Tired of big city life? Grab your mates and make the most of the warmer weather on a day trip within an hour’s train ride of London. WORDS: Dan Imhoff and Janine Jorgensen

Richmond and Kew Gardens

Just located in the Surrey postcode, this green haven, south west of London, is perfect for when you need to escape the concrete jungle of city. With one of the biggest collections of plants in the world, the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew has loads of to see, so plan your trip well. Use the hop-on hop-off Kew Explorer (you’ll pay extra for the ride), which will take you to all the major attractions, such as the Palm House, Great Pagoda, 18m-high Chilean wine palm and recently restored Kew Palace. Download a day planner from www.kew.org/visitor, so you won’t miss out on all the gardens have to offer. Alternatively, bring your own picnic, find a quiet spot, soak up the oxygen and just relaaax…

Near the gardens, is Richmond Park – one of the wildest parks in London. If you’re feeling energetic, a great way to see the park in all its glory is to cycle round the perimeter. With grassland, hills, lakes and 650 roaming wild deer, the 2500-acre park is a site of special interest, and you’ll tend to forget you’re just a tube stop away from the capital and its crowds. If you own a set of clubs, the park also has a pay-and-play golf course nearby, so you can pretend to be a country squire for the day.
See www.royalparks.or.uk/parks/richmond.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Petersham Nursery in Petersham Road (www.petershamnurseies.com) and indulge in organic treats at the cafe. It’s a popular brekkie spot with the celebs who live in Richmond.

Getting there District line travels to both Kew and Richmond, (about 15 minutes from Earl’s Court), and then it’s a short walk to the garden gates and bus ride (the 371 or 65) to Richmond Park’s pedestrian gate at Petersham. Why not make the most of a good day, and jump on a river cruise from Westminster Pier and journey down the Thames till you reach Kew?

Best for when you’re feeling burnt-out and need a bit of peace that nature offers.

Bet you didn’t know Kew Gardens has the world’s largest collection of orchids.



Once the capital of England, Winchester is home to the most impressive cathedral in the south of the country. In 2006 it stole Epsom’s title as best place to live in the UK and while it too errs on the side of dullness, for a bit of a history fix, the city is not a bad day trip.

While its iconic hobo, Burping Ron, passed away a couple of years ago, Winchester still has its cathedral, with work first beginning on
it in 1079. The city is also famous for the round table of King Arthur, housed for more than 700 years in The Great Hall. OK, the legend of King Arthur might be a lot of rot, but that’s still one big, old table.

Grab a quick (but very basic) feed and a beer, as travellers have done for more than 800 years, at the Hospital of St Cross, which still serves up the Wayfarer’s Dole, a morsel of bread and a beaker of ale. Otherwise, The Mash Ton, The Porthouse (more of a student crowd), The Bishop on the Bridge and The Old Market are all good places to refuel.

Getting there From Waterloo it is one hour.

Best for A quick history fix in England’s old capital.

Bet you didn’t know Founded in 1382, Westminster College is thought to be the oldest continuously running school in the country.

For more information see www.visitwinchester.co.uk.

Windsor and Eton

If you want to see how the British royals live, visit Windsor Castle. The Queen’s weekend retreat dates back to Norman times and looms above the streets of the town. You’ll know Her Maj is at home if the Royal Standard is flying from the tower. Even if you don’t glimpse her, there’s still plenty to see, from the pomp and circumstance of changing of the guard to the minute detail of Queen Mary’s dolls’ house. St George’s Chapel, the final resting place of many British monarchs, is an amazing example of Gothic architecture.
See www.windsor.gov.uk.

When you’re done with the castle, explore Windsor Great Park – 4800 acres of greenery and wildlife, including red deer. All that fresh air calls for liquid refreshment, and there are plenty of pubs along the Thames, which flows through the town. Cross the pedestrian bridge to Eton, whose all-boys college is attended by some of the world’s richest heirs and cleverest scholars. Old boys include Wills and Harry, and House star Hugh Laurie.

Getting there Trains leave from Waterloo station (50 mins). See www.nationalrail.co.uk. Buses leave from Victoria coach station (1 hr 15 mins). See www.greenline.co.uk.

Best for The ultimate royal fix.

Bet you didn’t know Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied fortress in the world.


For nearly 52 weeks of the year Epsom is the sort of place you’d only visit to stop a distant English relative pestering you about when you’re going to drop in. Famous for its ‘healing’ Epsom salts, the town was voted best place to live on Channel 4’s The Best And Worst Places To Live In The UK three years ago. It hardly conjures a scene of a cracking day out. Come the first weekend of June, however, a flurry of hooves hits the turf, drawing more than 100,000 people trackside for the Epsom Derby. The two-day Derby Festival dates back to 1780 and will be held this year on June 6 (The Oaks) and June 7 (Derby Day). If you punt, best steer clear of the outsiders – the first or second favourite has won nearly two-thirds of the past 41 races.

Getting there Trains leave from Waterloo (34 mins), London Bridge (49 mins) and Victoria (1 hr 11 mins).

Best for A great day at the races. See www.epsomderby.co.uk.

Bet you didn’t know In 1913, suffragette Emily Davison was killed after throwing herself in front of George V’s horse, Anmer.

Australian connections
» A horse named West Australian won the race in 1853. It wasn’t Australian.
» A horse named the Flying Dutchman won the race in 1849. It wasn’t Australian either.


This popular resort in Essex is like much of Britain’s seaside hotspots – gaudy amusement arcades, fish and chip shops and deckchairs vying for space in summer. Go beyond the stereotype and you will also find sprawling beaches – sand, not pebbles – and really good ice cream. Try your luck at coconut shies, snap that cheesy Punch and Judy pic, brave the water and learn how to kitesurf, or plonk your towel down on any of the beaches and soak up the atmosphere. If it’s thrills you’re after, the Adventure Island theme park has more than 60 rides, including a roller coaster.
See www.adventureisland.co.uk. For a bit of history, stop off at one of the chippies and, with your newspaper-wrapped parcel, take a 10-minute stroll to Old Leigh, the resort’s original fishing village.
For more info, see www.visitsouthend.co.uk; www.sarfend.co.uk.

Getting there Trains leave from Liverpool Street station and take 55 mins to Southend Victoria station.

Best for When you and your mates need to catch a few rays by the sea.

Bet you didn’t know Southend-on-Sea is home to the world’s longest pier (2158m), built in 1830.

Epping Forest

When the frantic pace of London starts to do your head in, throw on a pair of decent walking shoes and jump on the Central line. You’ll wonder how this could end up being a relaxing escape as you cram into a carriage with 800 other people, but little more than half an hour east of central London, with your carriage now all but empty, you’re on
the doorstep of the 6000-acre Epping Forest. This ancient woodland of oak and elm trees, in south-west Essex, is the largest public open space in Greater London. It’s easy to meander your way around the weaving trails by foot, on horse-back or by bike. Keep an eye out for Wanstead Park, Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, the Temple and remnants of two Iron Age settlements. During autumn people hit the forest to go mushroom picking, although you’ll need a licence to do so. You won’t step off the train into the middle of the forest, but the visitors’ centre is only a 3km walk from Loughton station (Epping Forest Visitor Centre 020-8508 0028; epping.forest@cityoflondon.gov.uk).
To avoid the longer walk, continue on the underground to the village of Theydon Bois, through which you can head straight into the forest.

Getting there Take the Central line tube to Loughton or Theydon Bois (30-40 mins).

Best for Fresh country air, a stone’s throw from the bustling capital.

Bet you didn’t know The area was designated a royal forest way back in the 12th century, meaning only the monarch could hunt there.