If you’re looking for a quick escape from London, nothing beats the freedom of a car day trip. Luckily, there are plenty of stunning destinations within a 3 hour drive that are perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway. From picturesque villages to breathtaking coastal drives, the options are endless. With your own car, you have the flexibility to explore at your own pace and create your own adventure. So why not pack a picnic, grab your keys and hit the road to discover the hidden gems that await you on your car day trips from London and get ready to explore some of the best sights that the UK has to offer!
With the help of our fellow travel lovers, we have come up with some of the best car day trips from London. This guide is perfect for those visiting London and looking for some great UK road trip ideas from London for a holiday vacation or even those who live near to London and would like to explore beyond. We will cover some amazing places, including some of the most beautiful villages in England, with recommendations on what to see and do and some great food options.
A visit to the Charming Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is undoubtedly one of the most charming places to visit in England and perfect for a day trip outside London as it is only 2.5 hours away from London. The Cotswolds cover many beautiful villages in England so ideally, you stay for the weekend in the Cotswolds. If you only have one day then start with a visit to Bourton-on-the-Water known as the ‘Venice of England’ with its cute little stone bridges over the River Windrush. Here you can also visit the Model Village, which is an impressive replica of Bourton-on-the-Water. After, you can stop for an afternoon tea in one of the many charming cafes that run along the river. In the afternoon, head over to Stow-on-the-Wold, where you can explore St.Edwards Church and discover the famous inspiration for ‘Doors of Durin’ in the Lords of the Rings. Finish your day at Britain’s oldest pub, The Porch House, for a cosy dinner.
Check out our full weekend Itinerary for visiting the Cotswolds
By Author of Hometravelguide and @travelingbambinos
Visit the Beautiful Cliffs of Dover
Visit the beautiful cliffs of Dover for one of the best car day trips from London. It is one of the best places to visit outside London and is one of the most iconic natural landmarks in the UK are White Cliffs of Dover. Getting there from London takes less than 2 hours drive and offers an amazing day out on the historic coast. You can park at the National Trust car park where incredible views of white cliffs span for many miles.
If you want to taste a bit of the Caribbean in the UK, Jerk n’ Tingz is a great restaurant just a short walk from the coast. In Dover, you will also find plenty of other international cuisines from Italian, and Mexican to Spanish.
After a great meal, head to Dover Castle, dating back to the 11th century. In fact, Dover Castle and the town itself are among the most often used locations for filming in the UK. American superheroes movies Avengers: Age of Ultron and King Lear from 2018 are only a few examples of movies produced in Dover.
By Paulina from the UK Every Day
A great day trip to take from London by car is a visit to the Welsh capital of Cardiff. Located 150 miles from London, Cardiff is a day trip that takes around 3 hours, depending on traffic and departure time. Cardiff is conveniently located off the M4 motorway which has a direct connection with London.
Cardiff has plenty to offer visitors to the city, including retail therapy, museums, and more. The main area of Cardiff is pedestrianised around Queen Street which is where you will find plenty of high-street shops. Don’t worry, there are plenty of public car parks within walking distance.
If you want to discover some Welsh history, visit the Cardiff Museum or Cardiff Castle, both of which are located opposite one another and at one end of the main high street. Cardiff Castle has Castle Apartments, a Norman Keep, and secrets within the walls for visitors to discover.
Cardiff Bay is another area where you can spend some time marvelling at the Millennium Centre, taking in the unique architecture of the Senedd Building, or having lunch in one of the many restaurants.
Cardiff is a great destination for a day trip from London by car and has something for everyone.
By Cath from Wales with Kids
The charming town of Guildford
Guildford is a charming town just under an hour’s drive from downtown London. Its location south of the city places it in the Surrey Hills region, dubbed an “Area of Outstanding Beauty” for its rolling hills and lush countryside.
To arrive in Guildford, hop on M25. Merge onto Portsmouth Road/A3 before taking the Guildford exit. Upon your arrival, leave your vehicle at Castle Car Park. That’ll put you within walking distance of Guildford’s main attractions without you needing to battle it out with the traffic around High Street.
A visit to Guildford Castle is a must, where you can explore the castle gardens and watch an open-air theatre performance during the summer. From there, make your way to the historic High Street. There’s no shortage of boutique shops and cosy cafes where you can rest your feet after meandering along cobblestones.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of life in downtown Guildford, jump in your car and drive to The Jolly Farmer, a local countryside pub with must-try sticky toffee pudding. Then walk off those calories at nearby Whitmoor Common Park, home to 19 species of dragonflies.
By Laura from A piece of travel
If you like visiting castles with interesting stories, then Sissinghurst Castle is a wonderful one-day trip from London. The Castle has been used for many purposes since 1550. It was a prison at one point, then a poor house. In 1930 a couple with a rather tumultuous marriage moved in, who then found they had a passion for gardening in common. They built ten individual gardens on the property.
Typical for Kent, you will find roses, fruit trees and herbs. But unique about Sissinghurst is the white garden, where only white blooming flowers and silver-leaved plants grow. The white garden is decadent, and the tower offers a panoramic view of the surrounding fields and soft hills.
It’s much better suited for a car day trip from London than a train or bus as it’s just about 90 minute’s drive from central London, off of A262. The castle is 1 mile east of Sissinghurst village on Biddenden Road. Follow the brown National Trust signs because GPS tends to get the address wrong.
Their main parking lot is 160 meters (525 feet) away from the castle and costs 4 pounds for non-members of the National Trust.
You can enjoy your lunch at the restaurant or coffee shop on the premises
By Christin from Christinhasfernweh
The Historical Town of Lincoln
One place which is sure to excite you as you plan for the best car day trips from London is the quirky city of Lincoln. It’s an easy 3-hour drive north from the M25 straight up the A1, which, after years of roadworks, is now a pleasant and smooth journey.
Since Lincoln is oozing in history, it’s certainly a place to visit if you enjoy the subject! Its top sites include the stunning Cathedral, which is etched in gothic details and stained glass windows. The other most famous attraction is Lincoln Castle, a place of medieval stories, knights and battles; it’s also a fantastic place to take a picnic!
If food is your thing, Lincoln won’t disappoint. The city has some incredible restaurants ranging from quaint cafes and tea rooms to a selection of pretty upbeat bars and pubs to tickle anyone’s fancies! One superb place is Cognito, a stylish Japanese restaurant, which come evening will be the perfect place to end your day trip.
You’ll find lots of parking available, especially in the larger car park of the Cornhill area, which is, unintendingly so (cough), also the best area to go shopping! Lincoln is swarming with shops from your well-known high street brands to more luxury boutique shops. Keep In mind, to get to the Castle from the Cornhill, you will have to climb up Steep Hill which was once believed to be the steepest hill in England. It’s actually not, but it is still steep!
By Abi at I’m Going On An Adventure
Visit Historical Canterbury
Canterbury should be high on your list of road trips near London. You can reach Canterbury from London very easily, following the M2. The trip takes around one and a half hours if there is normal traffic. A great place to park in Canterbury is in the multistorey car park near the train station. It is in a very central location, video surveyed, and affordable, at £4.40 per day during the week, and £2.80 a day during the weekend.
There are plenty of things to do on a day trip to Canterbury, starting with visiting the famous Cathedral. Make sure you book your tickets in advance to be able to get in at the desired time. The Canterbury Cathedral can take a good 2-3 hours to visit, so plan accordingly.
Another great thing to do in Canterbury is to check out the ruins of St Augustine Abbey. If you take a historical tour of Canterbury, you will learn more about the importance of the city in the history of England.
Canterbury has a great street food market from where you can buy your lunch. For a local pub, check out the Foundry, which has its own brewery.
By Joanna from Theworldinmypocket
Visit the Stunning Town of Salisbury
Salisbury is located in southcentral England, a fantastic road trip destination that is a little over two hours from London. The best way to get there by car is to take the M4 west out of London, connect to the M25 headed south, and then take the M3 toward Southhampton to A303. From there, follow signs to Salisbury.
With only a day in Salisbury, you can’t miss the city’s biggest attraction, Salisbury Cathedral. The best-preserved copy of the 1215 Magna Carta resides here, and the cathedral’s architecture is impressive. While in the city, you should also check out Old Sarum, a fort from the Iron Ages, and the Salisbury Museum, which covers the area’s history and houses many stunning artefacts and art pieces.
You also should stop at Stonehenge on your way in or out of the city. Located just 9 miles from Salisbury, Stonehenge is probably one of the most famous attractions in the entire country. You could spend as little as 30 minutes here or as long as several hours, so plan your time accordingly.
Salisbury is not very large, so you should be able to find a place to park and then walk to where you want to go. There is a parking lot for the cathedral off of De Vaux Place that is a good choice. If you’re looking for a good place to eat, Allium is a highly-rated option.
By Stefanie from Openroadodysseys
Quaint Village of Lacock
Lacock is a quaint village situated just outside of Bath. It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to get here from London via the m4, making it one of the ideal car day trips from London. Although the village is small, there is plenty to see and do around Lacock.
Its most famous attraction is Lacock Abbey, a beautiful property dating back to the 13th century. Not only is Lacock Abbey home to the Fox Talbot photography museum, it’s also been the filming location for many blockbuster movies. Most famously, you may recognize Lacock Abbey from Harry Potter!
The village of Lacock is utterly charming to wander around. As most of the village is protected by the National Trust, you’ll find the high street is filled with thatched cottages and historic buildings dating all the way back to the 15th century.
Make sure you pop in for lunch at the Red Lion. This pub dates back to 1875 and features a gorgeous Georgian interior, a great selection of ale and hearty pub meals. The pub famously features in the Pride and Prejudice series!
By Nicola from Polkadotpassport
Visit Historic Windsor
You can’t beat Windsor if you’re on the hunt for Royal Family merchandise, historic castles, and lazy walks along the riverside, making it one of the best car day trips from London.
It’s tucked away in Southeast England and is just over an hour from Central London by car via the A40 and A412. If you’d prefer to take the train, you’ll get from Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside in just 57 minutes!
The city’s impressive Windsor Castle has been around for over 1000 years and is home to sprawling armouries, statues, and portraits. Throw in the immaculate grounds (with lovely gardens that bloom during the springtime!) and the regular marching of the guards, and it’s easy to see why it’s the most popular attraction in town. To make things even sweeter, you can easily park 5 minutes from the castle at the River Street or Victoria Street car parks.
After basking in the town’s history, stroll along the river or head over to Eton, which is just a short walk away! And if you’re travelling with the kiddos? LEGOLAND Windsor is a fabulous local theme park that’s ideal for blowing off steam.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the Sir Christopher Wren Hotel for a stunning afternoon tea or Meimo for authentic Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes.
By Grace from Pixiedustandpassports
Visit the Historic town of Oxford
Oxford is around an hour and fifteen from London on a good run, making it an ideal day trip from the capital. Head on the M40 and A40 for a really straightforward drive.
Oxford is one of those captivating cities, with its dreaming spires and university that is peppered through the centre. Everywhere you wander in Oxford the history just seeps through.
If you are a Harry Potter fan then much of Hogwarts was modelled after Christ Church College, so this is a fantastic visit. Even if you’re not into the boy wizard, there’s plenty here to love. Oxford Castle is also a really atmospheric place to explore. This former prison has a slightly creepy feel that is fascinating to spend time in. The Pitt Rivers Museum is one of the best in the world and just outside of the city is Blenheim Palace, where you can easily spend a day just here alone.
One of the best things to do in Oxford though is simply to wander. Coming across different colleges and wonderful architectural sights like The Bridge of Sighs make this a city with so much to enjoy.
There are some fantastic places to eat in Oxford, including the Bear Hotel which is full of the history of travellers passing through. This also happens to be one of the best family hotels in Oxford if you decide there’s simply too much to do for just a day trip.
By Nichola from Familyhotelexpert
Visit Holkham Norfolk
Holkham, on the North Norfolk coast, is a bit off the beaten path. Since it’s 127 miles from London with the closest train station 19 miles away in Sheringham, the best way to get there is to drive. Take the M11 which turns into the A11, then go north on the A1065 which turns into the A149 which goes right by Holkham.
When you visit Holkham for a day trip, you must see Holkham Hall, which is open to the public on select days. It’s an elegant 18th-century Palladian style stately home built by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. Today, the 8th Earl of Leicester and his family call Holkham home but pride themselves in sharing it with visitors.
Holkham Hall is surrounded by Holkham Park which hosts several festivals throughout the year. Whether or not there is a festival taking place you will want to do the nature walk around the lake and explore the grounds. There is a walled garden, ropes course, and woodland play area for kids. They also have bikes and boats (summer only) you can hire.
Nearby, Holkham Beach is one of the best beaches in Norfolk or the UK for that matter. When it is low tide, the sand seems to stretch for miles so there is lots of room to build sandcastles, picnic, or just relax. When you need to cool off, the sea will be refreshing.
You can park at either Holkham Park and Holkham Beach and then walk to the other. Historic Houses members can park at Holkham Park and visit Holkham Hall for free.
For lunch, there is a cafe in the Courtyard of Holkham Hall or if you want something a bit more upscale check out The Victoria Inn, which should be booked in advance.
By Anisa from Norfolklocalguide
Minster Lovell, Witney, the drive is 73 miles and takes just under 2 hours via the M40 and A40.
There are plenty of beautiful villages in the Cotswolds, but one of the best-hidden gems is on the border with Oxfordshire. Minster Lovell has rows of quaint chocolate box houses that you’ll likely be able to explore all to yourself! There are also the stunning ruins of Minster Lovell Hall. This manor house was built in the 15th century by one of the richest men in England at the time, but since the 18th century, it has been left in ruins and is cared for by English Heritage.
Tips: There is a car park right next to the cricket pitch, and all the sites are walkable from there, plus if you visit during Autumn, you’ll be blown away by the colours in this area.
Where to eat: After visiting the ruins, head along the River Windrush and stop at Minster Mill Hotel and Spa, for afternoon tea in their beautiful gardens or grab a hearty lunch at the Old Swan pub, just next door. If you plan to stay the night, there are many places to stay in the Cotswolds.
By Roshni from Thewanderlustwithin
Day trip to Bristol
At around two hours’ drive from London, Bristol is the perfect day trip. Head straight down the M4 and it’s an easy drive to this beautiful city.
There are so many things to do in Bristol you’ll be spoilt for choice. The MShed is a fantastic free museum that tells the city’s history through its residents and artefacts. Wander around the waterfront to find lots of great restaurants here, including Za Za Bazaar, where you can eat your way around the world. If you’re looking for things to do in Bristol with kids, then the amazing interactive science museum, We the Curious, is also close by.
For some great shopping and some lovely restaurants, then head up to Clifton for a wander. It’s the perfect place to find some independent shops packed with gifts and interiors. There are lots of lovely cafes here too.
Parking can be tricky in Bristol so it’s better to head to The Galleries, which is a great, central place to park. From here, it’s easy to wander to all the top locations around the city.
By Nichola from Globalmousetravels
Kenilworth Castle, located in Warwickshire, makes for one of the best car day trips from London. Situated 100 miles from London, it takes roughly 2 hours of driving to get there along the M40 motorway.
Kenilworth Castle was built 900 years ago as an imposing medieval fortress but was then transformed into an Elizabethan Palace. Make sure to visit the Elizabethan Garden, The Great Hall, climb up the Tudor Towers and see the Castle Keep and The Gatehouse. You can also visit Elizabeth I’s private rooms! It’s a really fun and educational day out for all the family.
Kenilworth Castle is a hidden gem full of history, with many of England’s historical events, Royal scandals and sieges taking place here. Whilst many people flock to the nearby and more well-known Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle is actually bigger, less busy, cheaper to visit and has fantastic views! At just £14.20 entrance when booked online beforehand, it makes for a very reasonably priced day out!
Head to the Stables Tearoom in Kenilworth Castle for Afternoon Tea, otherwise, walk across the road to the Old English pub ‘Queen & Castle’ afterwards for some delicious gastro food and great views of the castle!
By Catrina from 24hourslayover
Visit Seven Sisters for a Scenic Drive Outside of London
One of the day-trips to do from London by car is certainly the Seven Sisters, especially for nature and trekking lovers. Not the tube stop but rather the Seven Sisters are located in East Sussex and are a series of seven white chalk hills located within the South Down National Park.
Among the various activities to do, a pleasant walk along the Seven Sisters, starting from Seaford or from Birling Gap where there are several parking lots. The entire route is 21 km long, but only part of it can be done. During the journey there are several panoramic points where you can take beautiful photographs but also just sit on one of the benches to contemplate the panorama, in summer the more daring can also go swimming.
In addition to the walk, the charming village of Seaford offers various places to take a break with tea, coffee, a piece of cake or some delicious fish and chips, including Lexden fish and chips.
Seaford is a 2 – 2.5-hour drive from London. Parking is available at the Seaford Esplanade, is open 24 hours a day, and it’s free of charge for up to 12 hours.
By Miriam from Miry Giramondo
Historic City of Bath
The historic city of Bath is just two hours from London by car. It’s one of the most-visited UK cities for a region, and that’s because it has a huge range of attractions to enjoy!
Don’t miss the Roman Baths which date back to when the Romans built a huge spa complex in the city, the Georgian terraces, which are featured in Bridgerton, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein which is a new exhibition focusing on the author and her most famous work and the Medieval Bath Abbey.
Car parks include Claverton Street and Charlotte Street – they are all pay and display (and can be quite expensive!). However, there is a park-and-ride service, where you can park your car and pay a small fee to take a connecting bus to the city centre.
A hidden gem in Bath is the Royal Victoria Park which is home to the Bath Botanical Gardens. Food-wise, head to Yak Yeti Yak for Nepalese food or The Green Rocket for vegan dishes.
Whether you’re visiting Bath in winter or summer, you won’t be disappointed.
By Claire from Go South West England
Castle Combe One of the most instagrammable places to visit
If you’re looking for a picturesque day trip from London by car, the small village of Castle Combe in Wiltshire, England is known as the “prettiest village in England.” Its centuries-old stone buildings and lush green countryside make it a sight to behold. Castle Combe is a 2-hour drive from London, but you’ll be winding through some of the most breathtaking countryside in England.
The main attraction of Castle Combe is its picture-perfect streets lined with quaint cottages, ancient pubs, and historic churches. It is easy to while away an afternoon wandering around the village. There are several cafes and pubs where you can grab a bite to eat or sit outside sipping tea while you admire the views. There’s even a picnic-to-go shop where you can purchase a hamper lunch and tea to eat nearby in the shade of a tree or by the river. If you want to take a more active approach, why not explore some of the local walking trails? You can stroll through meadows and woods filled with wildflowers before stopping off at one of the many pubs for a pint of ale.
For those interested in history, be sure to visit St Andrew’s Church which dates back to 1290. This beautiful church has been lovingly preserved over the years and still retains its original features, including stained glass windows, carved wood panels, and tombs from centuries past. Inside the church, you will find several monuments dedicated to prominent families who have lived in Castle Combe over the years. Castle Combe has been used in many films over the years, the most recent was War Horse with Benedict Cumberbatch.
By Vanessa from Wanderlust Crew
Beautiful University Town of Cambridge
This beautiful university town is just a short one and a half hours north of London and has a welcoming atmosphere, inviting everyone who visits. A straight shot up the M1, the drive is very straightforward though visitors should be aware of times of high traffic.
Some of the main points of interest include St. John’s College, one of the oldest colleges in the city, as well as King’s College Chapel which has a spectacular interior which has become a popular spot for photographers.
St. Mary’s Church Tower provides for a great afternoon of stunning views, as visitors can climb up the staircase and take in the views from the top.
For foodies, Cambridge has numerous restaurants with great reviews, and several superb bakeries with delectable baked goods. De Luca Cucina and Bar has great food and atmosphere for those looking for Mediterranean foods. For a great dessert, Toscanini’s has delicious ice cream and a great place to check out any time of year.
The botanical garden in Cambridge is always worth a visit. With over 16 hectares of gardens and paths, greenhouses provide for some warmth during the winter months and the flowered walkways showcase the beauty of the gardens. Or for a fun experience, trying punting on the river is an old tradition that is sure to provide some great memories, particularly if partaking in this English tradition for the first time.
By Diana from Travelsinpoland
Visit the Beach City of Brighton
Just south of London is the beach city of Brighton. A popular beach holiday spot for Londoners, Brighton has the boardwalk atmosphere of Atlantic City, and the eccentricity of Venice Beach, with a touch of British charm thrown in the mix. Like other places in England, such as the West Midlands and the Cotswolds, Brighton has a unique character all its own!
Brighton is about a 2-hour drive from London via the M23. Once you arrive in Brighton, splurge and park at one of the 24-hour car parks in the city. That way, you don’t miss out on any of the sights Brighton has to offer.
There are plenty of activities to do when visiting Brighton. One must-see attraction is Brighton Palace Pier – a pier filled with amusement arcades and rides along the beach. Shelter Hall is a chic food hall nearby to the pier where you can find a selection of restaurants to satisfy your appetite.
Other spots to visit in Brighton include the Royal Pavilion and gardens, which offer visitors an insight into Brighton’s regal past. And don’t miss The Lanes, which is full of unique independent retailers with finds you won’t find elsewhere.
By Astrid from The Wandering Daughter
Step back into the past to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford- Upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is 101 miles northwest of London in England’s West Midlands.
It is an easy and great car day trip to take from London, taking a little over 2 hours to drive there via the M40.
After parking your car, you will literally step back in time into the 16th century to discover this ancient city along the Avon River, famously known as being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the great English playwright.
Discover more about Shakespeare by visiting Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (a thatched roof house he shared with his wife Anne Hathaway and three children). You can also The Holy Trinity Church to see his tombstone. Also check out the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the banks of the River Avon, where you could catch one of his plays performed by The Royal Shakespeare Company.
After a day of walking around, end your day in Stratford-upon-Avon, indulging in a pub meal in one of Stratford’s historic pubs.
By Sharyn McCullum of Live Work Play Travel
We hope you found our beautiful car day trips from London article inspiring. Please do Share and Pin 🙂 Your support is so valuable to us and let us know in the comments below which places you would recommend 🙂 Thank you and see you on the next adventure 🙂