Five things to do around London Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport T5 (image courtesy of newbie runner)

London Heathrow Airport isn’t much of a tourist sight unless you’re fascinated by airplanes. Yet it is one of the world’s busiest international airports so chances are many of us will end up going there at some stage and some will need to while away a few hours or even longer.

Most people who stay in a Heathrow airport hotel treat it as a pure overnighter – just a place to eat and sleep. But there are in fact several fascinating places within easy travelling distance of the airport which are well worth a visit. Here are five suggestions:

The Swan Inn in Denham (image courtesy of Ewan Munro)

1. Village life in Denham and Stoke Poges. You’ll need a car (or minicab) for this trip, but if you have one it’s a simple journey along the M25. Denham is a picturesque village with a number of wonderful traditional pubs; visit The Swan for a taste of the local Rebellion Brewery’s ale. The village’s single street is flanked by fine Georgian brick and older half-timbered houses; a walk across the golf club is a pleasant way to work up an appetite.

If you really want to find a traditional gem of a pub though, you’ll have to take to the winding, steep green lanes that lead to the Royal Standard of England near Beaconsfield.

The drive itself feels like a voyage into ancient England, and the pub seems hardly to have changed since the Tudor age, with low ceilings and panelled walls. There’s a wide selection of beers from craft breweries as well as ciders and perries, and good food – but turn up early, as the pub quickly gets crowded.

A little further away, Stoke Poges has a charming flint-built church, and it was probably in the churchyard here that the poet Thomas Gray wrote the famous Elegy in a country churchyard; he is buried here, and there is a fine classical monument outside the church. The church also contains one amazing oddity – the ‘bicycle window’ of 1634 which appears to show a naked trumpet-playing angel riding a Renaissance bike!

Southall (image courtesy of Donna Smillie)

2. Little India in Southall. Fancy a taste of Indian culture?  No need to fly to Mumbai!  A completely different experience is within easy reach of Heathrow (the train route is slightly convoluted on the Piccadilly line and overground but it’s only a short minicab ride away) in Southall with its vibrant Indian culture. Shop for saris or fabric in the covered shopping arcades, or visit Jas Musicals to buy a bansuri (flute) or to gaze at sitars and tablas.

For food, you could go for a curry and you’ll find plenty of choice in Southall – but there’s so much more to Indian food. Buy a crisp, freshly-fried samosa on the street, or Indian sweeties like barfi (fudge) or rasgulla (sweet dumplings).

You’re also welcome to visit the Sikh gurdwara in Havelock Road – said to be the largest Sikh temple outside India.

Windsor Castle (image courtesy of Oliver Mallich)

3. Windsor Castle is linked to Heathrow by the 71 or 77 bus from Terminal 5. It was founded by William the Conqueror and still retains some of the original Norman work, though it’s been much added to over the centuries. It’s still a working royal palace, too, where the ceremonies of the Order of the Garter take place in the fine Perpendicular chapel of St George.

Even if you don’t feel in the mood for castle visiting, if the weather’s fine you can take a walk in Windsor Great Park with its majestic avenues of chestnut and plane trees and views of the castle across the landscape.

The 60/61 bus on the other hand will take you to Eton College, Britain’s top public school and the other side of the river from Windsor. Guided tours of the college show the Chapel, a sort of miniature King’s College Chapel with its tall Gothic windows, and late medieval wall paintings which, preserved by being whitewashed over at the Reformation, are surprisingly clear though not at all colourful (they are mainly in monochrome grisaille).

Legoland (image courtesy of Dave Catchpole)

4. Legoland UK is not far from Windsor at all, and there’s a shuttle bus from Windsor railway station, or you could drive the 12 miles from Heathrow. What is there to say about Lego? You either love it or hate it – but if you love it (or your children do) Legoland could be a great way of using up a spare day at the end of your holiday or spending a few pleasant hours between connections.

5. Hampton Court Palace is one of my favourite places in the UK. It has everything: Tudor red brick architecture with medieval charm; intricate zig-zag spiral chimneys; Christopher Wren’s classical architecture; a maze; formal gardens; rich tapestries, great paintings, bright stained glass; the Thames running not far away. You can even get a bus from Heathrow, number 111 – though there is also an alternative, delightful opportunity of taking a riverboat to the palace if you are coming in from central London.

Hampton Court (image courtesy of Amanda Slater)

So if you are going to stay in one of the Heathrow hotels then don’t despair – there are plenty of great destinations to visit without having to head into central London.

If you have a non-EU passport, have connecting flights at London Heathrow Airport and would like to see some of these places during your layover, please check for visa requirements to enter the United Kingdom.

A guest post by Andrea Kirkby.

Note: this post was brought to you in partnership with London Hotels Insight.



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9 Responses to “Five things to do around London Heathrow Airport”

  1. Sand In My Suitcase 02/10/2013 2:31 am

    Good tips! So far, for our long layovers, we’ve only slept at the Sofitel (nice!) or Yotel (not as nice as the Sofitel :-), but a great place for a few hours of zzzz’s). And schlepped all around the airport. But we’ll check these out next time we have some hours to kill…

  2. Keith Jenkins 05/02/2013 12:01 pm

    Hi Mel,
    That depends on your nationality. You can check if you need a visa here:


  3. Mel Thomas 01/02/2013 8:55 pm

    Hello, just curious if I need a visa to visit windsor during a 9 hour layover from mumbai to NY. I will have no checked bags and not a US Citizen

  4. Sofie 22/11/2012 3:16 pm

    Suck luck I just stumbled on your blog! just started planning my next London trip. I’ll spend one day at Windsor or hampton Court before taking off again from Heathrow, but still have to deside between the two…

  5. Working Holiday Visa Canada 24/07/2012 2:07 am

    Cool! I am also planning to visit Lego land before co’z I’d love lego’s. Anyway, London Heathrow Airport and Hampton Court Palace is also a great place to visit too.


  6. Thristhan 14/06/2012 5:48 am

    Legoland rocks :) I don’t think they were there when I visited London in 1997.

  7. velvet 08/06/2012 1:57 pm

    Awesome! Thanks for the tip Rory. :-)


  8. Rory 08/06/2012 1:53 pm

    Heathrow to Southall is actually a breeze by train. The Heathrow Connect stopping service to Paddington leaves Heathrow (T1,2 & 3 only – you do have to make a quick connection if you’re at T4 or T5) every half hour – Southall is a nine minute journey.


  1. Advice for long layover LHR-JNB - FlyerTalk Forums - 22/10/2014

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