When replying to our fan mail (“Mum, this is called an email, please use this in future”) we came across this letter.
Dear STA Travel London. We know how much you love a) crowds, b) subterranean commuting, and c) overpriced artisan coffee, but we’re writing to inform you that there’s a whole world outside London! And you only need a day to see it. We anxiously await your visit. Yours, everyone outside the M25 ring road.
Which got us thinking. If it was true, and in fact we wouldn’t get our Transport for London Oyster cards permanently confiscated if we left the capital, then what the heck had we been doing with our weekends!
Fresh from this revelation, we promptly ventured into the ancient sites and cider-filled countryside of England’s south west in search of five nearby #OMGB moments.
And for the record, no one burnt up when crossing the M25 motorway out of London. In fact, it was rather pleasant. There were tractors and everything.
1. Standing guard at Windsor Castle
Circling above cobblestoned streets on the banks of the River Thames, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It’s also ridiculously close to London, so no excuses – even singer Lorde would have time to come and be royal here.
Built by William the Conqueror, this ancient fortress has been home to the British Royal Family for almost 1,000 years and is still the weekend gaff of Big Liz and the fam. Head for the Long Walk and Deer Park for the best views, and for a quintessential English afternoon, take your picnic basket and Victorian bonnet to the meadows lining the Thames. A G&T drip is essential on such occasions.
Distance from London: 50 minutes by train
Best for: Idyllic English days out, royalists and those who like snooping around other people’s houses.
2. Ancient circles at Stonehenge
Over 5,000 years old and predating even Egypt’s Pyramids, UNESCO-listed Stonehenge is one of the most important Neolithic sites in the world. Worshipped by druids, archaeologists, astrologers and alien hunters alike, this seemingly rudimentary stone circle in the Wiltshire countryside has mystified visitors for centuries. Why? Because no one really knows why it’s here. And in a world of Wikipedia answers, the ‘not knowing’ is pretty unique.
A place of legend, myth and intrigue, the only way to truly find answers is to visit yourself. Also, the scones in the tea room are extraordinary.
Distance from London: 2 hour drive
Best for: Britain’s most iconic ancient site, rolling green countryside and curious minds.
3. Finding fairies at Glastonbury Tor
Hallowed ground for festival goers, cider drinkers and anyone in the market for a dreamcatcher, Glastonbury is Britain’s most alternative town. Towering above Tolkien-esq landscapes, crystal shops and wand-making workshops, Glastonbury Tor dominates the picturesque Somerset countryside.
Thought to be the Avalon of Arthurian legend (beard, round table, best friends with a wizard), the entrance to Annwn the kingdom of the fairies, and the possible site of the Holy Grail; Glastonbury Tor has been a place of religious, spiritual and mythological significance for over 1,000 years. The steep hike will take a good 10 minutes, but the 360° views and dog petting at the top are worth it.
Distance from London: 3 hours by car
Best for: Celtic legends, wizards-in-waiting and road trips that scream rural England.
4. Punting through meadows in Oxford
Home to elegant honey-coloured colleges, cute cobbled streets and university priced beers, Oxford’s historic gentility and geeky charms make us seriously weak-kneed. One of the most beautiful cities in Britain, and the famous academic arch-nemesis of Cambridge, Oxford is the perfect trip out.
Wander through historic halls learning of past alumni, punt on the river past sweeping parkland, and then shatter it all by doing what any good student would do – go to the pub. The Bear Inn is Oxford’s oldest, dating back to 1242.
Distance from London: 1 hour by train
Best for: A masterclass in British history, golden spires and university drop outs.
5. Cinematic countryside in the Cotswolds
An area of outstanding natural beauty, the Cotswolds is like a film set. The film is titled English Stereotypes Are Real.
Village after village of honeysuckle cottages, quaint country pubs and fat jersey cows in golden fields… the Cotswolds has been the actual film set for Harry Potter, The Holiday and Bridget Jones. For the archetypal English setting, head for the duck ponds and thatched-roof cottages of Bibury. England’s loveliest and most depicted village, the stooped houses of Arlington Row feature inside every British passport.
Distance from London: 2 hours by car
Best for: Picturesque English villages, men in tweed caps and feeding the ducks.
Don’t have a car? All of the above can be visited on coach trips from London. Speak to your STA Travel Expert about creating your ultimate #OMGB adventure Toodle-pip!