London is a fast-paced metropolis with an endless wealth of culture, nightlife, and history to explore. If you can’t keep up, we highly recommend taking a few days outside the city visiting some of the picturesque villages close by to refuel your energy reserves. London’s M25 ring road gives you quick access to the surrounding counties, countryside, and coastline. Here we give you five of our top small towns near London that are within easy reach.
1. Alfriston, East Sussex
Alfriston is your quintessential chocolate box English village complete with half-timber houses and thatched cottages. Many of the buildings date back to the 14th century, such as St. Andrews Church, and strong evidence of ancient occupation has been found throughout the town. There are three great traditional English pubs and the town is situated on the scenic River Cuckmere, great for walks and swimming. To reach Alfriston from London take the A23 south towards Brighton. The town is 66 miles from the center of London.
2. Castle Hedingham, Essex
Castle Hedingham is 63 miles in the opposite direction to the north on the M11 and A120. The town features one of the best-preserved Norman castles in the whole country and is open to the public from Easter until October. The town also features many half-timber medieval buildings and the historic Colne Valley Railway.
3. Dungeness, Kent
Dungeness is a hamlet and dramatic headland in Kent. It was the home of artist Derek Jarman and many people come here to see his beautiful but simple house and garden that has been preserved since his death. The Old Lighthouse is magnificent and the low-lying shingle, shacks, and shipwrecks strewn on the beaches give the headland an eerie and dramatic atmosphere. You can reach Dungeness from London in just under 2 hours on the M20 south.
4. Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Shakespeare fans flock to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit his birthplace. It is a beautiful riverbank town with many historic buildings tracing the life of the bard. The River Avon Trail provides picturesque walks along the riverbank and is a great way to tour the town. You can reach Stratford-upon-Avon by traveling north on the M40 for 100 miles and the journey takes around two hours.
5. Ely, Cambridgeshire
Ely is famous for its magnificent cathedral and stunning Fenlands, or marshy coastal plain, surround the town. The cathedral is a must-see for its fascinating history and stunning architecture. The town features many listed historic buildings, like Oliver Cromwell’s House, now a tourist center with information about his life. We also highly recommend a trip to the Stained Glass Museum and to absorb some local history at the Ely Museum. The town itself has some fantastic English pubs and teahouses and you can take walks on the Fens wetlands via boardwalk trails on the Wicken Fens National Nature Reserve. Ely is just over 80 miles north of London and can be reached in just under two hours on the M11 motorway.