Family day trips from London


By Emine Saner

Photography by Getty

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October 2017

If you’re stuck for things to do with the kids in the school holidays, why not take a break from the Big Smoke and have a fun-filled day out instead? With new cities to explore, trips to the seaside and country escapes, our pick of day trips are guaranteed to keep the entire family happy, says Emine Saner.

Brighton

What to do

Easily accessible from London, Brighton is the quintessential beach escape. It may have been heavily gentrified but there are still enough reminders of the classic British seaside – think penny slot machines and a tempting vinegary whiff of fish and chips in the sea air – for a nostalgia fix. Head to the top of the new British Airways i360 tower, the world’s tallest moving observation deck, for a seagull’s-eye view of the city and surrounding coastline. The Victorian electric railway that runs along the seafront should reopen later this summer following a restoration.

Brighton may have been heavily gentrified but there are still reminders of the classic British seaside – think penny slot machines and a tempting vinegary whiff of fish and chips in the sea air.

Lunch stop

The Bucket and Spade Café by the beach is a family haven, with books, crayons and chalkboard tables – and a playground and paddling pool out front.

If you decide to stay the night

Right on the seafront, the Hilton Brighton Metropole has modern amenities and Victorian charm.

How to get there

You can reach Brighton by train from London in around an hour.

  • Paris’ Jardin du Luxembourg © encrier/Getty Images

    Top tip…

    If you’re planning a picnic in the park, it’s best to keep off the grass. Most of the elegantly manicured lawns are off limits (aside from a small slice on the southern boundary). But do seek out one of the many 1923-designed green metal chairs that are scattered around the park. £102 pp

    Book your Paris day trip
  • Penny Lane in Liverpool © George Clerk/Getty Images

    Liverpool beat

    A must for any Beatles fan, Penny Lane was immortalised on the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album, and Paul McCartney was sitting at a bus stop waiting for John Lennon when he wrote the song. £102 pp

    Book your car hire for a British road trip
  • Family day out at Stonehenge © Jodie Griggs/Getty Images

    Like a rolling stone

    The ancient monument dates back 5,000 years, with artefacts dating back around 10,000 years being found on the site and to this day archeologists still don’t know how it was constructed.

    Book flights to London

Liverpool

What to do

The city’s waterfront has Unesco world heritage status and you can explore it from one of the Mersey Ferries cruises. If your children think the Beatles were simply an ancient version of One Direction, then this is the place to educate them – the Beatles Story comprises two museums exploring the life and times of the Fab Four.

Lunch stop

The Interesting Eating Company  is a small, family-friendly independent café that has become famous for its pancakes.

If you decide to stay the night

You’re only going to be able to stay at one Beatles-themed hotel in the world so you may as well make a night of it. Despite being unashamedly devoted to the band, the Hard Days Night Hotel is luxurious, rather than tacky.

How to get there

Trains take just over two hours from London Euston. You can drive in about four-and-a-half hours.

Stonehenge and Bath

What to do

The ancient stone circle is one of the most famous sights in Britain, and an early trip to Stonehenge (before the hordes turn up) and its mysterious ancient mighty stones will enthral children. You can explore the landscape around the stones, looking out for hundreds of burial mounds. For history of the more recent kind, go on to Bath, which is an hour away. It’s a beautiful city to walk around if little legs can take it, but it also has attractions that will appeal to children – the Roman bath museum has water to try not to fall in, characters in costume and an audio guide narrated by the former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen.

Lunch stop

The Egg Café is at the Theatre Royal in Bath, and is a handy central spot to stop, rest and refuel, even if you’re not seeing a show at its child-centred Egg Theatre. There is also a small play area for children.

If you decide to stay the night

The Francis Hotel is set across a series of beautiful Grade-I listed Georgian townhouses on one of the city’s prettiest squares.

How to get there

Trains from London Paddington take around an hour-and-a-half. You can drive to Bath in around three hours.

  • Oxford’s historic buildings are best seen on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour © Owen Price/Getty Images

    Feel the magic

    Harry Potter fans will want to get a closer look at Oxford University’s Christ Church College. The Great Hall was used as inspiration for Hogwarts’ dining hall in the films, while the staircase leading up to the hall was actually featured in several scenes.

    Book an Oxford sightseeing tour

Oxford and the Cotswolds

What to do

The Cotswolds, with its quaint cottages and thatched roofs, is about as English countryside as you can get outside of a Richard Curtis film. You can take a coach tour of the area, but children might prefer somewhere they can run free – Cotswold Farm Park (home to Adam Henson, presenter of the TV show Countryfile) has rare breed animals, play areas, a maze and a tractor safari. In Oxford, get your bearings of this beautiful city by taking a tour on the Hop-On Hop-Off sightseeing bus, and there are Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland tours of the city too.

Lunch stop

Jacobs and Field is a popular spot, with tasty wholesome food and a kids’ menu – but make sure you save some space for the honeycomb and chocolate brownie sundae.

If you decide to stay the night

Away from the city, and with beautiful views over the valley, the Painswick Hotel in the Cotswolds is surprisingly child-friendly for such a grown-up boutique bolthole. It makes a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside.

How to get there

Trains from London to Oxford take just over an hour, and around an hour and 50 minutes to Gloucester. By car, you can reach the Cotswolds in around two hours.

Paris

What to do

One of the world’s greatest cities is very accessible from London and it’s also pretty child-friendly – you might just have to forget traipsing round the museums and boutiques, and think about the city’s parks and playgrounds instead. The Jardin du Luxembourg has sandpits, play areas and pony rides (and you may tempt them into the nearby Musee d’Orsay). Take a river cruise on the Seine – it’s a hop-on, hop-off service with stops along the way, including the Eiffel tower and the Louvre (the kids will love the Egyptian mummies).

Lunch stop

The Jardin des Plantes park  – home to botanical gardens, a small zoo and a vintage carousel – has stands selling sandwiches and crepes, and its restaurant, La Baleine, has a children’s menu.

How to get there

Trains to Paris leave from London St Pancras and takes two hours, 15 minutes. Book a day trip with British Airways.