Need some inspiration for scenic day trips from London? Here are 7 beautiful outdoor green spaces that make the ideal day trip from the city. Each of these countryside locations is only a stones’ throw from London and easily accessible by car.
Editor’s note: Some of these locations are accessible seasonally so be sure to make sure your destination is open before travelling.
1. Epping Forest, Essex
Thought to have been the private hunting grounds of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, Epping Forest’s colourful history makes it a special location for long walks. Although it was once a private forest for members of the royal family, Queen Victoria opened Epping Forest to the general public in the 19th century. At over 12 miles long with more than 100 lakes and ponds, Epping Forest is ideal if you enjoy long scenic walks.
Journey time: Only 25 minutes from East London.
Address: Epping Forest, Essex, England.
Opening hours: Dawn until dusk.
2. Ashridge Estate
Although my personal favourite time of year to visit is in spring during bluebell season, the Ashridge Estate is an oasis of nature all year round. Enjoy leisurely country walks and get lost in the lush woodland. Better yet, bring your bike and cycle around the 5000 acres of the Chiltern Hills through beech and oak woodlands. If you are a horse rider you can even obtain a permit to ride on the estate.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite savour the Brownlow Café’s enormous home-made scones!
Top tip: Bring cash as card is not usually accepted.
Journey time: One hour drive from central London.
Address: Moneybury Hill, Ringshall, Near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 1LT.
Opening hours: Dawn until dusk.
3. Dunstable Downs
Located only a 10 minute drive away from Luton Airport, the Dunstable Downs will take you a world away from the stress of urban living. Enjoy scenic views over patchwork quilt fields and watch the gliders take off and crowd the skies with the birds. Take a stroll along the chalk paths and over the hills, and soak up the serene view that will be sure to give you some inner peace.
Journey time: Less than one hour’s drive from NW London.
Address: Whipsnade, Dunstable, LU6 2GY.
Opening hours: The Downs are a public space and are never closed.
Free entry, parking fees apply.
4. Hitchin Lavender
Have you ever seen those dreamy pictures of the south of France, with rows of fragrant lavender bushes going on for miles into the horizon? For a long time I wanted to visit Provence just to experience such a beautiful site.
Instead of booking a ticket to France though, Hitchin Lavender in Hertfordshire is less than an hour’s drive from north-west London and features 25 miles of stunning lavender rows. Bring your photographer friend and your best camera, because it’s also a great location for photo shoots.
You will receive a brown paper bag and some scissors to pick your own fragrant lavender – just watch out for bees, who love the colour and scent of this gorgeous herb!
Once you’re all lavendered-out, enjoy some homemade cakes at the farm’s 17th Century barn, or take a picnic and enjoy spectacular views of the British countryside.
Journey time: Just over 1 hour’s drive from central London. Mayfield Lavender is another lavender farm that is less than one hour’s drive.
Address: Cadwell farm, Arlesey Rd, Ickleford, Hitchin SG5 3UA
Opening hours: 10:00- 17:00 every day except Tuesday and Friday, when the farm closes at 21:00. The flowering season is from mid-June to end of August, and the farm closes for the year on 3rd September.
Entry fees: Adults £5 (picking included), Under 14s £1, Under 5s go free.
Top tip: Ensure young children have their arms and legs covered to protect from bee stings.
5. Blenheim Palace
This beautiful residence is the only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. Built in the early 18th Century this UNESCO heritage site is open to the public even though it is still the official residence of the Dukes of Marlborough.
You can enter the grounds free of charge and enjoy breath-taking views of the lake and Grand Bridge. Better yet, take a buggy tour of the lake for only £3.50/adults and £2.50/children, or enjoy a free walking tour of the Formal Gardens. There’s even a maze to tackle!
Journey time: Less than one hour and a half from central London.
Address: Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, OX20 1PS.
Opening hours: 09:00 – 18:30 or until dusk, whichever is sooner. The palace and gardens open a little later at 10:00.
Entry fees: The grounds are free to enter. To access the Palace State rooms, Churchill Exhibiton, Formal Gardens and Palace Gardens, there is a fee of £24.90/adult and £13.90 for children up to 16 (under 5s go free). You can also buy a ticket for £13.90 which gives you access to everything expect the Palace State rooms.
6. Chiltern Hills AONB
Stretching over 300 square miles across four shires, the Chiltern Hills are ideal for an easy weekend walk in the open air. Explore the quintessentially English green rolling hills on foot, or take a step back in time in the small market towns you’ll discover on the way. Bring a picnic basket and take in the views. If you’re a fan of English period dramas, head down to Highclere Castle, the filming location of the acclaimed ITV series Downton Abbey.
Journey time: A little over one hour’s drive from London.
Address: Sprawling over 300 sq miles in Southeast England.
Opening hours: N/A, though do note that tourist facilities in will have their own opening/closing hours.
Entry fees: N/A.
7. The New Forest, Hampshire
If you are a fan of horses and ponies, you’ll love The New Forest. Over 5000 wild ponies, horses, deer and donkeys roam this 566 km² of woodland located less than 2 hours’ drive from London. My personal favourite on this list, The New Forest is ideal if you’re a family or group of friends that enjoy a range of outdoor activities. Keep it simple by following one of the many walking routes, have a go at horse-riding, or if you’re feeling adventurous, go kayaking! Home to 43 miles of coastline, you may as well book a weekend stay in The New Forest to make the most out of your trip.
Journey time: Less than two hour’s drive from London.
Address: The New Forest, Hampshire, England.
Opening hours: N/A, though do note that tourist facilities in the forest will have their own opening/closing hours.
Entry fees: N/A.
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