Outside of central London, the outskirts of the city has some great things to offer! From castles, courts and stately homes, to the Thames Valley and Greenwich park – check out the places below for some inspirational ideas.
England’s best known royal palace is just a short drive out of London. The Queen’s weekend retreat is the longest serving royal palace in the world, having been continuously occupied by the royal family ever since William the Conqueror built it in the 11th century. The castle has been expanded and refurbished over the centuries and provides an amazing insight into royal life. The splendour of the State Apartments just shows what the Monarchy is all about. St George’s Chapel is the place of many royal weddings, christenings and every June the ceremony of the Order of the Garter is held in the Chapel. A walk down to Windsor Bridge gives you a fabulous view of the many swans, pubs, restaurants, the boat house of the famous Eton College (where both Prince William and Prince Harry went to school) and of course the castle itself.
- Windsor is a 4 hour half-day trip – but it’s also included as part of the popular full-day Thames Valley tour!
The famous medieval Tudor palace of Henry the VIII is on the banks of the river Thames. One of Henry’s favourite palaces, it still impresses nearly 500 years later. The amazing Great Kitchen catered for over 600 courtiers and without today’s modcons – the smells and noises of the medieval kitchen recreate the atmosphere of a Christmas feast in the cooking in the middle of the 16th century. The State Apartments of Henry VIII have some of the most magnificent rooms, including the Great Hall adorned with Henry’s tapestries, and the Chapel Royal. The Tudor palace blends harmoniously with the renaissance palace designed in the late 1600s by Sir Christopher Wren, the great architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, and its walls are graced with paintings from the vast royal collection. The gardens are set in 60 acres and are themselves worth a visit! They have been recreated according to the original plans from the early 18th century with fabulous flower beds and amazing cone shaped yew trees, and include the famous Maze and the Great Vine, a vine planted by the famous landscape gardener Capability Brown in 1768. It still grows grapes that are sold on the local market each year.
- Hampton Court is a 4 hour half-day trip – it’s popularly paired with Windsor Castle or Ham House to make a full-day trip!
A scenic drive through the Thames Valley takes you on a romantic tour along the river Thames with the most agreeable little towns and villages. The famous regatta at Henley-on-Thames is famous not just for the rowing but also as one of the highlights of the English social calendar in a charming little town with houses and churches dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. The nearby village of Hambleden is definitely worth a photo stop. In the pretty riverside village of Cookham the Queen’s Swan Keeper counts the birds each July and the spectacular Cliveden estate, once the home of the Astor family and the hub of glittering early 20th century society has a series of formal gardens and an outstanding sculpture collection.
Set on the banks of the river Thames near Richmond, it is perhaps the most remarkable Stuart house in England. It was created during the time of the influential Duchess of Lauderdale and was one of the most fashionable houses in the 17th century. The Duchess was at the centre of politics during the Civil War and the Restoration of the monarchy. The impressive carved staircase and the lavish interiors, with an outstanding collection of furniture, art and textiles, and also the beautifully laid out garden make this a worthwhile visit.
Set in historic parkland on the river Thames, Greenwich is steeped in both maritime and royal history. Straddle the Prime Meridian with one foot in the east and one foot in the west, look at the fabulous collection of time keeping and navigation devices in the old Observatory. The history of sea faring and naval battles is well illustrated in the National Maritime Museum and in the adjoining Queen’s House, one of the gems of architecture with the famous tulip staircase and once the home of royalty in the 16th- 17th century. The buildings of the Naval College around the huge Grand Square were captured in Canaletto’s famous painting of Greenwich, and the old town itself is delightful with its atmospheric streets and antique market.
For information on prices for half and full day tours to places on the outskirts of London, please see the PRICES page.
Header image: Hampton Court, Wikipedia