History, culture and the seaside
So, you fancy getting away from the hurly-burly of old London town?
Whether you’re escaping with your family, friends or you even want a bit of quiet time on your own. We’ve chosen an exciting mixture of locations and historical places that we have loved.
The Hertford Bridge or Bridge of Sighs, Oxford, England, UK
Some of these localities you’ll be able to reach by public transport, others due to practicality of time and accessibility you may need to jump in a car.
You may also notice that a few of these settings are on the coast, if you know me by now, you’ll know I have a bit of a thing with water and the sea.
So no further ado, our first port of call is…..
Yep, straight to the Kent coast.
If you love history and not just recent history, you’ll find Dover Castle incredibly fascinating. It’s now lovingly run by English Heritage, and I would say one of their flagship attractions.
Inside the Castle walls
Perched high on the White Cliffs of Dover, this imposing fortress has been protecting its nation for over eight centuries. Dover Castle has had visits from the Romans, Normans, Kings, Queens and Emperors.
In more recent history the Napoleonic tunnels were used as a base from which the Dunkirk evacuations were masterminded. Along with venturing into the secretive tunnels of Operation Dynamo, there are also medieval tunnels and an underground hospital.
The Wartime Tunnel tours fill up quick, arrive early to ensure you secure your place. You can’t book, it’s first-come, first-served basis.
Inside the Great Keep
This all before you’ve even been summoned across the drawbridge. To the Great Tower, which King Henry II had rebuilt into a Royal Palace.
Visiting Dover Castle is not only a fun day out; it’s also extremely educational.
English Heritage Membership
If you are planning on visiting multiple English Heritage sites, then you may want to consider an annual pass. You’ll be amazed at how much you will save, click on the banner below.
I feel that we’ve been a bit late to the party in visiting Oxford, as it is always high on overseas visitors lists. However, so often we’ve passed by en-route to another location.
After visiting Oxford, I now understand the allure. The history and centuries of traditions that are immersed so deep into its past, at times, I struggle to comprehend it. You feel like an onlooker gazing into this elitist world.
The Cloisters of Magdalen College
The University of Oxford has been teaching scholars since 1096, which makes it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. So, it isn’t surprising that you would feel honoured to be studying here.
As we saunter through the ancient lanes dodging the cyclists rushing to their next tutorial, you truly get the chance to appreciate the ornate sandstone colleges that around every corner.
Radcliffe Camera in the evening
Harry Potter fans and also those of you who remember the TV series Inspector Morse will recognise parts of this beautiful city.
Map out your route
Whether you’re planning a road trip, plotting a hiking route or cycling one of UK’s scenic trails, there’s nothing quite like using a tactile paper map.
The Ordnance Survey folk are here to help, with maps, guides, gadgets and more. Take a browse through their vast array of maps and grab your ideal companion for your adventure.
Ok, so we are back on the Kent coastline. I have to be honest here, my expectations weren’t too high. We’d visited Folkestone a number of years ago, and it needed more than a lick of paint.
Well, I was taken aback at the transformation. The rejuvenation that has taken place and still taking place I hasten to add is astonishing. The aqueduct and the disused old harbour station have been lovingly restored. They are now a place of recreation and pleasant waterfront walks.
Overlooking the harbour slipway in Folkestone
You can stroll all around the harbour arm, enjoying the local pop up cafes and independently-run restaurants.
The addition to Folkestone that I particularly loved was the urban art demonstration that is on display through the whole town, and along the seafront. It is the UK’s largest urban contemporary art exhibition and is accessible 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year.
The old high street in the Creative Quarter
Rendezvous Street in Folkestone
It’s not all about the harbourfront, take a stroll up through the colourful cobbled streets and around the historical Bayle area, there are many a tale to be told here.
An interesting read
If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".
You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.
If you love the nostalgia of the British motor industry, you’ll definitely want to visit the British Motor Museum. The museum is located in Warwickshire north-west of London; however, if you are staying in Stratford-upon-Avon, it’s great for a day out.
The classic Mini Cooper
The British Motor Museum has so many pristine vehicles that have been lovingly resorted or preserved just for the memories that these British classics bring their owners.
In the museum, there are cars and trucks that you’ll recognise from the silver screen. Iconic racing events like the Monte Carlo Rally and historic models you thought had been lost forever.
A land speed MG display at the British Motor Museum
You can even watch from the viewing gallery the mechanics working on the exhibits below.
Visiting the British Motor Museum is a fun day out, especially for that inner petrol-head amongst us.
Ok, so technically Eltham Palace is in London. However, believe me, when you step into this Art Deco paradise, you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
Eltham Palace is now under the watchful eye of the English Heritage and, they perform an incredible job maintaining this beautiful building.
The reception area of Eltham Palace
Eltham Palace was once the childhood playground of Henry VIII; however, he was the last monarch that invested in the upkeep of the moated fortress. Which then soon went into decline, although the Great Hall survived.
In 1933 the wealthy Courtauld family took a 99-year lease from the Crown and had an elegant new house was built. The luxurious interior Art Deco décor is stunning, intricately inlaid wood panelling, smooth lines and sleek splendour. It is spectacular.
Eltham Palace from across the moat
English Heritage is continually discovering more in this house, recently behind years of wallpaper they uncovered the Map Room.
As the Courtaulds were keen travellers, these would have been used to plan their adventures around the globe.
A helpful guide
If you've yet to discover London and its ancient history, then let's start planning. I find these DK Eyewitness Travel Guides invaluable. They're extremely informative, easy to follow, and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more of those fascinating sites.
You can now grab a recently revised copy of this guidebook, so you won't miss a thing.
When you think of Canterbury, what springs to mind? The striking cathedral that witnessed the murder of Thomas Becket, Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales, the quaint cobbled lanes around the Buttermarket, or the oldest school in the world.
Strolling along Westgate River Walk in Canterbury
This ancient city has so much to offer, and yes, King’s School is known to be the oldest continuously operated school, which has been teaching scholars since 597AD.
Canterbury Cathedral stands as the towering centrepiece of the city and home to the head of the Church of England. It also forms part of Canterbury’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The War Memorial & Christchurch Gate
The quiet lanes of Canterbury
All around the Cathedral are flagstone streets and rickety old buildings that have stood the test of time. During the 17th-century the French-speaking Huguenots settled here and introduced silk weaving to the city.
Canterbury is full of so much history and truly makes a charming day out.
It’s good to talk!
Hart Street , Henley-on-Thames
As the name would suggest, Henley-on-Thames is nestled along the banks of the River Thames. The town can trace its roots back to the 12th-century so, is full history. The Henley Bridge which straddles the Thames across two counties from Oxfordshire to Berkshire was built in 1786.
The old town is so welcoming with quaint boutiques, tea rooms and a regular Farmers Markets held on various days through the month.
The waterfront, Henley-on-Thames
For five days during July, the Thames and the town truly come alive. People from far away shores take to the 1 mile, 550 yards (2,112 metres) course, for their place in the history books.
However, you don’t need to be of Olympic standard to take to the waters; you can enjoy the pleasure of boating along the Regatta course yourself.
The beach and the harbour
Like many other coastal towns around the UK, and particularly in Kent, Margate is turning a corner, being revigorated and has a new lease of life. Obviously, these changes take years and sometimes decades; however, Margate is well on the way.
This seaside town has a beautiful golden sandy beach, a charming quay encircled by a bustling harbour arm. You can even grab a pot of jellied eels or your favourite shellfish.
The Kentish Pantry in the old Wellington Hotel
The Cinque Posts Pub in Margate
What more could you want, ahh yes, the old town is coming alive too. Some quirky little shops popping up, trendy small boutiques and some great brewpubs. I can see I’ll be visiting again.
* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.
Inspired for a day out from London?
Inspired for a day out from London?
(Why not Pin It for Later?)
If you enjoy what you see, and you’d like regular updates then join us for a monthly newsletter.