The best British weekend breaks less than two hours from London

·10-min read
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(Shutterstock)

London is a great place to live, but sometimes, all we need is a little break from the hustle and bustle of our capital city.

Yet, if you live in London it’s likely you don’t have – or don’t have access to – a car to take you to a country escape.

Luckily, here in the UK we’re pretty fortunate to have well-connected transport links to make a weekend getaway easy.

Below, we’ve rounded up the best weekend breaks around the UK that you can get to from London by train.

Margate

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Time on train: 1 hour and 27 minutes from St Pancras International.

One of England’s first seaside resorts, Margate mixes seaside culture with historic architecture. With a beach to rival Brighton’s, Margate has become the new go-to beach day for Londoners in recent years so extend that day trip to a weekend break this year to make the most of the pretty town.

Where to stay: The Reading Rooms is a boutique bed and breakfast situated in a restored Grade II listed Georgian townhouse – basically a luxurious seaside dream. With three guestrooms covering a floor each and all elegantly decorated, treat yourself with a stay here. Rooms from £180 per night, thereadingroomsmargate.co.uk

York

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Shutterstock

Time on train: 1 hour and 52 minutes from King’s Cross.

With a rich heritage and an inviting pub on every corner, York is a quintessential British city. Walk through the narrow streets lined with 13th century walls, visit the iconic York Minster cathedral, stroll along the Ouse or rent a car and drive to the North Yorkshire Moors just 45-minutes away.

Where to stay: take a step back in time at Gray’s Court, an 11-room boutique hotel that’s home to a resident owl in the summer months. The only privately-owned building in York with access to the city walls, make sure you book a table at the 2AA Rosette restaurant, The Bow Room. Rooms from £200 per night, grayscourtyork.com/

Bristol

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Time on train: 1 hour and 44 minutes from Paddington Station.

Vibrant, buzzing and eco-friendly, Bristol is a millennial’s nirvana. As the UK’s first cycling city, make sure you rent a bike to get around during your weekend (but be prepared for the hills). Cycle to the many independent shops and eateries throughout the city or take a stroll through the trendy Montpelier area – voted the UK’s coolest neighbourhood last year.

Where to stay: the Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa blends a historic building with achingly modern interiors – the suites have in-room roll-top baths and some of the best views in the city. A treat indeed. Rooms from £130 per night, harbourhotels.co.uk/

Rye

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Shutterstock

Time on train: 1 hour and 8 minutes from St Pancras International.

A medieval village seemingly paused in time, Rye offers a beautiful weekend break. Wander through the quaint lanes of the Sussex village, stock up on homewares on the high street or grab a bite to eat in one of the tea rooms.

Where to stay: with cellars dating from 1156 and the building rebuilt in 1420, the Mermaid Inn is reportedly one of the most haunted buildings in the UK – stay if you dare. With creaking floors, numerous staircases, a 2AA restaurant and a rich history, a stay at the Inn will be a unique experience. Stay in the ‘Elizabethan Bedchamber’ named after Queen Elizabeth I who stayed there in 1573. In the room you’ll find a secret passage, oubliette and a well-worn staircase to the old kitchen (now the bar). Rooms from £140 per night, the Elizabethan Chamber starts at £220 per night, mermaidinn.com/

Cheltenham

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Time on train: 2 hours from Paddington Station.

Cheltenham is your gateway to the Cotswolds, one of the prettiest areas in the UK. Visit the 1930s Sandford Parks lido for a dose of nostalgia or wander through Montpellier Gardens, home to bandstand concerts in the summer.

Where to stay: set in an elegant townhouse, No. 38 the Park is the place to stay in Cheltenham. Spend the night in one of the 13 bespoke bedrooms with vibrant décor and dine at the award-winning hotel restaurant, Prithvi. Rooms from £121 per night, theluckyonion.com/

Liverpool

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Time on train: 2 hours and 12 minutes from London Euston.

Liverpool may be famous for being the home of a boyband from the '60s ... but there’s so much more to this eclectic city. Go to a football game, walk along the waterfront and dine at one of its many hip eateries. Come nightfall, embrace the city’s Beatle’s roots by visiting the Cavern Club on Mathew Street where The Beatles played in their early days.

Where to stay: One of Liverpool’s only boutique hotels is also one of the sleekest. In the heart of Georgian neighbourhood, you’re close to all the main players and the exposed brick wall rooms with arched windows are exceedingly chic. Rooms from £99 per night with their winter offer, hopestreethotel.co.uk/

Bath

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Time on train: 1 hour and 30 minutes from Paddington Station.

A trip to Bath means it’s time for some serious R&R, so be sure to book yourself in to a spa hotel for the weekend. When you’re not sweating out all of London’s toxins in a sauna, visit the Roman Baths and fans of Jane Austen can visit the Jane Austen centre to learn more about Bath’s most famous resident. Bath is particularly beautiful in autumn, when golden foliage is at its peak.

Where to stay: the No.15 Great Pulteney is a luxury boutique hotel set in a townhouse on one of the loveliest streets in Bath. With 40 rooms and inviting, thoughtful décor, it’s their spa that makes No. 15 truly stand out. Whether you take a dip in the barrel-shaped sauna, or book in for one of their holistic treatments, you’ll leave Bath feeling relaxed and rested, just as you should. Rooms from £119 per night, no15greatpulteney.co.uk/

Frome

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Shutterstock

Time on train: 1 hour and 55 minutes from Paddington Station.

From has all the trappings of a historic market town which makes for a pleasant weekend away. Follow the heritage trail, wander the Medieval streets or discover all of the arts and crafts on offer. Be sure you visit during their annual festival (this year it will be held from July 5 to 14) to see the town at its liveliest.

Where to stay: the Archangel, a restaurant and bar with rooms, is situated among the steep hills and cobbled streets of Frome. With 10 bespoke rooms, you’ll be delighted with the dark oak floors, roll-top baths and a dash of old-world charm. Rooms from £80 per night, archangelfrome.com/

Oxford

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Time on train: 53 minutes from Paddington Station.

A fairytale of spires and cobbled streets, the town of Oxford is as quintessentially British as they come. With the iconic university a must-visit, you can also marvel at the stunning architecture strewn throughout the town, visit historic libraries and go on a pub crawl to the likes of the Lamb & Flag and the Eagle & Child, where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were regulars.

Where to stay: The Head of the River is a pub-come-hotel that combines beautiful rooms with an excellent location as it overlooks the River Isis and the Folly Bridge. The 20 bespoke rooms are the ideal place to retire after a hearty meal in the pub below – and if you book more than two weeks in advance you can enjoy 10 per cent off your room. Rooms from £124 per night, headoftheriveroxford.co.uk/

New Forest

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Time on Train: 1 hour and 32 minutes to Brockenhurst from London Waterloo.

For the ultimate country weekend away, visit the quaint village of Brockenhurst for your gateway to New Forest. Explore the picturesque village before going on long afternoon walks through the forest, with an ancient woodland and a ‘secret’ coast included in the 140 miles of tracks and footpath.

Where to stay: the Lime Wood Hotel & Spa is just a 12-minute taxi from Brockenhurst and will feel like the ultimate escape from London. While the hotel itself is set in a beautiful country house, the Herb House Spa is what takes the cake, with eco-friendly treatments, a mud house and a restaurant that only serves seasonal and sustainable dishes. Rooms from £299 per night, limewoodhotel.co.uk/. Alternatively, The Pig hotel in Brockenhurst offers a number of cosy rooms and farm-to-table dining in the heart of Brockenhurst, perfect for exploring. Rooms from £155 per night, thepighotel.com/

Cardiff

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Time on Train: 2 hours and 2 minutes from Paddington Station.

With Cardiff Castle, waterfront walks, the central market and a number of trendy eateries to visit, you’ll fill up your weekend in Cardiff in no time – and leave itching to go back.

Where to stay: overlooking the Cardiff Bay waterfront, St David's Cardiff offers the perfect base for your weekend in the Welsh capital. With recently refurbished rooms, stunning bayside views and a world-class spa, it's the treat you need. Rooms from £87.30 per night, phcompany.com/

Norwich

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Shutterstock

Time on train: 1 hour and 50 minutes from London Liverpool Street.

Quiet lanes, an historic cathedral and a hilltop castle make Norwich a quaint weekend away. Spend your time strolling through the streets, visiting Plantation Garden or sampling the local cafes – try the Tipsy Vegan for plant-based comfort food or Figbar for Insta-worthy cakes.

Where to stay: the Assembly House, a Grade I-listed Georgian gem in the centre of Norwich with 11 bespoke bedrooms, will fulfill all your weekend getaway needs. While there, make sure you try the delightful afternoon tea filled with finger sandwiches, scones and colourful cakes. Rooms from £170 per night, assemblyhousenorwich.co.uk/

Winchester

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Pixabay

Time on train: 1 hour and 9 minutes from London Waterloo.

A sleepy Hampshire town, voted the best place to live in the UK in 2016 and situated beside the South Downs National Park, Winchester is a cathedral city worth a visit. Once the capital of the Saxon Kings, the city is singing with history and there’s a new building to explore around every corner.

Where to stay: in the centre of town, you’ll find the Wykeham Arms, a cosy pub with sumptuous rooms just a few minutes’ walk away from all of the main attractions. Some of the rooms come with in-room roll-top baths and downstairs in the pub you’ll find a seasonal menu filled with locally-sourced ingredients. Rooms from £96 per night, wykehamarmswinchester.co.uk/

Cambridge

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Unsplash

Time on train: 48 minutes from King’s Cross.

A modest city famed for its ancient university and iconic river, Cambridge exudes history and tradition. Punt along the River Cam, rent a bike and ride around the cobbled lanes like the locals or simply be in awe of the stunning architecture.

Where to stay: the Varsity Hotel & Spa is worth a stay for its rooftop terrace and panoramic bar alone. Boasting some of the best views in the city, the Varsity makes the most of its riverside location with its in-house spa boasting views of the River Cam and a number of signature Elemis treatments. Rooms from £275 per night, thevarsityhotel.co.uk/

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