In the last few months I’d become a bit regretful of the fact that I hadn’t spent enough time exploring the UK. Though it never really tends to rank high on many expats immediate travel bucketlist, there are quite a few places where one could do a day trip from London. Two such places are Dover (Kent) and Rye (Sussex), both 2 hours or less from London. For a full day or weekend adventure, Bath (Somerset) is a beautiful place, and allows for a stopover in Stonehenge. If food is your thing, a trip to Bray (Berkshire) for an experience at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck should definitely be on the to-do list! And for something slightly further, take a 4 hour scenic train ride up to Edinburgh in Scotland.
I had previously only known Dover to be the place where the ferries leave England to sail over the English Channel to Calais in France. However, Dover is also a wonderful place to have a nice ocean walk and take in the sights of the White Cliffs.
From Dover Priory station (around 1 – 1.5 hours from Kings Cross), a short cab ride will get you out to the Visitors Centre to embark on the round walk (note, cabs out here generally take cash only).
The walk was really relaxing, though some parts were a bit slippery due to rainfall from the day before. But luckily for us, it was a clear sunny day, so we were able to see France in the distance!
After the walk (which lasted about an hour), we were pretty hungry and the clouds were starting to roll in. Our cabbie had recommended lunch at The White Horse, which ended up being really nice. Upon walking in, we noticed the walls and ceilings were covered in graffiti everywhere – on closer inspection, it turns out they were the signatures and completion times of all the people who had successfully swum the English Channel! The owners were also super nice and hospitable (somewhat refreshing after spending too much time in London).
After a satisfying lunch and with the rain pouring down, we journeyed back to London. It was a great wholesome day – it’s just a shame that the night wasn’t so much so (never get prosecco poured onto your face … it’s quite stinging on the eyes …)
When you picture quintessential English country towns, it’s places like Rye that spring to mind. The little cobblestone town is about a 1.5 hour train ride from London and is perfect for a day trip – though we visited bright and early Saturday morning still struggling to recover from Friday night’s antics so I can’t honestly say I was a happy camper from the get go.
Rye isn’t too large a town and is filled with cute pubs and boutiques, and a church which, for a small fee, has a bell tower that can be climbed. It is also home to Mermaid Street, one of the most English looking streets you’ll ever see (and would be absolutely beautiful in Spring I’d imagine!).
We visited The Mermaid Inn for lunch, which has been there since 1156 and rebuilt in 1420! For a place so old, it was definitely not antiquated – it’s still a thriving cosy pub, with little rooms, with crackling fireplaces and a restaurant and hotel.
Rye also has an annual Scallop Week, which we managed to catch while there. Many restaurants and pubs were running special scallop themed menus and on our 1 day food and drink adventure, we were pretty impressed! We also escaped the windy cold for awhile and hung out for some sparkling at Olde Worlde Wines, a really cosy local wine bar.
So if you’re after a wholesome and peaceful day break from London, Rye’s the place 🙂
Bath & Stonehenge
We did the this as a day trip from London, but while Stonehenge doesn’t take too long to explore, I think Bath is a wonderful place that I would’ve liked to spend a bit more time in.
A bus tour from Kings Cross on a rainy Monday morning took us out of London to Stonehenge – to be blunt, it’s pretty overrated, but most definitely should be visited so that you can see the overratedness with your own eyes 😝 I had studied Tess of the D’urbervilles in high school, and the location of Stonehenge was a fairly significant place in the story, so for me, it was kinda cool being there from that literary point of view..
We then journeyed to Bath and though I wasn’t able to capture it, the array of Georgian buildings were really interesting and distinctively different to architecture seen in other parts of the UK.
We wandered the Roman Baths and then went on to a cute pub, one of many (the UK really do great pubs!).
Time permitting, it would’ve been great to stay longer and visit the Jane Austen Centre (the author of my all time favourite book, Pride and Prejudice!) as well as indulging in a bit of pampering at one of the spas (of the non-ancient variety).
Bray (The Fat Duck)
Ok so I didn’t really do a “day trip” to Bray – rather I spent the best part of an afternoon out there enjoying a 4 hour dining experience at Heston Blumenthal’s 3 Michelin starred restaurant, the Fat Duck. Yes, the prices were hefty (about £300ish per head including drinks), yes, we had to book 2 months in advance and take a day off work, and yes, it was allllllllll worth it!!
The experience was more than just a meal, as anyone who’s watched Heston would pretty much know that he’s a crazy genius. Not to give anything away, but the way in which he combines emotional nostalgia with food and theatrical effect made it a life changing culinary experience, without being ostentatious in any way. And that’s coming from a non-foodie.
He also has a restaurant in London, Dinner by Heston, but if possible, pay a visit to the restaurant in Bray for the full country soul food experience!
Taking a moment away from England here. I had visited Scotland last year on a 1 week road trip, but returned to Edinburgh last NYE to partake in the famous Hogmanay celebrations. This time round, we took the 4 hour train ride from Euston, which was much more stress free than flying, and also incredibly scenic. Nothing like the rolling hills of English countryside for views!
Hogmanay is a huge festival with many events, some of which are ticketed so definitely prepurchase and plan in advance. We danced the night away in the street party, with epic hourly fireworks from Edinburgh Castle going off behind us. And of course, we participated in the crowd rendition of Auld Lang Syne at midnight!
We also did a nice walk out to Arthur’s Seat – after opting for the laborious walk up the hill, we discovered on our descent that there was a much easier path on the other side 😔 Whilst windy as hell, the panoramic views from the top were wonderful though!
If I had more time in the UK, there would be so many more places I’d love to visit – the Lakes district, Cornwall, Brighton and The Cotswolds to name a few. Guess I’ll have to endeavour to come back again one day!