Five towns and cities --- a short drive away from London recommended for day-trip visits.
Outside of London lie many towns a short drive away with their own charm, fascinating history, and cultural attractions. A trip to any of the five places highlighted below will help visitors to get a flavour of the UK’s diverse countryside and rich regional heritage.
The destination of the famous London-to-Brighton run for classic cars, Brighton is also a fine example of a British seaside town. The centrepiece of Brighton’s beach and waterfront area is its famous Victorian pier, which houses an array of traditional funfair rides, rock, and candy floss treats. Nearby, the historic Brighton Pavilion, built as a Regency pleasure palace for King George IV, features exotic architecture and a stunningly colourful interior. A Mecca for trendy shoppers, Brighton is also a stylish and vibrant cultural centre which regularly hosts festivals and exhibitions throughout the year.
Bristol is a historic maritime port with its own unique cultural heritage. There are plenty of places to visit from the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge which spans the picturesque Avon Gorge, and the SS Great Britain – both Brunel masterpieces – to the M Shed museum and atmospheric Harbourside. Bristol has a fine old city area of cobbled streets and medieval architecture, and a modern shopping centre which rivals the best. A renowned cultural centre, Bristol has a host of entertainment venues and seasonal showstoppers such as its Carnival and world-famous Balloon Festival.
Oxford is one of Britain’s premier university towns, made doubly famous in modern times as a film and TV location for the adventures of Harry Potter and the Inspectors Lewis and Morse. The city combines a timeless medieval charm, as epitomised by its ‘dreaming spires’ and cobbled alleyways, with the cosmopolitan bustle of a modern city with an international dimension. Oxford is pleasant throughout the year but, during the summer months when the university’s students are away, a calmer atmosphere descends and the picturesque riverside areas beside the Isis and Cherwell can be enjoyed at their loveliest.
Bath is a beautiful World Heritage City and is also the site of the Roman city of ‘Aquae Sullis’. The historic Roman baths, built around Britain’s only hot springs, have survived to the present day and are open to visitors. Bath is equally famous for its elegant Georgian architecture, much of which can still be seen as it would have appeared to aristocratic London visitors coming to enjoy the spa waters after Queen Anne’s visit in 1702. In addition, Bath is a dynamic cultural centre with a thriving modern university.
Cheltenham is situated at the western edge of the Cotswolds beneath where Cleeve Hill, the highest Cotswold summit, looks down over the Severn valley. The town came to prominence in 1788 after the discovery of its health-giving spa waters prompted a visit by King George III. Fashionable Regency houses followed, and the re-named ‘Cheltenham Spa’ began to grow. Regarded as the ‘most complete’ Regency town in England, Cheltenham has broad tree-lined avenues and beautiful parks. Apart from its graceful environment and architecture, Cheltenham annually hosts a famous International Festival of Literature and Music. In addition, visitors from the horse-racing world visit each spring to enjoy Cheltenham hospitality during the Gold Cup National Hunt Festival.
Each of these regional centres have their own unique character which captures and reflects the history, culture and interests of the surrounding countryside and its people. Part of their charm and appeal is that such places manage to play a full part in the modern world without surrendering their individual identity.
Luke is a travel writer who guest blogs on things to do in the UK - particularly outside of the major cities