Granted, London is an amazing place but it can also be stressful one. Escape the daily grind for a weekend of relaxation in any one of these dreamy locations, just a short train ride away from the hustle and bustle of the Big Smoke. We share our favourite weekend trips for culture vultures.
Brighton - Kinky and Colourful
A little over an hour train ride from London, Britain’s gay capital awaits. As the city that The Cure's weird and wonderful frontman Robert Smith calls home, it’s hardly surprising that kinky and colourful Brighton is a place where anything goes. Bohemian, hedonistic and delightfully wacky, Brighton has all the best bits of London with none of the stress. After all, how could you do anything but unwind when you’re breathing in all that invigorating sea air? The pebble beach is big, beautiful, and perfect for a day of people-watching and fish-n-chips. What’s more, let your love affair with nature continue by heading to the South Downs National Park. Just twenty minutes outside of the city, the “lungs of South East England” boast spectacular views and picturesque walking routes.
Moving on to a different kind of relaxation, Brighton is also known for its buzzing café culture, and Pelicano is one of the best. Located in the bright and bustling North Lanes and spread across two floors, with street-seating and a garden, there’s ample space to enjoy their delightful assortment of sandwiches, cake and coffee. Other honourable mentions include Marwoods and the Plant Room Café.
Norwich - The Cultural Hub
Possessing the same kind of charm as fellow East-Anglian city, Cambridge, the lesser known Norwich is a great alternative for curious travellers. Home to a fluctuating football team, TV chef Delia Smith, and cringe-worthy comic creation Alan Partridge, the city is a cultural hub and was designated England's first UNESCO City of Literature in 2012.
For art lovers, a trip to the Sainsbury Centre is a must. Located on the University of East Anglia’s campus, the visual arts space houses renowned works of art from the likes of Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso. Be prepared to spend a few hours looking around: there’s lots to see.
All cultured out? The Norwich Lanes, a series of windy, cobbled streets lined with an array of independent shops, are perfect to get lost in for a few hours. Nestled in one of the narrow streets is Biddy’s Tearoom. The shop, which has been lovingly decked out to feel like you’re in your great aunt’s room, serves up yummy cakes, finger sandwiches, and, of course, tea! Or, if you’re feeling energetic, go for stroll down by the city’s tranquil canal.
For dinner, pay a visit to The Library and enjoy an excellent meal in an absolutely stunning building, which was formerly the UK’s first public subscription library. Afterwards, head to The Maids Head Bar for a pint; it’s where Horatio Nelson had his first drink. Or for something more lively, try Gonzo’s Tearoom or The Birdcage an artsy boozer serving up cocktails and cupcakes. Its gallery space hosts everything from live poetry to DJs.
Osea Island, Essex - The British Hamptons
Located off the Essex Coast in the Blackwater Estuary, Osea Island is the best-kept secret when it comes to escaping the grind of the city. Reachable only by boat, helicopter or a causeway that was originally built by the Romans, the island, which is owned by famed music producer Nigel Frieda, is fast becoming one of the hottest getaways for London’s elite. Musicians from SBTRKT to Jessie J have recorded in Osea’s studios; while American star The Weeknd, chose Osea for his only 2015 UK date. It’s even being called “the British Hamptons”, in a nod to New York’s most upscale summer retreat.
Staying on the island, it feels like you’ve gone back to a simpler time. With just the stars for street lighting, and a total lack of cars, being on Osea gives you the chance to escape the myriad stresses, not only of the city, but of the 21st Century. The island has nine period cottages, six apartments, two beach cottages, and two houses available for self-catering holiday lets. It’s definitely not cheap to stay for the weekend, but it’s an experience you won’t fast forget. From the adventure of just getting to the island, to feeling like you are in a land that time forget when you arrive, Osea is a truly unique place. Want to know more? Check out the island’s Instagram account for pictures and event announcements: @oseaislanduk
Salisbury - A weekend with a historic twist
This medieval cathedral city is the place to be for history lovers. Salisbury’s ornate 13th century cathedral boasts the tallest spire in Britain (123 metres), along with the world’s oldest working clock, which was made in the 14th century. What’s more, the city is also home to one of only four surviving copies of the original 1215 Magna Carta manuscripts.
And if that wasn’t enough, roughly 8 miles outside of Salisbury lies one of the wonders of the world: the incomparable Stonehenge. Put a tick on your bucket list and explore the ancient landscape of the best known prehistoric monument in Europe on foot as you step inside Neolithic houses and discover the tools and objects of everyday Neolithic life. As a side note, it’s also well worth checking out the lesser known Avebury stone circle. Not only is the site less touristy, it’s also the biggest stone circle in Europe.
After a day at Stonehenge, head back to the city for some much-needed food. Salisbury boasts some excellent Indian eateries, like Café Diwali and Anokaa; while Eastern Chillout and Baroushka offer up some tasty Middle Eastern meals.
From an isolated island to the bright and bustling gay capital, there are plenty of places offering escape from the city for every kind of traveller. So, pack your bag, switch off your phone, and get ready to relax. It’s time for a holiday; you deserve it!