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Easy day trips from London to the English coast

​One of the great surprises for many visitors is just how accessible the coast is from the capital of the UK. Here’s how you do it: make your way to a mainline railway station in London. Hop on a train and between one hour and 2 ½ hours later you’re delivered at the coast!

Brighton and Eastbourne!

From London Victoria Railway Station you can reach Brighton in around an hour, where the must-see sight in this city with a reputation for being cool and trendy is the Royal Pavilion and Museums housed in a stunning neo-classical villa built in the Indian style.  

 ‘The pavilion is just extraordinary,’ says Sean Edlin, owner of The White House Bed & Breakfast 

Sean is not just Brighton born and bred; his family has owned pubs and hotels in the city for more than 200 years. ‘A lot of the ghosts in the older hotels have names attached to my relatives,’ he says.

Sean praises Brighton’s ‘inclusive and can-do’ attitude and suggests that after perhaps taking the Volks Electric Railway visitors should explore the area away from the main marina and head for North Laine. Once a slum area this is now a rejuvenated Bohemian quarter crammed with independent streets and bars. 

When you’re hungry, you will find that Brighton boasts many fine restaurants and cafés. One of Sean’s favourites is Terre a Terre a long-standing vegetarian restaurant. ‘I’m not vegetarian but they serve the best vegetarian food I’ve ever tasted.’

A good option for alternative sites is to book a guide from ‘Brighton Rocks’ Hidden Mysteries Tour, which takes you to unexpected parts of the city, including hidden tunnels and tales of witchcraft.

Nearby, Eastbourne is only 30 minutes’ more journey time from London than its neighbour and has a contemporary feel and a slightly slower pace of life. The Little Chelsea area of the town features rows of pretty pastel-coloured properties, independent boutiques, cafes, galleries and record shops and was recently named as one of the UK’s coolest neighbourhoods by the Sunday Times.

For more traditional seaside past-times, head for Holywell, at the western end of the Eastbourne seafront.  This peaceful piece of coastline provides rock pools full of marine life at low tide and pretty Italian Gardens.  Eastbourne also boasts that most quintessential of English seaside features, the bandstand. Dating to the 1930s, it is a busy focus of entertainment with performances ranging from traditional military bands to tribute bands.

Easy day trips from London to the English coast Easy day trips from London to the English coast
Easy day trips from London to the English coast

Hop on a train and head for the beach

The south coast does not have a monopoly on London breaks. 

From London Kings Cross you can travel inside two hours to King’s Lynn on the banks of the River Great Ouse by the north Norfolk coast. The tranquil waterfront should be the focus of your exploration, where the town’s legacy as one of England’s most important ports becomes apparent. The name Henry Ball looms large: in the 17th century, this architect was hired by rich merchants to create ‘statement’ buildings that would convey the town’s sophistication and draw Europeans to spend their money here.

The superb ensemble of properties that Ball designed include the Custom House, an elegant merchants’ exchange and Hanseatic warehouses, which sit alongside the largest surviving 15th century guildhall in England. 

Wherever you take your coastal city break from London, Sean Edlin predicts you will do just what Londoners themselves do when they reach the coast. ‘You just see people get off the train, see the sea and their shoulders just relax.’

That’s just for starters. If you feel the need to escape the traffic and bustle of the capital, why not hop on a train from Waterloo and feel the sand between your toes on Bournemouth’s seven-mile beach in just two hours. Once you’ve dried your feet you could head to the East Cliff and visit Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum  

Lyme Regis is just over three hours from London: Take a train to Axminster, catch the X51 bus for the short trip to the coast and you can be taking the air on the evocative cobb, or stone pier, made famous by John Fowles’ stirring novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  

The Suffolk Coast is easily accessed by train too. The delightful small town of Southwold can be reached in under three hours. Depart from London’s Liverpool Street station and, with changes at Ipswich and Halesworth, you will be eating freshly caught fish by the coast for lunch or dinner.

By Mark Rowe