It may be true that ‘when a man is tired of London he is tired of life, because there is in London all that life can afford’, but even the most ardent fan will want to get away from the city at times to visit the world outside it. England has a wealth of historical sites outside London, and here Sarah picks the best ones that can be done in an easy day trip from London, either by a direct train journey or on a coach tour.

Salisbury Cathedral in the sunshine.

Salisbury Cathedral is 800 years old and has the tallest spire in England.

London is quite centrally placed in the south of England, with plenty of historical sites in the environs. I have chosen the most significant sites for the history enthusiast to visit, and all of which (except for the final one) can be reached by a direct train from London, so there is no need to change trains at any time. It is also possible to get tours to these locations if you would rather have someone else do all the work, allowing you to sit back and watch the countryside go by before you are delivered to the doorstep of your destination.

So if you are looking to get out of London for the day, have a look through this list to see where might take your fancy. Please note: some of the links below will take you to further information we have produced and published on other pages on the Archaeology Travel website, other links are to tours and activities we recommend and that you can purchase on the GetYourGuide website.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Stonehenge on a sunny day.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Possibly the most famous prehistoric monument in the world, the Stonehenge site is about 5,000 years old and is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in England. You can easily take a train from London Waterloo and then catch a bus from Salisbury train station which will take you to Stonehenge. Alternatively, you can get a tour directly from Victoria in central London, or you can combine a visit to Stonehenge with other places such as Bath, Windsor or Oxford. There are plenty of options available, and if you are in two minds about which to take or even whether to visit Stonehenge at all, this may help >>

Bath, Somerset

The Roman Baths in Bath from above.

Bath, Somerset

The Georgian town of Bath is famous for its Roman Baths, stunning architecture, Jane Austen, the Abbey and much more. You can get a direct train from London Paddington which will get you into the centre of town, and then take a river cruise or a hop-on hop-off bus tour to see the sights; or you can join a tour from London and combine it with visits to other historical attractions. The Roman Baths are essential viewing; book your ticket online to avoid the queues. In the summer months the Baths stay open until late and can be seen by torchlight with a glass of prosecco. The trains to London run until 11h30 so you will have time to do this and get back without having to stay overnight.

Oxford, Oxfordshire

An aerial view over the rooftops of Oxford.

Oxford, Oxfordshire

The ‘dreaming spires’ of this ancient University town have some incredible architecture and historical sites. You can take hop-on hop-off bus tours, walking tours, a river cruise, or just wander around the college quads. You can visit some of the free museums such as The Ashmolean museum of Art and Archaeology,the incredible Pitt-Rivers Museum or listen to Evensong in one of the beautiful college chapels for free. The world famous Bodleian Library does tours and is most definitely worth a visit to see the ancient manuscripts. Trains go directly to Oxford from London in less than an hour, or you can get a coach tour from London.

Highclere Castle, Berkshire

The exterior of Highclere Castle.

Highclere Castle, Berkshire

Highclere Castle is not just the incredible setting for Downton Abbey, but the home of Lord Carnarvon who financed and was present for the opening of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1923. The basement is filled with some of the treasures he brought back from Egypt, as well as replicas of the pieces which are in Egypt. The castle is set in beautiful landscaped grounds and has some stunning rooms to visit as you go round. You can catch a train from London to Newbury and then get a taxi to the castle, or take a guided tour which will drive you directly there and which includes castle entry. Bear in mind that Highclere is not open all year round.

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

People punting down the River Cam in Cambridge.

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

This ancient university town is about an hour from London by direct train and makes the perfect day trip. Home to some of the oldest and most beautiful colleges in England, Cambridge is also famous for punting, on the River Cam. You can take a hop-on hop-off bus tour, a walking tour with a student, be punted down the river to look at the colleges or even have a go at punting yourself. The Fitzwilliam Museum is free, as is the Wren Library. You can hear the Kings College Choir for free at Evensong every night and still be back in London before it gets too late. There are also tours which include Cambridge with other places and which take you by coach directly from London.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

The exterior of Blenheim Palace in Oxford.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

The birthplace of Winston Churchill, this magnificent Palace was built in the early 1700s and is now a UNESCO Heritage site. You can catch a direct train from Euston London to Oxford Parkway and then catch a bus to Blenheim and buy your ticket separately, or you can take a tour straight from London. The Palace has plenty to offer the visitor, with State Rooms, a permanent Churchill exhibition, upstairs tours of the private apartments, downstairs tours of the Palace staff and an animated interactive visitor experience. There are large formal gardens, pleasure gardens, a maze, a butterfly house and even a miniature train which goes through the grounds.

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

The outsid eof Mary Arden's cottage in Stratford upon Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

A direct train journey to Stratford-Upon-Avon takes just over two hours, giving you ample time to explore Shakespeare’s home town. You can visit his birthplace, his bride’s cottage, mother’s farm, daughter’s home, his schoolroom or his grave; or watch one of his plays performed by the RSC. There are hop-on hop-off bus tours, or you can go rowing or punting down the River Avon to see the sights. A local museum, Tudor World, focuses on all things Tudor, or you can admire Harvard House, the medieval home of of the founder of Havard University. Visiting Stratford is also possible in direct tours from London, or you can combine a visit to Stratford with other nearby historical sites.

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

The outside of Windsor Castle and gardens on a sunny day.

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

You can get to Windsor from London in under an hour by direct train from Waterloo Station. Home to Windsor Castle which was built in the 11th century and has been home to the Royal Family since Henry I, who was King in 1100, Windsor is a great palce for a historical day out. You can take a hop-on hop-off bus tour around the town and Eton, a Sunday lunch or an afternoon tea cruise on the River Thames through the town, or walk to nearby Eton, where you can do a guided tour of the prestigious school. The huge Windsor Great Park is free to explore, or you can attend Evensong for free in St. George’s Chapel, built in the 14th century and the location for many Royal services.

Salisbury, Wiltshire

Salisbury Cathedral in the sunshine.

Salisbury, Wiltshire

With direct trains from London Waterloo, you can reach the Medieval city of Salisbury in 90 minutes. The cathedral famously has the highest spire in England; you can take tours up the tower, see the original Magna Carta and walk around the immaculate cloisters. The Cathedral Close has the excellent Salisbury Museum, a museum dedicated to The Rifles Regiment and the home of former Prime Minister, Ted Heath. St. Thomas’ church has the largest and best preserved Doom Painting in the UK from 1470, or you could even visit the Medieval cinema. Coach tours are also available from London which include other destinations such as Bath and Oxford.

The Battle of Britain Tour, Middlesex

Inside the control room in the Battle of Britain bunker.

The Battle of Britain Tour, Middlesex

Visiting the Battle of Britain bunker in Uxbridge is one site where it would be best to go by car or join a tour, as public transport is not possible. This tour drives you to the site of the Battle of Britain bunker, where history was made in World War II. It was here that the Battle for Britain’s airspace was coordinated and won during those dark days in 1940, and you can see the control room laid out exactly as it was then. There is also an excellent museum. Afterwards, you are driven via the Polish War Memorial to Bentley Priory, the base of Fighter Command in a former Royal Palace. The tour returns you to London mid afternoon, leaving you plenty of time for more sightseeing.

Besides information about Archaeology and History Sites and Museums in England county by county, we also have many more England Travel Tips >>.