This is a sample entry from my current app London Travel: a Guide to Great Day Trips. The complete app for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch may be downloaded at Apple's iTunes app store. This app takes you to many unusual places within daytrip range of London, along with the popular favorites. It is also available for Android devices on Google's play store, under the name London's Backyard.
Names in BOLD FACE CAPITAL LETTERS are actually links to separate entries within the app for those attractions. These are not active on this blog.
A ride on the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway is a pure delight. There are no famous sights along its 14-mile length, just the exhilarating joy of being hauled across the Romney Marshes aboard a miniature steam train. This fun-filled day trip is the perfect antidote to a steady diet of cathedrals, castles, and stately homes.
Opened in 1927, the railway is one of the most popular attractions in southern England. Its one-third-scale locomotives are faithful replicas of famous engines that once served on the main lines.
Over 300,000 passengers, not all of them children by any means, are carried each year in the diminutive coaches. Join them and you'll be glad you did.
Trains leave about twice an hour from London's Charing Cross Station (CHX) for Folkestone Central Station (FKC), with a journey time of about 90 minutes. Service is reduced on Sundays, and some trains split enroute. Return trains run until mid-evening. From Folkestone you can travel the five miles to Hythe by taxi or Stagecoach Bus, which offers a combo ticket with the steam line.
By Car, take the A20 and M20 roads to Newington/Stanford (Junction 11), then the A261 to Hythe. The total distance is 68 miles southeast of London.
Good weather is necessary to really enjoy this trip. The local Tourist Information Centre in Folkestone, T: (01303) 258 594, W: discoverfolkestone.co.uk, is near the harbor. The entire trip is in the county of Kent.
Meals and snacks are available at the Heywood Buffet in the New Romney station, and the Light Railway Café at the Dungeness Station. Drinks — including the RH&D Celebration Steam Ale — and snacks are served on the miniature bar car attached to some of the trains (50p extra fare).
In addition, picnic tables are available at the New Romney, Dymchurch, and Dungeness stations.
A few nearby restaurants and pubs are:
Touch photo in upper left. It will then fill the screen and morph into a DIAGRAM MAP. Touch that to remain on screen, THEN slide a finger from right to left to see more photos. Touch in upper left to return to text. NUMBERS on the map correspond to numbers in the text.
Those coming by train will begin their trip at Folkestone Central Station (1). From there walk a few blocks southeast to the Folkestone Bus Station (2) on Cheriton Gardens. You could, of course, take a taxi directly from the train station to Hythe, a distance of about five miles.
The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway Station in Hythe (3) is next to the Royal Military Canal, which was built as a defense during the Napoleonic Wars. A short walk along its banks is a pleasant diversion if you have a wait before the next train departure.
Take a careful look at the posted schedule (also on their website) and decide whether you want to go just to New Romney, or make a stop there and then continue on all the way to Dungeness. Note that a few of the miniature trains are hauled by diesel traction, in which case you may want to wait for steam.
A ride from Hythe to New Romney takes about 35 minutes, stopping at Dymchurch and St. Mary's Bay along the way. New Romney (4) is the headquarters of the railway and has several interesting things to see, including yards, engine shops, and the fascinating Toy and Model Museum, located above the Heywood Café. Here you can relive childhood dreams with vintage toys and a fantastic computer-controlled model railway in OO gauge, and do it free if you have an "All Stations, All Day" ticket for unlimited travel. There is also a buffet serving anything from drinks to full meals, and a gift shop.
Continuing on to Dungeness (5), the rails follow very close to the sea. This is a lovely and sparsely inhabited region, a perfect spot for the nuclear power plant at the end of the line. Getting off there, you may visit the Lifeboat Station and perhaps climb to the top of the Old Lighthouse. Built in 1901 to a height of 143 feet, it is open to visitors whenever the trains run. Time permitting, you might want to stop by the Brittania Pub.
Those traveling back to London via Folkestone will probably want to see a bit of that town before they leave. From the bus station it is an easy walk to The Leas (6), a promenade with magnificent maritime viwes. The harbor (7) is in the oldest part of town. Return via the quaint and narrow High Street, then head back to Central Station by bus, taxi, or on foot.
To see the rest of this and the other 24 daytrips out of London, download of the entire "London Travel: a Guide to Great Day Trips" app on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch at Apple's iTunes app store, or for Android devices download on Google's app store as "London's Backyard."
Interested in photography? Visit my free blog "Assisting Avedon," which is all about the famous photographer Richard Avedon.