Whether you’re looking for family days out with the kids, or are just desperate for a change of scenery, there are heaps of places around England that are ready and waiting to welcome you. As always, please check before you travel to see what restrictions are in place at individual attractions.
Pack up a picnic, hop in the car and swap the city for some of these beautiful English sights. They’re all an hour or less away from a major city, meaning you’ll be back home in time for dinner.
Day trips from London: Eltham Palace and Gardens
Tucked away in the borough of Greenwich, Eltham Palace is a medieval estate known for its striking Art-Deco charm and connection to Henry VIII. And while the palace itself is brimming with historical importance, it’s not the only reason to make the day trip from London, as the award-winning grounds are equally as impressive. Wander through 19 acres of greenery, relax in the Rock Garden with its pools and cascading waters, take the perfect shot in the rose garden and make your way across London’s oldest working bridge, all in one day.
Just four miles outside Bristol, Blaise Hamlet’s nine thatched-roof cottages, owned by the National Trust, look like they’ve been plucked out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Previously owned by John Harford – a Bristol banker and Quaker – the cottages were actually built to house his servants after they retired (a pretty good pension package if you ask me!). The quirky cottages are still lived in today, so their interiors aren’t open to the public – though a walk around this mini village is satisfying in itself.
Less than 20 miles from Bath, Longleat is home to much more than just grand Elizabethan rooms and pleasure gardens. As you delve deep into its grounds (with your car doors locked and windows wound up), you’re likely to find yourself side-by-side with a sleeping lion, following in the tracks of elephants or face-to-face with cheeky monkeys who are notorious for getting comfy on your bonnet. There are also walk-through attractions on site, where you can get a glimpse of koalas, meerkats and tons of other furry friends.
The drive-through safari and some walk-through enclosures are now open to the public – please pre-book your entry time online.
Just a 30-minute train ride from Birmingham, this an ancient estate is packed with legend and lore. It keeps its colourful history alive and kicking with its dark, dingy dungeons, tall towers and spectacular live shows.
Surrounding the fortress is 60 acres of landscaped gardens – designed by Capability Brown. Walk among the summer florals of the Peacock Garden, home to a peafowl of romantic peacocks; stroll alongside the River Avon; or climb the Conqueror’s Fortress for never-ending views of the Midlands countryside.
The castle, gardens and onsite accommodation are now open to the public. Tickets must be pre-booked online.
Dating back 900 years, Somerleyton Hall & Gardens is renowned as one of the finest stately homes in the country. From the grand staircase to the ballroom with its Jacobean charm, every inch of this house is impeccably preserved.
Its gardens are pretty famous in East Anglia, too. Don’t miss the sunken White Garden, with its beautiful blooms, the Walled Garden housing an array of vegetables and seasonal flowers and, if you’re up for a challenge, the huge maze.
The gardens at Somerleyton Hall are now open, though entry must be pre-booked on their website.
Step into a magical forest alive with butterflies, bluebells and bird song on the Killerton Estate. One of the largest woods in East Devon, the forest has heaps of waymarked trails to explore, perfect for blowing away the cobwebs and reconnecting with nature. Look out for all the different species of butterfly – from peacocks to marbled whites – and you may even get lucky and spot a quick-footed deer.
Wuthering Heights fan or not, the charming, cobbled Yorkshire village of Haworth is more than worth a visit. The town and its surrounding rugged moorlands were the inspiration for many of the Brontë sisters and their novels. Along with the Brontë Parsonage Museum, it’s a haven for independent businesses selling everything from chocolates to artworks.
The rural walks leading out of the village are a must-do, too, with labyrinthine trails up to ruined farmhouses and waterfalls.
Having been around for nearly a whole millennium, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland is pretty special. For a sneak peek inside, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour, or if you’re all about the outdoors you can take a walk in the woodland gardens – which were partly designed by esteemed landscaper, Capability Brown. See if you can see the peacock sat atop an obelisk – it’s said he watches over the castle from afar.
Take a day trip to one of Europe’s most important wetlands, home to more than 9,000 species of wildlife – from water voles to dragonflies. Alongside walking routes for full-grown adventurers, there are buggy and wheelchair-friendly paths, and numerous cycleways too.
Take your camera and see if you can snap a photo of the grazing herds of highland cattle, or maybe a striking Konik pony, both of which were introduced to the landscape to aid conservation and increase the diversity of wildlife in the area.
It may sound a little farfetched, but construction on Castle Howard actually took over 100 years to complete. Since then, eight generations of the Howard Family have occupied the castle, each adding their own personal touches.
Outside, you’ll find 1,000 acres of parkland – including woodland, lakes, fountains and ornate temples. Little ones will also love Skelf Island – a treetop adventure of, slides and rope bridges suspended above the Great Lake.
Castle Howard’s gardens are now open daily. The house is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Entry must be pre-booked on their website.
Home to over 35,000 animals from every corner of the earth, Chester Zoo is one of the most prestigious wildlife parks in the UK – so much so, it even featured on Channel 4’s documentary The Secret Life of the Zoo. The herd of Asian elephants (with their playful babies) are a big crowd-pleaser, as well as the gorgeous Sumatran orang-utans and sloths.
Don’t miss the award-winning botanical gardens, whose plants aren’t just good looking, but play a vital role in helping local wildlife.
Visitors to Chester Zoo must now book tickets online. Some indoor enclosures are currently closed to the public.
Rumoured to have been created by the Devil, who dug out the valley to drown the church-goers of the Weald, this record-breaking beauty spot has as colourful a history as its scenery.
Formerly used as a bomb-testing site in World War 1, Devil’s Dyke has roots dating back to the Iron Age – with a hill fort you can still see today. Day-trippers and even members of the royal family used to flock here in the 18th and 19th centuries too, who have left their mark in the form of a derelict Victorian funfair. Fast forward to today and the valley certainly hasn’t lost its draw, as nature lovers and cyclists galore make their way here year in year out for its photogenic panoramas and off-road routes.
Days out from Sheffield: Longshaw, Burbage and the Eastern Moors
Peak District, Derbyshire
Grand open spaces are one of the Peak District’s main draws. Longshaw, Burbage and the Eastern Moors are excellent walking country for those in need of a good dose of country. From ancient woods and tumbling streams to heather-filled moorland and spectacular views overlooking the Derwent Valley, the scenery here definitely keeps on giving.
Day trips from Coventry: West Midlands Safari Park
Kidderminster, West Midlands
Get up close and personal to incredible animals from all over the world – just make sure the doors are locked! From the comfort of your car, roll through the African Plains to see elegant giraffe and a herd of Southern White Rhino, drive across Wild Asia and into the land of the Carnivores, where tigers, cheetahs and the mighty king of beasts, the majestic lion, roam free.
The drive-through safari, theme park and most of the walk-through areas are now open the public. Tickets must be pre-booked.
Budding historians and established explorers will have a whale of a time discovering the remains of Roman forts and turrets at Birdoswald, located around an hour’s drive from Newcastle. It’s home to the longest remaining stretch of Hadrian’s Wall, as well as one of the best-preserved fort gates along the whole of the partition. There’s also a small museum on-site full of interactive learning exhibits revealing the history of the fort.
If you fancy exploring further afield, lace up your walking boots and head out into the rugged, untouched countryside – it’s guaranteed to take your breath away.
Birdoswald Roman Fort is now open. Entry must be pre-booked.
This mystical Neolithic stone circle is said to be among the earliest British circles, created around 3,000 BC. The dramatic backdrop of the Helvellyn and High Seat peaks add to the atmospheric setting of the stones, and their proximity to Keswick – a 30-minute walk to be precise – makes a visit to the stones a perfect addition to a day out in the Lake District.