Features

23/12/21


A Few Festive London Walks

There’s almost nothing better to bring your spirits up than to take a walk than when it’s absolutely bloody freezing outside.

Not only is it rewarding, invigorating, and good for you, but at this time of year London becomes one big all-you-can-stroll buffet, with an abundance of cosy pubs, beautiful light displays, and festive markets for you to conveniently end up at.

Here are a select few of the best, in every corner of the city…

 

CENTRAL

A Tour Of London Christmas Lights

Regent Street Christmas Lights 2018

Starting at The Seven Dials, you can take in Covent Garden’s Christmas lights, then make your way down to Leicester Square (more lights!), and across to Piccadilly. From here, you can wend your way up Regent Street, taking in the lights along the way (and maybe a shop or two), then dip into Carnaby as you approach the end, seeing that lovely light display too. Then, once at the cross-road with Oxford Street, hang a left, and wander under yet another festive light display. Finally, just before you reach Selfridges, you can duck down away from the crowds, and make your way to the slightly less-densely packed throngs of Bond Street for one last winter light display.

Length? As long as you fancy
Map? There’s an interactive one right here.
Best time of Day? After dark.

Notting Hill to Hyde Park & Winter Wonderland

Starting at Notting Hill Gate, you can then go south (past the gloriously lit up Churchill Arms) and down to Kensington Palace. There, you can make your way around the Round Pond, and through Kensington Gardens. Veering south towards the Serpentine Gallery and see some of the wonderful sculptures they have dotted about. You can then head across the water itself (making sure to check out the Serpentine North Gallery, and the Henry Moore piece outside it) and find yourself at Winter Wonderland.

Length? An hour
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of Day? Dusk, so you can see both the lights, and the park

Green Park to Somerset House

Start in Hyde Park Corner, and make your way into Green Park, heading directly for Buckingham Palace. Once you get there, you can hop across the Mall directly into St James’ Park, and wander along the lake there. Reaching the end (or at least, the north-east point) of the lake, you can make your way out of the park, back up the Mall, and into Trafalgar Square. From there, you can wander down to the Embankment, stroll along the river, and end up at Somerset House where you can pop in for a quick turn on the ice rink and a hot chocolate.

Length? 45 mins, or more
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of Day? You’re much more likely to get into the ice skating (without pre-booking) in the morning.

Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge

Part of The Queen’s Walk, this one’s marked off by convenient little green pavement plaques. It’ll take you on a beautiful tour of some of London’s most iconic sights, including the Tower of London, The Tate Modern, and The Globe. And once you reach the end, you’ll be at Waterloo Bridge, and at The Southbank’s bustling market & cornucopia of bars & cafes.

Length? An hour-ish
Map? Right here
Best time of Day? Anytime

NORTH

The Parkland Walk

Credit: Dudley Miles

If you don’t live in North London, then you’d be excused for not knowing about The Parkland Walk. But it’s something of an icon up there. It’s a three mile-long river of green running between Finsbury Park and Highgate Wood (or vice versa), all following a former railway line. It’s bookended by pubs, either The Faltering Fullback (a charming Irish spot by Finsbury Park) or The Boogaloo (a vintage rock ‘n’ roll joint by Highgate Wood).

Length? 45mins to 1hr
Map? Right here
Best time of Day? Early afternoon for the pubs, early morning for the quiet.

Wembley Park to Wembley Park

This one’s easily the shortest walk on the list. But it’s also one of the most interesting. Start off at Wembley Park, head down towards King Edward Park, and take a lap of the whole thing, before heading back, and ending up at the wonderful outdoor light trail, with its 25ft Christmas Tree. There aren’t many other places in town where you can stroll down a tunnel of rainbow arches and a promenade of glowing mirrored pillars, after all.

Length? 35-45mins
Map? Right here
Best time of Day? The later in the day, the better, just for the light displays.

Hampstead Heath

There are infinite walks you could take on Hampstead Heath, but here’s one as a suggestion: start at Hampstead Heath Station, and walk up to Kenwood House to see the spectacular Christmas lights. Then walk to The Flask pub (with an open fire) and have a drink, before making your way onto The Southampton Arms (a really small cosy pub with 18 lines pouring all-UK based ales & cider. And also an open fire.)

Length? 1hr 15mins minimum (that is, without a tour of the Kenwood lights)
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of Day? If you’re seeing the lights, and/or heading to the pubs, make it later. Otherwise, any time works.

Regent’s Canal

Starting at Little Venice, you can make your way all the way across town to Camden along the banks of the Regent’s Canal. Along the way, you’ll skim past Lord’s Cricket Ground, track through Regent’s Park, and hear the animals of London Zoo, too. It’s serene and gorgeous. Then, once you’re in Camden, you won’t have to spend too long looking for somewhere to relax for a nice drink.

Length? An hour-ish
Map? Right here
Best time of Day? Anytime

The New River Path

Credit: Nick Cooper

The New River Path is something of a misnomer. It’s an aqueduct built over 400 years ago, so it’s neither new, nor a river, nor a path really. But it does make for a damn fine walk, particularly if you start in Angel, then make your way up along it as far as you fancy (it’s 28 miles in total, so the whole thing is quite ambitious). We’d suggest capping it off at the Clissold Park Tavern.

Length? However long you want
Map? Check section 6 right here to start.
Best time of Day? Anytime

EAST

The Line

The Line stretches from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the Greenwich Peninsula, and is pitched as “London’s first dedicated public art walk”, meaning you’ll get to see a whole ton of contemporary art along the way. Plus, it runs along waterways, and there’s a handy map of each public art installation you’ll see along the journey, with a detailed description to go with it. Added bonus? Everyone gets to make the same joke about Johnny Cash when they walk The Line.

Length? However long you want, but going the full stretch is a couple of hours minimum
Map? Right here
Best time of Day? Anytime

Epping Forest

Epping Forest

This place has a lot going on. In fact, the official department of Epping Forest walking tours (we assume) has put together 9 excellent routes across and through the forest of various lengths, with detailed maps for each of them. Take a look here. We recommend the Chestnut Trail for its balance of length and scenery.

Length? However long you fancy
Map? There are several right here.
Best time of Day? Anytime

Angel to Hackney Wick

Hackney Wick

Credit: Anjana Menon / Unsplash

This one runs along Regent’s Canal. Start at Angel, then you simply follow the curves of the canal, past De Beauvoir and Haggerston. If you fancy, you can detour via Cambridge Heath Road, following it down to Hackney City Farm, and then on to Columbia Road flower market. Then walk back up where you’ve come, get back onto the canal, and follow it past Cambridge Heath to Victoria Park (any entrance will do). And finally? End up at Crate Brewery.

Length? 90mins+
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of Day? If you’re dipping into the farm and then ending up at Crate brewery, afternoon is best.

SOUTH

The Southbank

The Southbank’s returning lights trail is conveniently close to their riverside winter market – meaning that you can take in a kaleidoscopic orb, a graveyard of illuminated cars and Oskar Fischinger’s iconic 1943 abstract animation Radio Dynamics with a glass of mulled wine in hand. Then, keep on walking far enough from the Southbank market, and you’ll come to Christmas by the River; another Bavarian-inspired market with twinkly huts selling street food and handcrafted gifts.

Length? 40mins-ish without pausing for mulled wine & browsing.
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of Day? Whenever the market is open.

Sydenham Hill to Dulwich Village

Sydenham Wood

Sydenham Hill station to Dulwich Village also makes for a lovely little trot – dipping in and out of Dulwich Wood, Sydenham Hill Wood, Horniman Gardens, and Dulwich Park along the way. Come out to the west of the park and you’ll find yourself near Dulwich Picture Gallery (which is a beautiful building in and of itself) before heading north to the village.

Length? 90mins
Map? Right here
Best time of Day? Anytime

Blackheath to Greenwich

Any walk that ends on Greenwich’s Observatory Hill deserves a mention in our books, and, as it happens, that’s exactly what this one does. If you fancy a short walk you can start at Blackheath, before taking to the heath in the direction of Greenwich Park. Here you’re going to want to head towards the statue of General James Wolfe (up on the hill near the observatory) where you’ll be greeted with the most spectacular of views – a collection of majestic, white Palladian buildings backed by the gritty cityscape. Personally we’d stop here for a picnic, but that’s neither here nor there…

Length? Quite short, so see what you’re up for.
Map? Honestly, you won’t need one. But here’s one anyway.
Best time of Day? To make best use of the views, try earlier in the day. If you’re packing a picnic for lunch, too.

The Wandle Trail

The Wandle Trail is extremely long, running along one of Britain’s (and the world’s) finest chalk streams. It branches off from the Thames up near Putney, but you’re best off starting around Wimbledon, then making your way down to Morden Hall Park (a beautiful National Trust property). Along the way you’ll find Deen City Farm, and Merton Abbey Mills, either of which you can pop into for a quick feed.

Length? If you’re starting in Wimbledon, it’ll take you roughly an hour.
Map? Right here.
Best time of Day? Morning

WEST

Portobello Road

Credit: Bethany Opler / Unsplash

Starting at Notting Hill Gate and make your way up to Portobello, and you’re in for a colourful and long walk full of haggling, street food, antiques, and iconic locations. If you’re in the market for a meal with an actual table and chair, pop into Orasay. If you want to check out some lovely little shops without the crowds, head one street west onto Kensington Park Road. Once you reach the end of Portobello, you’ll be decanted onto Ladbroke Grove, and up to the canal. Here, you can choose to either carry on walking along the water… orrrr grab a cocktail at Paradise by Way of Kensal Green. Your choice.

Length? Not long, it’s only 35mins from Notting Hill to Paradise by way of Kensal Green. But that’s without stopping. And you will do some stopping.
Map? None needed, just keep heading up Portobello.
Best time of Day? The morning is best to beat the throngs of tourists, but if you want a drink, then start later.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

Again, when it comes to Richmond Park, you’re spoiled for choice. You could just go deer-spotting. Or you could start at Richmond Station, dip in and out of some of the alley’s around Richmond Green (beautifully lit up with fairy lights), head towards the river, stroll along to the terrace gardens and then up to The Roebuck pub where you can sit on their outdoor benches, overlooking the river, for a glass of mulled wine. After that you can head into the main part of Richmond park to see the deer, finishing at Petersham Nurseries for some lunch or coffee and cake.

Length? It’s at least an hour and change.
Map? Here’s a suggested route
Best time of Day? Morning is when the deer are most active, but if you’re after a mulled wine, you might consider waiting.

Sloane Square to The World’s End

Start at Sloane Square, window shop in all the posh shops (Cartier, Tiffany’s etc.), and after you’ve finished fantasising, walk down to Duke Of York Square (a pedestrianised stretch of restaurants, bars, and shops) which is all lit up in lights, have a walk around Partridges (maybe buy something exotic), then stop for a coffee or a hot chocolate in the Vardo cafe. Visit the Saatchi Gallery if you want to. Or keep strolling down to see the big Christmas display at Ivy Chelsea Garden. And if you want to stretch your legs, you can keep on going down the King’s Road until The World’s End.

Length? The full length is only about half an hour, but your distraction factor is extremely high
Map? No need, it’s just down the King’s Road.
Best time of Day? Anytime, but The Saachi Gallery usually opens around 10am.

 

Main image: Simon Wilkes / Unsplash


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