St. Albans Cathedral (c) Anna Moskvina iStock/Thinkstock
 
An historic market town and Roman settlement in beautiful southern Hertfordshire, St Albans’ convenient location makes it a perfect retreat from the bustle of London life.
 
St Albans (c) Stuart Taylor iStock/Thinkstock
 
 
Visitors to the town can meander down its cobbled streets and explore the magnificent Cathedral, or investigate its many Roman relics. And if you’re in St Albans during the festive season, the Christmas market, which takes place every year in a cloistered garden that lies adjacent to the Cathedral, is well worth a visit. But no matter the season, there are always a number of things to do in St Albans.
 
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (c) Ye Olde Fighting Cocks
 
After you’ve motored over from London, begin your day out with a hearty pub lunch at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (16 Abbey Mill Lane, St Albans, AL3 4HE, 01727 869 152, http://fightingcocks.fl1hosting.com/), which is a draw for the name alone. Officially classed as Britain’s oldest pub, the Fighting Cocks has bags of character and dates back to the 8th century. Cock fighting took place in the main bar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Oliver Cromwell reputedly slept here for one night during the tumultuous Civil War. Thankfully, things are a little calmer these days, and you can enjoy a leisurely lunch from a tempting gastro menu, including homemade burgers, free-range pork sausages and mash, and veggie dishes like a spicy chipotle black bean burger. All produce is fresh, local and organic; much of it is grown in the pub garden’s vegetable patch.
 
Sea Bass at Lake Restaurant (c) Eric Tadsen iStock/Thinkstock
 
If fighting cocks aren’t your thing, opt for a white tablecloth experience at the Michelin-recommended Lake Restaurant of St. Michael’s Manor Hotel (St. Michael’s Manor Hotel, Fishpool Street, St Albans, AL3 4RY, 01727 864 444, http://www.lakerestaurant.co.uk/). Situated in a beautiful airy conservatory overlooking the stately gardens, this is a favourite Sunday lunch spot amongst the well-heeled locals, and is popular for its afternoon teas. Expect bijoux portions of exquisitely presented, avant-garde creations, including such delicacies as sea bass with watermelon jelly and lemon confit, and blackberry and mascarpone cannelloni with caramelised apple and blackberry sorbet. 
 
St. Albans Cathedral (c) Anna Moskvina iStock/Thinkstock
 
After lunch, head over to St Albans’ 11th-century cathedral (Sumpter Yard, St Albans, AL1 1BY, 01727 860 780, http://www.stalbanscathedral.org/). As the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain, this monumental building comprises a range of architectural styles, from Saxon and Norman foundations to various renovations and additions during the 13th-15th, 19th and 20th centuries. Climb the lofty heights of the tower for spectacular views of the Cathedral interior, or else withdraw to the calm of the Lady Chapel. 
 
Old Gorhambury (c) adamnsinger
 
Don’t head back to London just yet. After your cathedral tour, motor over to Old Gorhambury House (Gorhambury House, St Albans, AL3 6AH, 01727 854 051, http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/old-gorhambury-house/), which is situated just outside St Albans. The impressive estate and 16th century mansion of Lord Verulam is now a romantic, crumbling ruin – but even so, the grandeur has not yet worn off. At the centre of it all, the showpiece porch still survives. 
 
Whether you’re more interested in the architectural ruins or the historic present of St Albans, the pub grub or the haute cuisine, Zipcar provides you with a quick and easy way to escape London in style.
 
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