As you gaze out of your window at the concrete jungle around you, do you daydream of rolling green fields, lungfuls of fresh crisp air, the sights and sounds of nature, and mouthwateringly wholesome food?
For our London-based Friends, we know how tempting the thought of escaping the city is, especially after being cooped up during lockdown. But time is a precious commodity in our hectic lives. You want to be able to hotfoot it out of work on a Friday and be in the countryside as soon as possible.
So to help you make the most of your downtime, we've rounded up eight easy escapes from London that will take you less than 90 minutes to reach by car or train - perfect for a weekend getaway. Grab your overnight bag, head for the hills and escape the everyday at one of these beautiful staycation spots.
Opposite the church at the heart of pretty Mickleham and set below beautiful Box Hill, the 16th-century Running Horses is popular with local foodies, walkers and cyclists exploring the glorious North Downs landscape.
Formerly known as the Chequers, it gained its equine name in 1828 after a famous incident at the Epsom Derby, when two horses past the winning post at exactly the same time, a race that became known as the Dead Heat Derby. The pub retains much of its period character and oozes traditional charm and atmosphere. The whole feel is relaxed, eclectic and informal.
No car needed: London Victoria or London Waterloo to Dorking (58 minutes); the inn is a 6-minute taxi drive from the station.
Hop on the train from London Bridge and arrive in the Hertfordshire countryside within 50 minutes. The rambling, 15th-century Farmhouse at Redcoats is a family run restaurant and hotel that really has the wow factor.
You'll find quirky details, historic features, stylish interiors and a passion for locally sourced food. The Cowshed Bar has become a destination bar in its own right locally and offers a great selection of tipples. On warm evenings, enjoy your drink on the terrace and savour the views across fields.
No car needed: London Bridge to Hitchin (48 minutes); the inn is a 10-minute taxi ride from the station.
Enjoy childhood nostalgia with a stay in the heart of Winnie-the-Pooh country. The distinctive Dorset Arms dates to 1595 and is in the middle of the Ashdown Forest.
Recently restored, the inn retains the charm of a traditional pub with an emphasis on offering quality food prepared from local and seasonal produce. The nine stunning bedrooms each have individual features and are designed to reflect the history and character of the pub.
Locally, there's a huge amount to see and do, from Hever Castle to Poohsticks Bridge in the Ashdown Forest, a wander around Royal Tunbridge Wells or discovering the gardens of Sissinghurst Castle to name just a few.
No car needed: London Charing Cross to Tunbridge Wells (54 minutes) then a 15-minute taxi ride to the inn.
An idyllic country inn surrounded by sweeping fields in all directions, this is one of Hampshire's best kept secrets and once you visit you will want to keep it that way! Both the literary-themed country chic bedrooms and quirky-cosy bar and restaurant are brimming with character - you'll find a menagerie of curious objects on every surface, and walls adorned with paintings, portraits and inspirational quotes.
The menu champions traditional and seasonal British fare, and there's a spacious garden terrace for al fresco wining and dining. The Anchor Inn is well placed for exploring the magnificent South Downs National Park and historic sites such as the home of 18th century writer Jane Austen and the medieval city of Winchester.
No car needed: London Waterloo to Bentley (Hampshire) takes just over an hour; find the inn a 5-minute taxi drive from the station.
As village pubs go in this historic part of the world, the 15th-century Sun Inn deep in Constable country presents a pretty typical look, with beamed ceilings, several open fires and stripped wooden floors.
It thrives as a laid-back pub serving local ales in a comfortable front bar; as a great place for lingering meals in a rambling, atmospheric restaurant; and, with its smart rural-chic bedrooms, as the perfect weekend getaway.
The restaurant is known for its delicious Italian-inspired fare, and has won various accolades. A real gem just a mile from the A12.
No car needed: London Liverpool Street to Colchester (48 minutes), then a 14-minute taxi drive to the inn.
Built as a malthouse in 1641, this fine-looking Cotswold-stone inn is perfectly positioned to make the most of the stunning views over the Evenlode valley and its nature reserve. Transformed into a dining destination, the decor and furnishings have been finished to an incredibly high standard - with no compromises.
Adam Taylor took over The Feathered Nest in summer 2019 and with former Michelin starred head chef Matt Weedon, they have developed an informal country inn, offering hearty dishes within an innovative, locally sourced and seasonal à la carte menu, as well as a 6-course evening tasting menu.
No car needed: London Paddington to Kingham (1 hour 20 minutes); the inn is a 8-minute taxi drive from Kingham station.
Discover this historic treasure set below the magnificent South Downs in sleepy South Harting. Step inside to find a rustic, untouched interior and a series of cosy rambling rooms that ooze character and traditional charm - think rugs on oak floors, aged beams and glowing log fires in big stone fireplaces.
The White Hart is the place to hunker down with the daily paper after an invigorating downland hike - walks radiate from the front door.
No car needed: London Waterloo to Petersfield (about 1 hour); the inn this a 9-minute taxi ride from the station.
The most coveted address in Bedford is De Parys Avenue, a wide, tree-lined street with grand Victorian villas in a peaceful location within walking distance of the river and the town centre.
Housed in one of these charming and charismatic buildings is d'Parys, an impressive inn where period features successfully combine with a cool, contemporary design and vibe, so expect the unexpected and a dose of quirk throughout the building. Note the ceiling made of colourful doors and blinds in the restaurant.
The fabulous alfresco terrace, shaded by a vast sail canopy, is the place to sip sundowners on warm summer evenings.
No car needed: London St Pancras International to Bedford (40 minutes to 1 hour); the inn is a 5-minute taxi ride or a 20-minute walk.
Last updated: 07.05.21