Streets in Rye, United Kingdom
Live like a local

Explore the English countryside from London

June 16, 2022

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Riverside market towns, antique shops and tearooms fluttering with bunting: this is the British countryside at its best. Escape the capital for a day and discover the unique charm of English cities and towns.

Rye

With its cobbled streets, medieval walls and boats bobbing in the harbour, this historic town in East Sussex has all the right ingredients for a picture-perfect English getaway. History buffs will enjoy Lamb House, a National Trust residence that belonged to EF Benson, the author of the Mapp & Lucia series. Ypres Tower meanwhile was built in the 13th century and has taken on roles as a private home, prison, court hall and now finally as a museum. From the top you’ll see River Rother, which snakes through Rye Harbour Nature Reserve to Camber Sands, a wild beach that feels straight out of a romance novel.  

1 hour 20 minutes by train / 2 hours 10 minutes by car

Rye Camber Sands, United Kingdom
Lewes, United Kingdom

Lewes

The River Ouse wriggles through this lively market town in East Sussex. Lewes Castle, an 11th century Norman fort and museum, has a tower you can climb for countryside views. The town itself is charming, home to pottery boutiques, The Fifteenth Century Bookshop and Lewes Flea Market. Fancy a picnic? Then browse Lewes Farmers’ Market and its Friday food market which is housed in a Grade II-listed tower. Alternatively, stop for lunch at The Snowdrop Inn. You can sit in its garden in the shadow of a limestone cliff, or dine indoors beneath birdcages and milk pails.

1 hour 5 minutes by train / 2 hours by car

Cambridge

Relax over champagne and strawberries as you punt along the River Cam, a meandering waterway that runs through this university city in Cambridgeshire. Boating tours tend to begin beneath Magdalene Bridge then drift behind the university colleges, which date back to 1209. After your trip, you can lounge in the meadows that border the river or stroll south towards The Orchard Tea Garden; deckchairs are scattered among the trees. If you want to cool off, splash about in Jesus Green Lido by the river or seek shade by the fountain in the 18th century Cambridge Botanic Garden.

50 minutes by train / 1 hour 35 minutes by car

Cambridge punting
Dorking, United Kingdom

Dorking

Antique shops brimming with vintage teddy bears, heirloom clocks and period furniture line West Street in this quaint town in Surrey. Once you’ve browsed the independent boutiques and Dorking Artisan Market, pop into the Grade II-listed St Martin’s Church. When the sun is shining, stroll along Pipp Brook to Pippbrook House, a former library designed in 1856 by Sir George Gilbert Scott the architect behind London’s St Pancras Station. There are plans to transform it into an arts centre, but for now, learn about its past in Dorking Museum & Heritage Centre.

50 minutes by train / 1 hour 20 minutes by car

Windsor

All eyes were on Windsor in 2018, when HRH Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Built for William the Conqueror in the 11th century, the fortress and its former royal hunting ground Windsor Great Park is a highlight for most visitors to Berkshire. Royalists can also walk in the footsteps of King Charles II at Frogmore House. After lunch at Nell Gywnn’s tearoom by the castle, stroll along the River Thames towards Royal Windsor Racecourse, or catch a show at Theatre Royal Windsor.  

50 minutes by train / 55 minutes by car

With more time, you could also explore the town of Eton near Windsor and villages in Berkshire.

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