Everyone should travel to the historic city of London at least once. From history to culture, to its iconic architecture, there’s so much to see and do in England’s capitol city, that you could stay for a week and still have more to see.
But if you’re looking to take your next trip to England to the next level, why not explore some of the fantastic English countryside and must-see locations east of London?
We’ve rounded up our 5 favorite cities and villages within easy driving distance of London, and think that once you visit these landmarks you’ll fall in love with south-eastern England. From historic abbeys and castles, to literary walking tours, pubs and botanical gardens, the historic seaside cities and English countryside is an easy choice for an epic road trip from London. Drive to Discover everything that the south-eastern UK has to offer!
Read on to Drive to Discover the best places to visit east of London, England!
1. Historic Cambridge University
After picking up your car rental in London head northeast on either the M11 or the A1(M). The M11 is a beautiful drive and it’s a bit faster, so that’s what we recommend. You may want to visit the famed Cambridge University Campus to take in a reading or stop by the library, and the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens are a fantastic place to enjoy a romantic walk or to share a picnic with those you’re traveling with. If you don’t picnic and work up an appetite walking around, you can stop for afternoon tea at The Orchard, or grab a bite at the Urban Shed, a fantastic little restaurant with something for everyone. The Free Press is a great place to grab a pint in Cambridge – it’s pub which is located in a building which housed a printing press, so it has a great atmosphere and will give you a taste of the city’s history.
Next Stop: 1 hour & 12 minutes
2. Colchester’s Charming Architecture
You may not have heard of Colchester if you’re from the states, but Colchester is actually the oldest recorded town in all of England, which means that a stop here is a must for history-buffs or those who love quaint, historic architecture. There are numerous walking tours available which you can book in advance, and this is by far the best way to explore this curious little village and discover pubs, tea rooms, bookstores and much more.
Next Stop: 1 hour & 41 minutes
3. Whitstable by the Sea
To the ocean! In Whitstable you’ll catch your first glimpse of England’s southeastern shoreline, and the sea front offers a fantastic place to get out of the car, stretch your legs and enjoy the fresh salt air and beautiful coast of Whitstable proper. If you’re looking to get a bit of culture, the Whitstable Biennale festival is a great event in this seaside haven, and if you just want a snack and a pint, then stop into the Duke after your walk … it’s conveniently located just off the gorgeous beach.
Next Stop: 21 minutes
4. St. Augustine’s Abbey & a Walking Tour in Canterbury
If you’re a literature buff and a fan of Canterbury Tales, then you simply must stop in Canterbury for a themed walking tour … the ultimate fan experience in this city which is pedestrian friendly. And while you’re exploring this historic old city, be sure to stop at St. Augustine’s Abbey – a stunning landmark located just outside of city limits. Founded shortly after 597 AD by Saint Augustine and part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site, and we couldn’t think of creating a must-see landmarks list without it.
Next Stop: 29 minutes
5. Explore Deal Castle in Dover by the Sea
One of the most beautiful sites on the coast of England, Dover is a must-visit destination east of London, and we recommend Deal Castle as your first stop. If you’re traveling with children, they’ll love this iconic little castle which you’re free to explore from top to bottom, and if you’re ready for some exercise, you can walk to the seaside for some photos on the convenient cycling path, which runs from the castle grounds right out to the sea and along the coast. Deal Castle, built by Henry VIII, is an impressive structure and is considered by many to be the finest artillery castle in England, making it a fantastic stop during this road trip adventure.
For travelers with more time, we would suggest renting a car in Dover and traveling along the southern coast.
Final Stop: 1 hour 47 minutes
6. See More When You Explore Cities East of London by Car
After stops in these 5 historic cities and villages east of London, you’ll return to the airport to drop off your car rental at London Heathrow. While there’s a lot to do and see in the historic city of London, we think that the perfect way to make your trip unique and memorable is to take a day or two outside of the city to explore southeastern London by car.
Looking for additional road trip itineraries for the UK? Check out our other Drive to Discover guides where we explore the best places to visit in the United Kingdom including kid-friendly culture, scenic drives, and 7 sights in western Scotland you can’t miss.
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Explore the English Countryside with a Car Rental from Auto Europe
If you’d like additional travel inspiration for your trip to the UK, check out our UK Road Trips, and if you’d like to see how much you can save on your next trip by bundling your hotel reservation and car rental, give our travel specialists a call toll-free at 1-888-223-5555. We look forward to helping you plan the ultimate trip to England.