Skip to content

The best road trips from London that take 2 hours or less

Oct. 02, 2021
8 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

With an ever-increasing range of car rental options, a day trip out of town is easy to plan. But with time so precious, we don’t want to spend all day in the car.

From historic cities, national parks and seaside scenes, you won't even have time to play "I spy." Here are some ideas for your next London road trip — all in under two hours from central London — and some inspiration on where to have lunch while you’re there.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Never miss a thing by subscribing to our daily newsletter.

Before you set off, don’t forget to check the best credit cards to use for car rental. When you are road-trip planning, make sure you avoid the London Congestion Charge zone.

Related: 7 of the best road trips around the UK

1. Marlow

Distance from London: 35 miles (around an hour).

(Photo by GordonBellPhotography/Getty Images)

Marlow and the Home Counties are really close by with plenty of things to do. Marlow is right on the river, so start by crossing Grade I-listed Marlow Bridge and go for a stroll along the Thames Path to spot wildlife (and the occasional rowing boat) on the river. After that, check out The High Street and venture on a blue plaque-hunting escapade. Look hard enough and you will find the building that TS Eliot called home during World War I and the house where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Car parking can be a little tricky especially at lunchtime, but Liston Court Car Park lets you park for up to six hours for $5.

Where to have lunch: Marlow is a Michelin-star mecca but just a few miles away is Hurley House Hotel where there is a smorgasbord of lunch options from sushi to steak. And there's a lovely outdoor terrace and garden with weekend BBQs.

2. Stonehenge

Distance from London: 90 miles (just under two hours).

(Photo by Peter Adams/Getty Images)

If I didn’t live in London, I would live in Bath. But that’s over our two-hour threshold. So instead, a day trip to Stonehenge is called for, especially as the summer solstice draws ever closer. From London, it's an easy drive down the M3 to this 5,000-year-old Wiltshire stone circle. Stonehenge remains a truly remarkable relic of the prehistoric world — older than the Great Pyramids and still largely a mystery. On average, a visit to Stonehenge takes around two hours, so if you have time, head over to the Army Flying Museum on the way back to London, which tells you about the journey of British soldiers in the air from the pioneering days of balloons and kites right through to the modern chapter of helicopter operations.

Where to have lunch: The Stonehenge Inn is the closest pub to Stonehenge and even hosts a mini-Stonehenge, an exact replica of the great monument. Here you can expect classic pub grub and also a pizza kitchen.

3. The New Forest

Distance from London: 84 miles (just under two hours).

(Photo by Travelpix Ltd/Getty Images)

A trip to the New Forest is about as close as you can get to a safari without buying a plane ticket. As you make your way down dappled lanes and across the heather-covered heath, you’ll be watched by ponies that have grazed there for thousands of years with cattle and pigs casually hovering up fallen acorns. Every July to September, the New Forest open-top bus tour is a hop-on, hop-off experience with three different routes. You can even bring your bikes and (well-behaved) dogs along.

Where to have lunch: New Forest pubs are an important part of the area’s heritage. The Pilgrim Inn is what Londoners imagine a country pub to be with a thatched roof, roaring log fires and a cozy dining room for lazy lunches.

4. Mersea Island

Distance from London: 59 miles (1.5 hours).

(Photo by Anna Wator/Getty Images)

Attached to the mainland by a causeway that floods at high tide, this island getaway is great if you love water. Mersea Island has beach huts, ice cream, windsurfers and lots of boats. A boat trip around the harbor from the Causeway Jetty on Coast Road will show you the local sights from the water. Mersea Island's sometimes sunny south-facing beach looking over the Blackwater Estuary and is a curious a mix of sand and shingle but has great views. If you visit Mersea at the end of August you could also pop into the Clacton Airshow, which is free and includes a good mixture of activities from The Red Arrows to historic aircraft shows.

Where to have lunch: The big draw is The Company Shed, which serves seafood platters that pull in crowds from all over the country every weekend. It doesn't take bookings, and it's open for takeaway only at the moment. Get there before midday to feast on local oysters, prawns and dressed crab. Talking of which, catch-and-release crabbing is fun and it's free. Just watch out for those crab claws!

5. Whitstable

Distance from London: 60 miles (1.5 hours).

(Photo by Oscar Wong/Getty Images)

The Kent coast is dotted with picture-perfect towns like Margate and Deal, but Whitstable is really pretty with its pastel-painted beach huts and thriving arts scene. Explore Whitstable’s arty side with a wander round its galleries including the Fishslab Gallery, which used to the local Fishmonger. Whitstable’s historic Harbor Street is a must-visit for every day-tripper who comes, followed by The Harbor Market to pick up curious knick-knacks and furniture with character.

Where to have lunch: The Lobster Shack is a local favorite, famous for local oysters and live shellfish. With beach views and lots of outdoor seating, it's the place for people-watching in the summer and getting cozy by the log burner in colder times. Bookings are not accepted.

6. Leeds Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover

Distance from London: 43 miles (one hour) to Leeds Castle then 39 miles (45 minutes) to the White Cliffs of Dover.

(Photo by mbtaichi/Getty Images)

Staying in glorious Kent, this two-stop day trip starts at Leeds Castle (not in Leeds), which is picturesquely placed in the middle of a lake surrounded on all sides by forests and parklands. Stroll through the Lady Baillie Gardens before a quick drive to the truly iconic White Cliffs of Dover. A symbol of home, hope and freedom, their dazzling white chalk faces reach 350 feet. Also look out for two herds of resilient Exmoor ponies whose mission is to graze away to keep the coarse grasses, bushes and trees at bay so that the chalk grassland of the cliffs can thrive.

Where to have lunch: Meander 10 miles up the Kentish coast from the gorgeous cliffs to the village of St. Margaret's-at-Cliffe where you will find The White Cliffs Hotel Bunkhouse Kitchen Bar. Here you can expect a proper Kentish experience with Folkstone fish, foraged herbs and home cultivated ice creams.

Bottom line

We do love London — most of the time. It just so happens that it's also conveniently located in the middle of a bunch of great road-trip destinations, all under two hours away by car. So jump in the car, get your sat nav out and away you go.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 6X points
6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 100,000 points75,000 points
Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

Annual Fee

$125

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees