London conjures up images of royalty and power. It is the capital of England and the United Kingdom and is one of the most popular destinations in the world, attracting approximately 30 million tourists a year. This historic city, which sits on the River Thames, has been the site of many major events including the 2012 Summer Olympics. While there is certainly much to do in the capital, there are also many interesting sites nearby that can be visited during a few short day trips from London:
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Located in Kent in the southeast corner of England, Leeds Castle was constructed during the reign of Henry I and served as residence for royalty for much of its more than 900-year-long history. Six queens called Leeds home, earning the castle the nickname “The Ladies Castle.” The moat that surrounds the castle is actually a lake fed by the River Len, and punting on the water is a favorite activity. The castle grounds boast an elaborate yew maze as well as a turf maze designed for young children.
Located in south central England, the Cotswold area is known for its pretty golden-colored limestone villages and beautiful gardens. The Cotswolds area is so picturesque that it has been officially designated as an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.” Not surprisingly the scenic Cotswolds area is popular with nature lovers and is an excellent place to go horse riding and cycling. The area is also home to wonderful farmers markets and many charming old buildings.
This city, on the Sussex coast, has been a popular beach resort since the mid-19th century. Much of its popularity is due to the proximity to London, making it popular with day trippers. The beachfront is lined with graceful old Victorian homes that today provide tourist accommodations. Visitors will want to walk out on the famous Palace Pier or admire the traditional English gardens. The city has a vibrant nightlife, and is home to many entertainers and athletes.
Salisbury Cathedral, which was built in the early English Gothic style, is an impressive and handsome building that attracts more than 500,000 visitors a year. It took approximately 38 years to build the main body of this attractive church, which was completed in 1258. Salisbury Cathedral boasts the tallest spire in Britain and also features the largest cathedral close. A copy of the Magna Carta can be viewed in the Salisbury Cathedral’s Chapter House. There are only four copies of this important document left today, and the one in the Salisbury Cathedral is the best preserved.
At Warwick Castle, which was originally built in 1068, travelers can get a glimpse of what life was like in medieval times. The castle features beautiful gardens and entertaining shows, including a birds of prey show and a popular dungeon attraction. Warwick Castle also boasts an impressive suit of armor collection. Travelers who want to overnight on the castle grounds can actually rent a medieval tent, which includes admission to Warwick Castle and breakfast.
Oxford, which is located about 100 km (60 miles) from London, is best known as being home to the famous university of the same name. In addition to the university, Oxford is also home to numerous museums, including the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology as well as the Pitts Rivers Museum. Travelers to Oxford who want to enjoy a view of the city should visit the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. For a small fee, visitors can climb to the top of the church’s tower, which offers what many consider to be one of the best views of Oxford.
This charming town, which is located in rural Warwickshire about a 2 hours drive from London, is the birthplace of one of the most famous authors in history, William Shakespeare. Stratford-upon-Avon is rightfully proud of its connection to the Bard and, today, visitors can watch plays put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the town’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Shakespeare’s Birthplace, a half-timbered house that is now a museum, is another popular attraction in this town.
The city of Bath is located a short one-and-a-half-hour train ride from London, making it a very popular day trip. This is a very beautiful, historic city, built of attractive cream-colored limestone, and famous for its natural hot springs. The city’s Roman Baths is considered to be one of the best preserved Roman spas in Europe. First built around 70 AD, the Roman Baths are the city’s most popular tourist attraction.
This castle, which is located in Berkshire just outside London, is the official residence of the Queen of England and is still used by the royal family as a weekend home. In addition, many state banquets and other official events are still held at Windsor Castle. Travelers to Windsor, which is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, will find plenty to see. If the weather permits, they can enjoy watching the famous Changing of the Guards, or they can take part in one of St. George’s Chapel’s daily worship services. Because this castle is still a working palace, travelers should check to make sure that it is open before visiting, as its operating hours can change.
One of the most popular day trips from London, Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument found in Wiltshire, about a 2 hours drive from the capital. From 2500 BC, Neolithic and Bronze Age man started to bring gigantic stones from Wales and the Marlborough Downs. It was not until 1600 BC that Stonehenge came to be completed. A trip to Stonehenge is best combined with a trip to prehistoric Avebury to the north, which has an even bigger stone circle, with fewer restrictions, and far fewer tourists.