Itinerary Location: Kew | Duration: 5 Hours
In the height of summer, outdoor swimming pools can generate a lot of queues.
But not so much, ironically, in Kew.
This leafy patch of south-west London lays claim to one of the loveliest open-air pools in the city, which – surprisingly – flies a little under the radar. And it makes for an exceptionally lovely area to explore if you feel like making a day of it. Just round the corner you’ve got sprawling botanical gardens filled with treetop walkways and ten-storey pagodas; a riverside strip that’s basically one of London’s last medieval villages; and a floating bar & restaurant where you can kick back with a frozen cocktail and watch the sun set.
So no need to put those summer swim plans on ice; we’ve put together the perfect itinerary for a sunny day out in Kew right here…
➊ STRAND ON THE GREEN | 2pm
Your day begins at Kew Bridge station (a 35 minute train ride from Waterloo). Turn right and navigate across the six lanes of traffic to find the turn-off for Strand-on-the-Green, join the river footpath, and prepare yourself for just about the starkest contrast you can find within a two-minute walk.
One of London’s hidden gems, Strand-on-the-Green is essentially a walking tour of 500 years of London architecture, from 15th century pubs to Georgian townhouses, fishermen’s cottages and 30s council housing, condensed into one half-kilometre stretch of exceptionally pretty riverside. It’s one of Chiswick‘s four original medieval villages, and has pretty much managed to keep that independent character. Along the way you’ll see the Fuller’s brewery offices (housed in what was one of London’s largest laundries); the island in the middle of the Thames where Oliver Cromwell apparently hid out during the Civil War (making use of the nearby Bull’s Head pub for er… important military meetings); and a handful of other riverside pubs which – depending on the tides, and the time of year – you may or may not be able to visit, depending on whether the pavement in front of them is fully underwater or not.
Stop off for a drink before retracing your steps – but this time head across Kew Bridge. Carry on right across Kew Green to reach the Elizabeth Gate entrance of…
➋ KEW GARDENS | 2.30pm
Officially founded in 1860, Kew Gardens is one of the oldest – and actually the biggest – collection of plant life in the whole world. It spreads across a relentlessly attractive 500 acres of verdant scenery, which includes vast Victorian glasshouses filled with steamy forests of tropical palms; Roman-styled temples; walkways that take you over the treetops; George III’s family home; and an enormous musical beehive. Stop in at the Orangery to grab a few picky bits, and set up a picnic in the Rhododendron Dell, or, a bit further down the path, in the bamboo gardens.
From here you can cross the lake, and ascend the treetop walkway to admire the Temperate House from above, before popping in to acquaint yourself with some of the 10,000 plants that are threatened with extinction in the wild. On the other side, you’ll join the long avenue that stretches all the way to the pagoda, which (in summer) you can climb up inside for views across the city.
From here, swing a left behind the pagoda to leave Kew through the Lion Gate, and head right along the Kew Road for about 15 minutes (if the sky suddenly clouds over, you can always duck into Library Pot en route for a couple of board games). Assuming you’ve made a sufficiently powerful deal with the weather gods, though, you’ll want to make a beeline for…
➌ POOLS ON THE PARK | 4pm
Yes, it’s a lido. But no, it’s not a lido where you’re going to have to queue for an hour outside, or sit poised with tabs open on three different screens to book a time slot a month before. It may not be a stylishly restored art deco gem like Brockwell Lido, or carry the cachet of London Fields Lido, but it has its own charms – a combination of midcentury architecture and the leafy surrounds of Old Deer Park. Plus, you know, you actually have a shot of getting in.
You can book a week in advance to be safe, or just pay on the door – go for the ‘Swim and Stay’ session to stick around for a bit of sunbathing on the lawns after.
By this point, you’ll have built up an appetite, so it’s time to head to your final stop. Cross the road to take a sneaky shortcut to Richmond Green, cut across the grass, down King Street and the narrow Water Lane to reach the riverside once again.
➍ PEGGY JEAN | 5.30pm
Yes, Peggy Jean is famous for serving brunch cocktails inside enormous watermelons. But this floating restaurant should not be underestimated as a dinner destination, either – in fact, moored up by the grassy banks of Richmond’s riverside, overlooking the neighbourhood’s famously pretty buildings, it’s one of the loveliest places to eat in Richmond. Take a seat on the roof of the converted barge, under the shade of a shrimp-pink parasol, and toast the day’s achievements with a frozen cocktail and a pizza fresh out of the boat’s very own top-deck pizza oven.
It really is the upper crust.
➊ Strand-on-the-Green | London, W4 3NS
➋ Kew Gardens | Richmond, TW9 3AE
➌ Pools On The Park | 44 York Street, Twickenham, TW1 3BZ
➍ Peggy Jean | Riverside, Richmond, TW9 1TH
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