7 Incredible Day Trips From Leicester
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
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Recently, I spent a few days exploring the city of Leicester, learning all about its unique history and what makes it such a special place to visit. Apart from the city itself, I found that there were a lot of incredible day trips from Leicester to choose from, which varied from historical points of interest to nature walks. The only problem I had with our trip was trying to narrow down which day trips from Leicester to actually go on, because there were more than a couple of castles that caught my eye in the area!
Leicester is located in the East Midlands, in the landlocked county of Leicestershire, which is just over a two hour drive north of London. Chances are if you've heard of Leicester before, you probably associate it with football, cheese, or pies - but it has a lot more to offer than that! There are some great things to do in Leicester's city centre, but I found that some of my favourite attractions were located outside of the city. With a history dating back to at least the time of the Romans in the 1st century AD, you can just imagine how many unique places in Leicestershire there are to discover. Here are my top picks for the best day trips from Leicester:
1. Bradgate Park
One of the most popular days out in Leicester that you can go on is to Bradgate Park. It's an absolutely massive park to walk around which is steeped in history. For me, the main points of interest in Bradgate Park were Old John Tower, which was built in the 18th century and sits on top of the highest hill in the park, and the ruins of Bradgate House. The house dates back to the 16th century and was where Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for only 9 days, spent her childhood. The bricks used to build the house would have been similar to those found at Hampton Court, and at the time it would have been one of the largest unfortified houses in England. Bradgate Park has also been a deer park since the medieval period, so you'll be able to see hundreds of deer freely roaming around during your visit. If you're short on time, Bradgate Park is a great option for a day trip from Leicester as it's only a 20 minute drive from the centre. It's also completely free to enter (minus the parking charges)!
2. 1620's House and Garden
If you're interested in unique day trips from Leicester, why not check out the 1620's House and Garden? This historical manor house can be found in Donington le Heath which is just over a 20 minute drive from Leicester. The house has been beautifully restored and is fully furnished inside, so you can gain a better understanding of what this 17th century house would have looked like and functioned as. The house was originally built in the 13th century, but was modernized in the 17th century, and has strong ties to a member of the infamous Gunpowder Plot. After you make your way through the house, you can take a stroll through the very well maintained gardens and grab a light snack at the on-site cafe. Tickets cost just £5.95 and are valid for the whole year.
3. Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre
If you know anything about Leicester and Richard III, Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre is a great option for a day trip from Leicester. The battlefield is one of the most popular days out in Leicestershire, taking only 30 minutes by car to get to from Leicester, and is only a short drive from the 1620's House too. I would highly recommend checking out their exhibition so that you can learn more about the build up to the battle, what happened during it, and the consequences of its outcome. It's a very interactive exhibition which is ideal if you're travelling with kids. After walking through the exhibition, you can take a stroll through the Bosworth Battlefield Country Park and look out over the fields where the battle took place. A ticket to the exhibition costs £8.95 which is valid for the whole year (unlimited reentry), and the country park is free to walk around. They also have the option of adding a guided walk to your ticket for £4.50.
4. Rockingham Castle
There are plenty of interesting places near Leicester to visit, and one of these places sits just over the county border in Northamptonshire. Rockingham Castle is located 50 minutes from Leicester, and was originally built in the 11th century on the orders of William the Conqueror. The castle's elevated position overlooking the countryside made it an ideal location to build a defensive castle, which is why it was used throughout the medieval period as well. Today you can go on a self-guided tour of the castle and take a stroll around the gardens for just £12.50. The castle also plays host to a number of events throughout the year such as picnics, artisan fairs, and outdoors cinemas, so make sure you check out the schedule on their website before visiting. If you love castles, this is the perfect day trip from Leicester for you to go on.
5. Foxton Locks
There are a large number of places one hour away from Leicester to travel to. Foxton Locks is one of these places. Here is where you'll find the longest and steepest staircase of locks in the country, and they are still very much in use today. We saw quite a few canal boats passing through the locks when we visited, and it was interesting to see how people were still manually raising and lowering the water levels to get the boats through. The locks date back to the early 19th century, and today are a very popular tourist attraction in Leicestershire. Foxton Locks are free to visit and walk around, but you will need to pay for parking.
6. Market Harborough
A short 10 minute drive from Foxton Locks is the charming town of Market Harborough. It's a lovely place to visit near Leicester if you happen to be visiting the locks and other nearby areas. We stopped here for a quick snack and took a stroll around the main street, where there are surprisingly a lot of shops and restaurants to choose from. This market town was established during the Anglo-Saxon period, and was later used by Oliver Cromwell as the front line in the English Civil War of 1645. Market Harborough also grew in prominence in the 19th century as a centre for fox hunting. While there aren't too many things to do in Market Harborough, I would recommend a short stop here if you're in the area.
7. Belvoir Castle
Castles in Leicestershire don't come much better than Belvoir Castle. The castle originally dates back to the time of William the Conqueror, and since then there have been four castles that have stood on this site. The castle you see today was built in the 19th century, and was designed by the man who made improvements to Windsor Castle, so you may see some resemblance between the two. Belvoir Castle is one of the most popular places to visit near Leicester, and is also a popular filming location. If you're a fan of historical dramas, you may recognize it from The Crown where it was used in place of Windsor Castle, or from The Young Victoria.
We took a guided tour of the castle before taking a walk through its large gardens and woodlands, which I would highly recommend doing so you can learn about the castle's history and get some fun facts from the guide as well. When you're finished at the castle, you can also visit the Engine Yard, which is the castle's retail village and a great place to grab something to eat. Belvoir Castle was by far one of my favourite day trips from Leicester that we went on and is well worth the 50 minute drive to get to. Castle and garden entry tickets cost £18, and you can also upgrade that ticket to include afternoon tea at the castle.
There are many more days out near Leicester to choose from, but sadly we didn't have enough time in our schedule to visit them all. Although Leicestershire is very much a rural county in England, there are some phenomenal points of interest that you can add to your itinerary if you're thinking of touring around the East Midlands. There's definitely no shortage of historical places to see in Leicestershire that's for sure. I can't wait to head back to this part of the country and find even more incredible day trips from Leicester to add to my list!
Have you been to Leicestershire before? I'd love to hear what you thought of the county and if I missed any day trips from Leicester that you would recommend. If you're planning a trip around England, you should check out York, Burnley, and Manchester too! Don't forget to follow my travels on Instagram for more photos from my visit to Leicester and the surrounding area!