As great as London is, sometimes it’s good to get out of the big smoke and breathe in fresh country air. Luckily, London has great transport links to some of the best countryside locations, making it easy for a quick weekend break.
Whether you’re looking to unwind or simply want a change of scenery, there are plenty of fantastic destinations within close distance to London.
There are many things you can do on a country weekend break near London, from relaxing and experiencing life at a slower pace, to making the most of the outdoors.
Ready to discover some of the best countryside breaks near London?
With its beautiful coastline, vast stretches of moors and amazing attractions, Cornwall is an ideal place for a short getaway. Start your weekend at one of Cornwall’s many excellent beaches.
Kynance Cove is one of the best beaches in the country, with white sand, turquoise water and mossy boulders.
Another fantastic beach is Porth Joke Beach, with ideal swimming conditions.
If the prospect of lying on a beach isn’t exciting for you, why not try watersports? Cornwall is one of the most popular destinations for watersports, and there are plenty of schools that offer a wide variety of sports including surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddling and sailing.
If you prefer to stay on dry land, there are tons of things to keep you entertained. Head to the Eden Project, an award-winning, unique global botanical garden set inside a crater.
Another fantastic garden is the Glendurgan Garden with its cherry laurel maze, and Lost Gardens of Heligan with its variety of landscapes.
Cornwall has its fair share of castles too. Cross over to the tidal island of St Michael’s Mount and explore the grounds of the medieval church and castle.
Also make sure to check out Tintagel Castle and Pendennis Castle, which both have panoramic views out to sea. After a long day, head to The Fish House at Fistral for seafood dishes with views of the water.
Once you’ve filled up, rest your head at The Harbour, a clifftop hotel overlooking Newquay harbour.
For a splurge, head to Landal Gwel an Mor Luxury Lodges. Set in a relaxing lakeside setting, many of the lodges have private hot tubs and are pet-friendly, so no one gets left behind!
Get there: around three hours and 40 minutes by car; around four hours and 45 minutes by train from Paddington Station.
For another seaside break slightly closer to London, head to Devon. Like Cornwall, Devon has fantastic surfing beaches if you’re looking to take up a new hobby.
Some of the best beaches are Saunton Sands, Bantham and Woolacombe, with waves to suit every level. While you’re in North Devon, take a ferry from Ilfracombe or Bideford to Lundy Island.
Here you can spot wildlife like dolphins and seabirds, or visit the remains of an ancient burial chamber. Devon is home to the Dartmoor National Park, which has attracted visitors for hundreds of years.
With its heather moorlands, granite tors, rolling valleys and mires, there are a multitude of activities to do here, including kayaking, bouldering, climbing, wild running, wild swimming, cycling and horse riding. You can even walk with llamas here. For a more leisurely activity, take a ride on the South Devon Railway.
If you’re into grand country estates, a trip to Berry Pomeroy Castle is a must on the itinerary. Take an audio tour to discover the different sections of the 15th century mansion, including the dungeon and medieval gatehouse.
If you’re keen for some seafood, there are plenty of eateries along the coast. Some of the best ones are the Crab Shack, No 7 Fish Bistro & Wine Bar, and The Anchor Stone Cafe.
Check in at the Watersmeet Hotel and wake up to stunning views over Woolacombe Bay.
Further inland, the Moorland Hotel is a comfy country house set in the lush surroundings of Dartmoor National Park.
Get there: around three hours and 30 minutes by car; around two hours and 38 minutes by train from Paddington Station.
On the southeast coast of England, East Sussex is a nice and easy journey from London. Part of the South Downs National Park lies within East Sussex, and it’s easily accessible from both Eastbourne and Brighton.
Some areas of the park worth visiting are Meads village and Beachy Head, but if there’s only one place you visit, it should be the Seven Sisters.
This series of chalk cliffs are a gorgeous part of the coast, and there are several walks to take around the area. Head down to Camber Sands, the only sand dune system in the county.
Stretching for five miles, the golden beach is never overrun with people, making it an idyllic spot to relax.
The High Weald AONB takes up part of East Sussex as well. This medieval landscape of wooded, rolling hills is perfect for walking and cycling, and there are tons of different routes to take.
Spot wildlife at one of the many nature reserves, or visit castles and historical houses.
The AONB is also home to Ashdown Forest, which has a number of woodland walks.
East Sussex is home to a number of vineyards including Bluebell Vineyards Estate and Carr Taylor Vineyard, so why not book onto a tour and go wine tasting in some of the prettiest spots in the county.
If you’re travelling with kids, then a trip to Herstmonceux Castle is exciting for all ages. Take a tour of this 15th century moated castle and make your way around 16 themed gardens.
Settle down for the night at Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club. Surrounded by the Ashdown Forest, this country retreat is a luxurious place to unwind. Alternatively, The Bell in Ticehurst is a quirky inn offering rustic-chic rooms and upscale dining.
Get there: about an hour and 45 minutes by car; about two hours by train from Victoria Station.
Hampshire is a wonderfully diverse county, with a mix of lush countryside and scenic coastline.
It’s home to two National Parks – the New Forest National Park and the South Downs National Park.
Put together, these parks have over 2,000 miles of tracks and footpaths to explore, the top two being the Tall Tree Tail Walk in the New Forest, and the Meon Valley Trail in the South Downs. There are also numerous other activities in the National Parks, including cycling, horseback riding, fishing and archery.
The New Forest Wildlife Park is a fun day out where you can see otters, deers, bison and lynxes. When it comes to watersports, Hampshire is the top destination for sailing, yachting and windsurfing.
The coastline has many harbours, marinas and estuaries where you can find various watersport schools and equipment hires. Calshot Beach and Beaulieu River are particularly good spots for kayaking and stand up paddleboarding.
Bordering the Beaulieu River is Exbury Gardens, a 200 acre woodland garden. It’s a spectacular display of colour, and there are many pathways that meander through the formal and wildflower gardens.
At the bottom of the garden is a miniature railway that winds through the different landscapes. If you’re a fan of the drama series Downton Abbey, then you’ll recognise Highclere Castle.
It’s worth taking a guided tour of this country house, in particular the Egyptian Exhibition.
Head to the Chesil Rectory for gourmet modern British cuisine, set in a Medieval house.
End the day at Lainston House, a 17th century country house set amongst 63 acres of parkland.
The hotel features elegant rooms, an award-winning restaurant, a gym and tennis courts. For something a little easier on the wallet, Bourne Valley Inn in the small village of St Mary Bourne is a traditional British pub and B&B. Tucked away in the countryside, the rooms are designed in a contemporary cottage style.
Get there: about one hour and 30 minutes by car; about one hour and 25 minutes by train from Waterloo Station.
Buckinghamshire is home to part of the Chiltern Hills AONB, an idyllic area for peaceful walks which go through woodland and historic villages.
Ashridge Estate is a massive area of ancient trees, rolling chalk downlands and lush meadows, with a large selection of walking and cycling routes. To enjoy views of the surrounding countryside, go to Ivinghoe Beacon.
You’ll also find the outline of the remains of an Iron Age hill fort and see Bronze Age burial mounds.
For a unique attraction, check out the Hellfire Caves. This network of manmade chalk and flint caverns wind deep underground for over a mile, and is thought to have been the site of meetings between wealthy pagans.
Make your way back up to the surface and visit College Lake, a nature preserve and centre for wildlife. Enjoy a relaxing stroll around the lake, spot rare butterfly species and wetland birds.
If you fancy getting onto the water, head to Willen Lake where you can hire boats, kayaks and pedalos.
In Burnham Beeches, fill up at the Cherry Tree Inn, a pub and restaurant surrounded by beautiful countryside.
If you’re looking to splurge, check in at Hartwell House Hotel. This country house hotel has a restaurant and spa, set in 90 acres of gardens and parkland.
Get there: about one hour and 12 minutes by car; about one hour and 15 minutes by train from Marylebone Station.
A large part of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire, making it an ideal place to get outdoors.
Dovedale is one of the prettiest spots in the Peak District, with magnificent limestone ravines and charming stepping stones crossing the River Dove.
From here you can climb Thorpe Cloud, a limestone hill with reaching views across Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Another spot for fantastic views is the Height of Abraham.
This 60 acre hilltop park is reachable via cable car over the Derwent Valley. Enjoy panoramic views from the Victoria Prospect Tower. At Poole’s Cavern & Buxton Country Park, you can venture deep underneath the earth and discover a natural limestone cave over two million years old.
Venture round the extensive caverns and see how crystal stalactites and stalagmites have formed. Back on the surface, stroll around the country park woodlands.
Head into the heart of the Derbyshire countryside to one of the county’s most unique attractions. Crich Tramway Village is a recreated period village with a collection of over 60 trams.
If you’re more interested in stately homes, then you’ll love a trip to
Chatsworth House. This magnificent house on the banks of the River Derwent has over 30 rooms to explore, as well as an art collection spanning 4,000 years.
Outside, you’ll find 105 acres of stunning gardens, water features and exhibitions. Sleep and eat at Samuel Fox Country Inn, located in the picturesque Hope Valley.
Another lovely hotel and restaurant in the Peak District is Biggin Hall Hotel, an ideal base for exploring nature.
Get there: about three hours by car; about three hours and 30 minutes by train from St Pancras International.
Kent has a beautiful coastline, extensive countryside and exciting historical attractions. Start your weekend break at the White Cliffs of Dover, one of Kent’s best known natural attractions.
Stretching for eight miles, the chalk cliffs boast miles of footpaths.
From your cliff walk, see if you can spot the shipwrecks lurking in the shallows.
A 45 minute drive north is Botany Bay, one of the most photogenic spots in Kent.
Surrounded by white cliffs and chalk stacks, the beach is a great spot for fossil hunting and swimming.
A must-do when in Kent is a visit to Leeds Castle, described as ‘the loveliest castle in the world’.
Set on two islands on a peaceful lake, the castle is over 900 years old. Explore the grounds and landscaped gardens, and see if you can make your way out of the maze of 2,400 yew trees.
For some woodland walks, check out Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest. There are trails for walking, cycling and orienteering, and a Go Ape Treetop Adventure.
Samphire Hoe Country Park is a unique place, made from the material excavated from the Channel Tunnel.
Walk through the stunning chalk grassland which has an abundance of flora and fauna. When you start feeling peckish, head to Rocksalt for fresh, locally sourced food.
Enjoy views across the English Channel while you dine. The Wife of Bath has been serving up modern British and European cuisine since 1962.
They also have a selection of luxuriously comfortable guest rooms. If you’d rather wake up with the sea breeze on your face, then book into The View Hotel in Folkestone.
Get there: about one hour and 10 minutes by car; about one hour by train from Victoria Station.
Suffolk is the perfect county to unwind in. With 50 miles of coastline, lush countryside and charming villages, you can do as much, or as little, as you want.
If you’re keen on wildlife watching, RSPB Minsmere is a 1,000 hectare nature reserve where you can discover some of the UK’s rarest wildlife.
Head to the coastal lagoons to see a wide variety of birds – you might even spot an otter if you’re lucky.
Dedham Vale is a beautiful AONB which surrounds the River Stour, and is part of the area known as Constable Country, made famous by the painter John Constable.
There are plenty of things to do here, from woodland walks to local attractions.
Another stunning AONB is the Suffolk Coast and Heaths. With landscape like estuaries, ancient heaths and shingle beaches, there is something for everyone.
Put your walking boots on or hop on your bike and take one of the many trails.
Alton Water is the largest reservoir in Suffolk, and offers a wealth of things to do.
From fishing, walking, cycling and wildlife watching, there are plenty of things to get up to. You can even try a range of watersports, including sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding.
For a bite to eat, head to the Ramsholt Arms in Woodbridge. This friendly inn by the River Deben serves local seafood and seasonal dishes.
Stay in an elegant country suite at The Marquis, set amongst the hills of Brett Valley. For the ultimate luxurious weekend break, stay at Hintlesham Hall.
This 16th century manor house is set within 175 acres, and is well placed for exploring Suffolk’s nature spots.
Get there: about one hour and 50 minutes by car; about two hours from Liverpool Street Station.
Surrey is probably as close as you can get to the countryside without travelling too far from London. Designated as Britain’s leafiest county, Surrey is the perfect country weekend break.
The Surrey Hills AONB covers 163 square miles of woodland, downland and heathland, and is a popular place for walking, cycling, horse riding and water sports.
Newlands Corner is a lovely area of open chalk downland, boasting some of the best views over Surrey Hills.
Another great place to enjoy the views is Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punchbowl – on a clear day you can even see London’s skyscrapers.
For a fun day out, explore one of the ancient castles in Surrey, such as Guildford Castle, Farnham Castle and Betchworth Castle.
If it’s a really hot day, go for a dip at Frensham Great Pond, or just chill on the sand. Refuel at Kingham Restaurant, located in the heart of the Surrey Hills.
Housed in a 17th century building, the restaurant serves contemporary British dishes and daily fish specials. If you’re in need of some comforting pub food after a long day, stop by Hurtwood Inn Pub and Restaurant in the charming village of Peaslake.
Wiped out and can’t be bothered driving? Stay in one of the Hurtwood Hotel’s comfortable rooms. If you’re looking to splash out, then a stay at Pennyhill Park will do the trick.
Set in 123 acres of parkland, this hotel has chic rooms with all the modern comforts, as well as a restaurant, brasserie and spa.
Get there: about one hour by car; about 30 minutes by train from Waterloo Station.
Wiltshire is a fascinating place, and its two World Heritage Sites of Stonehenge and Avebury are proof of this. Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world, and is a fascinating place to visit.
Check out the recreated Neolithic houses built on the foundations that have been excavated. Avebury is a village ringed by a Neolithic stone circle.
They were likely placed there around 2600BC, but they remain shrouded in mystery. Another historical site is Old Sarum. The site combines a royal castle and the foundations of the original Salisbury cathedral within an Iron Age fortification.
Bring a picnic with you and enjoy the views across rare chalk grassland and the Wiltshire countryside.
A must-visit when in Wiltshire is Stourhead, an estate covering 1,072 hectares. The gardens were inspired by landscape painters from the 17th century and include a Palladian mansion, a central lake, classical temples, charming grottos and exotic trees.
There are different walks that you can take to explore the estate and surrounding farmland and woodland.
Take a walk along the Kennet & Avon Canal and head to Caen Hill Locks, the longest continuous flight of locks in the country.
Visit The Admiral, the Canal River Trust’s welcome boat, to learn more about this fascinating canal engineering and for activity sheets on pond dipping and local walks.
What would a country break be without staying in a relaxed country house? Beechfield House has luxurious rooms in the peaceful Wiltshire countryside, with an outdoor pool in the summer and roaring fires in the winter.
Wiltshire has a great variety of country pubs if you’re looking for a hearty meal. The White Horse Inn is set in an 18th century building in the countryside, and serves up homemade food using fresh local ingredients.
Make a weekend of it and stay in one of the inn’s cosy rooms.
Get there: about two hours by car; about two hours and 30 minutes by train from Paddington Station.