Four midweek micro-breaks from London

This article is part of a guide to london by FT Globetrotter

“London is too big,” novelist William Boyd once observed from his home in Chelsea. “It’s quicker for me to get to Oxford than to Stoke Newington in north London, easier to get to Cambridge than to visit a colleague who works for a newspaper in Wapping.”

As we begin to spend more time in the office again, it can be easy to forget that the hills and valleys outside of London are often closer than we think. Escape to the countryside by train can prove quicker than commuting, and on arrival there is no shortage of pubs and inns offering the kind of rural rest that no boutique hotel in Soho can. hope to match.

So go for the mid-week micro-break. Whether you’re a Londoner in need of a breath of fresh air or a visitor on a short break looking for what’s out of town, the following staycations are all accessible by train in time for dinner and you will return to the capital after breakfast.

The Crown Inn, Buckinghamshire

16 High Street, Amersham, Buckinghamshire HP7 0DH

  • Best for: Gastronauts

  • Distance from London: 25 miles

  • How to get there: Trains from London Marylebone to Amersham depart every half hour and take 35 minutes. Metropolitan line trains from Baker Street to Amersham take 50 minutes

  • Website; directions

A four-poster bed and TV in a Crown Inn room
As seen in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’: The Crown Inn, in Amersham © Issy Oakes

Nestled in the Chiltern Hills, Amersham feels far further from the capital than its convenient tube stop would suggest. A short walk through the woods from the station will take you to the main street of the old town, where, among the picturesque red-brick facades (some of which date from the 15th century), you will find The Crown Inn. The Grade II-listed Elizabethan property’s 45 rooms and outbuildings make the most of its beams and planks while adding modern touches like Nespresso machines and roll-top baths courtesy of designer Ilse Crawford. Choose one of the high-ceilinged Courtyard Suites if you want to emulate inn guests Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell. Four weddings and a funeral.

A dish of chicken on a plate at Hawkyns at the Crown Inn

Pan-Indian cuisine with modern British influences at Hawkyns. . .

    The dining room at Hawkyns: tables and chairs under a beamed ceiling

. . . The Crown restaurant by chef Atul Kochar, two Michelin stars

Beyond its quaint pubs, market hall and memorial garden, Amersham has plenty of good restaurants: across the street is the Michelin-starred Artichoke (open for dinner Wednesday-Saturday ), which relies on locally sourced berries, herbs and mushrooms, with two entirely vegetarian. tasting menus available. Even closer to your bed is Hawkyns, the Crown’s excellent restaurant, run by chef Atul Kochhar, which offers pan-Indian cuisine with modern British touches. From £118 B&B

Cricketers, Essex

Clavering, near Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 4QT

  • Best for: Wicket keepers

  • Distance from London: 40 miles

  • How to get there: Trains from London Liverpool Street to Newport (Essex) depart every half hour or hour (depending on time of day) and take approximately 60 minutes. Cricketers can arrange transfers from the train station, which is about a 10-minute drive away

  • Website; directions

The exterior of The Cricketers pub, with green umbrellas in front
The Cricketers is a 16th century inn in the Essex village of Clavering

One of the hottest days of the year, when the train tracks were blazing and the tarmac was melting, I was hiding from the sun in a shady pub garden with a beer and a bucket of freshly fried whitebait. It was under the broad green parasols of The Cricketers in Essex that I found myself as the country collectively closed its curtains and refrigerated its flannels. Much like the sport that gives it its name, this 16th-century inn in the village of Clavering is quirky and reassuringly relaxing (also best enjoyed with a pint in hand). Room keys duly have red balls attached to them, and there’s a well-maintained ticket desk guarded by a thatched-roof pavilion just down the road.

Seating area in the Cricketers dining room

The Cricketers serves “bright, seasonal flavors in elegantly styled spaces” © Emma Cabielles

Plates of meat and potatoes, vegetables,

Much of the pub’s produce comes from the region

Dispel any preconceptions you may have about the county. Head off in any direction and you’ll soon find yourself in the countryside of its northwest corner, a pretty patchwork of wheat fields and, lending the village their name, the odd patch of clovers. Much of the produce on The Cricketers menu is also sourced from the surrounding region, and this is reflected in the bright, seasonal flavors served in the pub’s stylishly decorated spaces. How ? From £119 B&B

The Merry Harriers, Surrey

Hambledon Road, Hambledon, Surrey GU8 4DR

  • Best for: llama whisperers

  • Distance from London: 40 miles

  • How to get there: Trains from London Waterloo to Milford leave every half hour or hour and take 50 minutes. The Merry Harriers can arrange transfers from the train station, which is a five-minute drive away

  • Website; directions

One of the 15 resident llamas of the Merry Harriers

One of the 15 resident llamas of the Merry Harriers. . .

Guests walking through a meadow from The Merry Harriers pub

. . . will join you for a gentle hike from the Surrey Hills pub © Fiona Mills (2)

Among the 15 rooms at the 16th century Merry Harriers in the Surrey Hills are five colorful and cozy shepherd’s huts. However, you won’t find any sheep grazing on the gentle slopes around the hostel. Instead, your neighbors for the night will be 15 affable llamas, who make a living hiking with guests and partaking in the odd outdoor yoga session.

The herd is just one of the many charms of the pub. Walks (with or without llamas) in the surrounding Area of ​​Outstanding National Beauty start at the bottom of the garden – a 2.7 mile circular route will take you through the village to a view of the South Downs. Bikes can also be hired from nearby Surrey Hills Cycle Hire, although the Lycra-clad regulars I met at the pretty beer garden all brought their own.

The exterior of The Merry Harriers pub, with a corner of its gardens in the foreground
The Merry Harriers is in an Area of ​​Outstanding Beauty © Fiona Mills

The menu features generous, well-executed classics – just right after an evening stroll – while plenty of beers and gins are offered by nearby Crafty Brewing Co and Village Spirit Collective. Perhaps best of all, The Merry Harriers is a pub for locals as much as a hostel for travellers, which brings the bar to life after the sun goes down. Shepherd’s huts from £240 B&B

The Mermaid Inn, East Sussex

Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7EY

  • Best for: ghost hunters

  • Distance from London: 65 miles

  • How to get there: Trains from London St Pancras to Rye via Ashford International depart hourly and take just over an hour

  • Website; directions

The front of The Mermaid Inn, facing a cobbled street and characterful white and brick old English houses
The 15th century Mermaid Inn sits in the heart of Rye at its most charming © James Ratchford

You can tell that when the Mermaid was built in 1420, it was always intended to be an inn. With its courtyards, cellars and secret passageways, it’s as authentic a medieval tavern as you’ll find near London – a sort of “living museum”, to quote current owner Judith Blincow, who looks after both guests and ghosts in the 31 rooms. In fact, only six of them are supposed to harbor ghosts – mine was largely mindless since an old rocking chair, prone to rocking on its own, had been moved down the hall. Either way, the low beams and crimson curtains create a feeling of both deep comfort and period charm.

A four-poster bed, wood-paneled walls, a large blocked fireplace and a wood-beamed ceiling in one of the bedrooms at The Mermaid Inn
It’s behind you: six of The Mermaid’s 31 rooms are said to be haunted © James Ratchford

There’s a two-AA rosette restaurant serving fine dining, plus an atmospheric bar where you can well imagine the Hawkhurst smuggler gang lounging around, as they did in the 18th century, with loaded pistols on the table. Rye itself is a hilltop maze of cobblestones and wood, one of the historic Cinque ports on the south coast; and although the waters have since moved south, Rye Harbor Nature Reserve, home to 300 rare and endangered animal species, offers a thousand acres of walking and bird watching. From £150 Bed and Breakfast

Do you have any tips for a mini-break from London? Share them in the comments

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