Birmingham is great but sometimes you’ve got to get out of the city and spend the day somewhere new…
True, there are no beaches near Birmingham, but the landlocked location of this Midlands city mean that we’ve got loads of options for days out. East, west, south and north — whichever direction you travel there’s something exciting or idyllic to see. So, get your anorak out, put your sandwiches in the car, and treat yourself to a day trip somewhere wonderful. [Featured image: @andreagrahamuk]
1. Warwick Castle, Warwick
An hour’s drive from the centre of Birmingham lies one of the most magnificent castles in the UK. The original frame was erected in 1068 by William the Conqueror, so it has seen nearly 1000 years of British history. This is reflected in the architecture, which is diverse in style and character, because the castle has been refurbished many times. There are 64 acres of gardens surrounding the castle, designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and landscaped to perfection. Peacocks call the gardens home, adding to the grandiose atmosphere; an atmosphere wholly absent from the dark and spooky dungeons of the castle.
The Great Hall is full of artefacts from the armoury and, when you get peckish, you can either eat in the Undercroft Restaurant or sit by the river Avon and eat your sandwiches. If you pre-order tickets they will only set you back £13 per adult, or £18 if you want to see the dungeons too.
You can get a direct train from Birmingham to Warwick Station, which is around a mile from the entrance to the castle. If you drive, there is a car park, but expect to pay up to £10 to leave your car there. Find more information and tickets over on the website.
2. Alton Towers, Staffordshire
Everyone in the UK has heard of Alton Towers. With both a huge theme park and a waterpark, you could spend a few days here, exploring or simply riding Oblivion until you feel sick. There are over 40 rides at Alton Towers theme park and enough slides at the waterpark to keep anyone entertained for a day.
Theme parks are notoriously expensive, but if you bring a packed lunch and buy tickets online in advance, you can save some money. Tickets are £34 per person for the day and it’s £18.50 for a waterpark day pass. It’s not possible to travel all the way to Alton Towers on public transport from Birmingham, unless you’re up for getting a train and a bus, then walking for quite a while. However, it takes an hour and 20 minutes to drive there and standard parking is £6 if you’re willing to walk 15-25 minutes to get to the park. If you’re not then you can park just a couple of minutes away from the park for £18 if you purchase parking online.
3. Twycross Zoo, Twycross
Twycross Zoo is just a 40 minute drive from Birmingham city centre and it’s well worth a visit, even if just for the apes. It’s unique in the UK, in that it houses every type of great ape, including bonobos, chimpanzees, orangutans and the king of them all: gorillas. The recent birth of a baby northern white-cheeked gibbon and a black-headed spider monkey is indicative of the huge part the zoo plays in the conservation of critically endangered species. You can also see snow-leopards, Sumatran tigers, rhinos and tiny antelopes of the dik-dik variety. Adult admission varies in price depending on the season, but it is generally around £19.95 per person. There are places to eat at the zoo and picnic benches dotted around if you’d prefer to bring your own lunch. Parking is free!
You can pre-book tickets on the website and save 10% of the cost.
4. Cadbury World, Bournville
If you’re addicted to chocolate then Cadbury World will be like paradise. Not only can you eat a huge amount of chocolate here, but you can actually learn how it’s made and have a go at making some yourself. It is, naturally, home to the biggest Cadbury shop in the world and, as you walk around, you can discover the roots of Britain’s obsession with chocolate. There’s a café that serves hot chocolate made of actual Cadbury chocolate and all sorts of delicious treats. Plus, there’s a recreation of Bull Street as it would have looked in the Victorian Era, when Cadbury chocolate was first created.
Adult tickets, bought on the website, are £17.10 — but if you want to make some chocolate, it will cost you an extra £51. Entrance to Cadbury World with afternoon tea on arrival will cost you £23.50. You can get there by train or bus from Birmingham centre very easily — about 15 minutes on the train or bus and then a 10-15 minute walk. Parking is free but it can get busy. However, there are lots of places to park around Cadbury World, if you’re willing to pay for it.
Stratford-upon-Avon is known worldwide as the birthplace and final resting place of playwright and poet William Shakespeare. Subsequently, it is also home to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Naturally, the town draws tourists with an interest in Shakespeare from across the globe.
People come to visit the five houses associated with Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway, and it can be very expensive to pay for entrance to each house individually. It’s therefore advisable, if you’re planning on visiting a few of the houses, to pay for a ticket covering entrance to all five. Entrance to all of the houses, valid for 12 months, costs £23 per adult.
The house in which Shakespeare was born and grew up is an amazing place to visit, as is Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother’s, farm, which will take you back in time to the Tudor period. It still functions as a working Tudor farm, and there are plenty of animals to coo over. You can also visit Anne Hathaway’s cottage, which was her childhood home. It’s a quintessential, English Tudor cottage with a beautiful garden to explore and a lovely little café attached.
Shakespeare’s New Place is the site of Shakespeare’s final place of residence. Sadly, the house has been demolished but the gardens are still there and make for a pleasant walk. There is also a little museum to commemorate the importance of the site.
The final place of interest is Halls Croft, home to Susanna, Shakespeare’s daughter. Her husband was a physician, so the gardens are filled with plants that have medicinal qualities. Subsequently, the displays are based around Tudor medicine.
If you’re looking to watch one of Shakespeare’s plays then you can always visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. You can even participate in a Tudor lesson at Shakespeare’s old school room for £7.65, if you buy tickets on the website.
You can get the train to Stratford-upon-Avon from Birmingham Moor Street Station.
6. Malvern Hills, Worcestershire
The Malvern Hills are officially an area of outstanding beauty. The view from these hills is amazing and an hour on the train from Birmingham New Street will get you to the town of Malvern. Malvern is a town once famed for its natural springs, and you can see the important role that water has played in the town’s history with a visit to St. Ann’s Well. The building was erected in 1813 and houses a marble spout and basin, carved beautifully. St. Ann’s Well is also the site of a café, which is perfect for refreshing yourself after a lovely saunter around the hills.
The main walking routes use parts of the Worcestershire Way, which, in its entirety, runs for over 30 miles. However, if you like a walk but you’re not up for a huge trek, there are walks of around a mile or so. Details of the different routes often travelled by visitors to the area can be accessed on this handy website, which also includes maps of the routes. You can wander through the hills and beautiful fields of wildflowers, only an hour from the busy streets of Birmingham.
7. Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire
The Iron Bridge that greets you as you drive toward Ironbridge Gorge was the world’s first ever iron bridge, built in 1779. The area was once mined for its valuable contents, including coal, limestone and iron ore. As a result of this, many people flocked to the area, such as blacksmiths, because of the abundance of material needed to craft their wares.
The bridge was built to demonstrate the versatility of and importance of iron. While it was once surrounded by smoke and pollution as mined material crossed the River Severn, it is now a very calm and beautiful place to sit.
You can just drive up to the bridge and come and go at your leisure, for free, but a visit to the museum costs £25.15 per adult, if you buy it online.
The Peak District is absolutely huge, sprawling out into south Yorkshire, west Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Greater Manchester. There is a year’s worth of days out contained within this area.
The town of Bakewell is a brilliant place to start exploring the Peaks. It is the home of the Bakewell tart! If you’ve never eaten a proper Bakewell tart before then prepare yourself for something entirely different to the shop-bought variety. There are loads of little tea rooms to sit in and there are shops selling the kinds of things you’d expect to find in the countryside – artisan jams and lovely old books.
Walking to the top of Mam Tor won’t take you long and the view from up there is astonishingly beautiful. Or you could take a stroll along Stanage Edge and gaze out toward the stunning Derbyshire countryside. Alternatively, venture underneath Peveril Castle into Peak Cavern, more commonly known at The Devil’s Arse, for £9 per adult.
It takes around an hour and a half to drive to the Peak District from central Birmingham, but it is well worth the trip. The Peaks are the perfect place to unwind and have fun with your friends in the lovely, fresh, countryside air. See our guide to the Peak District here.
9. The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds cover 787 square miles, so there’s definitely a lot to do there! One great place to visit in the Cotswolds is Chedworth Roman Villa. The villa was uncovered during the Victorian period and it has been preserved so that it’s possible to view Roman mosaic floors and some remnants of the baths. A café serves as a nice pit-stop before you take a stroll around the grounds and take in the idyllic Cotswold hills.
To see the characteristic, Cotswolds stone cottages, visit Chipping Campden, from which you can walk to the stunning Broadway Tower. Broadway Tower is striking, standing tall atop the site of an ancient beacon. The view from the top of the tower is outstanding and there is also a little café onsite.
Driving to the Cotswolds will take you around an hour, depending on your destination within the area, and it is well worth the drive!
10. Trentham Monkey Forest, Stoke-on-Trent
Not content with your monkey fix at Twycross Zoo, you can head to Trentham Monkey Forest, where you can walk freely with Barbary macaques. Follow a mile-long woodland trail through the heart of Trentham Estate and immerse yourself in the everyday antics of these creatures. Watch as they swing from trees and play with their pals — and be prepared to share the path. (Primates have right of way, of course.)
It’s a bit tricky to get to Trentham Estate via public transport, as it involves a train and two buses. However, it only takes around an hour from Birmingham by car. Tickets are available online, and you can save 10% if you book via their website.