Stunning British countryside that surrounds cities

Britain offers a delightful combination of urban hotspots and countryside spaces, many of which are situated close together, allowing you to mix the hustle and bustle of city life with the peace and tranquillity of Britain’s striking outdoor landscapes.

Now, those looking to wander Britain’s magical city streets, delve into its heritage and history and then soak up its outdoor beauty can get inspired by our round-up of easily accessible countryside spots close to major cities, for a holiday experience that gives you the best of both.

London and beyond

A herd of Red Deer crossing the Long Mile roadway in Windsor Great Park south of Windsor Castle. Berkshire, England.

A buzzing capital city, London is bursting with world-famous landmarks and bucket-list worthy things to do. Book to explore unmissable attractions such as the London Eye and the Tower of London, or uncover Royal hotspots and world-famous galleries before indulging in the stylish shopping streets.

Want to mix up your city break with a taste of the countryside? Visit the nearby Colne Valley Regional Park, full of bluebell trails, vast woodland, babbling rivers and tranquil lakes – and all just a stone’s throw from Uxbridge, west London.

Alternatively, nature-lovers can take a 40-minute train ride from central London to soak up the rolling countryside scenery, traditional local pubs and ancient villages of the Chiltern Hills. Meanwhile the charms of the 4,800 acre Windsor Great Park are less than an hour by train from the city centre. Awash with woodland and forests that glow red and golden through the autumn months, the park is home to horticultural gems, historic monuments and The Savill Garden, a stunning ornamental garden built in the 1930s.

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London

Oxford’s extras

Two pheasants on the lawn in front of Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England.

With charming architecture and a rich scholarly history to boot, Oxford is a city full of unforgettable moments. Known as the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’, here you can marvel at the majestic university buildings and wander under the famous Bridge of Sighs, with other nearby gems including the World Heritage Site at Blenheim Palace and shoppers’ paradise, Bicester Village.

A short distance from the bustle of the city centre, you'll find grass-scented serenity within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Full of lush green countryside, the region is peppered with windmills, forests and canals, as well as historic sites including Highclere Castle, better known as Downton Abbey!

Alternatively, to the west of Oxford is the Cotswolds, home to some of the quaintest traditional villages in Britain. This picturesque region packed with honey-coloured stone houses and market towns covers more than 800 square miles, and provides a rich array food and drink come the autumn.

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Oxford

Close to Cambridge

View of New Court and the Bridge of Sighs over the River Cam from the Kitchen Bridge at St. John's College

A city of architecture, history and romance, Cambridge offers the chance to discover the medieval university grounds, the perfectly punt-able River Cam and curiosity-inducing Fitzwilliam Museum.

Under an hour by car or train from the Hogwarts-esque university city, if you’re keen to soak up some of Britain’s quieter, yet similarly charming gems, plan a visit to Bury St Edmunds. From the historic Abbey ruins and St Edmundsbury Cathedral to Britain’s smallest pub, this hidden gem offers a slice of heritage away from the crowds.

Alternatively, travel just a few miles north of Cambridge and you can enjoy the woodland, lakes and delightful cycle paths at Milton Country Park, an outdoor haven that glows golden red come autumn.

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Cambridge

Brighton's coastal delights

A family of four people, two adults and two children on bicycles on a cycle route through rolling downland in the South Downs National Park.

Moving down to the coastal charm and quirky individualism of the south coast, the city of Brighton boasts a plethora of outstanding attractions – from the dizzy heights of the British Airways i360 and the panoramic sea views on offer to the iconic pier and quirky shopping district known as The Lanes.

But those wanting to mix up their city break with a taste of refreshing countryside can hop over to Devil’s Dyke, nestled along the South Downs Way, just five miles from the city centre. As the largest dry valley in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, here you can soak up the rolling hills and resplendent beauty of this part of the South Downs National Park.

Alternatively, venture just over an hour’s drive from Brighton’s coast to get to the heart of High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is home to stunning countryside, as well as numerous vineyards that are harvested in October and November.

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Brighton

Bristol to bluebells

Clifton Suspension Bridge with hot air balloons

A vibrant hub of creative energy, the south-western city of Bristol gives you the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of its cobbled streets, music-filled pubs and marine-side eateries. Must-see experiences include taking in views from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, seeing real Banksy artworks, wandering the decks of the historic SS Great Britain and exploring the M Shed, a museum chock-full of local history.

But a taste of the countryside can be found a stone’s throw from these must-sees– including the tempting green space of Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve, easily spied from the top of the famous suspension bridge. Mixing city views with bluebell carpets and rich woodland nestled above the dramatic Avon gorge, this expansive green space transforms to an unforgettable golden hue each autumn, and offers a slice of tranquillity in the heart of the city.

Skip to the east and explore the stunning south Cotswolds area – home to the bountiful botanical collection at Westonbirt Arboretum. Alternatively, travel less than 20 miles south of the buzzing city to discover the dramatic natural beauty of Cheddar Gorge in the Mendip Hills. An awe-inspiring 400 feet deep and three miles long, the expansive Cheddar Gorge showcases Britain’s outstanding natural beauty while taking you on an unforgettable scenic journey.

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Bristol

Soak up Edinburgh

View from Salisbury Crags at sunset. Young man standing on a footpath along the cliffs at the top of a subsidiary spur of Arthur's Seat which rise on the west of Holyrood Park, overlooking Edinburgh.

If you’re keen to plan a Scottish escape which mixes both city and countryside, start in the capital city of Edinburgh. After booking tickets to the unmissable Edinburgh Castle, walking through the historic Royal Mile and sparking your curiosity at the National Museum of Scotland, feel your everyday stresses melt away as you discover the nearby natural beauty spots.

One such outdoor gem is the short, sharp walk up to the dizzy heights of Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, where vista-chasers can experience expansive, dazzling views over the city from more than 250 metres above sea level.

Just a few miles from Edinburgh’s city lights, visitors can lose yourself while exploring the epic 24,000-acre Pentland Hills Regional Park, complete with 100km of walking paths and an abundance of wildlife. Four family-friendly short circular hiking trails guide you through the captivating hills, while there are plenty of unmarked trails if you’re keen to explore at your own pace.

 

Different attractions will have varied measures in place. You are encouraged to check all location, attraction and event websites before travelling, so you can explore Britain with confidence.

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Edinburgh
16 Sep 2020(last updated)

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