50 brilliant day trip ideas from London

Take a tour from London to explore Stonehenge, Windsor, and beyond.

Some of Britain's most intriguing and beautiful places are just a short train or car ride away from London. Within a couple of hours, you can be strolling around a stately home, marvelling at a majestic cathedral, seeing the remains of an ancient relic or having lunch in a haunted, historical pub. So if you're in a need of some day trip inspiration or can' t decide where to go, scroll down to discover 50 of the UK's most impressive attractions, and discover more things to do nearby. And if you fancy staying the night, well, we wouldn't blame you.

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Hastings

Search for shipwreck remains on the beach

At the lovely, independently run Shipwreck Museum, you can learn about the history and artefacts recovered from shipwrecks in the area, and at very low tide, explore the sites of two local wrecks. Beneath the sand of Bultherhythe beach, The Amsterdam, which ran aground in 1749, is said to be virtually intact.
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© Shipwreck Museum Hastings
72 miles
Charing Cross

Margate

Forage for fossils at Botany Bay

There are fossils to be found at low tide on this sandy beach near Broadstairs in Kent. You'll be surrounded by the iconic white cliffs and chalk stacks that give this part of the UK its familiar stamp. While you're there, nip into Broadgate or head over to Margate for a wander around.
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© VisitEngland / Diana Jarvis
81 miles
St Pancras International

Bath

Relax in mineral water at a rooftop pool

Even the Romans living in Bath 2,000 years ago didn't have a rooftop spa overlooking the city. Using the hot, mineral rich waters from three springs, and housed in a complex of Grade I listed buildings, the Thermae Bath Spa pool can be used both day and night.
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© visitbath.co.uk / Bath Tourism Plus / Colin Hawkins
115 miles
Paddington

Oxford

Browse ancient items at the Pitt Rivers Museum

The Pitt Rivers Museum has been around since 1884. Its curious collection includes Amazonian shrunken heads, a tribal costume from Captain Cook's Second Voyage to Tahiti and North American Plains skin shirts decorated with porcupine quills, among its 275,000 objects. A third of the collection, which is free to visit, is archaeological, with finds still coming in from across the globe.
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Photo: geni. Licensed under GFDL via Commons
59 miles
Paddington

Newbury

Spot rare birds and wildlife at the Nature Discovery Centre

The vast Thatcham Reedbeds nature reserve teems with wildlife all year round - from the wildfowl in the winter to the swallows in the summer. Visit a hide to spy all the birds as they fly past. You'll have to look closely to see the tiny, and rare, Desmoulin's snail which is thriving here.
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c/o Nature Discovery Centre © Rob Appleby
55 miles
Paddington

Portsmouth

Explore the underground tunnels of Fort Nelson

This imposing Victorian fort overlooks Meon Valley and Portsmouth Harbour. Built to combat the threat of Napoleon, the main highlight (aside from the guns) is exploring the underground tunnels where ammunition was once kept.
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Ian Stannard via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/silly_little_man/5466353236/
77 miles
Waterloo

Great Missenden

Have a flushbunkingly gloriumptious day in the Roald Dahl Museum

This imaginative museum is dedicated to classic children's author Roald Dahl, and aimed squarely at 6 to 12 year olds. Dahl wrote some of his famous books in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire and kids can trying on his character's costumes and join in with other “fantabulous” activities.
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© Roald Dahl Museum
45 miles
Marylebone

Canterbury

Take a tour down the River Stour

There award winning Canterbury Historic River Tours have been taking passengers down the River Stour, which connected Canterbury to the continent in Roman and Medieval times, since 1932. In 40 minutes, their knowledgable guides will float you past a 13th century chapel, a 12th century bridge and hospital, as well as the iconic Canterbury Cathedral.
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© Canterbury Historic River Tours
62 miles
St Pancras International

Portsmouth

See where Charles Dickens grew up

Author Charles Dickens was born, and spent his early years, in Portsmouth. The Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum is decked out in Regency style, as it would have been when he lived there. His novel Nicholas Nickleby is influenced by his time in the city.
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© Portsmouth City Council
75 miles
Waterloo

Portsmouth

Gaze across the Solent from Spinnaker Tower

After 30 seconds in a glass-bottomed lift, you'll arrive at Spinnaker Tower's panoramic viewing platform. At 170m high, this sleek, sail-like structure named after an ocean-going yacht, is the the tallest tower outside London, and a great way to see Portsmouth from the sky. On a clear day, you can see right across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
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© Portsmouth City Council
76 miles
Waterloo

Winchester

Find Mona Lisa on a street bollard

If you wander round Winchester city centre, you might spot a Picasso, Da Vinci or Matisse painting - on a bollard. Designed by local artists from The Colour Factory, they first appeared in 2005 and now there are 19 iconic images to see around the square.
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© Winchester City Council
68 miles
Waterloo

Margate

Go retro at Britain's oldest amusement park

Historic seaside pleasure park Dreamland re-opened its rides in 2015 after a major refurbishment. Harking back to the Golden Age of the day trip, you can try retro rides from every decade and visit the Grade II listed attractions. They also have modern adrenaline-fuelled rides and traditional seaside entertainment.
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© Dreamland
77 miles
St Pancras International

Cambridge

Take a punt under the Bridge of Sighs

Pack your camera, hire a punt, and glide under the Bridge of Sighs - one of the most photographed parts of Cambridge. Built to create a link over the River Cam between two of St John's Colleges in 1831, this Grade I listed structure has to be one of the most romantic passages in the UK.
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© VisitEngland / Iain Lewis
64 miles
London Kings Cross

Salisbury

Visit the mysterious Stonehenge

Stonehenge dates back 4,000 years, but still we're no closer to understanding why, or how, it was built. While the iconic stones (from Wales) are the big draw, don't miss the other prehistoric remains near this World Heritage Site: a cemetery, Bronze Age burial mounts at King Barrow Ridge and a Neolithic village at Durrington Walls.
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© Shutterstock
88 miles
Waterloo

Dover

Try the Battle of Britain Scramble Experience

The new Spitfire-shaped Wing Building at the National Memorial to the Few commemorates the 3,000 men who took to the skies in the crucial Battle of Britain. As well as paying tribute to the pilots, the multimedia Scramble Experience gives a sense of what it would have been like in 1940. The cockpit lookout from Capel-le-Ferne, on the famous white cliffs, also gives amazing views across the Channel towards France.
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© Battle of Britain Memorial
77 miles
St Pancras International

Bath

Walk around 2,000 year old Roman Baths

These Roman Baths are so significant, they've been deemed a World Heritage Site. Thanks to their unique hot springs, the baths here have been an attraction for more than 2,000 years. The warm water contains 43 minerals and the atmospheric Great Bath gives you an idea of health and leisure, Roman-style.
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© visitbath.co.uk / Bath Tourism Plus / Colin Hawkins
115 miles
Paddington

Bath

Uncover ancient graffiti in Bath's Prior Park

The Palladian bridge at Prior Park is only one of four with this design in the world. It was built in 1755 by Ralph Allen, former Postmaster of Bath, with help from poet Alexander Pope and spans the two lakes. Even the graffiti here is historic, with some of the scrawls dating back 200 years.
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© visitbath.co.uk / Bath Tourism Plus
116 miles
Paddington

Manchester

Shop in an ecclectic indoor market

Browse the famous vintage emporium, Afflecks, in Manchester's Northern Quarter to see these creative mosaics. The famous store, in a vast Victorian building, houses alternative and independent shops where you can buy jewellery, fancy dress, gothic clothing or get a tattoo. Even Lady Gaga visited in 2014.
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© Visit Manchester
219 miles
Euston

Manchester

Visit a medieval library in Manchester

One of the finest public libraries in England, and certainly the oldest in the English-speaking world, is home to scores of important books. Originally built to house priests in 1421, this medieval marvel still has exquisite furniture and original features in its interior to see.
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© Marketing Manchester
220 miles
Euston

Manchester

Snap the street art in the Northern Quarter

Whenever you visit the Northern Quarter in Manchester, keep an eye out for the latest street art. New pieces are added all the time to some of the more established “graffiti” style art. The areas around Church Street and Stevenson Square are good places to start your creative tour.
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© Marketing Manchester
218 miles
Euston

Bournemouth

Zip down to the beach

While the Edwardians would think a quick dip and a stroll along the promenade at Bournemouth the height of excitement in the 21st century there's a quicker way to head to the beach. Take the world's first pier-to-shore zip wire and fly for 30 seconds up to 80 feet above the sea on the PierZip the ultimate way to arrive in style.
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© Tourism South East
107 miles
Waterloo

Cambridge

See the intricate insides of King's College Chapel

King's College Chapel has the largest fan vault in the world, as well as exquisite medieval stained glass. Henry VI founded the college and began building the iconic chapel in 1446. Their Christmas Eve service is famously broadcast across the globe, and millions listen to the spiritual sounds.
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63 miles
London Kings Cross

Oxford

Stay overnight in a converted prison

You can stay the night in both a former medieval castle and converted prison at the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford. Part of the Oxford Castle complex, you can also take a tour of the neighbouring listed buildings, including a trip up the Saxon St George's Tower, or go deeper underground into its 900-year-old crypt.
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© Malmaison Hotels
58 miles
Paddington

Windsor

Go deer-spotting in Windsor Great Park

Take the Long Walk flanked by trees to the famous Deer Park in Windsor Great Park - also known as the Queen's “garden”. The grounds near Windsor Castle were once a Norman hunting ground, and were enclosed in the 13th century. The red herd you can see grazing were introduced by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1979 from the Balmoral Estate in Scotland and is now 600-strong.
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© VisitEngland/Doug Harding / Doug Harding Photography
29 miles
Paddington

Dover

Explore the rooms and tunnels of Dover Castle

This well preserved fortress has protected the British Isles for nine centuries. From repelling a siege by the French in 1216, to helping mastermind the Dunkirk evacuation in WWII from its underground tunnels, it also has one of the finest Saxon churches in the country and a Roman lighthouse to discover.
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© English Heritage
76 miles
St Pancras International

Milton Keynes

Discover the codebreaking secrets of Bletchley Park

Once a secret location known only to a few, now the legend of Bletchley Park is open to the public. By walking around the WWII codebreaking huts and blocks, you'll learn how codebreakers like Alan Turing cracked the German Enigma machine, and saved millions of lives by shortening the war.
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c/o Bletchley Park ©ShaunArmstrong/mubsta.com
54 miles
Euston

High Wycombe

Descend into the hidden Hellfire Caves

Directly beneath St Lawrence's Church and Mausoleum in West Wycombe you'll find the mysterious Hellfire Caves. Built by Sir Francis Dashwood in the 18th century, you can descend 400m underground to visit the spooky hidden chambers, made by workers on the estate, and once home to the notorious Hellfire Club.
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Image by Johnantoni via Flickr Creative Commons
34 miles
Marylebone

Southampton

Learn about the sinking of the Titanic

More than 500 Southampton households lost a family member in the Titanic sinking, and you can learn more about that fateful voyage at the SeaCity Museum. The unique interactive experience, suitable for all ages, brings the area's maritime history to life, alongside stunning special exhibitions in the museum's Pavilion extension.
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hahnchen at Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SeaCity_Museum.jpg#/media/File:SeaCity_Museum.jpg
79 miles
Waterloo

Bristol

Walk across the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Clifton Suspension Bridge goes over the River Avon, and took 33 years to complete. A young Isambard Kingdom Brunel won a competition to build it 1864. This struggle to finish the engineering feat of its day is highlighted in the bridge's Latin inscription: SUSPENSA VIX VIA FIT - “A suspended way made with difficulty”.
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120 miles
Paddington

Southampton

Visit the remains of a 13th century priory

Pilgrims once visited Mottisfont to see the forefinger of St John the Baptist on their journey from Winchester to Salisbury. These days, a less gory sight awaits in the charming grounds and historic house. Wily Augustinian monks used to pretend the priory had been damaged by a Hampshire earthquake to raise funds, but in fact, plenty of the 13th century building remains.
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Sue Hasker via Flickr Creative Commons
79 miles
Waterloo

Winchester

Walk around an Iron Age fort at Danebury Hill

Now a great spot for picnics with a view, for the Iron Age settlers, Danebury Hill was the perfect place for protection. Built 2,500 years ago, the remains of the fort can be seen near Nether Wallop, and give you an idea what life back then was like. More than 16,000 boxes of ancient artefacts have been excavated over the years.
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Image by benjgibbs via Flickr Creative Commons
75 miles
Waterloo

Bristol

Enjoy the cafe culture on Bristol's Floating Harbour

The rivers in the Bristol Channel have the second greatest tidal range in the world, which led to the Floating Harbour being built in 1809 to stop ships getting trapped in the mud at low tide. You can take one of the heritage trails or boat tours around the area, or keep yourself entertained in the old harbourside warehouses, which are now cafes, bars, shops, museums, galleries and nightclubs.
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Mark Boyce via Wikipedia Commons
119 miles
Paddington

Oxford

Follow Tolkien into the Eagle and Child pub

While it became a pub in 1650, it was in the 1930s that authors J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit) and C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) used it to host meetings for “The Inkings” reading group in the back room. Now you can sit and sip a real ale in one of its cosy nooks and crannies, or just read a book in a pub which influenced 20th century literature.
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Ryan Baumann via Flickr Creative Commons
58 miles
Paddington

St Albans

Have a pint in Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, the UK's oldest pub

The oldest pub in the country has been pulling pints since the 8th century (it's even in the Guinness Book of Records). Having survived the English Civil War, it's now an award-winning real-ale and gastro pub, where you can sit back after a wander around St Alban's Verulamium Park and soak up some of the history.
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© Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
25 miles
Blackfriars

Beaconsfield

Drink in the haunted Royal Standard of England

There's been an alehouse on this site for over 900 years, with early patrons the Saxons enjoying an ale, while the Celts were partial to cider. The oldest freehold pub in England has survived everything from Viking raids to the English Civil War. Did we mention it's haunted?
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© Royal Standard of England
30 miles
Marylebone

Canterbury

Sit by the fire in the traditional Ye Olde Yew tree Inn

The oldest pub in Kent (1348), Ye Olde Yew Tree Inn still retains many of the features you'd associate with a proper countryside pub, including beams and fireplaces. Queen Anne, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Dick Turpin are reputed to have visited the inn over the years, with two ghosts from the Civil War among those who never left.
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66 miles
Charing Cross

Colchester

Stroll around a Jacobean mansion at Audley End House

The Jacobean mansion house Audley End is famous for its early 17th century architecture and outstanding gardens. When you venture inside you get an idea of its opulence, with state apartments, dressing rooms, libraries and a gothic chapel to explore. You can also visit the horses in the Victorian stable yard and watch a riding display.
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© English Heritage
48 miles
Liverpool Street

Winchester

Find the mysterious figure in Winchester Cathedral's crypt

Head down inside Winchester Cathedral to see the enigmatic figure that stands alone in its crypt. Sculptor Anthony Gormley used his own body cast to create the statue, called Sound II. The fact the crypt floods often adds to the ethereal quality of the crypt, which, along with the transepts, is all that remains of the Norman-built cathedral.
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© Winchester Cathedral
68 miles
Waterloo

Winchester

Watch gin being made at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery

According to the Domesday Book, there's been a mill on the site of the beautiful Bombay Sapphire Distillery since 1086. Once owned by William the Conqueror and Henry VIII, it also produced banknotes. Take the tour to learn about the ten exotic botanicals used in their gin, as well as their unique Vapour Infusion distillation process - there's a gin cocktail waiting at the end.
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© Winchester from Tourism South East
75 miles
Waterloo

Dorchester

Wander and ponder the Cerne Abbas Giant

It's almost impossible to miss Britain's largest chalk hill figure, which stands a proud 180 ft tall on the hillside in Dorchester. However the man's identity, and indeed date of creation, remains locked in the mists of time. Whether it's an ancient symbol of fertility or a warrior based on Hercules, the Giant is a striking sight above Cerne Abbas in the Dorset countryside.
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Image by marky444 via Flickr creative commons
133 miles
Waterloo

Dorking

Climb the Leith Tower for amazing countryside views

This Gothic tower marks the highest point in southeast England. Climb the 74 steps to reach the top, and you'll be able to see across 14 counties. On a really clear day, through their telescope, you can set your watch by the clock face of Big Ben in London.
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Image by Lukes_photos via Flickr Creative Commons
37 miles
Victoria

Dover

Be a lighthouse keeper at South Foreland

South Foreland Lighthouse was built to warn mariners about the treacherous coastline below the White Cliffs. It was also the first lighthouse to shine an electric light in the world. Climb to the top of the tower to get a keeper's view of the ships going past in the channel. You can also borrow kites to fly on the cliffs.
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Image by Archangel12 via Flickr Creative Commons
78 miles
St Pancras International

Hastings

See art on the beach at the Jerwood Gallery

There's a fine collection of 20th and 21st century British art to be seen on the coast at Hastings. Few art galleries in the world have been built to incorporate a beach, but the Jerwood Gallery was designed to blend in with the shingle and nearby net huts of the local fisherman.
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© Tourism South East
67 miles
Charing Cross

Canterbury

Make a modern pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral

If you're familiar with Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, you'll know that Canterbury Cathedral was a major tourist attraction in the 12th century. Back then, pilgrims flocked to the shrine of the murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket. Today, it's part of an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and renowned for its medieval stained glass collection among other architectural gems
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© Paul Spree
62 miles
Charing Cross

Winchester

Meet Ralph the penguin at Marwell Zoo

At Marwell Zoo, you can see tigers, snow leopards and giraffes and hundreds of other animals in a 140 acre park in the Hampshire countryside. Keep a special eye out for Ralph, the Humboldt penguin. O'Neill made him a bespoke wetsuit as he moults his feathers early and it stops him getting cold or sunburnt
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© Marwell Zoo
74 miles
Waterloo

Cambridge

Visit the Medieval Round Church in Cambridge

Queen Victoria, Bill Gates and the Dalai Lama are among those to have visited Cambridge's second oldest building. One of only four medieval round churches in England and built in 1130, it was inspired, and named after the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Now Grade I listed it has its own visitors centre.
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© VisitEngland / Iain Lewis
65 miles
London Kings Cross

Windsor

Eat, drink and shop in an old Victorian Railway station

Queen Victoria used to wait for her train back to London from Windsor in what is now the Windsor Royal shopping centre. Housed in the converted Grade II listed Victorian railway station opposite the castle, you can browse high-street stores while admiring the original Jubilee arch and cobbled stones, among other original fixtures and fittings.
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Image by xiod_crlx / dmitry g via Creative Commons
24 miles
Paddington

Brighton

Eat quality seafood in Brighton's Fishing Quarter

Brighthelmstone was a small fishing community until the 1700s, when it began evolving into the city we now know as Brighton. Head to the Fishing Quarter and the Fishing Museum to find out more about its maritime origins before trying the catch of the day at the Brighton Shellfish & Oyster Bar, one of the oldest stalls on the seafront.
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Image by Garry Knight via Flickr Creative Commons
54 miles
Victoria

Brighton

Go inside Brighton's Royal Pavilion

This surprising Indian and Chinese style palace has become one of England's most iconic buildings. The interior of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, designed by John Nash and built by King George IV, is like a work of art. You can visit the royal bedrooms and the incredible Great Kitchen, which the King himself used to do tours of.
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Thinkstock
54 miles
Victoria

Peterborough

Step inside a prehistoric roundhouse

Flag Fen is a prehistoric and Bronze Age archaeological site near Peterborough. It's as historically as significant as Stonehenge, and during the summer you can walk around the atmospheric roundhouses to find out how our ancestors used to live. Discovered by archaeologist Francis Pryor MBE in 1982, the unique ritual causeway and platform, used for offerings, was preserved by the wet, peaty soil.
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©Flag Fen Archaeological Park. Vivacity Culture and Leisure Trust
87 miles
London Kings Cross