Travel

The Best Day Trips & Overnight Trips From London

WEEKENDS AWAY AND DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON

One of the most common questions I’m asked is what are some of my favorite day trips or overnight trips to add to an itinerary while visiting London. For starters, there are loads of great options- far more than I can condense into a single blog post! But since I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring the UK from my extended stays in London now, I thought I’d at least share my favorites thus far to help you as you plan your travels. What I have listed as day trips vs. overnight trips is completely arbitrary based on my personal experiences, but hopefully these serve as a helpful starting point to more effectively plan your time.

DAY TRIPS:

CAMBRIDGE:

CAMBRIDGE ENGLAND

In just a quick hour by train from King’s Cross Station (and a few others around London) you can be in Cambridge, a charming University town known for it’s quaint streets and beautiful buildings. Once an important trading town back in Roman times, Cambridge rose in popularity when it’s famous university was established in 1209 (former alumni include Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton). We honestly just arrived with no agenda and had so much fun exploring the campus, the local pubs and charming cobblestone streets. Some highlights I would recommend include:

-Climb the tower at Great St. Mary’s for a view over King’s College Chapel

-Tour King’s College Chapel (home to the largest fan vaulted ceiling in the world) and Trinity College (where 30+ Nobel Prize winners were once students. It’s famous Wren Library is home to two of Shakespeare’s first pieces).

-Go for a punting tour (essentially a boat ride along the River Cam) which is one of the most famous things to do in this town- weather permitting!

There are also loads of charming pubs along the riverbank which make for a cozy lunch spot (I recommend trying The Anchor or The Punter).

cambridge england
cambridge england




OXFORD:

OXFORD UNITED KINGDOM

In another quick hour by train from London (I departed from Paddington but loads of stations can get you here) you’ll find yourself in another prestigious university town: Oxford. Once nicknamed the “City of Dreaming Spires”,

I had the best day exploring here with my aunt and uncle: both retired professors who spent many summers at Oxford for work. Letting them be my guide, here are some of the must-see spots they took me to:

-Touring Christ Church College: This is a wealthy and prestigious college, and CC people are especially proud of the cathedral (while all Oxford colleges have chapels; the “chapel” at CC is the cathedral for the city of Oxford!) This is also where Lewis Carroll wrote his Alice in Wonderland books (the hall has characters from the books in one of the stained glass windows.) And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll also appreciate that several locations here on campus were used to film various scenes at Hogwarts in the films.

-Blackwells Bookshop: Located in the Broad Street and close to the Bodleian, this is one of the most famous bookstores in the world (I purchased a copy of “Brideshead Revisited” here- which takes place at Oxford).

-The Turf Tavern: This is a wonderful spot to have lunch! My aunt pointed out to me while we sat at the tables outside and to the back, that from that seat you have a good view of New College Tower, which is famous for its gargoyles.


-Radcliffe Square: While Oxford’s colleges scattered all around the city center, my aunt always enjoys a stroll through Radcliffe Square — which is right at the heart of Oxford. This circular library has the Bodleian to the north, the university church of St. Mary the Virgin to the south, All Souls College to the east and Brasenose College to the west. Whichever direction you choose to stroll, there is architectural beauty on all sides.

-St. Mary’s tower: Climb this ancient stone staircase for a stunning view at the top.

-The Sheldonian Theatre in the Broad Street, designed by Christopher Wren, is used for university ceremonies as well as concerts. Beautiful ceiling, uncomfortable seats!

-Bridge of Sighs is a skyway built in 1914 that connects 2 parts of Hertford College.

-Bodleian Library (which is the UK’s second largest library and contains over 11 million works).

OXFORD UNITED KINGDOM



WINDSOR:

With it’s recent spotlight from Harry & Meghan’s Royal Wedding, Windsor has become quite a popular day excursion from London. I’ve been a few times now and have always enjoyed my time in this charming little town. It’s definitely worth touring Windsor Castle (where you can currently see all the Royal Wedding outfits on display!) This is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, and there is so much interesting information to learn audio tour (I always love doing audio tours at places like this so I can learn, but at my own pace). On the grounds of the castle, you can’t miss St George's Chapel, where the Royal Wedding was (it was so cool to sit in the choir loft exactly where the Queen did!) The chapel was designed in the high-medieval Gothic style and it’s truly an architectural marvel.

Aside from Windsor Castle, it’s also worth strolling through the little town to explore (it has so much charm!) You can feed the swans (you’ll see them along the Thames) and then head to lunch at The Boatman (a lovely little pub right along the river).


windsor castle
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HAMPTON COURT PALACE

Just 12 miles (and a short train ride) outside of London is the former home of the tyrannical Henry the VIIIth: Hampton Court Palace. I did a day trip out here with my family while there were in town visiting and I really enjoyed it a lot. Not only were the ground beautiful, but there is SO much interesting information to learn about how extensive of a staff it took to keep such an elaborate property well-kept (and such a gluttonous patriarch satisfied!) Again, I love audio tours because they let you skip the bits that doesn’t appeal, but give loads of information if you really want to dig into something else that fascinates you.

On the palace grounds, there’s also an incredible playground, also known as the “Magic Garden”, that’s perfect on a lovely day (my 10 and 12 year old cousins had a lot of fun here). We also all enjoyed doing the hedge maze, which was actually built by George London and Henry Wise for William III of Orange back in the late 1600s.

For food, we packed sandwiches from Pret because we didn’t have high expectations for what our dining options would be, but they ended up having a lovely cafe area with fresh menu items made from the gardens— so I would recommend just doing lunch there!

It’s also worth noting that in the summer they show outdoor films here on the lawn, which looked like great fun (but unfortunately didn’t align with my travel schedule).

hampton court palace

HARRY POTTER STUDIO TOUR

If you’re not a Harry Potter enthusiast, kindly disregard. But if you are, run- don’t walk to tour this incredible attraction! My brother, sister-in-law and I had such a fun day here. It’s out in Watford- which is about an hour outside of London (and it’s not super easy to get directly to the studio either). We actually booked a tour through Viator, which included our ticket, but also brought us directly to/from in a coach so we didn’t have to fret about sorting out transportation (the coach leaves from Victoria Station in central London). It definitely is an all day affair- we left around 9am and didn’t get back until about 5pm (can vary depending on London traffic!) It takes a good 3-4 hours at least to go through the entire experience (could be more or less depending on your level of interest).

harry potter studio tour london united kingdom
harry potter studio tour london united kingdom



OVERNIGHT/WEEKEND TRIPS:

BATH

Bath certainly has more to offer than what you can squeeze into a day (in my opinion anyway!) We loved coming here for just under 48 hours for a quick little history lesson and to marvel at the beautiful Georgian-style architecture (it’s often referred to as Edinburgh’s little sister, and if you’ve been you’ll understand why when you see it!)

Bath has been a wellbeing destination since Roman times (and the waters are still a big draw, both at the ancient Roman Baths and the thoroughly modern Thermae Bath Spa, which houses one of the 2 only natural thermal hot springs in Britain you can bathe in.)

If you were on the fence about whether to stay overnight or not- let the Gainsborough Bath Hotel & Spa tip the scale for you. This hotel was voted “Best Hotel in the UK” by Condé Nast Traveller, and it’s not hard to see why. Their service is unparalleled, the interior is a beautiful fusion of classic and contemporary, the cuisine at their in-house restaurant is delicious, and my favorite bit? The Spa Village Bath.

Again, if you’re looking to spend some time in Bath’s infamous thermal waters, your options are either a more public/accessible route through Thermae Bath Spa (which we also visited and really enjoyed) or The Spa Village Bath at The Gainsborough (pictured below).

BATH UNITED KINGDOM
gainesboro hotel bath spa

It’s worth mentioning once more what a delight it was to stay at The Gainsborough. Treat yourself to a luxurious stay and I promise you that you won’t regret it for a second.

Some other things you should add to your to-do list whilst in Bath? Here’s what my friends at Visit Bath recommended (and we throughly enjoyed).

-Visit the Roman Baths: Immerse yourself in history and see how Bath’s former residents relaxed all those centuries ago. Interactive exhibits and CGI reconstructions bring this unique ancient site back to life, showing how important the baths were to our Roman ancestors.

-Climb Bath Abbey’s Tower: Take the Bath Abbey Tower Tour to see the different, working side of this iconic landmark. Ascend 212 steps to the top, and you will climb past the ringing chamber to the bell chamber, to have the chance to stand above the Abbey’s vaulted ceiling and sit behind the clock face. Once you reach the roof, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views over the city and surrounding countryside.

-Get Lost in Austen: Visit The Jane Austen Centre to delve into the life of Britain’s favourite author. Exhibits and costumed characters tell the story of Austen’s time spent living here in Bath between 1801 and 1806 and the impact it had on her work.

-See Bath from Another Angle: Take a stroll on the Bath Skyline Walk. Just a short distance from the city centre, this six-mile route takes you through lush meadows, secluded valleys and ancient woodlands. Alongside the natural splendour, you’ll also take in some spectacular wide-angle vistas of beautiful Bath.

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THE COTSWOLDS


I actually wrote a blog post on this region that will provide a lot more valuable information than I can fit in this little section— head here for more information!

BROADWAY COTSWOLDS ENGLAND
COTSWOLDS

four seasons hampshire united kingdom
Four Seasons Hampshire UK

I technically did just come here for a day trip, but having done so I would recommend Four Seasons Hampshire for an overnight getaway from chaotic London. My friend Victoria and I came for a little spa getaway and lunch, but there is so much more to enjoy here than just that! The property as a whole offers lush English gardens, horseback riding along the rolling hills, and is all set in a restored, 18th-century manor on 500 acres of picturesque grounds outside of London. I’ve always loved visiting Four Seasons properties around the world— their staff is consistently incredible and the quality of attention they put into every detail is unparalleled.

four seasons hampshire united kingdom
four seasons hampshire spa uk
four seasons hampshire united kingdom

This is a post I’ll continue to add to over time, because my list of day trips and weekend trips has not been completed! There are so many lovely places to explore, but hopefully this gives you a good starting point to help plan. Have you done a day trip, overnight trip, or weekend trip near London that I failed to mention? Tell me in the comments below so I can visit it as well!

Thanks as always for stopping by!

xx

Whitney

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My 4 Rules For Photographing Locals While Traveling Abroad

PHOTOS WITH LOCALS

Yesterday while roaming the streets in Cartagena, I found myself taking photos of the darling local vendors who were slicing fresh fruit to sell at their stalls to the people passing by. Perhaps the  progressive and materialistic developments of modern-day America are to blame, but this simplistic act struck me as enough of a novelty to pull out my camera and snap a photo from a distance for posterity. While I did so discretely and the man probably wasn't even aware of his photo being taken, I still felt a tinge of guilt as I put my camera away. Was I unintentionally belittling this man?

Moments later, I was approached by women in costume resembling traditional Colombian dresses asking me to take photos with them (obviously expecting payment in return). It was clear we were in a high-traffic tourist area and that these women made their living by posing with visitors. This situation felt very different than the photos I had taken of the man slicing pineapple around the corner…but in what way?

These experiences (and a series of others) prompted me to do some reflecting on how we as travelers can respectfully engage with locals while simultaneously documenting our trips to remember them. And while I (personally) think capturing photos with locals can be considered acceptable at times, I also believe it must only be done in a way that’s considerate and treats others with dignity. It felt appropriate to share some suggestions of how we can all be more courteous throughout this process. A few disclaimers before I dive in: 

I certainly don't claim to be an expert on this topic nor am I seeking praise for my comments. I also realize that this subject is not a "one size fits all" approach. Not all cultures are alike and what's acceptable in one may not be in another. Similarly, not all people are alike (no matter where you are) and one shouldn't assume everyone in the same destination will play by the same rules. We should ALWAYS be thoughtful about when a photo is or isn't appropriate (if you think it may not be, just don't). Finally, I'm aware that it's impossible to properly articulate all the nuanced consideration points on this subject in one blog post. This is merely meant to lead you to do your own thinking and move forward with more thoughtfulness. 

Having caveated the above, here are my what I’ve decided are my personal “rules” to remember when it comes to taking photos with a local abroad. 

  1. IF SOMEONE IS DRESSED UP IN COSTUME RESEMBLING LOCAL CULTURE, THEY DESERVE COMPENSATION IF YOU TAKE THEIR PHOTO

Cartagena Colombia fruit vendors

Some people in tourist cities want you to take their photo (like these ladies you’ll see in costume all over Cartagena)... but at a price. Remember that this is their livelihood and you absolutely must be willing to pay them if you want a photo in exchange. Don’t be cheap about this, but do be mindful that tourist traps are almost always designed to get as much money as they can out of you- everywhere around the world (I'd recommend asking them before you take the picture how much they want, rather than getting into a bidding war after you've already attained what you want out of the deal). Even though you are paying them, remember: they’re still human beings- not just a prop for your photo. Introduce yourself. Ask them how they are. Thank them for taking a photo with you. Always, always ALWAYS be kind.

2. BE COURTEOUS TO BACKGROUND SUBJECTS

Cartagena Colombia Fruit Vendors

While we obviously can’t expect to be given verbal consent from every single human who happens to be standing in the frame while we’re taking a photo, we should still be courteous about our photography execution. If you were working and trying to do your job, wouldn’t you feel uncomfortable with someone standing in close proximity taking dozens of pictures with your face in plain sight? If you can’t snap a quick photo discretely and move on, a simple smile and pointing to the subject you’re trying to get a photo of indicates to the local bystander you’re not just photographing them without consent. With that said, sometimes the person is involved in order to “make the photo happen”. If that’s the case, you can still do so in a way that doesn’t create a spectacle. For example, I’ve loved the plentiful fresh fruit vendors in the streets of Cartagena and wanted to have photos to remember them by. So while I was purchasing fruit (yes, actually purchasing and supporting the vendor, not just pretending for a photo), my friend Haley discretely snapped a few quick iPhone photos. Even when I was the one behind the lens capturing photos of another vendor, I don’t think either subjects were even aware these photos were happening (because I wasn’t blatantly holding my camera in their face). Furthermore, the subjects aren’t identifiable (some photos are from behind or the side or their faces are covered by their hats, etc.) I think there is a little more leniency with etiquette when a subject is in the background and not at the forefront, but that still doesn’t mean it’s fair game. Still feeling unsure about what’s appropriate? This brings me to my next point…

3. FOSTER A CONNECTION AND ASK FOR PERMISSION

Juan Cartagena Colombia

Sometimes it’s a specific person we want the photo of. The people we come in contact with while traveling can no doubt move us and leave us wanting to remember those encounters. Even still, this doesn’t entitle you to snap a photo for your memorable gain at their expense. Way before a photo is even on the table, we should be fostering connection with the people we come into contact with. I met Juan (pictured above) on the beach while he was fishing. He spoke no English and I only spoke a little broken Spanish. Nevertheless, we started chatting and using hand signals to communicate with one another. We were able to learn what the other did for a living, share about our families, where we’re from and a few other basic “get to know you” details. He was a fisherman and was collecting oysters and shucked one for me on the spot as a gift. After chatting for a while (and after he had learned I was a travel writer) I asked him if it was okay for me to take his photo. He gave me a thumbs up and picked up an oyster to pose. I only felt comfortable doing this because Juan and I had spent at least 15 or 20 minutes getting to know each other and some trust (albeit marginal) had been established. I’m thankful that I have this photo to remember Juan by, but more than that, I’m thankful that I was able to capture it because of the connection we had established. That (in my opinion) is the most valuable takeaway from any travel encounter— a photo is just icing on the cake.

4. RESPECT THAT “NO” MEANS NO

No matter how much we want to remember a moment from our travels, we absolutely have to respect the person first and foremost. Even if we’ve built a relationship. Even if they’re dressed in some form of costume that seems to scream “take my picture!” Even if we just really, really want it. A photo is simply not worth dehumanizing someone. Period. End of story. I know that in today’s world of social media and wanting to share every tiny detail of our lives, this may be a hard pill to swallow. But I stand firm on this. If we can’t respect other people, we should’t be traveling. Some moments aren’t meant for a photograph— that doesn’t make them any less special.

Again, this is merely scratching the surface on what I believe to be quite a nuanced topic, but my hope is that it compels you to be more considerate of those you come into contact with while traveling. Have any other points on this matter that I failed to mention? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Thanks as always for stopping by- I’m so happy that you’re here!

xx

Whitney

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A Weekend in the Cotswolds

A WEEKEND IN THE COTSWOLDS

Just outside of chaotic London is a region of idyllic villages where city-dwellers will often escape for a weekend away. The Cotswolds is brimming with charm and countryside coziness, and offers dozens of different destinations within itself. After years of hearing how lovely this area is, I finally decided to see it for myself. Straight away, I could see what all the hype was about. While I barely scratched the surface on all this region has to offer (I absolutely plan on going back!) my weekend in the Cotswolds made for a perfect itinerary for those looking to plan a trip of their own. Here’s what I recommend:

THE FISH HOTEL

fish hotel cotswolds

After researching some of the best areas to visit in The Cotswolds, I knew I couldn’t miss Broadway in Worcestershire. Almost instantly, I found The Fish Hotel and was sold straight away by all it’s charm. This collection of quirky hotel houses and huts is nestled in a hillside within a 400-acre private estate right in the heart of Broadway. We stayed in one of the Hideaway Huts, which was hands down one of the coziest places I’ve ever laid my head! These little units may look like you’re “roughing it” with their remote location being tucked away on their own, but don’t be fooled! Each one has under-floor heating, a bedroom with double bed and roll top bath, as well as separate en suite bathroom with shower. They have a lounge area with large L-shape sofa and wood burner to snuggle up in front of. Above the bed there is a skylight so you can see the stars at night or various forms of wildlife during the day. But my favorite part was easily the bathtubs: one option indoors and a heated one in the backyard!

fish hotel hideaway hut cotswolds
hideaway hut cotswolds fish hotel
hideaway huts cotswolds fish hotel
cotswolds fish hotel hideaway hut

While staying in a Hideaway Hut, you also have access to the rest of the property, including a boot room where you can borrow wellies (rain boots) to wear for your country walks into town (and the staff is so wonderful about providing you with maps and showing you the different routes into town you can take.)

welly room fish hotel cotswolds
Broadway Cotswolds
broadway cotswolds england

While you certainly can find places to eat in town, I doubt you’ll want to given the incredible dining right on site at Hook. Distinctive, addictive and unlike anywhere else in the Cotswolds, Hook takes dining at the Fish into new and uncharted waters. The vision of Farncombe Estate's culinary director Martin Burge, the restaurant is a laid back but luxurious celebration of seafood that combines the sophistication and refinement of Martin’s head-turning gastronomy with the warm and welcoming rusticity that has made the Fish a firm favorite of Cotswolds visitors and residents.

hook fish hotel cotswolds


I can’t say enough wonderful things about this property… it was a dream to stay here and I will absolutely be back! Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or just a cozy place to relax, The Fish Hotel has you covered.

After an incredible night at The Fish Hotel, we hopped in the car to drive to our next destination. But first? We had to stop for lunch at Daylesford: an award-winning organic farm and farm shop.

daylesford farm cotswolds

Daylesford actually has a few locations in London, which I had visited and loved. But visiting their Cotswolds location where all the ingredients are farmed was a truly incredible experience that I’d recommend to everyone. Daylesford is one of the most sustainable farms in the UK. They aim to grow, farm, produce and sell food according to sustainable principles, and in harmony with the environment. Above all, they believe that when people eat natural, organic food, they can taste the difference. It’s a chain of goodness that begins with healthy soil, and finishes with healthy animals and people. This sentiment absolutely radiates as you visit this property and I challenge you to find a meal anywhere that’s more delicious or comprised of more farm-fresh ingredients. Whatever you do, don’t miss this absolute gem whilst visiting the Cotswolds.

daylesford farm cotswolds
lords of the manor upper slaughter

After lunch we drove to Upper Slaughter, another beautiful region of the Cotswolds, to our next accommodation for the weekend: Lords of the Manor. This gorgeous estate is the perfect destination for guests who wish to experience a truly enchanting and luxurious getaway.

This privately-owned hotel offers idyllic scenery at every turn and sits at the heart of the village and showcases all that is loved most in the area. They also boast some of a long list of prestigious awards including:

  • 4 Red Star AA Inspector’s Choice accolade.

  • Good Hotel Guide Best UK Country House Hotel

  • Listed in The Sunday Times Top 100 UK Restaurants Guide

lords of the manor dining

We loved going for a country walk into town, strolling through the gardens, enjoying a delicious cocktail by the fireplace after the sunset and then having an incredible meal in their restaurant. If you’re looking for a property that’s luxurious yet quaint and doesn’t feel like a massive hotel, this is the spot for you.

LORDS OF THE MANOR COTSWOLDS
lords of the manor hotel
lords of the manor hotel upper slaughter

I adore doing life in London, but a weekend away from the chaos to enjoy the beauty of the Cotswolds was just what the doctor ordered. I’d recommend everyone experience this gorgeous at some point while visiting the UK… I can’t wait to see even more of it during future trips!

Have more questions about the Cotswolds or want help planning a trip of your own? Book a travel planning session with me and I’ll be more than happy to create a customized itinerary specifically for you!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

xx

Whitney

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