Ever since I went adventuring in Bristol last year, I’ve been really keen to do more UK weekend breaks. Because while travelling around Europe and further afield is awesome, it’s sometimes easy to forget that I have some fantastic places to visit outside my ‘own backdoor’. Metaphorically, at least, my actual back door only leads to my overgrown garden, but you get what I mean.
For a start the UK is pretty…well, pretty. This post proves it. We have gorgeous landscapes, fun things to do, amazing architecture and brilliant food and drink. You’re close to home so don’t need to worry about losing your passport the night before, spending a fortune on using your phone or getting through airport security.
Having friends that are based all around the country, I’ve spent a fair bit of time around some of the big cities of England and Scotland. I don’t have a car, and hiring one’s expensive, plus I’ve never driven on a motorway (blame my north Norfolk roots for that one). Coaches are cheap as chips, but also take bloody ages. So my favourite way to travel around the UK is the easiest one – by train. It’s comfortable, convenient and a great way to check out the scenery of the UK countryside as you travel. Plus, there’s a bar. I like that part a lot. Starting your weekend of fun with a post-midday prosecco? Perfect.
Recently, Virgin Trains celebrated their 20th anniversary (with a fun performance that you’ll find a video of at the bottom of this post!), and in partnership with their celebrations, I’ve compiled a few of my favourite UK cities (and one I’m yet to visit…) that are super easy to get to from London by train, to spend a day, a night, or even a long weekend in…
Spend a day in Birmingham
Time by train from London: 1h 22mins
I haven’t actually been to Birmingham in a while now, save for a changing trains stop-off quite recently. I’ve visited friends there quite a lot though, and I was actually pretty surprised at how much I liked it. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from Britain’s second largest city, but there’s actually a whole lot to do for culture lovers, food and drink fans and shoppers.
The Library of Birmingham is one of the most architecturally impressive modern buildings in the city, with its geometric circular patterns. Inside, you’ll find rare book collections and a ‘secret garden’ with views over the whole city. Birmingham Cathedral has impressive stained glass windows, and the Coffin Works gives a fascinating, if slightly morbid, peek into how this former business created some of the world’s finest coffin furniture.
As well as the Bullring and Grand Central for all your mainstream shopping needs, there are also plenty of more boutique and unusual places to explore. The Custard Factory isn’t a place where you can learn about how the yellow stuff’s made – it’s the city’s Creative Quarter, where independent shops and businesses call home.
If you’re there for longer than a day, there are also some awesome places to visit a little further out. The Black Country Living Museum is an immersive open air attraction exploring 300 years of history, where you can potter around the shops and houses. And for chocolate lovers, a visit to Cadbury World is a must!
Spend a night in Liverpool
Time by train from London: 2h 14mins
If you head out early on a Saturday and travel back late on a Sunday, you’ve got plenty of time to pack in the best that Liverpool has to offer.
Albert Dock is a great starting point for exploring the city, especially when the sun’s shining. These renovated red brick dock buildings are now home to museums, cafes and shops, including the Tate Liverpool and The Beatles Story, an exhibition all about the city’s most famous musical export. If you’re a big Beatles fan, there’s loads more Fab Four related places to check out!
Other things to do that don’t involve the city’s musical history? Swing by Liverpool Cathedral and the Liver Building and be impressed by their architecture, or experience the more sombre, thought-provoking International Slavery Museum.
When it comes to nightlife, I have plenty of fond memories of being out in the city. The Hope and Anchor is an awesome place to start your drinking, with craft beers, cocktails and boozy smoothies (#drinkclean?). I also have much hazier memories of dancing around to my fave rock and pop punk tunes in The Krazyhouse.
Spend a day in Stoke-on-Trent
Time by train from London: 1h 24mins
Stoke-on-Trent is the only place on this list I haven’t actually been to myself, but after seeing Erica’s post about it, I really want to go!
As well as visiting big cities, I really enjoy taking trips to places that are a bit smaller and offer the ‘traditional English’ kinda experience. The main draw for me towards Stoke-on-Trent is their pottery attractions. You’d expect nothing less from the World Capital of Ceramics. There are over 20 pottery factory shops in Stoke, so it’s a perfect place to pick up gifts. And if you want to give something truly one-of-a-kind, you can take part in a pottery workshop and create your own piece.
For when you’re all ceramic-ed out, take a stroll around the gorgeous Trentham Estate. As well as the beautiful gardens, there’s also a MONKEY FOREST. The monkeys are allowed to roam free, so visitors making their way down the woodland trail have the chance to see them up close.
Spend a long weekend in Glasgow
Time by train from London: 4h 31mins
Everyone seems to have Edinburgh pretty high up on their UK travel lists. And it’s on mine too. However, I have a lot of love for it’s West Scotland counterpart, Glasgow.
The Hogwarts-esque style of Glasgow University makes it a great place to walk around on a sunny day – you can even take a guided tour to learn more about the University, buildings and architecture. Check out some art at Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum, take a stroll through stunning George Square and take a tour of Wellpark Brewery, the home of Tennent’s lager. There’s also the Glasgow Necropolis, where over 50,000 bodies are buried, filled with striking monuments.
Plus, going by train is a pretty cool way to get there. Sure, you could fly – but you’d miss out on the parts of track that go through pretty countryside – from the Lake District right up to rural Scotland. Four and a half hours will fly by!
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All four of these awesome UK destinations are easy to get to with Virgin Trains. Check out how they celebrated their 20th birthday at Euston station with this video, and let me know your favourite places to visit by train in the comments!
*Post written in collaboration with Virgin Trains.
Images from Shutterstock.
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