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Seeking suggestions for a small, charming town for a day trip from London

Last year, my family was looking for a town to visit in southern England that had charm, was walkable, wasn’t touristy, was accessible by public transportation, had lots of pubs and vintage shops, and that could be a base from which we could take day hikes. RS Forum posters suggested Lewes, and we absolutely loved it! And, it even had a medieval castle. Now, someone in the family is returning to London for a week and would like to visit a Lewes-like town for a day trip from London. Because Lewes is three hours round trip from London, it’s not practical. Can anyone recommend a town like Lewes (small, charming, un-touristy, fun pubs and shopping, walkable) that can be accessed in 45 mins or less by train from London? Many thanks in advance for your help.

Posted by
27328 posts

If time is that tight, it might help to know where the traveler is staying, because not all the outbound stations in London will be equally convenient.

I found this blurb online; I haven't been to the town:

"Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
The home and workplace of Roald Dahl has changed little since the storyteller’s arrival here 70 years ago, its cobbled alleys and handsome high street still taking in Gipsy House, where he lived, and many of the sites that inspired his stories. The easy charm of the large village, established in the late Middle Ages as a major stop on the coaching route between London and the Midlands, coupled with its setting in the pretty Misbourne river valley, makes it hugely appealing whatever your age. Great Missenden's good looks have been heavily featured in ITV's 'Midsomer Murders' over the years, though in real life it's obviously a perfectly safe place to stroll around and explore.

"Get there: Trains run from London Marylebone to Great Missenden, taking about 45 minutes. By car, it’s 38 miles from central London."

There are some places we might think of as part of London that have a village air, and they'd be quicker to reach. The one that first comes to mind is Hampstead.

Posted by
28 posts

Thank you for your suggestions! They will be staying in the Shoreditch district in London.

Posted by
7484 posts

How about East Anglia? Although it is not remote or ancient, Dulwich has some charm, a major art museum, and is a suburb of London.

Posted by
358 posts

Rye would always be my first choice for "small" - but if it's small you won't be finding lots of anything really!

For somewhere bigger that might meet your criteria, try Whitstable

But within 45 minutes? That's a challenge. St. Albans maybe

Posted by
713 posts

I'd also suggest St. Albans. Went there seven years ago with London Walks on one of their weekend "escapes" day trips, and was not disappointed.

There's a lot to see - and although our guide didn't dawdle, I know we didn't see everything. I've considered a repeat visit on my own. https://www.enjoystalbans.com/things-to-do/

Posted by
8799 posts

Rye, Whitsable, Guildford are day trips but not 45 minutes away.

Why not suggest another London neighborhood that is different from the now trendy Shoreditch.

Richmond with its massive Richmond park. Richmond is a bit more popular now after being featured in Apple TV’s Ted Lasso series. Your family member could visit Kew Gardens then shop In Richmond. There’s the sweet Alligator’s Mouth childrens bookstore near to the Angel and the Crown pub. Tube from Shoreditch High Street to Richmond ( The Quadrant) …. I’d take the Overground to Clapham Junction then a SW train to Richmond.

Greenwich is about 45 minutes from Shoreditch.

Chiswick. Hour from Shoreditch.

London neighborhoods are worth considering for day trips.

Posted by
958 posts

If they are staying in Shoreditch then they probably;ly want to look at somewhere accessible from Liverpool St station, which will be close by. Suggesting towns that are accessed from say Paddington, Victoria or Waterloo, (excellent choices though they may be) will add on 30 minutes plus commuting, which will make a mess of 45 minutes.

Posted by
14151 posts

I almost posted earlier to suggest St Alban’s but I’ve never been there. I did a London Walk on Saturday and was chatting with a couple before it started. She’s a guide for the local TI and was really talking it up! I’d already decided to add it to my “TO DO” list for next trip, lol.

So happy others recommend it!

Posted by
27328 posts

The Dulwich Picture Gallery is quite stunning--among the very best galleries I've ever seen outside major cities. There are excellent write-ups on every painting, as I recall, and very good special exhibitions (Berthe Morisot this summer). The cafe offers brunch (perhaps weekends only) as well as lunch.

Posted by
28 posts

St. Albans looks lovely and seems to fit the bill. I'm eager to hear how it is. Thank you for all your suggestions!