Discount London Blog

27th September 2013

Days out from London: 5 great places 30 minutes by train from the city

It might seem strange to write about leaving the city at all during a visit to London. After all, even a week of thorough sight-seeing in the British capital will do little more than scratch the surface of this multi-layered and inexhaustible city. Yet there are many worthy places only a short train ride away from central London that offer a delightful diversion from the relentless noise and crowds of the city. Here is a small selection of spots that you might consider next time you have a few hours and want to venture a little out of the heart of London.

1. Hatfield House
This 400 year old house is the home of the current Lord Salisbury. It is also used extensively as a filming location for a wide range of TV dramas and movies (Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Batman and more recently Sherlock Holmes). A visit to the house will provide an insight into the Jacobean style of architecture and interior design, while the gardens are a pleasure to visit at any time of the year. This summer Hatfield House is also hosting a major exhibition of the works of celebrated sculptor Henry Moore. 

Hatfield House is around 25 minutes from King's Cross station. The entrance to the house is directly opposite the railway station at Hatfield.

2. Guildford
Guildford offers a range of things to do both for fair weather and foul. There are activities focussing on the River Wey and the canals passing through the region (check out Dapdune Wharf and the River Wey navigations). There's nearby Loseley Park with its impressive 16th century house and gardens, and on a hot day why not be brave and take a dip in the Guildford Lido. 

Guildford Cathedral is worth a visit but don't mention filming locations to the Dean (the building was used in the filming of The Omen in the 70s and has suffered from the associated image ever since). 

Guildford is around 33 minutes by train from Waterloo.

3. St Albans
Ok I'm biased as this is my home city, but St Albans is well worth making a short excursion to visit. It is home to a very impressive Roman heritage, with a well-preserved amphitheatre and a set of carefully displayed mosaic at the Verulamium Museum. St Albans Abbey is one of England's finest churches and as the mixture of styles on the outside suggests it was gradually built up and extended over many years. 

St Albans has a mix of the usual boring high street shops and several interesting independent stores. For a small place it also offers a good choice of restaurants of every type. 

St Albans is around 20 minutes from St Pancras station. 

4. Berkhamsted
This busy market town lies north west of London and offers a pleasant day out exploring the town itself and its surroundings. Berkhamsted is home to a good range of independent shops and if you arrive on a Saturday you'll see the market in full swing. Take the time to have a look at Berkhamsted castle (free entry). There's not much left of the original buildings but the grounds do offer many clues to the size and importance that this fortified house once enjoyed. 

A few miles north of Berkhamsted is Ashridge Park. Home to a well-regarded business school this country home is set in a large wooded parkland and is a great place to take a walk through the woods. Climb the Ashridge Monument to see views all the way to London on a clear day. 

Berkhamsted is around 25 minutes from London Euston station.

5. Chelmsford
he county town of Essex, Chelmsford is a pleasant place to while away a few hours exploring the local attractions. It is a market town, with the main market taking place on a Saturday. Fridays may be a good day to visit however, as this is when you will encounter the town's weekly Gourmet Food Fayre. 

Other attractions include the Police Museum and 15th century Chelmsford Cathedral, notable for being the smallest cathedral in England.

If you're a fan of cricket (or if you'd like to see it for the first time) Chelmsford is the home of Essex Cricket Club and in the summer months check out their schedule to see if you can catch a game. 

Chelmsford is around 32 minutes from London Liverpool Street station.