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Bath & Brighton - Day trips from London, or stay overnight?

I'm beginning to plan a family trip to London for next summer, and could use some itinerary advice. It will be me, my wife, and our two daughters who will 6 and 10. We have one week (7 or 8 nights), and would like to visit Bath and Brighton in addition to London. Would we be able to see the highlights of one or both of these on a day trip from London, or would we be better off staying overnight?

My initial thought was to stay 1 or 2 nights in Bath at the beginning of the trip, but getting there from Heathrow via train after being on a 7-hour overseas flight seems daunting. Or is it easier than it looks on Google Maps? We won't be renting a car so will be relying on trains/buses to get around. Same thing with starting or ending in Brighton, the trip between the airport & there looks long/daunting.

If anyone has suggestions or tips, I'd appreciate it. For ease of booking lodging, I'd like to keep the London portion of the stay all together vs breaking it up with other destinations.

Posted by
1364 posts

I would look at buses rather than trains if you want to go directly to Brighton or Bath. National Express run a reliable coach service from Heathrow to Brighton which takes a bit over two hours. Once you’ve stowed your luggage you can doze on the coach.

The two obvious things to do in Brighton are the Royal Pavilion and the pier. They are very close to the coach station and within five minutes walk of each other. Other than that the old quarter - the Lanes and North Laines ( yes the different spelling is accurate ) are worth a wander, and the seafront is nice.

People obviously can, and do, spend longer here but it’s possible to do it all fairly comfortably in a day. That makes it an easy day trip from London if you prefer that. The fast train takes around an hour from either Victoria or a London Bridge.


Posted by
6113 posts

With a 6 year old in tow, I wouldn’t attempt to head to Bath after a long flight. You will most likely be suffering from jet lag and therefore hitting your base as soon as possible and going for a walk wound be my suggestion. Bath has more appeal to adults than children, so I would make this a day trip from London by train. If you do want to stay in Bath, you can take a bus to Reading, where you can pick up the Bath train to avoid having to go into London and back out.

Brighton is easily doable as another train day trip.

Buy rail tickets 10 weeks out for the best prices.

Posted by
24844 posts

I agree with just about everything the others have said, but most of all that you can easily spend all your time in or much closer to London. While I think Brighton has more appeal to children than Bath (unless they are super ancient-Roman-Bath junkies, I guess), London has far more points of interest, and last-minute rail tickets to either Brighton or Bath are likely to be so costly that you'll balk at paying them when the time comes--at least I would. Check and use today's date to see what I mean.

Posted by
7004 posts

Every individual knows their own abilities. I had no problem driving to Bath after a transatlantic flight from Charlotte to Heathrow.
The only issue that I had was that the setting on the nav system were screwed up and I could not find our B&B for 1 1/2 hours. Make sure your nav system works properly prior to departing.

You can do Bath in one full day. We took a free walking tour that was excellent, then did the key sights on our own, like the Cathedral and Roman Bath Museum.

We were in Bath at the Brooks Guesthouse and dined at the wonderful Scallop Shell. We stayed three nights and spend a day driving down to Wells and Glastonberry, which I recommend.

Not sure how the busses work out, but I know there are day tours from London. Still, you can take the free walking tour and do the rest on your own without a tour.

Posted by
5028 posts

Skip Bath, it's unlikely to interest your kids, particularly the 6 year old. I'd opt for Brighton if you are set on a day trip (no need to stay overnight). They'd like the beach and although it's not the Florida Gulf Coast it has it's own charm from its Victorian resort era. The pier will also be fun for the kids.

Posted by
7004 posts

Sorry, but going to Britain to go to the beach is a waste.

That is just my opinion. I traveled all over Europe with kids, and my Son was about 6 years old when we first visited Europe. I think kids would be fascinated by the Roman Bath Museum.

One place in Britain that I know lots of kids loved was Warwick Castle. We saw more kids there than in our entire four week drive tour of Britain last year.

Posted by
5182 posts

If you decide to go to Brighton first, do try to fly to Gatwick rather than Heathrow to make it a whole lot easier.

Posted by
5028 posts

It's not the beach that you're going for in Brighton, it's everything around it. No-one claims that Brighton's pebble beach is the star attraction but rather the resort feel.

I also disagree that a 6 year old will be fascinated by the Roman baths. My 6 year most definitely wasn't and I've seen many more bored young children there. As an adult I find the baths fascinating but when I was 6? No way.

Posted by
6113 posts

The person who thinks UK beaches are a waste of time is the same person that advocates driving for hours on busy roads straight off a long flight. No comment!

Posted by
3974 posts

We went to Brighton because our college daughter follows the blog of a girl who lives there. I think we both found Brighton to be underwhelming, although the old aquarium was fun-I think it might be the first one ever or the oldest one still open.
@emma We did enjoy the fish and chips there, although we got them in a restaurant. We didn't go inside the Pavilion, because by that time I was tired of paying expensive entry fees to places(and I'm not referring to churches- I understand their desire to prevent a carnival atmosphere) that wouldn't let me take photos.

As everyone else is telling you, if you've never been to London, 7 or 8 nights will only scratch the surface of London itself. If your daughters are Harry Potter fans, you need to make reservations months in advance for the studio at Leavesden.

With regards to walk-up train tickets, they are much cheaper after 9:30 AM.

You should watch Rick Steves London videos available on this website and possibly you tube with your family to see what appeals to them, especially the 6yr old. A day trip to Windsor might appeal to them. I don't think you want to do this with your limited time, but I think a day trip to York would be much more interesting to your daughters than either Bath or Brighton.

You can easily overdose on museums in London( to me British Museum and possibly Natural History Museum are musts for your daughters), but the Museum of London is geared to children and might be a good educational introduction to the city for them and they could see a portion of the old city wall.

Posted by
1316 posts

"Head straight to Bath" is probably Rick's worst piece of advice. I'd probably suggest not doing Bath or Brighton, but perhaps Windsor and the castle as a day trip.

Posted by
5028 posts

Sorry, but going to Britain to go to the beach is a waste.

Going to the beach has been such an intrinsic part of British life since the Georgian times, so much culture, tradition and history is intertwined with visiting the beach that to ignore or dismiss it is to miss so much that is integral to British life and history. The Beach in Britain isn't about a stretch of sand or pebbles opening out onto the sea, it's far more than that. To fully appreciate the British culture you'll need to understand how important a summer holiday to any of the traditional British seaside resorts meant to people and how it formed the fabric of British life.

Sure, many of the big seaside resorts have fallen out of favour now that travel has become so affordable and are becoming tired and dated but in the same way as Coney Island or the Atlantic City Boardwalk there remains a great nostalgia that continues to draw people to them.

So no, going to the beach in Britain isn't a waste.

Posted by
34 posts

Thank you all for the tips/suggestions.

A little more background: I’ve been to London several times before, and my wife has been twice. The last time we were there was 2006, so it’s been quite a while, and we’ve never been with children.

Last time we were in London we took a bus tour that went to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath. We only had a couple hours in Bath but we both loved it and always said we wanted to go back and spend more time there. So that’s why Bath is on our list.

As for Brighton, I have two old friends who live there that I plan to try to meet up with, and I think the beach and pier would be a fun break from historical sights & museums for the kids. (We live in Brooklyn and they love Coney Island.) Plus, neither my wife nor I have ever been there so it’s something new for us.

My older daughter also wants to see Windsor Castle, because she watched the royal wedding on TV. I’m not sure about Harry Potter, my older is still working her way through the books and my younger has no interest yet.

I haven’t gone through and made a list of things we want to do in London yet, but I want to stick to sites that are unique to London. We have a very good natural history museum, zoo, etc. closer to home so I’d rather not spend time on things like that even though they’re “kid-friendly.” (@cala thank you for the tip on the Museum of London, I would not have assumed that was geared to children.) I want to take them to the Tower of London, to see the Changing of the Guard, and probably the British Museum, but that’s all I know so far. My goal is to keep the itinerary light on museums & churches and heavy on wandering & exploring.

It seems like we’ll be better off staying in London for the full week, and doing any other locations as day trips.

Posted by
2158 posts

hey avab80
i would knock out bath, don't think it's for your girls at that age. too many museums may tire them out. maybe some kid friendly things are, a boat ride down little venice canal, a tea party on a bus, and does a harry potter walk and maybe mom and dad would like a beatles walk. we watched changing of the guard, lots of standing, waiting, crowds of people. take them to a park, buy some picnic food, let them run around. piccadilly circus is busy and has lots of crazy entertainment they may enjoy. are they to you to ride the ferris wheel (london eye), we stopped and ate fish and chips near covent gardens, check out (london) with things to go places to see and other info. hope this helps with some things for you and the kids.

Posted by
6113 posts

With a 6 year old, I would swap the British Museum for the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, which is also fascinating for adults.

The Changing of the Guard is a lot of hanging around and you might want to drop this if you are going to cover Bath and Brighton.

Posted by
2 posts

Brighton is a super fun town and can be done in a day. If you are taking the train down you can take advantage of National Rail's 2 for 1 vouchers for local attractions like the Royal Pavilion. The Brighton Museum will also appeal to the kiddos. Its small and has lots of interesting items relating to olde timey seaside enjoyment. Its an easy walk from the station to the local attractions.

Google maps will help you out for sure using the transit option.

Posted by
8040 posts

Just a few London suggestions with young ones in tow.

Instead of Changing of the Guards visit the Horse Guards.

Walk along the canals to see the house boats. Can do this near St Pancras station. St Pancras Lock by the Gas Towers. Summer weather should entice the children to enjoy the fountain at Granary Square.

Kensington Gardens Round Pond in front of the Palace for all the water fowl. Nearby the Princess Diana Playground. Remind them that both Princes William and Harry and Kate and Meghan live at Kensington Palace.

Take a bus and sit up top in the front seats. Nearly floor to ceiling windows.

Visit Mudchute Farm

Museum of the Docklands with the children’s
mudlark gallery.

Walk across the Millienium Bridge .

Tower Bridge Experience if no one has fear of heights. Also Check out the online schedule of the raising times

River cruise on the Thames to Greenwich to visit the Observatory.

Tower of London to see the Ravens, the Crown Jewels. Tell them about the Beefeaters before you go.

Visit the cafe in the Crypt at St Martins of the field and let the kids try the brass rubbing at the adjacent center.


Posted by
34 posts

Claudia, thank you for all the suggestions! Several of those are things I would not have known about or thought to do.

lubbylu75, thank you for the tip on the 2-for-1 vouchers. This will definitely come in handy in Brighton.