Some London boroughs go right up to the M25 (Enfield). Some even spill beyond the confines of the M25 (Havering). But in other areas, the gap between the end of the London boroughs and the M25 can be seen as a bit of a no man's land. It's easy to assume that it's all garden centres and golf courses, the odd small airfield and not a lot else. But that's not the case. These attractions all fall within the M25, but outside the borders of London boroughs — ideal when you want to leave London for the day, but can't face the traffic of the M25.
Know of anywhere else that's worth a visit? Let us know in the comments below.
Follies. A crystal grotto. Landscaped gardens. A watermill. A vineyard. How do more people not know about Painshill Park? We'd recommend taking a whole day to explore this one — and make sure you do so in decent weather. On a clear day, you can see both Windsor Castle and Canary Wharf from the top of the Gothic Tower. There's a tearoom and gift shop on site too.
Painshill Park, Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey, KT11 1JE
Brooklands Museum and London Bus Museum
We visited the London Bus Museum in July 2017, and were impressed with what we saw. It shares a site with the Brooklands Museum, which gets its name from Brooklands racetrack, the world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit. Today, the museum is a transport lover's paradise. Main focus is of course on the race cars, but Concorde used to have a base here, which explains that life-sized Concorde parked round the back — not to mention the aeroplane graveyard. You could easily spend a whole day here. If you're keen to get behind the wheel yourself, Mercedes-Benz World is just next door.
Brooklands Museum and London Bus Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 0QN
Go Zorbing London
Yep, that's right, you can go zorbing within the M25. If you've ever ventured into the Whyteleafe/Caterham area of Surrey, just south of Croydon, you'll know that it's sufficiently hilly to be rolling down hills in giant inflatable balls. We did it once — great fun — but if it's not for you, there's paintballing right next door.
London Zorbing Park, Salmons Lane, Whyteleafe, Surrey, CR3 0HB
Titsey Place (no sniggering at the back) is a manor house dating back to the 16th century, and open to the public for tours. The landscaped gardens offer views across the Darent Valley and to the South Downs, and are inhabited by a herd of cows. Oh — and there are tearooms too.
Titsey Place, Pitchfont Lodge, Water Lane, Titsey, RH8 0SA
If you're looking for somewhere different to take the younger members of the family, Hobbledown has lots to offer. Indoor and outdoor play areas are ideal for letting off steam, and meerkats, otters, owls and donkeys are also resident. It's the sort of place we wish we'd been to when we were kids.
Hobbledown, Horton Lane, KT19 8PT
Beaver Water World
Another one for animal lovers, get up close to lemurs, tamarins, snakes, lizards and parrots at this animal park. It's been running since 1980 and runs occasional reptile handling sessions for those feeling brave.
Beaver Water World, Approach Road, Tatsfield, TN16 2JT
East Surrey Museum
This small local museum focuses largely on the geology of Caterham and surrounding areas. Limited opening hours so check before you travel.
East Surrey Museum, 1 Stafford Road, Caterham, Surrey, CR3 6JG
Godstone Vineyards has been churning out wine within the M25 since 1985, growing three varieties of grape on site. Take a self-guided tour of the vineyard, or book onto a wine tasting (rude not to, really). There's also a shop and cafe on site.
Godstone Vineyards, Quarry Road, Godstone RH9 8DQ
Crockford Bridge Farm
For a dose of the countryside all year round, head to Crockford Bridge Farm near Weybridge. In the summer months, it's a PYO fruit farm, with strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb and asparagus just some of the crops you can harvest yourself. Come Halloween, spooky events are held in the pumpkin patch. Come winter, it's one of the few spots in the south east where you can dig your own Christmas tree — and a certain man in red sometimes makes an appearance too.
The farm shop is open year round, selling produce from the farm, fresh bread and meat.
Crockford Bridge Farm, New Haw Road, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 2BU
Yeah, yeah, you know about this one already — rides, queues, and an overpriced gift shop. We're not going to pretend it's a big secret. Heck, you can even see the rides from junction 12 of the M25. What you might not know is that it's run by Merlin, the same company that runs the London Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, Shrek's Adventure, London Dungeons and the London Eye (as well as nearby Legoland and Chessington World of Adventures). So, if you're thinking of visiting a few of them in the same year, it might be worth investing in a Merlin Annual Pass.
Thorpe Park, Staines Road, Chertsey, Surrey, KT16 8PN
The old York column
Part of Covent Garden is now in the town of Weybridge. The old York Column, aka the sundial in the middle of Seven Dials, ended up in suburban Surrey. Admittedly, a stone column does not a day trip make — locals probably pass it everyday without realising what it is — so combine it with something else on this list. Brooklands Museum and The London Bus Museum aren't too far away.
Visit a village that may not exist for much longer. Harmondsworth, wedged in an enviable position between the M25, the M4 and Heathrow is under risk from Heathrow expansion. If the plans go ahead, half of the village may be destroyed. Happily, the Great Barn is safe.
Warner Bros Studios
Muggles, assemble! If you don't know about this one, we can only assume you've been under some sort of spell for the last few years — but did you realise that Hogwarts is within the confines of the M25?
Tours the sets, props and costumes used in the Harry Potter films, and learn about the special effects used to create the wizardry you see on screen before tucking into a butterbeer. It's not cheap though (you're looking at the best part of £40 for an adult).
Warner Bros Studio Tour, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, WD25 7LR
De Havilland Aircraft Museum
This place claims to be the oldest aviation museum in the UK, preserving and telling the story of the de Havilland aircraft company. It's great for those who are really into their aviation, but if you just want to climb aboard (some of) the planes, that's OK too — it's a fascinating look at how air travel has changed over time, and will put your next coach class flight into perspective. And yes, you can get in the cockpits.
de Havilland Aircraft Museum, Salisbury Hall, London Colney, Hertfordshire, AL2 1BU
Aldenham Country Park
Kids (and big kids) can visit Winnie the Pooh and friends in 100 Acre Wood at Aldenham Country Park. The bear himself makes a daily appearance at 2pm, but if you miss that, there are plenty of other things to keep the kids busy. Feed and pet the farm animals, take a pony ride, let off steam in the play barn. Elsewhere in the park, follow a nature trail, have a picnic, or visit the park cafe.
Aldenaham Country Park, Aldenham Road, Elstree, WD6 3BA
Cassiobury Park model railway
Cassiobury Park in Watford may not be as big as some of London's better-known parks, but it has plenty to amuse you for a few hours; playgrounds, paddling pools, bouncy castles, a nature trail, a brook to paddle in, and plenty more. The highlight, though, is the miniature railway, which can be ridden for as little as £1.50 at weekends and during school holidays.
Woolly mammoth tusks and Roman artefacts are just some of the items on display at the Spelthorne Museum. It's located in a former fire station, so a fire engine dating from 1738 takes pride of place. It won't take you long to see it all, but neither will it have the crowds of London's bigger museums.
Spelthorne Museum, 1 Elmsleigh Road, Staines, TW18 4PM
Who doesn't love a round or two of dinosaur-themed crazy golf? Head to Borehamwood for Dinosaur Safari Adventure Golf and tee off on the 18 hole course among nine resident dinosaur models, including a 100ft diplodocus — even if the colour of the ponds is questionable at best. Well-behaved dogs are welcome too, if you really want to bring the whole family. Raining? Try nearby Megajump trampoline park instead — although Fido's not so welcome here.
Dinosaur Safari Adventure Golf, Rowley Lane, Arkley, Hertfordshire, EN5 3HW
Where have we missed? Got any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.