If you ever tire of the hustle and bustle of London or simply want to escape to the countryside for a day, it is easy! All you need to do is jump on a train and, within a few hours, you can be strolling the cobbled laneways of Rye, soaking in the historic university towns of Cambridge and Oxford, discovering the majestic Stonehenge or taking a walk back in time to the Roman Baths! There are so many choices and nothing standing in your way. Here were some of my favourite day-trips on my visit to England in 2012.
This was one of my favourite towns in England, largely because of its university grounds. The buildings are scattered all throughout town. In Australia, our universities have their own grounds, usually isolated to one area. Cambridge University, rather, is a part of the entire city centre, which was quite a novelty for me. Aside from visiting a number of the colleges and the wonderful museum, I would highly recommend taking a punt (boat), which is particularly relaxing with a glass of champagne in hand!
Oxford is an equally beautiful university town. Both have a huge sense of history, dating back hundreds of years. Oxford University was officially founded in 1231, though some form of education was being undertaken here from as early as 1096. Just think how much history has passed since that time? And, the university still exists today! Take a tour of the university or simply enjoy strolling around and admiring the colleges.
Known for its Roman Baths and pretty Georgian architecture, straight out of a novel by Jane Austen, this town deserves more than one day. However, with just the afternoon to spare, I still thoroughly enjoyed exploring. A trip to the Roman Baths is essential, as is the Royal Crescent, a semi-circle of townhouses. Imagine living in one of these pretty apartments. The Jane Austen Centre is also fabulous, for any literary fans!
I must admit, I expected the Stonehenge to be dull – what could be exciting about a few big stones in a paddock? Nonetheless, I dropped in, en route to Bath, and my impressions changed vastly! Whether it is the mystery of this stone formation and its purpose, or the impressive fact that, thousands of years ago, people worked out a way to transport and erect these heavy stones without the aid of modern technology, the Stone Henge leaves you curious and searching for answers. The majestic quality of these standing stones in the middle of a wide open field are breathtaking and, despite the large volumes of tourists, it is well-worth visiting.
This was an unexpected delight, recommended by my family as a quaint, English seaside village. It is everything you would expect, with its cobbled laneways, old pubs and even a castle! Visit Lamb House, home to author Henry James, explore the castle grounds or enjoy a pint of beer at The Mermaid Inn, a pub that was rebuilt after a fire in the 1400s, with ceilings so low that you have to duck your head to enter! The cellars from 1156 still survive today. Being in Rye is like walking through history, where thousands of others have been before you. It is a thrilling experience for anyone interested in the past.
Another family recommendation, Sissinghurst Castle was home to poet and writer, Vita Sackville-West. I suggest hiring a car, as the castle is a long walk from the train station in the village. Once there, you can spend all day exploring the castle and its gardens in the green English country side. You would be smart to visit in late Spring/Summer, when the garden is in full bloom. I was there in early Spring but, as you can see from the photos, the garden had not yet opened its eyes from its Winter sleep.
There are still so many parts of England I want to explore! Where are your favourite day-trips from London?