Why a lap of the M25 is Britain's ultimate road trip

Windsor Castle and the river Thames – John Lamb/The Image Bank Unreleased

The poor old M25. It rarely (actually, let’s make that “never”) hits the headlines for happy reasons. Of late it's been no different. Several times in the past week, London’s outer ring road has found itself at a semi-standstill – as demonstrators from the environmental campaign group Insulate Britain have blocked the traffic.

A waggish reader might well smirk, and ask whether anyone will be able to tell the difference from a normal day – such is the reputation of a motorway that is sometimes mocked as “the world’s biggest car park”. It’s a fair joke as well – because, even without guerrilla eco-protests, the M25 is frequently jammed in certain sections, and it is unusual to embark on a lengthy journey around it without encountering some kind of congestion.

But then, the M25 is also a fabulous feat of engineering; a 117-mile creation that ranks as Europe’s second longest orbital route (shorter by just five miles than the Berliner Ring which surrounds the German capital). It isn’t even that old. Next month will witness its 35th birthday – it was officially opened on October 29 1986, Margaret Thatcher cutting the ribbon at a ceremony held between junctions 22 and 23 in Hertfordshire. And while it may be imperfect, think how much slower a drive around our biggest city would be without it.

Better still, it can also – if you are inclined to take on such an odyssey – make for a remarkable road trip. Fringed by historic sites, willowy gardens and areas of natural beauty, the M25 can be not so much a giant bottleneck as a reason to head out across the English landscape. The following 10 sites all sit – for the sake of argument – within 10 miles of the motorway, and all are reason enough to hit the tarmac of London’s big circle.

1. Windsor Castle

Junction 15

Her Majesty’s main out-of-town residence needs little introduction, but its story contains many a fine fact: It is 11th century in origin, built by William the Conqueror. It is the largest occupied castle on the planet, with some 500 staff and courtiers stationed there at all times. It was seized by parliamentary forces during the English Civil War, and used as a prison for Charles I. It is home, posthumously, to some of the most fabled royal figures in our history. Henry VIII (and his third wife, Jane Seymour), Charles I and George III are not in Westminster Abbey, but are buried at Windsor Castle – in St George’s Chapel.

Details: 0303 123 7304; royalcollection.org.uk; £23.50

2. Hever Castle

Junction 5

The ghost of Henry VIII also lingers a little further around the M25 in Kent. Built in the 13th century, Hever Castle is best remembered as the childhood home of Bluff King Hal’s second wife Anne Boleyn – he would visit her here during their courtship. It was also, later, once the Boleyn family had fallen from grace, the home of Henry’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves, granted to her as part of the annulment of their marriage. It remains a hugely photogenic slice of the medieval world, surrounded by a moat and leafy gardens.

Details: 01732 865 224; hevercastle.co.uk; from £19.20

Hever Castle – Fela Sanu/iStock Editorial

3. Chartwell

Junction 5

A leader of a different era can be found a five-mile drive north of Hever. Chartwell was, of course, the home of Winston Churchill. It was the great man’s primary residence from 1922 until his death in 1965 – aside from during the Second World War, when it was deemed too vulnerable to Luftwaffe aggression. The house probably dates to the 16th century, but is preserved to look as it did when the former prime minister and his wife Clementine lived there. Photos and memorabilia proffer a window on his life and career.

Details: 01732 868 381; nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell; from £14

4. Surrey Hills Area Of Outstanding Beauty

Junction 9

A protected area since 1958, this 163-square-mile expanse of slopes and serenity is Surrey’s main contribution to the general beauty of southern England – part of a green jigsaw which also comprises Kent Downs (also an “Area Of Outstanding Beauty”) and South Downs National Park (in Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex). Here is an oasis for long hikes along winding trails – or for cycle rides against the gradient of Box Hill, which has become a lycra haven since it hosted the road races at the 2012 Olympics.

Details: 01372 220 653; surreyhills.org

Box Hill, Surrey – Helen Ogbourn/Moment RF

5. RHS Garden Wisley

Junction 10

One of four enclaves run by the Royal Horticultural Society, this pastoral portion of Surrey is an ideal place to spend an autumn afternoon. Its vegetable patches, fruit fields and walled gardens are awash with rich agricultural bounty and swaying flowers, while the pivotal Glasshouse is a nest of exotic plants, tropical species and jungle verdancy.

Details: 0845 260 9000; rhs.org.uk; from £14.95

6. Waltham Abbey

Junction 26

Who knew that Henry VIII had such connections with the M25? England’s much-married 16th century monarch crops up again on the west edge of Essex, where Waltham Abbey – in the town of the same name – was the last great house to be closed down during the religious purge of the “Dissolution of the Monasteries”, in 1540. Happily, unlike many of its contemporaries, the structure survived, albeit in smaller form. It lives on as a parish church, still visibly a 12th century building of quiet nobility. It has a king of its own, too. Harold Godwinson, defeated by William the Conqueror in 1066, is reputedly buried here.

Details: 01992 767 897; walthamabbeychurch.co.uk

Waltham Abbey – chrisdorney/iStockphoto

7. Copped Hall

Junction 26

A very short hop east of Waltham Abbey, Copped Hall is another fabulous fragment of Essex’s past. This Georgian mansion, finished in 1758, is an architectural wonder, framed by flowing grounds. Badly neglected in the 20th century – a fire caused by an electrical fault did significant damage in 1917 – it is slowly being restored in the 21st. Three-hour guided tours are held on the third Sunday of every month (except July and December). The property is visible from the M25, between junctions 26 and 27. But then, it has long been attractive to the eye. The 16th century version of the hall, demolished to make way for the existing structure in 1748, was sufficiently alluring that Elizabeth I paid it a visit in 1575.

Details: 07799 473 108; coppedhalltrust.org.uk; tours from £10

8. Otford

Junction 5

Tucked into a triangulation of crossfire between the M20, M25 and M26, Otford shrugs off the proximity of three busy motorways to be one of the loveliest villages in Kent. It revolves around St Bartholomew’s, an 11th century church whose graveyard is alive with long grass and bird song – and the ruins of Otford Palace, a stately pile that was owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury until 1537, when its confiscation by Henry VIII (that man again) sparked its decline. Even the main traffic island is pretty – it boasts a duckpond at its heart – while High Street is dotted with pubs ideal for an afternoon pint.

Details: otford.info; visitkent.co.uk

Otford pond – Moonstone Images/iStock Unreleased

9. Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve

Junction 30

Nestled on the banks of the Thames on the Essex side of the river, just outside Purfleet, Rainham Marshes is a hotspot of feathered colour, flapping wings and estuary breezes, run by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). A wonderful space of pristine grassland and marsh – it was a Ministry of Defence firing range until it was sold by the government in 2000, subsequently opening as a nature reserve in 2006 – it plays host to species including avocets, lapwings, little egrets, ringed plovers and peregrines.

Details: 01708 899 840; rspb.org.uk; £6

10. Thorpe Park

Junction 12

Not, perhaps, as steeped in heritage as the castles of Windsor and Hever, this zone of rollercoasters and thrills is one of the UK’s most popular theme parks. Pitched between Chertsey and Staines in Surrey, it is host to gravity-taunting rides such as Tidal Wave, Nemesis Inferno, Colossus and The Swarm – the latter reaching speeds of up to 59mph.

Details: 0871 663 1673; thorpepark.com; from £35

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Lowry: Hypersonic missiles change the superpower game

© Provided by Boston Herald A man carrying an umbrella with the United States flag colors passes near Chinese made drones and anti-air missile systems displayed during the 13th China ... Read more »

Mkhize wants SIU report into Digital Vibes saga set aside

© Provided by eNCA JOHANNESBURG – Former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize wants the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report into the Digital Vibes saga to be set aside. Mkhize has approached ... Read more »

Ace Magashule: ‘I've never been involved in corruption'

© Provided by The South African Embattled African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Ace Magashule has once again denied being involved in any dubious activity, including in the multimillion rand asbestos ... Read more »

‘It's only a matter of time': Australian film industry crew say long days are dangerous and potentially deadly

Two out of three Australian screen workers participating in a union survey say they have fallen asleep while driving either to or from work, with dangerously long hours alleged by ... Read more »

Adverts for British Gas and almond milk in hot water for being misleading

Adverts for British Gas have been banned for being misleading. © Other British Gas has said it was ‘disappointed’ by the ruling about its advert. Pic: British Gas The ads ... Read more »

Astros batter Red Sox with seven-run ninth to even ALCS

BOSTON — The Astros lifted themselves off the mat Tuesday night at Fenway Park, and now we have ourselves a bona fide American League Championship Series. A seven-run, ninth-inning outburst ... Read more »

WHO chief discusses Covaxin, resumption of AstraZeneca vaccine supplies to COVAX facility with Health Minister Mandaviya

HO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus discussed the issue of the emergency use listing of Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin and resumption of supplies of the Serum Institute of India-manufactured AstraZeneca ... Read more »

4 killed, 2 injured after van on way to temple overturns in Kheda, Gujarat

Four people were killed and two others seriously injured after their van overturned in Gujarat’s Kheda district, police said on Wednesday. The accident took place around midnight in Mahudha town ... Read more »

Boeser's return should provide boost to Pettersson, Canucks offence

The Vancouver Canucks are nearly as surprising as they’ve been exciting. © Ben Nelms/CP Elias-Pettersson-Brock-Boeser-Vancouver-Canucks Who knew that, three wildly-entertaining games into their season, Travis Green would be asking for ... Read more »

Google launches Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro to enhance smartphone market share

© HANDOUT Google’s Pixel 6 phone comes with a distinctive graphic and vibrant look. Photo: AFP Google launched two new smartphones on Tuesday, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, ... Read more »

Mutual funds sold 200-800 bps stake in 10 multibaggers in Q2

NEW DELHI: Mutual funds (MFs) were seen booking profits in at least 10 multibaggers of 2021, September quarter shareholding pattern suggests. Data showed money managers sold 200-800 basis points stake ... Read more »

Active COVID-19 cases in country lowest in 229 days

India logged 14,623 new coronavirus infections, taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,41,08,996, while the active cases declined to 1,78,098, the lowest in 229 days, according to the ... Read more »

Isu gaji 38 pengawal keselamatan sekolah di Perlis, JPKK gesa KPM ambil tindakan

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Pengawal-pengawal keselamatan terbabit bimbang bahawa tarikh pembayaran gaji akan dilewatkan lagi, menurut JPKK. PETALING JAYA: Jaringan Pekerja Kontrak Kerajaan (JPKK) menggesa Kementerian Pendidikan (KPM) ... Read more »

Challenge: Use Trash And Existing Materials To Create Art - Stand To Win $500!

PHOTO: 123RF PHOTO: 123RF Looking for a new way to unleash your creative juices? Check out Trashy Art 2021, an eco-art contest where you’ll have to create art from beach ... Read more »

Sports agent jailed 18 months for scamming friends, client over tickets and shoes

SINGAPORE — A sports agent admitted to cheating his own client, a Singapore Premier League footballer, and a score of friends over football match tickets, concert tickets as well as ... Read more »

Tunggang motosikal secara berbahaya, 4 lelaki termasuk pelajar ditahan

© Provided by Sinar Harian PORT DICKSON – Polis menahan empat lelaki termasuk seorang pelajar pada Rabu susulan tujuh individu menunggang motosikal secara berbahaya di Lebuh Raya Seremban- Port Dickson ... Read more »

Ciri pendaftaran daftar masuk MySejahtera disalah guna

© Provided by Sinar Harian PUTRAJAYA – Ciri pendaftaran daftar masuk premis di aplikasi MySejahtera didapati telah disalahguna oleh pihak yang tidak bertanggungjawab. Pasukan MySejahtera dalam kenyataannya lewat malam Selasa ... Read more »

Shafee wins appeal against Bar, Tommy and lawyer

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today The court says the Bar, former AG Tommy Thomas and VC George were liable for their actions. PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today allowed lawyer ... Read more »

San Francisco shuts burger spot for not checking vaccination

The In-N-Out hamburger chain is sizzling mad after San Francisco shut down its indoor dining for refusing to check customers' vaccination status. The company's Fisherman's Wharf location — its only ... Read more »

After COVID-19, dengue stings Delhiites; city sees more cases than coronavirus in one week

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: After battling COVID-19 for months, Delhi is now fighting Dengue. As per official records, the national capital witnessed more cases of vector-borne disease ... Read more »

T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli-Led Team India Not Favourites - Michael Vaughan Reckons England Are

© Ankit Banerjee | India.com Sports Desk T20 World Cup 2021 Michael Vaughan Prediction @ Twitter Dubai: With a day to go for the start of the much-awaited T20 World ... Read more »

‘Con-man': Afghans on outgoing US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad

© Provided by Hindustan Times Outgoing US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (File Photo/Reuters). Afghan leaders and civilians have lashed out at Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States’ Afghanistan-born ... Read more »

Maharashtra Supply Result 2021 for SSC, HSC releasing today at mahresult.nic.in

Maharashtra State Board of Secondary & Higher Secondary Education, MSBSHSE will release Maharashtra Supply Result 2021 for SSC, HSC on October 20, 2021. The Class 10, 12 supplementary exam result ... Read more »

Home Minister Amit Shah to visit rain-hit Uttarakhand today, review relief work

Home Minister Amit Shah will visit Uttarakhand on Wednesday to review the flood situation in the hill state. A series of high level meetings with top officials have been scheduled ... Read more »

Reprisal fears after Sydney double murder

Police fear reprisals in an ongoing feud between two warring underworld families after a daylight drive-by shooting left a father and son dead in Sydney’s southwest. © Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS ... Read more »

The Rebirth of Cody Bellinger Resuscitates Los Angeles

The 2019 National League MVP floundered for most of the season. But when the Dodgers’ season was slipping away Tuesday, he used his simplified swing to keep it alive and ... Read more »

North Korea confirms 'submarine-launched ballistic missile' test

© Provided by dw.com The test comes as Pyongyang increases pressure on Washington and Seoul to abandon policies which it deems hostile North Korea has successfully test fired a new ... Read more »

Former inmate who exposed torture in Russian jail seeks asylum in France

The former inmate behind a video leak showing alleged rape and torture inside a Russian prison said he could no longer keep the information to himself, speaking to AFP from ... Read more »

Cara Peek receives 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women's Award

© Provided by ABC NEWS Cara Peek is the co-founder of Saltwater Country that offers services to at-risk indigenous youth across the Kimberley. (Supplied: AgriFutures) Cara Peek has been announced ... Read more »

The feeling around EVs is electric

If you’re actually one of the few people still wondering ‘Are electric cars the future?’, we’ve got news for you – EVs have already snuck up on us, all ninja-like, ... Read more »

Trial over killing of HIV activist begins in Greece

Three years after a prominent Greek-American HIV activist was beaten to death in Athens, six people will appear in court on Wednesday in what Greece’s LGBTQ community sees as an ... Read more »

Biden focuses on climate, families in trimmed $2T plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scaling down his “build back better” plans, President Joe Biden has described a more limited vision to Democratic lawmakers of a $2 trillion government-overhaul package with at ... Read more »

Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry indicted on charges of lying to the FBI

© Jeff Fortenberry/YouTube Rep. Jeff Fortenberry announced that he expects to be indicted in a YouTube video. Jeff Fortenberry/YouTube GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has been indicted on charges of lying ... Read more »

Covid-19: Science-based steps to stay safe

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today © Provided by Free Malaysia Today I fear we may be in for some trouble. And I’m putting it mildly. The crowds rushing to ... Read more »

CIMB in world's first ringgit-denominated SLD deal with StanChart

© Provided by New Straits Times KUALA LUMPUR: CIMB Bank Bhd has entered into a sustainability-linked derivative (SLD) transaction with Standard Chartered Malaysia in the form of an interest rate ... Read more »

COMMENT | Keeping international borders closed is pointless

© Malaysiakini (English) COMMENT | International borders remain mostly closed in Malaysia despite vaccination rates surpassing 90 percent of its adult population. Yet the same stringency has not been applied ... Read more »

Celcom in pact with LG UPlus, Media Prima to offer 5G content, VR & AR services

© Provided by New Straits Times KUALA LUMPUR: Celcom Axiata Bhd has formed an exclusive collaboration with LG UPlus Corp, a South Korean cellular carrier under LG Corp, and Malaysia’s ... Read more »

Buaya tembaga 300kg ditemui di pantai resort Felda Sahabat

© Provided by Sinar Harian LAHAD DATU – Seekor buaya tembaga berjaya ditangkap selepas dilihat berada di kawasan pantai resort Felda Sahabat di sini pada malam Isnin. Dalam kejadian kira-kira ... Read more »

'Notorious hitman' charged in Senzo Meyiwa case convicted of several murders

© Provided by SowetanLive Fisokuhle Ntuli appeared in the Esikhaleni regional court in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday for sentencing after he was convicted on six counts of murder, one attempted ... Read more »

Big fossil fuel producers' plans far exceed climate targets, U.N. says

FILE PHOTO: A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport By Nina Chestney ... Read more »