I recently stayed in the beautiful English city of Leicester – mainly because I wanted to see the Cathedral and grave of Richard III you might like to (read my blog about the Churches in Leicester). It’s such a beautiful historical and multicultural UK city. As there are some fantastic day trips from Leicester, it’s worth staying for an extra few days to explore the castles and historical towns and cities nearby. Today’s blog is all about the best day trips and places to visit near Leicester.
Best Places to visit near Leicester
If you are based in Leicester long term, it’s possible to take day trips from Leicester to some of the most famous cities in England including Oxford and Cambridge.
Melton Mowbray is an archetypal English market town built on a solid tradition of farming and fox hunting. This is the quickest and easiest of the day trips from Leicester and will give you a taste of true England.
Famous for its fine food and drink, the Borough has become the centre of fineness for local food producers. Famous for its pork pies and Stilton Cheese, the town of Melton Mowbray is home to a fantastic number of food and drink festivals that take place through the year. These include the Melton Mowbray Food Festival, ChocFest, the UK’s PieFest and the largest Artisan Cheese Fair in the country. It is no wonder that Melton Mowbray is renowned as the ‘Rural Capital of Food’.
However, there’s more to Melton Mowbray than food. Twinlakes Park offers a great day out for the family with water rides, animals and picnic areas to enjoy. The local Carnegie Museum is an interactive centre where children can enjoy learning about the local area and see exhibits such as the two-headed calf! The town itself is steeped in history and there is a walking heritage trail that explains the heritage of the town
Belvoir Castle is an imposing castle that stands to the North East of Leicestershire, commanding outstanding views from where its name derives from the meaning `beautiful view’- now pronounced Beaver the castle remains as one of the most magnificent and beautiful Regency houses in England. The castle was designed by James Wyatt it was built in the early 1800 for the 5th Duke and Duchess of Rutland and is the fourth castle to stand on the site. It is always with Great pleasure that the Duke and Duchess invite you to their home to enjoy and share its many grand and unique rooms and layers of history, as well as numerous paintings and treasures that have been collected by the family for nearly 1,000 years.
Famously the home county of William Shakespeare, who hailed from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire is crammed with historic sites, castles and the beautifully green rolling fields and forests of the English countryside. Warwick is one of the most popular day trips from Leicester.
In the town of Warwick itself you’ll be able to explore some inspiring historic sites, from the medieval Collegiate Church of St Mary to the magnificent Warwick Castle. Dating all the way back to 1068, Warwick Castle has been a part of British history for nearly a thousand years. It’s been besieged, captured, and repelled enemy attackers on many occasions, so it’s seen its fair share of action! Today this strikingly kept castle makes for a great day out, staging exhilarating medieval events like falconry and jousting, and some cool immersive experiences like the castle dungeon. This 15th century Collegiate Church of St Mary’s is the centrepiece of the historic town of Warwick and considered to be one of the supreme examples of English Gothic architecture in Britain. Parts of the church date back even further back, to the 12th century. Explore this beautiful testimony to the skills of the medieval craftsmen who built it
Shrewsbury is full of finds to be discovered during your visit – a blockbuster in a Tudor cinema, a sell-out Folk Festival and the world’s oldest Flower Show. By boat or by foot, the River Severn is a must see, as is the café culture, the churches and the castle that dominate Shrewsbury’s well-known skyline.
Shrewsbury Castle is home to remarkable collections of pictures, uniforms weapons and other memorabilia from the 1700’s to the present day, seen in the Shropshire Regimental Museum in the castle.
Shrewsbury Art Gallery and Museum has short-term exhibitions by cutting edge artists, work inspired by Charles Darwin who was born in the town and Roman artefacts and work discovered at nearby Wroxeter. The Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery also has a permanent exhibition of pre-history and a roman gallery.
Finally, St Chads Church planned by George Stuart (who also planned Attingham Park), is where where lies the grave of Ebenezer Scrooge – a prop left over from the filming of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and where Charles Darwin was christened in 1809.
Well-heeled riverside spa town, Leamington Spa is renowned for its stunning white Regency architecture and lush parks and gardens, has a quirkier side with a vibrant and creative independent scene. You will find vegan cafes, boutiques, art galleries and a Farrow & Ball. Jephson Gardens is a gorgeous formal Victorian park right in the centre of Leamington Spa. It’s the ideal place for a family picnic or relaxing stroll. Lots of colourful flowerbeds and interesting sculptures make for a great day out as well as the indoor tropical house. There are also some great traditional English pubs in Leamington Spa!
Another attraction is Victoria Park. Victoria Park was opened in 1899 to mark the Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and offer more recreation space for the growing town. Throughout the 19th century it was the venue for galas, military parades, flower shows and circuses.
A riverside path had originally been created along the south bank of the River Leam in the early 1860s. Finally, The Royal Pump Rooms is home to Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, Leamington Library, Visitor Information Centre, the Royal Spa Centre’s Box Office, together with a Café and Assembly Rooms. The building initially encompassed Royal Leamington Spa’s finest spa baths and assembly rooms but was then renovated in the late 1990s to become a centre for tourism and culture.
Stratford Upon Avon
Uncover the historic town and the birthplace of Shakespeare when finding the finest things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon. The Royal Shakespeare Company has a total of three theatres in Stratford. The performing arts centre named The Other Place is in town, while two have a cool riverside location: the flagship Royal Shakespeare Theatre where you can see many of the Bard’s well-known works, and the more cherished Swan Theatre that stages plays regularly by Shakespeare’s colleagues and later writers.
The MAD museum is also a popular attraction. This art/design museum is the only permanent venue for this type of art in the country. Sourced from artists and inventors all around the world, the interactive sculptures – or ‘kinetic art’ – include marble runs, 3D faces and flying mechanical birds. Finally, for fans of William Shakespeare, go to visit his birthplace. This house is somewhat of a shrine as it is where the renowned bard was born and grew up.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace welcomed visitors for over 250 years. Go and see the rooms where he dreamt up all those world-famous plays and where he spent the first five years with Anne Hathaway of married life. There are costumed guides, exhibitions, live performances, gift shop, café and a garden.
Up there with the UK’s best towns for quality of life, Grantham in southwest Lincolnshire is most famous for producing a colossal historical figure.
Sir Isaac Newton was born not far away in a tiny hamlet and was a pupil at Grantham’s King’s School. With the sixth highest spire in the country, St Wulfram’s Church is a parish church with the scale of a cathedral. The origins of this building are Saxon, but most of the stonework is from the 13th to the 16th centuries.
The first of many stately homes within striking distance of Grantham, Belton House is often considered the archetypal English country house and is maintained by the National Trust. The architecture is in the opulent Restoration style, dating to the 1680s, and was refined with each generation as the resident Brownlow family rose in social status. The tour will take you through a series of sumptuous halls and rooms, decorated with 18th-century Mortlake tapestries, an Aubusson carpet, intricate plasterwork and marble fireplaces.
With plenty of attractions and history right in the middle of the city and its surroundings, Nottingham is a fantastic place for a day out. Nottingham has a famous Rock scene and is excellent for alternative shopping. It also has a very famous campus style university.
For another relaxed day out, why not pay a visit to Newstead Abbey, a stunning 12th-century house, situated on 300 acres of beautiful grounds packed with waterfalls and lakes. Newstead Abbey was home to the much-admired romantic poet Lord Byron from 1808-1814. The Abbey crowds an assembly of portraits, letters and even the very desk at which Byron wrote much of his work. It’s not all love and romance, though, as the site acts as host to a variety of events including an outdoor theatre, food festivals and more, so there are loads of reasons to pay Newstead Abbey a visit. The grounds and cafe are open every day, while the house is only open during weekends and school holidays.
Annoyingly, to get the train to Oxford from Leicester you have to change in London, which is a bit of a pain and can take over two and a half hours. However, if you have the luxury of access to a car, you can drive from Leicester to Oxford in about 1 hour 40 mins, making it more doable as a day trip from Leicester.
Oxford has impressive spires and picture-postcard cobbles that little cities can match. The University of Oxford tour is a behind-the-scenes tour of the city’s architecturally splendid university, led by guides who know its colleges, quads and hidden corners best. It’s a world-leader in terms of research, but you don’t need to wade heavily into this to simply appreciate this. It is a beautiful thing to look at.
Next, the Oxford Botanic Gardens & Arboretum are the UK’s oldest botanic garden and a stunning 130 acres of woodland for you to escape the busy city and recharge in. On their own, Oxford’s botanic gardens would be enough to celebrate. The scientifically important grounds and glasshouses contain more than 6,000 types of plant.
The university also manages the Harcourt Arboretum, a short 10 minutes’ drive from the centre. Bonus points if you plan your trip at the right time to see the bluebell wood in its full, blooming glory.
Finally, Pitt Rivers Museum is oxford’s world-famous museum of archaeology and ethnography where you can expand your brain looking at some very, very tiny heads. It’s not often people genuinely get excited about a museum.
Although there is a lot to see in Oxford, it is possible to spend just one day in Oxford and cover a lot of ground.
It’s possible to get the train from Leicester to Cambridge in around 2 hours – slightly less than that if you have a car. There are plenty of things to do and see in Cambridgeshire, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, Milton Country Park and more.
Punting is the national pastime of Cambridge and one of the best ways to see the city. To get within sniffing distance of Cambridge and not go punting is like going to Pisa and not seeing the leaning tower. The brave and the skilled do the stick-bit themselves, but if you’re a first timer book a gondolier-like guide to navigate the River Cam for you.
Next, the Botanic Gardens are 40 acres of gorgeously green (and pink and yellow and red) gardens owned by Cambridge University, where you can earnestly study horticulture or snooze on the lawn. Cambridge’s botanic gardens are an Arcadian paradise hidden behind a fairly nondescript entrance at the station end of town. What make them different from other city gardens is the woodland vibe they give off. Lose yourself in a maze of lush foliage and leave all your troubles behind.
Finally, the University tour provides a student’s eye view of the world-famous university, giving visitors an insider’s introduction to its most beautiful nooks and crannies.
As a city, Cambridge is pleasantly condensed and simple to navigate on foot. The same is true of the university, which dominates the centre. Take a walk through the institution with real-life Cambridge students who know it best as a guide.
What are your favourite day trips from Leicester? If you have any ideas please comment on our blog below.