Hours: 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM (Mon-Sun, Mar-Oct); 9.45 AM to 4.15 PM (Mon-Sun, Nov-Feb); Last entry 1½ hours before closing (1¼ hours in Nov-Feb) – Note: The State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel are sometimes closed whilst the grounds remain open - check their website before you go for the exact dates – Cost: Adults £20.00; Children £11.70 (5-16); Infants free (under-5); Family ticket £51.70
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Distance from London: 40-55 mins on a train
Windsor Castle is the Queen’s favourite residence, and it’s our favourite as well. The State Rooms inside Buckingham Palace certainly look fantastic, but the outside simply doesn’t compare with this chivalrous castle on top of a hill.
The earliest parts of the castle dates back to William the Conqueror, but this was slowly replaced with stone walls and fortifications by Henry III and Edward III. The 15th century St. George’s Chapel is wildly regarded as one of the finest pieces of gothic architecture in the country, and contains the double-tomb of Henry VIII and Charles I. The spectacular State Rooms were renovated during the reigns of George III and IV.
If you’re planning on visiting Windsor then remember to make time to explore the town – it’s a very pretty place with cobbled streets and shortbread shops and ye olde-style country pubs.
You can read Craig’s review of Windsor Castle on his blog.
Distance from London: 1 hour on a train
The big choice that tourists have to make when it comes to picking a day trip is this: Oxford or Cambridge? Which one is better? Well, in our opinion you should definitely pick Oxford. Both cities are equally beautiful, but with Cambridge it’s all about the architecture. With Oxford you have the architecture plus a lot of other attractions as well.
The prettiest colleges are Christ Church, Trinity and Magdalen. Other buildings worth seeing are the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library and Sheldonian Theatre. If you like museums then focus on the Ashmolean and the Museum of Natural History (which incorporates the Pitt Rivers Museum).
For a full review of all the attractions have a read through Craig’s blog.
Distance from London: 1½ hours on a train plus 35 mins on a bus
Stonehenge is England’s equivalent of the Egyptian pyramids, or the Inca temples – it’s a prehistoric stone circle erected sometime between 3000 and 2000 BC. What it was actually used for nobody knows. Some people think it was a burial ground, a meeting place, or even an observatory.
Unlike many of the trips on this list, this one really will take up an entire day. First of all you have to catch a train to Salisbury which will take about 1½ hours, but that will still leave you nine miles away from the monument. After that you have to catch a 35-minute tour bus to the stones. That is the only way of getting there. But before you do that we recommend spending some time walking around the town of Salisbury itself – especially their spectacular cathedral.
You might like to combine a trip to Stonehenge with a look at Old Sarum as well. It was originally an iron age hill fort about two miles from the stones, and was later converted into a motte and bailey castle by the Normans.
Read Craig’s review of Stonehenge for an idea of how long this trip will take.
Distance from London: 50-80 mins on a train
You don’t need to visit both Oxford and Cambridge – just pick one or the other. We think Oxford is slightly better because Cambridge is primarily about the architecture. Most of your day will be spent walking around the colleges to look at their pretty little chapels, cloisters and squares.
The highlight of your day will be the world famous King’s College, founded by Henry VI and expanded by Henry VII when he added the chapel. The chapel is considered the country’s finest example of Gothic English architecture.
Read Craig’s review of Cambridge on his blog.
Distance from London: 1½ hours on a train
Whenever you see a picture of Bath in the guidebooks it will invariably be the curved facade of the Royal Crescent on top of the hill, but that‣s just a row of Georgian houses. The real highlight of your day trip will be the Roman Baths.
People have been visiting this place for centuries, lured by the magical healing power of the spring water. And you can still have a taste of it now – they let you drink a cup at the end! That’s after you’ve walked around the atmospheric remains of the baths below street level. They date from around 60 AD, whereas the mock-Roman columns on top are 19th-century.
After you’ve seen the baths you can visit Bath Abbey next-door, built between the 12th and 16th-centuries, and containing some of the prettiest stained-glass that Craig has ever seen.
Distance from London: 1½-2 hours on a train
If you have a big interest in the navy then there are two ships here that will blow you away. The earliest one is the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship from 1536, that sank after firing on the French (they forgot to shut the gunports!). When the ship settled on the bottom of the Solent nearly half of its hull was buried under the silt, and miraculously survived until they winched it up in 1982.
The incredible haul of artefacts they found onboard included everything from cannons, cups and combs, to shoes, bows, bells, brooms and flutes.
The second ship at Portsmouth Dockyard is even more precious: HMS Victory. This was Admiral Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar – the same ship he was shot on at his moment of triumph. You can stand on the exact spot where the French marksman got him, and then head below deck to see where he died. The ship has been heavily restored to look exactly as it was on the day of the battle and you can poke your nose into all the gun decks, galleys and cabins.
Read Craig’s review of Portsmouth on his blog.
Distance from London: 1-2 hours on a train
Canterbury is worth a day trip if you don’t fancy Oxford or Cambridge. It’s a pretty little town with timber-framed shops and wonky whitewashed walls – Tudor-style houses – it’s how people picture England if all they’ve seen are postcards.
The highlight of your trip will be the cathedral. This was where the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was murdered by Henry II’s rampaging knights in 1170. He was promptly canonised by the Pope and has been revered as a Catholic martyr ever since.
Read Craig’s review of Canterbury Cathedral on his blog.
Hours: Palace and formal gardens: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun, Apr-Oct); 10 AM to 4.30 PM (Mon-Sun, Nov-Mar); Last entry 1 hour before closing, but 45 mins for the maze – Informal gardens: 7 AM to 8 PM (Mon-Sun, Apr-Sep); 7 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun, Oct-Mar) – Cost: Adults £21.00; Children £10.50 (5-15); Infants free (under-5); Family ticket £51.70
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Distance from London: 35 mins on a train
Hampton Court is best remembered as Henry VIII’s palace, but it was actually home to many kings and queens: Henry’s children Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I and II, William III and Mary II… and right up to George II in the 1760s. But it’s the State Apartments of Henry VIII that everyone comes to see. The Chapel Royal and Great Hall are two of the finest rooms in the capital.
The palace is supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in England (easy to believe when you’re walking through the dimly-lit cloisters and corridors), and you might like to read Craig’s review of a ghost tour. He has also written a big review of Hampton Court itself, and another one about a Sunday service in the Chapel Royal.
Hours: During school term (Mon-Fri): 10 AM to 8 PM (but 10 AM to 7.30 PM in Jan); During school holidays and Saturdays: 9 AM to 10 PM (but 10 AM to 10 PM in Jul); Sundays: 10 AM to 10 PM; Closed (mid Nov); Last entry 3-3½ hours before closing; Note: Times vary on different dates, so check their website first – Cost: Adults £39.00; Children £31.00 (5-15); Infants free (under-4); Family ticket £126.00Talk about the Warner Bros. Studios
Distance from London: 20-50 mins on a train plus 15 mins on a bus
Here’s a day trip for the kids. Warner Bros. Studios is a bit of a trek on the train and then a shuttle bus, but if your kid is a big fan of Harry Potter then it will be worth it – this is where they filmed they movies.
You can walk around all the big sets including the Great Hall, Gryffindor common room and Hagrid’s hut, and even take a stroll up Diagon Alley to see Gringott’s Bank.
They’ve got a lot of props and costumes on display as well, and go into great detail about how all the mad monsters and magical special effects were created.
Have a read of Craig’s review to see some photos of what it’s like inside.
Distance from London: 2-2½ hours on a train
If you’re a big fan of Shakespeare then take a train to Stratford-upon-Avon. This was where the bard was born and spent his final years with Anne Hathaway. It sounds almost impossible to believe, but they still have his original timber-framed house from the 1560s. It looks exactly how you’d imagine a Tudor house to be, with wonky wooden walls and creaking floorboards, and when you get out into the pretty garden you can sit there and watch a few actors performing his plays.
Craig has written a review of Stratford-upon-Avon on his blog, but was actually more impressed with Anne Hathaway’s cottage. So if you go to Stratford make sure you leave some time for that. You can also take a walk up the river and see where Shakespeare is buried in Holy Trinity Church.