For London locals, hopping in the car for a weekend away isn't always the most relaxing of journeys. You've got to navigate city centre traffic, congestion and potentially hours and miles of driving to reach your destination. It's no wonder the tube network is the capital's favoured method of travel!
However, escaping the bustle of the city is a great opportunity to explore new destinations around the UK, with the train being by far the most stress-free way to get out of London for holidays, day trips or weekend breaks. Plus, with a vast network of great connections, it doesn't take long to get almost anywhere for a weekend away in the UK.
Some of the best weekends away from London are just a couple of hours away on a train, and that doesn't just include busy city breaks. There are plenty of holidays to be had in more relaxing parts of the UK, from St Ives, the Cotswolds and Brighton in the west to the Lake District up north. You can even get to North Wales in a few hours, so Snowdonia and the string of coastal resorts are all within easy reach.
So, let's explore some of our favourite destinations.
Easy weekends away from London
If you're looking for holiday destinations that are easy to get to and don't take too long to reach via train, while also providing you with some much-needed respite, here are some of the best options.
With multiple direct trains available from London Euston, Stafford can be reached via rail travel in less than two hours. This short commute gives you plenty of time to explore what Stafford has to offer without worrying about lengthy travel times or your journey eating into your weekend trip.
This market town in the West Midlands has plenty to do, whether you're travelling solo, as a couple, with friends or along with the whole family. For those who like to explore the countryside, Cannock Chase Forest is perfect for a relaxing woodland walk or cycle. Located an hour from Stafford Railway Station, you can easily hop on another train to get here and enjoy everything this 17,000-acre space has to offer.
Also located within Cannock Chase Forest is Go Ape - ideal for those looking for a bit more adventure on their travels. With over 1,500 metres of tree-to-tree crossings to complete, there's a course for every thrill-seeker here.
Staffordshire is also home to Alton Towers, which can be reached via a connection from Stafford Railway Station to Uttoxeter Station in just over an hour. With over 40 rides to experience and 500 acres of parkland to explore, this theme park offers a great day out for all the family.
With both direct trains and routes with changes in Birmingham available, Shrewsbury is a great destination for a weekend away from London. Bordering Wales in the West Midlands, Shrewsbury can be reached from London Euston in under three hours.
Shrewsbury's train station is situated in the heart of the town centre, giving you easy access to a selection of hotels and activities to enjoy, including Shrewsbury Castle which sits just above the station. The architecture here is something to admire too, with almost 800 listed buildings located across the town, as well as medieval cobbled streets and unusual street names to discover.
Shrewsbury Quarry Park is the perfect place to relax and unwind with a picnic as you watch boats pass along the River Severn. If you don't want to bring your own food, Shrewsbury is home to an abundance of independent and award-winning restaurants, quirky pubs and traditional inns.
If you're happy to jump in a taxi and travel outside the town centre to the countryside, you can visit the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding National Beauty, with several peaks to climb and stunning views to experience. Alternatively, travel by train to nearby Ironbridge Gorge and explore this historical UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cheap weekends away from London
Whether you're local to London or not, most of us know that it's not the cheapest place to visit or live in the UK. So finding holidays in a destination that offers great value for money is always a bonus.
Although journeys can take 3–4 hours from London Euston to Llandudno, with one to two changes in between, it's definitely a destination that's worth the travel. This coastal town in North Wales is the perfect location for relaxing and enjoying holidays away from the city, with plenty of things to do that won't break the bank.
Llandudno Pier is a must-see for anyone staying here for a weekend. The Victorian marvel gives stunning views across the Irish Sea, and the town itself is full of friendly shops, inviting inns and exciting arcades, there's something for everyone. You can even fish off the harbour if you are so inclined, with permits available from just £5 every day.
If you're keen to explore more of the locale, Great Orme Country Park is definitely worth a visit. Situated next to Llandudno Pier, the Great Orme headland rises 207m out of the sea and is the perfect place to uncover local geology, archaeology and wildlife. If you're happy to travel further afield and really get out in nature, postcard-perfect Snowdonia National Park can be reached by train in under an hour from Llandudno – ideal for a day trip if you're staying in the resort.
If you're happy to travel further afield and really get out in nature, postcard-perfect Snowdonia National Park can be reached by train in under an hour from Llandudno – ideal for a day trip if you're staying in the resort.
Unwinding by the seaside is often at the top of the list for people booking weekends away from London, but many seaside resorts can be costly, especially if you're taking the whole family. Southport, however, is a coastal destination that offers plenty to do without obliterating your holiday budget.
From London Euston, it'll take around four hours to get here with two or three changes in between. Once you've arrived, head to Southport Pier – it's the second longest in the UK at 1,000 metres and is completely free to visit. If you don't fancy walking, you can hop on the pier tram and take in the views from the comfort of your seat as you're transported to the end of the Pavilion.
Southport beach is also a great place to relax, whether you bring along a picnic or head to one of the local eateries or pubs close by. If water sports are your thing, you can head to Southport Marine Lake for paddle boarding or an easy-going pedalo boat ride.
This area is a fashionable spot just north of Liverpool, and it's where many of the city's footballers, entertainers and businesspeople live. That means you'll never be short of a great restaurant, lively bar and boutique hotel for your stay; it also makes it a great place to indulge in a bit of celebrity spotting (or businessperson spotting, if that's your thing).
Long weekends away from London
As many destinations along our routes are a good couple of hours from the heart of London, it's never a bad idea to plan for a long weekend trip in certain locations to ensure you get the most out of your trip.
In just under three hours from London Euston, you can reach the Roman and medieval city of Chester. Couples, friends and families all love this destination for its history, nightlife, restaurants, bars, and entertainment, making it the ideal place for a long weekend away from London no matter who you're travelling with. There's a racecourse too if you like a flutter, and unusually, you can walk to it from the city centre in five minutes. Just make sure you plan ahead as there isn't racing every weekend.
For those who enjoy sightseeing, Chester's 1,000-year-old Cathedral should definitely be on your itinerary, as well as the town's abundance of black and white Tudor-style buildings, historical inns and two-tier buildings with coved walkways, known as the Rows, which have stood the test of time. The city also has one of the most complete Roman walls in existence, and it still encloses the centre of town, broken only by a few modern thoroughfares.
If you're taking the kids with you for a long weekend away, the world-famous Chester Zoo is a must-visit. Located just 15 minutes from the city centre by taxi, it's a great day out for the whole family, with over 20,000 animals to see and 120 acres of zoological gardens to explore. If animals are on the agenda, you could also visit the Blue Planet Aquarium just outside the city and learn about one of Europe's largest collections of sharks.
Chester has it all for a long weekend away, so be sure to make the most of its selection of independent restaurants, pubs and themed cocktail bars. A spot of afternoon tea is also perfect for a Sunday afternoon before you hop on the train home!
Penrith, Lake District
We couldn't create a list of great weekends away from London without including the Lake District in the North of England, especially with several direct trains connecting London Euston with Penrith (North Lakes) in less than three and a half hours.
Ullswater is the closest Lake District body of water to Penrith, located just 20 minutes from the town centre and occupying the region's second largest lake. Surrounded by mountain scenery and breathtaking views, Ullswater is the ideal place to switch off from daily life. But it's not just a place to unwind on your weekend break, if you're keen to try new activities, it's the perfect location for hiking, kayaking and sailing.
For those who like history and exploring, Lowther Castle & Gardens should be on your to-do list when visiting Penrith. Dramatic ruins, endless gardens and a huge adventure playground for the kids await you here, and you can even hire bikes to journey around the wider park and woodland.
If you're staying in Penrith for a few days, it's worth travelling the distance to the world-famous Windermere to explore England's largest natural lake. While you're here, you could visit The World of Beatrix Potter with the children or head to Bowness-on-Windermere's only Michelin-Starred restaurant, HRiSHi, for a special treat.
Weekends away from London by train
No matter where you choose to go, there are plenty of options for city breaks and countryside retreats when it comes to planning weekend trips away from London.
With Avanti West Coast routes taking you all over the country and handy railcards that ensure travel is easy and cheap, it's more stress-free than ever to plan a weekend getaway to these destinations via rail.