Stretch your Oyster card to the limits with a London day trip to the outer zones.
We really are creatures of habit, aren’t we? We like our home comforts, our trendy coffee shops and the option to go to a nice beer garden any time of the week… preferably all without stepping foot on a Tube, bus, or bike. It’s this attitude that means plenty of us rarely venture outside our local neighbourhood – and if you live inside Zones 1-3 on the Tube map (or are a frequent visitor looking for excitement beyond central London), that may just have prevented you from discovering some of London’s true treasures. Here are nine incredible places that lie in London’s outer zones, and are well worth taking a slighter longer train trip for!
1. Petersham Nurseries, Richmond (Zone 4)
Let’s start off with London’s prettiest garden centre, shall we? An artfully decorated (and thus highly photogenic) space filled with plants, gardening tools, and homeware, Petersham Nurseries also boasts a gorgeous café and restaurant with an always-excellent menu. Do bring the camera, but be warned that you’ll likely end up wanting everything in sight once you’ve wandered for more than five minutes… Read all about it here.
Petersham Road, Richmond, TW10 7AB. Nearest station is Richmond.
2. Eltham Palace, Eltham (Zone 4)
A royal palace once home to Henry VIII, Eltham Palace was given quite the makeover by millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld back in the 1930s. It’s now part Art Deco, part medieval, and all stunning, with that dazzling shot of Jazz Age glam complementing the naturally stunning gardens. A winter lights festival shouldn’t be missed, either. With trains leaving for Eltham from Charing Cross, you can be there in a jiffy!
Court Yard, Eltham, SE9 5QE. Nearest station is Eltham.
3. Morden Hall Park, Morden (Zone 4)
Too many visits to Morden occur when people fall asleep on the Northern line, and that’s a damn shame, because it’s home to one of the capital’s best green spaces. Once a deer park, this rural escape is now a haven for nature and wildlife, and rivals the likes of Hampstead Heath for tranquillity. Plus, it’s even further away from all that smog and pollution in the city centre, which can only be good for your lungs…
Morden Hall Road, Morden, SM4 5JD. Nearest stations are Morden, Morden Road, and Phipps Bridge.
4. Bang Bang Oriental, Colindale (Zone 4)
Chinatown may rule the roost in central London, but when it comes to Asian cuisine in Zone 4, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a tastier place than Bang Bang Oriental. At 32,000 square feet, it’s a serious chonky space that’s filled with all the Asian food you can manage, along with a community space for local residents, and plenty of beauty treatment options. The recipe for a perfect little trip! See more here.
399 Edgware Road, Colindale, NW9 0FH. Nearest station is Colindale.
5. Eel Pie Island, Twickenham (Zone 5)
Eel Pie (one of the best place names around, right?) is a crumb of land in the middle of the Thames that once was the UK’s biggest hippie commune. The island is home to over twenty working artists and their studios, along with and lots of boats – but believe it or not, the peaceful hidden gem used to be a venue for some of the most successful rock stars of the 1960s! Accessible only by footbridge, it is definitely worth a visit. Read more here.
Eel Pie Island, Twickenham. Nearest station is Twickenham.
6. Painshill Park, Cobham (Zone 6)
The magical Painshill Park is a bit of a trek from the centre of London, but once you see those statues, bridges, temples, and the infamous grotto. A folly built by Irish aristocrat Charles Hamilton, who rather indiscriminately picked out his favourite sights from his travels and had them recreated in Surrey, it’s a pretty unforgettable place to visit. And since it’s just within the M25 border, we’re claiming it as London. More info here.
Portsmouth Road, Cobham, KT11 1JE. Nearest station is Cobham & Stoke d’Abernon, and then a bus.
7. Ruislip Lido, Ruislip (Zone 6)
Want to hit the beach but don’t want to schlep it all the way to Brighton or Whitstable? Pop along to the end of the Piccadilly line to find Ruislip Lido, a nature reserve with a neat little beach. A mini train can whisk you around the lake, but you won’t be able to take a dip here, as swimming is forbidden. On sunny weekends, you may need to fight for a space on the sand, too. Get the full details here.
Ruislip Lido, Reservoir Road, Ruislip, HA4 7TY. Nearest stations are Ruislip and Northwood Hills.
8. Hampton Court Palace Maze, Molesey (Zone 6)
Love getting turned around in a maze with no way out? Oddly specific fantasy, but we won’t judge – in any event, you’ll find these thrills at Hampton Court Palace, where the hedges have been shaped into a labyrinthine challenge for royals to enjoy for years. Now it’s your turn to tackle the maze, which should take about 20 minutes and (hopefully) won’t cost you any friendships/relationships. The rest of Hampton Court Palace is well worth exploring since you’re in the area. See more here.
Hampton Court Way, Molesey, KT8 9AU. Nearest station is Hampton Court.
9. Mayfield Lavender, Banstead (Zone 6)
This stunning lavender field becomes one of our must-visit places in London once the purple blooms begin in late June and early July. It is, simply, tranquillity personified (so long as you can dodge the Instagram shoots happening around you). Afternoon teas and bee safaris can also be enjoyed amongst the sea of purple, and the gift shop overflows with lavender scented products that let you bring the magic home from the outer zones. Find out more here.
1 Carshalton Road, Banstead, SM7 3JA. Nearest stations are Purley and Belmont.
Once you’ve conquered the outer zones, why not enjoy a lovely day trip a little further afield?
Also published on Medium.