip in the popular modern spa, shopping, eating and exploring the Royal Crescent.

Trains from London Paddington to Bath take approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.


2. Whitstable, Kent

Wooden beach huts in Whitstable

For a change of pace, independent shopping and some fantastic fresh fish, Whitstable is a great choice for a day trip from London. Renowned for its oysters, this pretty seaside town has a big reputation. Tuck into some fish and chips and walk along the seafront to Tankerton Beach to admire the colourful beach huts.

Trains from London Victoria take around 1 hour 20 minutes and trains from St Pancras take around 1 hour 10 minutes.


3. Hitchin Lavender, Hertfordshire

Fields of Lavender, Hitchin

Reap the benefits of getting back to nature and leave with a bag of blooms at the highly Instagram-worthy Hitchin Lavender Farm. The swathes of sweetly-scented lavender and adjacent sunflower fields couldn’t be further from your normal city scenes. Filling your paper bag to the brim with stems takes quite a while making the whole experience both relaxing and mindful.

Trains from St Pancras to Hitchin take just 37 minutes. From there, it’s a less than 10 minute taxi or Uber ride away. If you’re driving, it’s not far from the A1M and there is ample parking.


4. Oxford

Perhaps needing little introduction, Oxford is known as The City of Dreaming Spires and continues to attract visitors from around the world for its architecture and university. From exploring the Bodleian Library (one of the oldest in Europe) and colleges, to trying your hand at punting on the river and visiting the Botanic Garden, there is a lot to see and do in Oxford.

Trains from Paddington and Marylebone take around 1 hour to reach Oxford. The Oxford Tube bus services runs 24/7 from the following stops: Hillingdon, Shepherd’s Bush, Notting Hill Gate, Marble Arch and Victoria. From Victoria, this takes 1 hour 50 minutes- longer if there is traffic.


5. Henley-on-Thames

If Henley rings a bell, it’s probably because of the annual Royal Regatta that is hosted in this Oxfordshire town. While Henley comes to life in the summer for the boat races and a music festival, it’s an enjoyable day trip from London all year round. With a pretty market square, riverside walks and plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants to visit, it’s easy to while away an afternoon here. If you’re driving, popular National Trust property Greys Court is 10 minutes away.

Trains from Paddington take around 1 hour 10 minutes, changing at Twyford.


6. The Cotswolds

Indoor plants at The Burford Garden Company

As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), there are almost too many picturesque villages and towns to list in the Cotswolds. With the area’s trademark stone and stunning countryside, it makes for a perfect city escape. Here are a few places that are worth visiting:

  • Burford: a pretty little town which is home to The Burford Garden Company – much more than your usual garden centre with a fantastic cafe and carefully curated homewares section.
  • Bibury: a popular village with a row of quaint stone cottages
  • Cirencester: a market town in east Gloucestershire, the largest in the Cotswolds

Coach tours do run from London, but in order to experience the serenity of the area and get away from the crowds, it’s easier to travel by car and plan a road trip.

To explore somewhere new and escape the city, these are six of the best day trips from London. If you’re sightseeing on your trip, don’t forget to try the art of slow looking – a slow living inspired method to get more from cultural experiences.


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. May’s theme is Slow Travel.

Salty air and seafood: A Whitstable day trip

Wooden beach huts in Whitstable

Longing for a change of scenery and change of pace? Sometimes, there’s nothing better than breathing some salty sea air and escaping the big smoke. If you’re looking for inspiration, a day trip to Whitstable on the Kent coast, might be just want you need. From as little as one hour 15 minutes by train from London, a slow travel escape is closer than you think. Discover what’s to love and what things you can do during a day trip to Whitstable.

Seaside shacks in Whitstable, Kent

Things to do in Whitstable

Enjoy fresh oysters and seafood

Whitstable is a seafood lover’s heaven. Known for its oysters, this is arguably the pretty seaside town’s biggest draw. You’ll find seafood restaurants and shacks lining the seafront and queues of people waiting to make their order. If you’re not a fan of oysters, you won’t be disappointed by the fresh fish and chips and lobster on offer. Some of the beachfront seafood stalls have seating, but most people grab their boxes and find a spot on the beach.

Pink facade of Wheeler's Oyster Bar in Whitstable

Where to eat oysters and seafood in Whitstable

  • The Forge – a really popular spot right on the beach. This shack of course sells oysters, but also wine, beer, hot doughnuts, fish and chips and lobster to take away or eat on their picnic benches.
  • Whitstable Oyster Company – a family-run business with a long history. If you’re looking to tuck into your oysters in a restaurant setting, rather than on the beach, this beachfront restaurant has fantastic views.
  • Wheeler’s Oyster Bar – a Whitstable icon due to its quaint pink facade, this oyster bar was founded in 1856. Wheeler’s has a bijoux parlour restaurant, so booking is advised, however, you can also buy seafood and sandwiches to take away.
  • VC Jones – another spot where you’ll often see queues forming. A traditional fish and chip shop that’s been trading since 1962 and is often claimed as the best in Whitstable.

Admire the colourful beach huts on Tankerton Beach

From the harbour and along the seafront to Old Neptune’s pub, the beach is likely to be busiest, with visitors tucking into their fish and chips on the pebbles. Past the pub and colourful houses, you’ll come across vibrant beach huts and much more space to yourself on Tankerton Beach. This area is also home to JoJo’s, a popular meze tapas restaurant.

Beach huts and gorse bushes in Whitstable
Tankerton Beach, Whitstable

Browse the town’s independent shops

With the same coffee shops on every corner, central London can feel brand saturated and lacking the personality that comes with local, independent businesses. Whitstable’s pretty high street is a far cry from the shop fronts of tired seaside towns you may be imagining. Filled with clothing boutiques, gift shops, antique shops, galleries and foodie hotspots, you’ll want to leave yourself time to browse.

Whitstable’s shops

Food:

  • The Cheese Box
  • David Brown delicatessen
  • Granny Smiths

Gifts and homewares:

  • Flory & Black
  • Taking the Plunge

Clothes:

  • The Clothes Horse
  • The Whiting Post
  • Ruskin

Explore the harbour

Whitstable’s working harbour is bustling and home to many seafood restaurants and fishmongers, should you wish to cook your own at home. On sundays, little sheds open at the far end of the harbourside for the harbour market – a mix of ready-to-eat food and quirky gifts.

Whitstable Harbour

How to get to Whitstable from London

One of the easiest ways to get to Whitstable from London is to catch the fast trains. However, there are also car parks should you choose to drive.

Trains to Whitstable from London:

  • Direct from London Victoria: from 1 hour 21 minutes
  • Direct from St. Pancras International: from 1 hour 12 minutes

Where to park in Whitstable:

  • Whitstable Harbour Car Park (small, short stay.)
  • Gorrell Tank Car Park (one of the town’s largest car parks – from April to September, it costs £1.80/hour from 10am to 9pm. Card payment available.)
  • Middle Wall Car Park (another fairly large car park, charges and payment same as above.)
  • Gladstone Road Car Park (52 spaces, charges and payment same as above.)

A day trip to Whitstable promises great seafood, good shopping and pretty scenery. Easy to reach from two of London’s major train stations, it’s the perfect place to spend a slow day away from the city.


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. May’s theme is Slow Travel.

Suzy Stories Shares Her Slow Travel Tips

Suzy Stories

Suzy, founder of Suzy Stories, is a British travel blogger who shares her adventures exploring incredible locations around the globe. A self-confessed ‘Kiwi-fanatic’, many of her travels focus on the Southern Hemisphere, filling her Instagram feed with mountain ranges and icy blue water.

While her ‘wanderlist’ is constantly growing (currently reaching 85 entries, ending with the desire to ‘honeymoon in Antarctica’), Suzy is someone who truly likes to get to know the culture of each destination. Inspired by her stories, we asked Suzy for her slow travel tips and recommendations.

Suzy Stories’ Slow Travel Tips

Which destinations would you recommend for a holiday to recharge and slow down?

The cliche will likely draw your mind towards white sand beaches and lapping waves. While such destinations are a great place to unwind, it’s not the only option! Personally, I love to head towards rural areas such as mountain villages and woodland cabins. It’s these places that you feel most disconnected from daily life, and a huge benefit is that it doesn’t matter if the weather isn’t cooperating, you can cosy up indoors anyway! 

You also don’t have to go too far to find somewhere to meet these needs. There are some beautiful parts of the UK which are perfect for enjoying nature, taking time for yourself, and resting without breaking the bank. 


What are your tips for really getting to know a new city?

Lots of research beforehand is a great start! There’s a wealth of advice and knowledge from blogs, tourist boards, guidebooks, and more. On arrival, I recommend walking with just one or two key spots in mind, but following your nose rather than a map to get to know the area nearby, and increasing that radius as you go along. Cities can feel overwhelming, compact, and one-dimensional at first. However, given the chance to walk the back streets, get a little lost, and find where the locals reside you’ll get a whole new perspective. 


Describe your travel style in three words.

Tough one! I’d have to say: cultural, holistic, enlightening. 

I enjoy taking time to explore local art galleries and museums, try to sample a variety of styles and activities in a destination, and aim to gain a new perspective from my travels as much as possible. 


How can people embrace the slow travel mindset when they are on holiday?

If you’re looking to follow more slow travel practices, don’t overwhelm yourself with a never-ending list of activities. Trying to hit all the most popular tourist attractions is a sure way to burn yourself out, and you certainly won’t be going at a slow pace! 

If you’re looking to follow more slow travel practices, don’t overwhelm yourself with a never-ending list of activities.

Remind yourself of why you’re visiting that destination, and what you want to gain from the holiday. If your focus is on meaningful experiences, then find unique, locally-run services to help facilitate that. Airbnb Experiences is a handy resource to start off with!


Where’s next on your list to visit? 

Where isn’t! I’m going to revisit the beautiful South Island of New Zealand next and head into the mountains for some peace and quiet, but high on my list is Japan. I love the complex mix of bustling cities and rural space, I think it would suit my interests and need for cultural and natural stimulation while travelling! 


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. May’s theme is Slow Travel.

The Art of Slow Looking: From the Tate to Travelling

The Art of Slow Looking: Gallery Wall

In 2001, research that took place at New York’s prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art found that visitors spent, on average, just 27.2 seconds looking at a painting. In 2017, the research was expanded again with a second study of a larger sample size at The Art Institute of Chicago. The results, however, were fairly similar – the average time spent was 28.63 seconds. In over 15 years, little has changed in terms of time spent looking, yet the research remarks how a significant percentage of visitors weren’t just looking, they were taking selfies with the paintings.

It seems remarkable that after possibly queuing for some time to access a gallery, we spend less than half a minute enjoying each painting. Add this to the time the artist spent creating their piece and 28.63 seconds seems a poor trade-off. Are exhibitions and places of art merely places to tick off travel bucket lists? The researchers may be inclined to agree, especially given how we now take photos for evidence of our attendance.

On the other hand, The Tate (although not citing any study in particular), claims that visitors to galleries spend just eight seconds appreciating works of art. In a bid to help people connect more deeply with artworks, they are promoting the art of ‘slow looking’. According to the gallery, the approach is “based on the idea that, if we really want to get to know a work of art, we need to spend time with it.”

This mindful method hopes viewers will find a personal connection with the painting, rather than seeing what artists or historians are telling them to see. It also encourages people to look more deeply, rather than just taking for granted what one can see immediately or at first glance.

Shari Tishman’s book, Slow Looking (2017), explores the benefits of the practice in educating, stating that, “patient, immersive attention to content can produce active cognitive opportunities for meaning-making and critical thinking that may not be possible though high-speed means of information delivery.” Arguably, this is logical, but serves as a reminder that our constant connection and accessibility to knowledge (fact-checked or more dubious) is only a few taps away. When in a gallery, would you be tempted to google the meaning behind a painting (or the meaning decided by art curators), rather than find your own answers?


Slow Looking and Travel

In many ways slow looking is a tool to use when embracing slow travel. To slow travellers such as Dale and Franca from Slow Vegan Travel, this means, “taking the time to embrace everything around us, to enjoy even the simplest things that aren’t necessarily the most popular or the most famous.” Rather than rushing from sight to sight to cram the most into your holiday, slow travel is about coming out from behind your camera lens to take your time to get to know a location.

Of course, it doesn’t mean skipping out the landmarks you desperately want to visit either. When visiting these, slow looking might be a way to understand and connect with what you’re viewing, rather than getting that shot for social media. Dale and Franca recommend taking your time, not trying to pack too many places into your trip and walking. Lots of walking.


Tips for Slow Looking in Galleries, Museums and Places of Interest

Much like with slow travel, The Tate make a valid point that slow looking must be selective. If you were to spend 15 minutes admiring each and every one of their artworks, you’d be there for 12 hours a day over four years. They suggest choosing a piece that you’re really drawn to, whether that’s out of intrigue, attraction, or even frustration. Once you have pinpointed your item of interest, be that a sculpture, artifact, or even an element of architecture, try these tips for embracing slow looking:

  • Be patient: try to forget anything you already know about the item. No one is marking how profound your answer is!
  • Try these focus points to get started: if you’re stuck, try considering the painting or item’s texture, colour, shape or symbols.
  • Take another look: does the artwork or item look different on a different day? Or, when your mood is different? If you’ve returned from your trip and are looking at photos or online versions, have your thoughts changed towards the piece now that you’re home?

Slow looking is a technique to purposefully slow down during a leisure activity with the aim of gaining much more from the experience. In the hustle and bustle of the city, retreating into a quiet corner of a gallery for a while seems like a refreshing anecdote for our fast pace of life. And when travelling, slow looking could create memories beyond those posted online.


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. May’s theme is Slow Travel.

The Benefits of Off-Grid Escapes: A Cotswolds Case Study

Converted horse lorry in the countryside

While some thrive on the buzz of the city – the pace, the sheer volume of people and urban sprawl – it can leave us feeling burnt out and seeking sea air or green space. Luckily, the rise of glamping and Airbnb’s quirky homes have revolutionised our short break options. It’s now easier than ever to find new locations to get off the beaten track and recharge for a weekend. And that’s all without having to pitch a tent.

A recent weekend spent in a converted horse lorry nestled in the Cotswold countryside confirmed that getting off-grid is good for the soul. From quiet and curious village walks to a digital switch-off, the benefits of a technology-free weekend and staying somewhere out-of-the-ordinary is not to be underestimated.

The Benefits of Off-Grid Escapes

Inside a converted horse lorry

Digital Detox and Reconnecting

Our digital devices are some of the most effective attention-seekers of our time. Designed to distract, their addictive features encourage us to scroll through constant streams of content and messaging. An off-grid escape offers the opportunity to switch off from our always-on culture and its FOMO-inducing tendencies. It’s a chance to embrace simple, analogue pleasures such as getting lost in a well-written novel, rather than another clickbait article. Without the pull of a screen, it’s also an opportunity to reconnect with the people you’re travelling with, or if alone, yourself.


A Change of Scenery and Finding Focus

‘A change of scenery’ has long since been used to describe going somewhere new after being in one place for a significant amount of time. It’s probably not a coincidence that so many books and films portray writers moving to beautiful, rural locations to find inspiration and beat writer’s block. A complete overhaul of your usual scenery (swapping inner-city London for the Cornish coast, for example) helps to remove distractions and may leave you better able to find clarity, inspiration and focus. This is possibly because in these locations, we’re doing less and allowing time for our minds to wander and explore. And for those who grew up in the countryside, it might also bring us back to a simpler time and present a fresh perspective on life.


Rediscovering Nature

Research and our instinct tells us that being in nature is good for us. As such, off-grid escapes aren’t just about going somewhere different, they’re about embracing and rediscovering the beauty of nature. A good walk releases endorphins, but a good walk within stunning natural scenery may have a longer lasting effect on your mood. As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswolds aren’t a bad choice when it comes to walking.


Slowing Down and Gaining Gratitude

If you’re truly off-grid, everyday tasks become more meaningful purely because they take longer to achieve. In the converted horse lorry, it was a pleasure stepping into the hot roll top bath after a hard walk, having waited 30 minutes for the gas bottled boiler to heat enough piped water. These simply tasks which not only act as an antidote to the speed at which we have become accustomed to living, they also encourage gratitude for the things we take for granted each day.

From yurts to lodges and treehouses, the options for an off-grid escape are constantly growing. Why not try something different for your next slow travel trip?


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. May’s theme is Slow Travel.