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July 02, 2012

2012 London Olympics Preview: Eight Great British Trip Ideas

HOWZAT?!: Game of village cricket in England (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Choreographed by Oscar-winning British director Danny Boyle (of Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting fame), the opening ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London promises to be a full-on tribute to Britain's green and pleasant land—complete with live cattle, a village cricket game, and farmers plowing their fields. However, don't let the silver-screen impresario leave you thinking your work is done once the pageantry fades on Friday, July 27. Here's our guide to getting out and actually exploring this green and pleasant isle before, during, or after the 2012 Summer Olympics.

1. Watch a Real Village Cricket Game
Rain be dammed, sipping a hand-pulled ale while watching a game of cricket unfurl on some bucolic village green is one of England's summer rites of passage. Finding a game may require some legwork on your part, but they can be watched on parks and commons throughout the metro London region, mostly at weekends. Shoreham Cricket Club is one such local club, tucked amidst the picturesque fairways of Kent's Darenth Valley golf course.
Travel: Victoria or London Bridge to Shoreham
Duration: Day trip

2. Walk in the Footsteps of Chaucer's Pilgrims
Getting to the historic town of Canterbury was previously an hours-long drag until the advent of high-speed rail service from London St. Pancras several years ago, which takes advantage of newer Eurostar lines. Now you can whiz to Canterbury in a little over an hour to visit the majestic World Heritage-listed cathedral, ancient Roman ruins, and take a scenic boat trip down the River Stour.
Travel: London St. Pancras to Canterbury West
Duration: Day trip

3. Get Your Feet Wet in "London-on-Sea"
It's not exactly Santa Monica, but Brighton is generally considered London's beach. The town rose to prominence during the genteel Edwardian era, though today its rep is much hipper and edgier. Brighton boasts a lively night scene, with bars, clubs, and plenty live music. The pebble-covered beach does an adequate job of standing in for the French Riviera (sort of).
Travel: London Bridge or Victoria to Brighton (East Sussex)
Duration: Day trip or overnighter

4. Stroll in the Queen's Backyard
Don't expect Betty to come out and offer you a cup of tea, but 4,800-acre Great Windsor Park opens out onto the Queen's favorite pied-a-terre, Windsor Castle. The park's Long Walk is a pleasant 5.5-mile leg stretcher that offers good views of the castle as well as plenty of quiet spots at which to picnic.
Travel: London Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central
Duration: Day trip

5. Take a Left from the Olympic Spirit
The granddaddy of socialism, Karl Marx, might forever be tied to communism and the USSR, but he spent the last two decades of his life living and writing in London (it was in the reading room of the British Museum that he wrote his defining critique of capitalism, Das Kapital). So when the rampant commercialism of the Games gets to you, head up to Highgate Cemetery in North London to pay tribute to the German philosopher. He is buried here, along with other notable occupants like Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), and the parents of Charles Dickens.
Travel: Northern Line (Tube) to Archway, followed walk up Highgate Hill or bus (210,143, 271) to Waterlow Park
Duration: Half-day trip

6. Stay in the Festive Spirit By Going North
Edinburgh's three-week Festival Fringe overlaps the Summer Games by several days and provides the perfect opportunity to extend your UK visit from sport to culture (not to mention, visit one of Britain's most enjoyable cities). The city will be abuzz with dance, music, comedy, and outright artistic madness. Book ahead to make sure you can find accommodation.
Travel: London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley
Duration: Weekend trip

7. Let It Rip in "Madchester"
Rest assured, the great and good of British music—Sir Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Coldplay—will feature prominently throughout the 2012 Summer Games. And while Liverpool may be the home of the world's most iconic band, the Beatles, look south to its neighbor and rival, Manchester, for the thumping heart of the British music scene. The city that gave us New Order, Oasis, the Stone Roses, and the Smiths is still going strong. Head to the Northern Quarter for the pick of the bars, clubs, and live-music venues.
Travel: London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly
Duration: Overnight or weekend trip

8. Walk on the Weird Side
Britain's not all about stately country homes, genteel garden parties, and the world's most orderly lines. It's also the country of eccentrics, garden-shed tinkerers, and batty explorers. Liverpool rewards the curious with Southport's British Lawnmower Museum (what would Wimbledon be without a few of these) and the Liverpool Maritime Museum's Seized! exhibition, where you can peruse expected as well as bizarre smuggling busts made by British custom officers.
Travel: London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street
Duration: Overnight or weekend trip

For help planning train travel throughout the United Kingdom, visit

Have other favorite trip ideas for travel throughout the United Kingdom? Tell us in the comments section.

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Related Topics: European Travel · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Trip Ideas


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