5 Weekend Escapes from London in 2 Hours or Less

September 22, 2020  |  by THE OUT

At THE OUT, there’s nothing we like better than slinging together a weekend bag, hitting the road, and heading out of the city for some well-deserved countryside air.

But life’s not just about the great and famous such as Stonehenge or Windsor Castle. And sometimes we need some R&R a little closer to home.

Here are a few of our favourite roadtrips 2 hours or less away from London...

The South Downs

If you haven’t spent any time on The South Downs, then you’ve been missing out on a quintessential part of Southern England. This range of rolling chalk hills covers 260 square miles across Hampshire, East Sussex and West Sussex.

Dotted along the path of The South Downs are some of the most beautiful sights in the UK – you might come across Hambledon, the (supposed) home of cricket or Petworth House, the Grade I listed country house built by Charles Seymour.

Our top tip – pick a village, find a lovely little hotel, drive up to the top of a hill, then walk back, with your day punctuated by a delicious pub lunch. You may want to give The Horse Guards Inn a go, winner of the UK’s best country pub 2017, 350 years old and boasting stunning views over Rother Valley.

Credit: Maxpixel

The Cotswolds

From west London you can get to the Cotswolds, one of the UK’s most famous areas of natural beauty, in just under 2 hours.

Its rolling hills and grassland harbour thatched medieval villages cover part of 6 different counties, and you can’t really go far wrong in terms of finding lovely villages to while away a weekend.

We like to take weekends in the Cotswolds in strides, rather than to follow a strict itinerary. Find a cosy B&B and see where the day takes you: A stroll through the lavender fields, a visit to Snowshill Manor, discovery of Bibury Trout farm which is usually a win if you’re out with kids.

Credit: Flickr

Horse Riding in the New Forest

Zoom down on the M3, and you'll be there in under 2 hours. Experience New Forest from a new perspective on horseback. That way you can cover more ground whilst being active, opting for a canter or enjoy your surroundings in a relaxed walking pace.

New Forest has a number of experienced horse riding schools.

Fun fact: Did you know that 90% of the land is still owned by the Crown?

Credit: Flickr

Box Hill

If the words peloton, fender, and pannier mean nothing to you, then you may want to skip this section. Let’s talk about cycling.

Box Hill, if you weren’t aware, is debatably the most famous cycling hill in the vicinity of London, and shot to fame after its inclusion in the 2012 Olympics. It’s about 30km south of London, and is a 2.5km climb with a gradient of 5%.

It’s manageable for most (self-declared) cyclists, and the feeling of reaching the top is unmatched.

There are a few routes you could cycle directly from London, but our top tip is to pop your bike on the bike rack and drive all the way there. This way you get all the fun of the ascent without having to face a long cycle back home.

Credit: Flickr

The Chilterns

A trip to the Chilterns is a great weekend escape, and they are easily reachable in under two hours from London, less if you’re based in the north or west.

Their collection of chalk hills is now designated as an Area of Natural Beauty, and we certainly wouldn’t argue with that. The whole area stretches across 833km2, so there is not only plenty to choose from, but it’s easy to find yourself without anyone in sight - a rare but simple pleasure for those living in London.

The Chilterns were a favourite of Henry VIII apparently, and parts of the area are said to have barely changed since his time. Similarly to the South Downs, we recommend pitching your figurative tent at a cosy little B&B, and spending your days exploring the countryside and occasionally seeking refuge in a pub garden.

Credit: Geograph

For shorter roadtrips, take one of the Four Of The Best Day Trip Drives From London. Or if you're looking for a bit more sea and sand, check out our Top 5 Seaside Escapes from London.

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