Escape the city - five short breaks from London
So. You’ve come all the way to Britain – or all the way to London – for the Olympics and you’re fully enjoying the party atmosphere that’ll be happening in the city from this weekend. (Or in Albert Square from Monday, if Eastenders is anything to go by.) But with the thousands of things to see and do all over the UK, we think it would be a mighty shame if you visited the country without seeing much else apart from buses and sports stadia.
Even if you’re from the UK and have travelled some distance to the capital for the sporting action, it makes sense to make a proper holiday of it and go and see some of the many other worthy spots nearby. Yes yes, we at Pitchup are always advocating taking longer holidays and taking a sickie if you have to, but that’s because we know of what we speak. Here are five places you can easily escape to from London for a short break, with camping and caravanning options nearby:
Brighton: The seaside is the favourite escape place for UK holidays, and a trip to Brighton will show you why. It’s got the biggest gay scene in the country outside London, a pier dating from the eighteenth century when the rollicking Prince Regent built his summer palace there, seafood huts, top restaurants and chilled out pubs. Brighton is generally assumed not to be a place where you take life too seriously, which might be just what’s needed over the Olympics.
Getting there: You can take a train from London’s Victoria station – there are around 40 fast trains a day from there as well as slower ones from King’s Cross, London Bridge and Blackfriars. If you’d prefer a more leisurely option, there are hourly coaches to Brighton from Victoria coach station.
Staying there: Pitch your tent in the grounds and use the facilities of nearby Truleigh Hill Youth Hostel on the South Downs Way, which you can use as a base to party the night away in Brighton and then walk the Downs or do some hang-gliding at Devil’s Dyke. The day after the partying, we hasten to add. Pitches are £18 a night for two adults. If you have a caravan or motorhome, a good bet is The Barn Caravan Park which has non-electric pitches at £32 for two adults for two nights. Both parks are just seven miles from Brighton.
Canterbury: Kick back in Kent and make like Chaucer for a break in the cathedral city of Canterbury, which you can flee to within an hour and a half of London. There are museums, ghost tours, river tours, birdwatching at Blean Woods and geeking around the Canterbury Cathedral, St. Augustine's Abbey and St. Martin's Church World Heritage Site. If you’re in the area from 3-6 August, you can also amble along to the Hevy Music Festival at Hythe.
Getting there: Trains go from London Victoria, London Bridge or London Charing Cross to Canterbury, most frequently from London Victoria. Coaches to Canterbury are from Victoria coach station. Once you get to Canterbury, there are two stations to flip a coin over – Canterbury West and Canterbury East; both are within easy walking distance of the city centre.
Staying there: Pitch up at Neal’s Place Farm a mile outside Canterbury to sample the apple juice (cider?) from their own orchards or buy apple-related goodness (cider?) from their farm shop. A non-electric grass tent pitch in an orchard setting is £15 while an electric pitch for a caravan or motorhome is £20 a night. Or park yourself at oyster capital Whitstable’s Seaview Holiday Park six miles away, with facilities including family entertainment, a lounge bar and an adventure play area. Non-electric pitches are from £20 a night.
Bath: We love Bath. It’s got Jane Austen connections, Romans and a pub where you can feel all Dickensian-like and ask for a pinch of snuff (the Star Inn). There’s loads to gawk at in the city too – wander around annoying everyone by looking straight upwards at the Georgian terraces, go angel-spotting at Bath Abbey, stare at your scones during afternoon tea at the Pump Room, go togatastic at the 2000 year old Roman Baths Museum, or gaze dreamily at the sky from the open air pool on the rooftop of the Thermae Spa.
Getting there: London’s Victoria coach station has links to Bath up to ten times a day, and there are also coaches from Heathrow and Gatwick airports. There are direct trains from Waterloo and London Paddington at least once an hour, with a journey time from London to Bath of around 90 minutes.
Staying there: Newton Mill Holiday Park is just two miles from Bath, in a quiet secluded spot and with an on-site restaurant in a converted 350 year old mill as well as on-site fishing. Non-electric grass tent pitches are available for £20 a night. Or try the family-friendly Bucklegrove Caravan & Camping Park at nearby Cheddar, with heated indoor pool, children’s play area and pub serving homemade grub. Large non-electric tent pitches are £72 for three nights, with a three night minimum stay during July and August.
Clacton-on-Sea: After you’ve checked out Brighton as a seaside destination – because we’re going to insist you check out both – head to Clacton-on-Sea for some traditional Essex sands. There’s a Victorian pier with amusements, fairgrounds rides and dodgems, clifftop gardens and most importantly, many fish and chip shops. You’ll also be well sited for a side trip to nearby Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, or for a stroll around Epping Forest.
Getting there: A train journey from London to Clacton-on-Sea takes around an hour and a half, leaving from Liverpool Street station. Coaches take around three and a half hours, leaving from London Victoria coach station.
Staying there: Martello Beach Holiday Park at Clacton-on-Sea has indoor and outdoor pools, kids’ clubs, an adventure playground and free evening entertainment in season. Pitches are available from £5 a night out of season and from £33 a night for July and August, which includes four entertainment passes giving you access to the park facilities and entertainment. Also at Clacton-on-Sea, the lively Highfield Grange Holiday Park has pitches from £47 for July and August, again with four free entertainment passes thrown in.
Winchester: Head to Hampshire to see the longest medieval cathedral in the world in the former English capital Winchester, where you can also see the twelfth century Winchester Castle and the ruin of the Norman Wolvesey Castle. There’s also one of the UK’s biggest farmers’ markets (on the second and last Sunday of the month), the Theatre Royal and regular events at the cathedral including performance and tours.
Getting there: Trains to Winchester run from Waterloo station and take just under an hour. There are coaches available from Heathrow and Victoria coach station, arriving in the city centre.
Staying there: Glamp it up at Winchester’s adults-only Two Hoots Campsite, where you can book a cosy camping pod for two people for £55 a night. The heated pods come equipped with kingsize beds with bedding supplied. Or stay slightly further afield at Riverside Holidays in Hamble, which has cycle hire on site as well as fishing, sailing, golf, horse-riding and tennis all nearby. Prices start from £23 per night for two adults for an electric pitch for tents, tourers and motorhomes.
Still need some inspiration on getting out of London? Take a look at our London sites and filter your search on the left to look for sites within an easy train ride – you can search for campsites and caravan parks within five to sixty miles of the capital.