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Day trips are the bread and butter of non-committal travellers. They are also ideal for those who aren’t so keen on the idea of straying too far from home. If even Rye is too far travel, we’ve got Richmond on our list and some other great day trips for last-minute Londoners. The next train leaves Waterloo at quarter past the hour… you’ve got some deciding to do.
1. Deal, Kent
Margate’s little sister, Deal is a rugged, seaside town with a growing reputation for creativity. Compact enough to conquer in an afternoon,set the high street, brimming with independent shops and cafés, as your end goal. After lunch, mosey down to the Kent Museum of the Moving Image, packed with original poster art from Ealing Studios. At golden hour, walk the long pebbly beach until the pier comes to an end and then retreat towards town in search of battered cod and chips. Join a snaking queue for the chipper, add lashings of salt and vinegar to your order and enjoy your newspaper wrapped fare shoreside. Later, stop for a pint at The Just Reproach, a one-room micropub. Those who don’t think a day trip is quite enough time in Deal should book a room at The Rose.
2. The New Forest, Hampshire
A go-to weekend getaway for Londoners, this trips clocks in at about a 90-minute train ride from Waterloo Station. A designated national park, days in The New Forest are best spent ambling through woodland lanes, gawking at thatch-roofed pubs and sampling pints of bitter as you go. Wild horses and donkeys are known to stop traffic as they cross between patches of pastureland, so patience is vital. Made for walking and biking, with furrowed paths cleared for each, best to go at a leisurely countryside pace. Stop off at charming market towns for homemade jam or venture to the coastal cobbled Georgian seaside villages. Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst, are both end destinations commonly punched into SatNav thanks to their city-worthy farm-to-table restaurants and hip boutique hotels – The Limewood and the original The Pig are two of the best.
3. Richmond, Greater London
Lying on the cusp of London, Richmond is a Surrey town in spirit. After a lip-smacking lunch at Petersham Nurseries café – which plates up simple and modern British food with an Italian slant – make tracks for Richmond Park, the largest royal park in the city. The park, which is most famous for its fallow-coloured free-roaming deer, has many gardens, ponds and grasslands to explore. From meadowy patches to canalised walks, respite from the city never felt so right. When the inevitable happens and the urbanite within you starts searching for the nearest power socket to recharge a fading iPhone, head to The Bingham – a riverside Georgian townhouse – and order as many rounds as required to bring your battery life over the 50% threshold.
4. Rye, East Sussex
Two miles from the sea, this East Sussex town is attracting a new crop of creatives. City dwellers gone rogue are responsible for the town’s umpteen high-end interior shops and outlets. Considering the area is a little over a square mile – and pre-200s Rye’s interior scene was heralded by Antiques Roadshow expert Andy McConnell – this swing to cool is an unexpected, but welcome shift. Wander through the jumble of Georgian and medieval houses that lace the labyrinthine streets in the historic town. Wind your way around enough cobbled corners and you’ll stumble across coffee shops, miniscule book shops and some great eateries. The Ship Inn, owned by the ex-proprietors of Primrose Hill gastro-pub The Engineer, is a great spot for lunch (if you like laid-back, vintage interiors). Head down Mermaid Street, taking in half-timbered houses on your route with no particular endpoint in mind.
5. Winchelsea, East Sussex
Once one of the busiest ports in the country, Winchelsea seems a lot quieter today (at least until Mick Jagger moved in). Criss-crossed by a network of footpaths, the area is literally paving the way for exploration. If you like nature – and herds of sheep causing impromptu traffic jams – then this ancient town is a great weekend escape. At just over two hours from London, Winchelsea is almost as charming as Rye, if a little more rustic. While you’re there, look out for a number of National Trust properties, including Rookery and Blackfriars Barns and Salutation Cottages on your visit.
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