If you are spending 7 days in London, you will have time to take at least one or more day trips from London. There are many destination options and two that are great for families are Stonehenge and Oxford. You can take the train from London to many popular spots like Bath or Oxford. But if you want to combine destinations, you can either rent a car, take a coach bus tour, or hire a private driver guide. If you are there in the summer you can even check out some of these beaches near London. If you have the time, there are so many great places to visit in Southwest England.
Since we had our hearts set on seeing both Stonehenge and Oxford, a bus trip was out of the question. Not that I would recommend a bus trip with a family anyway, but they are cost-effective. Unfortunately all the bus trips usually add in another spot like Windsor Castle — nothing was exactly what we wanted.
Also, after driving on the left in Ireland, I wasn’t excited about the prospect of driving through the English countryside on this trip. And there was no way I wanted to attempt to drive within London. If anything we would have taken the Heathrow Express back out to the airport and picked up a car there.
I scoured the Internet for hours looking for an option until we eventually decided it would be worth it to hire a private driver guide to provide us with exactly the trip we were looking for. I wanted to make sure we included a Harry Potter tour on our Oxford day trip, since we were planning the ultimate London trip for Harry Potter fans. But I also wanted someone that could explain Stonehenge’s rich history to us, versus just exploring the world’s most famous stone circle on our own. I found just what I was looking for with British Tours.
2 Day Trips from London
British Tours offered me a media rate for purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Located about 1.5 hours from London, a Stonehenge day trip is one of the most popular for families. There is just something about those mysterious prehistoric stones that fascinates kids and adults alike — especially families like ours that have a special interest in sci-fi and fantasy. After all, isn’t it fun to imagine that those stones were placed there by aliens? (But don’t worry, they weren’t.)If you are visiting Stonehenge on your own, you will want to spend some time in the visitor center to understand its history. You will park at the visitor center up the road and then take a shuttle over to the stone circle. You can no longer walk right up and touch the stones, as barriers have been erected to preserve this historical site.
Our driver-guide Michael from British Tours filled us in on the history of Stonehenge on the ride up from London. We don’t really know the purpose of the stones, since they are 5100 years old (built around the same time as the pyramids) and pre-date written history.
We don’t know what is special about the area, but we have to assume that the whole area was considered sacred as there is also another mini Stonehenge nearby. The smaller stones are 5,000 lbs. and they came from Wales 125 miles away. It is mind-boggling to consider how the ancient Druids crafted and moved these stones when the wheel hadn’t even been invented yet and there was no metal yet to use to shape the stones. The larger stones came from only 25 miles away but they are tens of thousands of pounds!
They even rounded the stones slightly to make them fit the circular shape of Stonehenge (henge meaning circle.) In the middle is what they call the Slaughter Stone. There is no real evidence of ritual sacrifice at Stonehenge but it does make for a good story. You see, when it rains, the stone looks reddish. But it isn’t blood, just iron in the stone that causes the coloration.
Our Stonehenge private tour just happened to fall on one of the most popular days to visit — the Winter Solstice. The longest and shortest days of the year are popular to visit and if you get there early on the longest day of the year, you can see the sun rise above the Heel Stone (a stone that actually predates Stonehenge that the Druids may have thought was put their by the Gods.) Even though there were plenty of pagans and other visitors camping out to see the sunrise and sunset over the stones, overall it really wasn’t very crowded for our Stonehenge tour.
Oxford is another great day trip pick for families. There is enough to see that you could spend a weekend in Oxford. This university town is both quaint and rich in history. In warmer weather, families can enjoy taking a punting boat out on the river. But one of the main draws for us (and other families) is that it was the filming site for many scenes in the Harry Potter movies. If you visit on your own, you can join a Harry Potter walking tour. But since I told British Tours that this was important to us, our driver guide Michael was able to focus much of our visit on seeing these sites.
Oxford used to be called Oxenford (where oxen crossed or forded the Thames to be brought to market), but it became a place for study after students were thrown out of the Sorbonne in France because of a war in the 1200s. They came to Oxford to study and it grew until it was granted status as a University. Today, the University of Oxford has 38 individual colleges.
There is so much to see in Oxford you can really spend at least a full day but our Oxford tour started off at New College, where Michael pointed out the Cloisters, which were used for many hallway scenes in the Harry Potter movies. You can also see the tree where Draco Malfoy was turned into a ferret.
After lunch at the Turf Tavern, which has fed any number of famous people from Bill Clinton in the 1960s to Elizabeth Taylor, Ben Kingsley, and the cast and crew of the Harry Potter movies, we moved on to Christchurch College.
The Great Hall at Christchurch College was where they filmed scenes for the dining hall at Hogwarts. And the staircase was where McGonagall greeted all the first year students in the first movie. Something about it just makes you want to put on a robe, head into the library and start studying (magic or something else!)
Oxford is such a wonderful place to visit for those with a literary bent. Famous authors like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Lewis Carroll and others have spent time in Oxford and it is fun to follow in their footsteps.
Visiting both places was a full day, departing at 8am and returning to our central London hotel by 6pm. In the summer, it would be light longer and attractions would stay open later. If that was the case, we would have included a stop in the village of Lacock in the Cotswolds, another Harry Potter filming site.
Even though I was sick in bed with a stomach flu, Glenn and Hannah really loved this day tour with British Tours. It was exactly what we had hoped for with a warm and informative guide that was as comfortable explaining ancient history as describing filming sites for Harry Potter movies. Michael was able to connect with our teen and she was so enchanted with Oxford, that she wants to apply to go to college in Oxford. We would definitely recommend working with British Tours for a group trip or, even better, hiring a private driver guide for your own custom trip from London.
British Tours offers all types of day tours from London including private and group tours to Windsor Castle, Bath, Stratford Upon Avon, Blenheim Castle, and Highclere Castle (the real Downton Abbey.)
- Find out what else to do in London this with 7 day London itinerary
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- Get our recommendations on where to stay in London with kids
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