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Are you looking for the best weekend escapes near London?

You’re in the right place! I’m Mel, a Londoner and travel blogger, and in this post I’m rounding up my favourite weekend trips near London.

When the hustle and bustle gets all too much, a weekend escape is the perfect antidote.Luckily for us stressed-out Londoners, there are some absolutely incredible beach and countryside destinations within 3 hours of London, just an easy train or car ride away!

So here are my recommended 5 best weekend getaways near London in 2023, just a short distance away from the buzzing capital. I’ve included how long it takes to get there and top things to do in each place. Let’s dive in!

Durdle Door and Man O'War Bay - England's Jurassic Coast - Lulworth Estate, Dorset - illumelation

Staring out at Man O’War Bay near Durdle Door

5 Best Weekend Escapes Near London

Durdle Door Arch and beachgoers

Beachgoers clustered on the beach at Durdle Door, an iconic limestone formation near London

1. Durdle Door (Dorset)

How far is Durdle Door from London?

By car: around 3 hours | By train: around 2.5 hours – get the train to Wool, then a bus from there.

What and where is Durdle Door?

Durdle Door is a stunning, iconic natural limestone arch on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth in Dorset.

A trip to Durdle Door is an ideal weekend escape, even just for a day trip. I loved the peace and beauty of Durdle Door! From the arch, get your steps in and explore Lulworth Cove, Man O’War Beach and Stair Hole.

Durdle Door was formed over 10,000 years ago, and it’s one of the most visited landmarks on the Jurassic Coast – which itself is actually a World Heritage Site.

I drive there from London with friends and it always results in a glorious beach picnic day, plus great weather!

Happy in the sun - looking out over Lulworth Cove

Happy in the sun – looking out over Lulworth Cove

Top Things to Do in Durdle Door:

  • Explore the Iconic Durdle Door: Discover the breathtaking natural arch on the Jurassic Coast, perfect for stunning coastal walks and panoramic views. Remember to bring your camera if you’re a photographer!
  • Visit Lulworth Cove: Take a stroll along the picturesque pebble beach and enjoy the charm of this idyllic coastal village. You can get involved in some swimming or water activities too.
  • Hike along the South West Coast Path: Get your sneakers on and go for a scenic hike along the dramatic cliffs, immersing yourself in the beauty of the Jurassic Coastline. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

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Windswept stroll past Lido Tower in Margate

Windswept stroll past Lido Tower in Margate

2. Margate & Botany Bay (Kent)

How far is Margate from London?

By car: approximately 1.5 hours | By train: approximately 1.5 hours

What and where is Margate?

I love hopping on an easy train from St. Pancras for a weekend away in Margate, which is tucked away on the coastline of Kent, a county in Southeast England.

This dreamy seaside town is packed, repeat, packed with amazing food, coffee, bars and artsy things to do.

Margate is brilliant for a day trip, but I’d recommend doing an overnight stay to make the most of this eclectic place known as ‘Shoreditch-by-Sea’. It does get extremely windy, even when it’s hot – so bring a light jacket or jumper with you! Here’s some cool things to do in Margs:

Woman and her dog strolling by Margate's boutique shops

Woman and her dog strolling by Margate’s boutique shops

Top Things to Do in Margate:

  • Explore Dreamland: Indulge your inner child at the vintage amusement park, complete with retro rides and nostalgic attractions.
  • Visit the Turner Contemporary: Immerse yourself in contemporary art at this world-class gallery, showcasing exhibitions by renowned artists.
  • Enjoy Botany Bay Beach: Relax on the sandy shores of this stunning Blue Flag beach, known for its impressive chalk cliffs and crystal-clear waters.If you fancy finding out more, check out my post: Cool Things To Do in Margate: A Londoner’s Guide
Walking along the shoreline in Botany Bay, Kent

Walking along the shoreline in Botany Bay in Broadstairs, Kent, 9 minutes from Margate by car

Best Beach in Kent: Botany Bay in Broadstairs

Here’s an epic beach bonus: just a 9-minute drive or 45-minute coastal walk from Margate sits Botany Bay, an absolutely incredible white-sand beach in Broadstairs with chalky cliffs that could rival Portugal’s Algarve Coast. My friends and I spent a sunny day here lapping up rays, splashing in the sea and having a laugh. Be wary of seagulls though – one ripped into our packet of sour cream pretzels and flew away with half the bag!

Check out my travel guide: Cool Things To Do In Margate, Kent – A Londoner’s Guide to the Seaside Gem

The stunning view from Broadway Tower in The Cotswolds

The stunning view from Broadway Tower in The Cotswolds

3. The Cotswolds (Gloucestershire)

How far is it from London to the Cotswolds?

By car it’s approximately 2.5 hours. By train it’s around 2 hours. It’s more likely you’ll drive to the Cotswolds, but if you do take a train there, it’s a breeze!

What and where is the Cotswolds?

The Cotswolds is a hugely popular, typically English landscape that runs through five counties.

The region is packed with gorgeous towns, villages, historic houses and museums, and swathed in huge stretches of gorgeous green rolling hills and woodlands. It’s perfect for a breath of fresh air away from the city.

I like being based in Chipping Campden, known as the ‘jewel of the Cotswolds’, as it’s got great access to lots of different walks and towns (and pubs!).

Another lovely place to base yourself is Stow-On-The-Wold, a market town on a hill with a myriad of shops, tearooms, galleries, and little boutique gems waiting to be explored.

Enjoying a well-earned fish-and-chips pub grub at The Ebrington Arms in The Cotswolds after a 2-hour walk!

Enjoying a well-earned fish-and-chips pub grub at The Ebrington Arms in The Cotswolds after a 2-hour walk!

Top Things to Do in the Cotswolds:

  • Go on long country walks: One of my favourite walks is the 1.5 mile jaunt from Broadway Tower to the town of Broadway. Nestled along The Cotswold Way, Broadway Tower is a quirky historical building with a colourful past nestled on Broadway Hill, and from the very top of the tower, you can see gorgeous views of glimmering green countryside and over 16 English counties on a cloudless day!
  • Treat yourself to a Sunday Roast or Pub Lunch: When in the English countryside, do something traditional. Treat yourself to a traditional afternoon tea experience in a cozy tea room or, more likely, go for a delightful pub dinner at one of the many comfy, top-tier gastropubs dotted around the Cotswolds.
  • Discover Charming Cotswold Villages and Estates: Explore the quintessential English countryside and visit picturesque villages like Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury. You can also take a leisurely stroll through the stunning gardens at Hidcote Manor or Kiftsgate Court, famous for their floral displays.
Walking my lovely friend Dom’s dog in a rolling country field near Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds, which is home to the popular Wilderness Festival

Walking my lovely friend Dom’s dog in a rolling country field near Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds, which is home to the popular Wilderness Festival

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Morning walk along the rugged cliffs and coastline of North Norfolk

Morning walk along the rugged cliffs and coastline of North Norfolk

4. North Norfolk (Holkham & Wells-next-the-Sea)

Distance from London to Norfolk:

By car: approximately 3 hours | By train: approximately 3 hours

Whether you’re driving or doing a picturesque train journey, Norfolk is a brilliant short break destination near London with over 90 miles of coastline bordering the North Sea. While the water is chilly, the views are epic!

North Norfolk is well known across the UK for its spectacular coastline, soaring cliffs, fantastic wildlife, miles of glorious pristine beaches, seaside villages, and a beautiful mix of wild rolling countryside and picturesque market towns. It’s the birdwatching capital of the UK, and you can spot seals at Blakeney Point.

Wells-Next-The-Sea at low tide in North Norfolk

Wells-Next-The-Sea at low tide in North Norfolk

Top Things to Do in Norfolk (Holkham & Wells-next-the-Sea):

  • Relax at Wells-next-the-Sea Beach: Spend a day at this picturesque sandy beach, known for its colorful beach huts and stunning coastal scenery. Grab a coffee, bring a kite, and get flying!
  • Take a Boat Trip down the Broads or to see some Seals: Embark on a wildlife adventure and observe seals in their natural habitat with a boat tour from Morston Quay. You can rent a small motorboat that fits up to 10 people on it. Get some drinks and snacks, and sail slowly down the broads!
  • Enjoy Delicious, Top-Notch British Seafood: Norfolk is bursting with gourmet seafood restaurants, gastropubs and independent cafés. We went to an incredible seafood restaurant, Wells Crab House, in Wells-next-the-Sea, which I’d highly recommend. Hello, fresh oysters!
My sister-in-law taking photos on Wells Beach during a pink-purple sunrise in North Norfolk

My sister-in-law taking photos on Wells Beach during a pink-purple sunrise in North Norfolk

Cobblestone street in Rye on a spring day

Cobblestone street in Rye on a spring day

5. Rye & Camber Sands Beach (East Sussex)

Distance from London to Rye: By car: approximately 2 hours | By train: approximately 2 hours

Do you fancy roaming through medieval streets and windswept sand dunes? Head to Rye and Camber Sands beach – two gorgeous places that are a quick drive or train from London with a huge payoff.

Known for its winding cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses, Rye is one of England’s most charming gems. Meanwhile the winsdwept sand dunes of Camber Sands beach are just around the corner.

Visiting Rye and Camber Sands beach are the perfect day trip from London – or, better yet, make a weekend out of it!

Windswept with the girls on Camber Sands main beach area

Windswept with the girls on Camber Sands main beach area

Top Things to Do in Rye & Camber Sands:

  • Explore Historic Rye: Rye has long been a source of inspiration for writers and artists. Wander through the cobbled streets of this medieval town and visit its charming shops, tea rooms, and antique markets.
  • Visit Camber Sands: Enjoy a day at one of the finest sandy beaches in the UK, perfect for long walks, picnics, and water sports. We grabbed some fish and chips and enjoyed it overlooking the sea.
  • Climb the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve: Discover the beauty of the nature reserve and its diverse wildlife, including birds and rare plant species.
Brunette woman sits overlooking a beautiful blue bay in Dorset

Throwing joyful hands in the air at Man O’War Bay in Dorset

There truly are plenty of charming towns and cities within two hours or less from London via train, offering the perfect getaway for a weekend or even just a day trip.From quaint villages like Rye, to the seaside town of Margate and its an unmistakable hipster vibe, there’s something for everyone.

So why not pack a bag and escape the city for a few days? You’ll come back refreshed and ready to tackle life back in the Big Smoke.

If you’re wondering what to do, see and eat in London – check out my Local’s Guide to London!

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Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.

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