If you’re looking to get away from the mass of people coming to London fin the summer, here are a few options.
1) Southend-on-Sea, Essex
This is a lovely seven-mile stretch of beaches not far from London, with the pick being Shoeburyness East Beach because of its windsurfing area, grassy headland and long sand beach. Southend has the world’s longest leisure pier, The Southend Pier. The train from Liverpool Street Station to Southend takes about an hour.
2) Bournemouth, Dorset
This is a seven-mile long clean sandy beach. If you like walking, take the ferry out to Brownsea Island, owned by the National Trust. There is a mass of walking paths. It takes under two hours to get there by train from Waterloo station. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the rare red squirrel!
3) Margate, Kent
This is a small seaside town which is home to the UK’s newest major art gallery: The Turner Contemporary. During the summer of 2012, the feature exhibition will be Tracey Emin and also Rodin’s sculpture. Trains from Victoria take around 2 hours, and from St Pancras they are an hour and a half.
4) Whitstable, Kent
Famous for its oysters, this is a small beach-side village full of fish restaurants, arts and crafts stores and a lovely beach. Trains take an hour and a half from either Victoria or St Pancras stations. Not far east is Herne Bay, a beach of wide sands and clear water, which can also be reached from Victoria station.
This is a popular, eclectic and cultural south coast town with a shingle beach, famous pleasure pier and the historic and lavishly decorated Royal Pavilion. Regular trains run from both London Bridge and Victoria stations.
The famous university town is only an hour north by train and is perfect for a relaxing wander around the colleges, gliding on a punt on the river Cam, or a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum. Trains from either Kings Cross or Liverpool Street station.
Known as the city of spires, Oxford is delightful for a day wandering amongst the historic colleges and along the river banks while rowers glide by. It has the excellent Ashmoleon Museum and the historic Bodleian Library. A fast train from Paddington takes an hour.
This is the port from which the Titanic set off in 1912. There are many historic sites, walking tours and other markers of this famous ship, its crew and their fate. The town is also renowned for its calm waters, perfect for dinghy sailing, and you can learn to sail at the Southampton Water Activities Center. The train from London Waterloo station takes around an hour and a quarter to Southampton.
Palaces and Houses:
1) Chatsworth House and Park
As one of the country’s grandest and most beloved historic houses, it is still in private ownership. The house and gardens are open from March until December each year. Take the train from London St Pancras station to Chesterfield station (about 2 hours) and then the 214 bus.
One of the Queen and her royal family’s many residences and a magnificent riverside park, it’s the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. This castle is renowned for its art collection. It is easy to reach either from London Paddington station to Windsor and then Eton Central (around 30 minutes), or from London Waterloo station to Windsor and then to Eton Riverside.
Along the River Thames from central London, this was home to Henry VIII and many other monarchs before it became one of the historic palace museums. A palace in two halves: Tudor and Baroque, it has wonderful gardens and a famous maze. It’s easy to reach from Waterloo station by train to Hampton Court (about half an hour). You can also travel along the river from Westminster to Hampton Court with Thames River Boats (about 3 hours) or from Richmond to Hampton Court with Turks Boats (about an hour and a half; you can reach Richmond by the District tube line).
1) Chessington World of Adventures
With nine themed worlds and a sea-life park, kids love it here and it’s easy to get to from central London. From Waterloo, the train Chessington South takes just over half an hour, and then it’s a ten minute walk from the station to the park.
2) Alton Towers
The UK’s most popular theme park, located in Staffordshire on the former estate of the Earls of Shrewsbury, Alton Towers has 33 rides including 8 roller-coasters. The best way to get there is by train from Euston to Uttoxeter (about 2 hours) and then a shuttle bus (running every 20 minutes).
3) Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, Bedfordshire
With penguins, hippos, lions and llamas, kids can meet these animals and get up close to the tamer animals at the children’s farm. It’s open everyday. Trains run from Euston to Hemel Hempstead (half an hour) and from there the X31 bus goes to the zoo every 2 hours.