London is glorious in the sunshine, but with nine million people all looking to head for the same beer garden, rooftop bar, or green space the city can start to feel a little crowded and overwhelming. Whilst travel without a car has been somewhat difficult for the last couple of years, this summer public transport is back on track and you can be enjoying a dip in the sea or a walk along a picturesque forest trail within 90 minutes of leaving the capital.
Whitstable is only 80 minutes from London Victoria by train and widely considered one of the UK’s loveliest seaside spots with its colourful huts and long pebble beach. After a quick dip in the sea it is well worth heading over to Blueprint Coffee and Books to enjoy a flat white before renting a bike and pedalling the Oyster Bay Trail to work up an appetite for a lunch of freshly-shucked oysters on the sea front.
In the afternoon, explore Whitstable Castle or take a stroll through the charming town and pick up a couple of rare vinyl from the town’s thriving Rock Bottom record shop, before relaxing in perhaps one of the UK’s best beachfront pubs – The Neptune – which opens out right onto the pebble beach.
Only an 90 minutes from London Bridge station Hastings is a historical town that has been a popular coastal spot for London’s sunseekers for more than a century and not too expensive to get to with some cheap train tickets. The last successful invasion of the UK landed at Hastings in 1066, and there is a lot of history to explore in the area from a Norman castle to smugglers caves and a shipwreck museum.
Whether would prefer wandering the streets of the picturesque old town, taking a stroll on the pier, or taking in the views from the top of Britain’s steepest funicular, the Hill Cliff Railway, there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy. And if you’re happy to stay a little later, then head down to Dr Jekyll’s for some raucous live music or a night or cabaret depending on the evening.
Deal is only 80 minutes by train form London St Pancras International, and whilst it may not have quite earned the same reputation as Margate and Whitstable (yet), that just means less Londoners crowding its streets on a hot summer’s day. Deal Castle was built by Henry VIII as part of a chain of coastal forts to defend the realm and is well worth a visit along with the popular local market that has been held in the same spot on Saturday mornings (8am – 2pm) since 1699. After searching through the bric-a-brac and grabbing some lunch from one of the stalls, grabbing a pint in the beer garden at Deal Hoy before dinner at Victuals & Co or 81 Beach Street.
Not just a type of grain, Rye is another picturesque coastal town that you can visit in under 75 minutes from London St Pancras International (with a change at Ashford). With its cobbled streets and nearby nature reserve, Rye feels like a rural idyll on the beach, which is well worth a visit if you are looking to get away from the big smoke for a day.
Once you have made your way to the town, grab yourself an espresso from coffee from Café des Fleurs before heading out to explore Rye ature Reserve for the rest of the morning. Once you are feeling a little restored by the greenery, grab a plate of fresh mussels from coffee from Globe Inn Marsh before jumping in the sea for a quick dip at Camber Sands, and then warm up with a drink in the history-steeped Mermaid Inn.
Bath may not have the seafront attractions of some of the other locations on this list, but it is one of Britain’s most beautiful and historic cities and still under 90 minutes from London Paddington – and there’s still plenty of water-based attractions to enjoy. Start with a tour of the town’s historic Roman baths before heading to the rooftop pool with stunning views of the city at Thermae Bath Spa. Once you have dried off, grab a pizza from The Oven for lunch before marvelling at the stunning curve-fronted Georgian buildings of The Circus, and then take a break with some tea a scones from the Pump Room. Head over to any of the numerous nearby pubs to enjoy some locally brewed beers and ciders before ending the day with some fancy French cuisine at Chez Dominique.
London is one of the world’s best cities, but when you are ready for some fresh air or need to cool down after a busy week in the city’s hustle and bustle then there are a wealth of places to visit within an hour and a half from the city’s major train stations. Where do you plan to visit next?