We have all spent most of the year cooped up in our homes. Not of our own choosing of course, but I am sure many of you are eager to venture out again. With travel restrictions slowly easing, and everyone gradually emerging from the lockdown, we are all wanting to stretch or legs, look for a change of scenery and take in a deep breath of fresh air. So here is a short list of country escapes only a train ride away from London, to start you planning for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life, or for a small holiday at home for the next year. Please, however, be careful in your travel plans as we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Take the proper precautions, as recommended, in order to protection yourself and others as you travel.
From St. Pancras International
Photo credit: Kopnu Mung
An hour by train from London will bring you to this beautiful Kent country town. This town has a special place in my heart, as I came here for my university studies and it became my home away from home. Canterbury is rich in history and culture, with the grand cathedral, cobbled street and historic sites taking you back in time to medieval England. You can also take a long walk along the river through the town or even ride a boat on it, and see the city form a different view. And if you feel even more adventurous, cycle around the town and surrounding areas, all the way to the small coastal town of Whitstable, or Herne Bay, for a day. Canterbury’s collection of unique boutique stores will also fill your days up with exploring, as there is something for everyone. And eateries down the high street with their quirky styles, will provide an experience you’ll never forget.
From St Pancras International
Another Kent spot that is only under an hour away. Ashford offers a mix of the old and new to excite all visitors. For a special treat of relaxation and rejuvenation, you can spend a spa day with a service tailored to your needs at the Ashford International Hotel. Then there is the famous Ashford Designer Outlet for a shopping spree of 75 luxury stores of discounted brands. And just as you step of the train, you will find the Curious Brewery, where you can tour the factory. For a tranquil moment away from the crowd, Ashford is surrounded by the lush Kent countryside where you can escape into nature reserve and national parks, and see for yourself why Kent is known as The Garden of England.
Only an hour train ride from central London takes you to the beautiful quaint town of Windsor. This town is popular for its most obvious attraction, Windsor Castle, but it is so much more than that. Explore the River Thames on a boat cruise, discovering historic sites and the riverside life along the bank. Or if you prefer to be more adventurous, you can explore the waters in a canoe or a kayak. For a quieter and peaceful moment, take a walk through Windsor Great Park which covers over 4,000 acres of land and is home to the people friendly red deer. There is also Eton across the river, with museums and art galleries to discover. Both Windsor and Eton has a unique royal connection, marking every corner of the town embedded with fascinating history for all visitors to explore.
Hastings, East Sussex
From Charring Cross
Photo credit: Kopnu Mung
A little longer travel then the other spots, this historic coastal town is just under 2 hours away and is filled with a range of attraction for all visitors to discover. Hasting is of course known as the place where the Norman Conquest began, and the castle ruins that once was the Norman fortress is still accessible to visitors and sits on a hill, which gives you a spectacular view of the coast from above. But if the high view is too much for you, you can take a walk along the coast, down to the Pier and see what local event the community is running. Stroll through George Street and you’ll see its collection of stores of knick-knacks and bric-a-brac. And for more outdoor fun, the nearby Hasting Country Park offers nature trails, ancient woodlands and heaths one can explore and escape into the wildlife and landscape.
From Victoria and London Bridge
Another beautiful coastal town that is worth the hype. An hour train ride from several London stations, Brighton is a popular place for many city dwellers with its mix of modern, the beauty of the coast and countryside. Enjoy a great day shopping in The Lanes, known for its wonderful collection of stores and eateries. Or take a bike and cycle around the town and surrounding area, visiting the nearby town of Hove or riding up to South Down National Park and walk along the footpaths through beautiful green valleys. Brighton is also home to many art galleries, exhibiting new and exciting work that will inspire you. And one thing that makes this town very unique is the active encouragement of the LGBT community, with events throughout the year, exciting nightlife for everyone and anyone and a popular wedding spot for all those celebrating their love.