London life is vibrant, busy and brilliant, but every now and then we all need to take a break. Escaping the crush of the city and heading out into the wider world can be hugely therapeutic, but we can feel held back by the inconvenience and expense. However, there are plenty of amazing places that are within surprisingly easy reach of everyone's favourite city, and here are a few of them.
Tudor Splendor at Hever Castle Travel Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes by car (or just over an hour by train, then a twenty-minute walk)
Anne Boleyn didn't come to a particularly good end, but she did spend her life in some very nice houses. Hever Castle was one of them - a moated and apparently haunted 13th-century building with a fascinating history and exquisite gardens. This is the perfect place to get your mind away from worries about the future and demands of the present to immerse yourself in the past. Take in the extraordinary collection of Tudor portraits and find a corner of the garden to hide away in.
A Calming Sussex Retreat Travel Time: 1 hour 30 minutes from London Victoria
Pursuing a career in London, commuting every day and enjoying a hectic social life can be very intense, and may even lead to an overload of stress. Burnout is a real danger is you often work overtime (as many people do) and it can be hard to unwind, and over the months and years this stress can cause big problems. If you are feeling run down and overworked, and close to letting all this pressure getting on top of you, you can get a wellbeing boost and kick-start some good habits with a meditative weekend away.
This Vedic meditation retreat takes its attendees outside of the city and into the Sussex countryside. There you can take advantage of a beautiful country house, be guided in daily meditation and eat healthy, balanced food - enjoying a profoundly calming couple of days.
Quaint Thanet Seaside Travel Time: 1 hour 21 minutes from St Pancras. Just over 2 hours by car.
There isn't much that's more relaxing than a trip to the British seaside. Whether you're snoozing on the sand in baking sunshine or watching rain lash down over the sea from a cosy cafe, the coast is the perfect place to unwind. But Londoners needn't set off on the always long and sometimes gruelling to journey Cornwall on their next bank holiday weekend - they can follow in the footsteps of Seventies Eastenders head down to Thanet instead.
With a coastline of soft sandy beaches, Thanet may not have Cornwall's dramatic Atlantic coves, but it is advantaged by safer swimming and considerably warmer waters. Broadstairs is considered the most picturesque option, and you can visit Charles Dickens' Bleak House there. Margate, on the other hand, boasts retro British-holiday charm and the Turner centre for art-lovers, while Ramsgate has an extremely appealing Royal Harbour and excellent Blue Flag beach. With each town only 15 minutes from each other, on a long weekend you could visit them all (just remember that among the locals town rivalry is strong - so whichever you happen to be in at that moment is your favourite!)
Thames Camping, Oxfordshire Travel Time: 1 hour 40 Minutes by car
Image by Rod Allday CC BY-SA 2.0 creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
If you live in London and are remotely sensible, the idea of getting in the Thames is horrifying - all cold grey water and a good chance of catching the plague. But head a little upstream to Barefoot Campsites in Oxfordshire, and you can forget your city-dweller worries while wild swimming and canoeing the very same river that has defined London since its inception. This back-to-basics campsite is eco-friendly and nestled in stunning countryside - and with no electricity, you'll feel very far from London as you're sat around a log fire of an evening.
You can take your own tent, rent a "log pod" or even go all out with glamping, and spend a Wind-in-the-Willows-esque weekend messing about on the river.
Canterbury Pilgrimage Travel time: 58 minutes from St Pancras or an hour and a half by car.
Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Canterbury can be a pretty bustling city, but when you're feeling a little tired of London it still offers a perfect escape. If you can, visit outside of busy times and head off of the main street to visit the Cathedral, marvelling at this 1,400-year-old national treasure. The serenity of the Cathedral and its surrounding grounds can ease even the busiest mind, (monks definitely know what they're doing when it comes to creating a calming atmosphere!) and you really don't have to go far to find yourself in greenery just outside the city.
So whether you want to meditate, build sand castles, admire medieval architecture or take a dip in the Thames, an escape may just be around the corner.