Living in or travelling to London is often associated with bustling streets, a fast pace of life, and limited opportunity to get to appreciate the landscape that both the city and the surrounding area has to offer. London is fortunate in that it has so much to offer in terms of variety, both in the city itself but also within a reasonably small radius which surrounds the city. From city centre views and a number of beautiful parks, to the stunning countryside of Kent and Surrey, London is within striking distance of some stunning places to walk – ideal for stretching your legs after a week in the office or a long journey to the capital. Here’s a series of five great FREE walks, taking you from the city centre to the leafy surrounding counties.
Best for: Sightseeing – London Bridges Walk (4 miles, Difficulty – Easy, Duration – 1hr 30 mins):
The many bridges which span the width of the Thames form some of London’s most famous and iconic landmarks. You’re bound to get distracted by a number of sites along the way, but this route is a great way to see some of the capital’s best views on two feet, and for free.
Starting at Westminster Tube station, adjacent to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, you’ll head out across Westminster Bridge and towards the London Eye, offering a great view of some of the most recognisable buildings in London. Moving north-eastwards, the next major bridge on the route is Waterloo Bridge, made to commemorate the famous battle of 1815. You’ll cross this bridge to the north, and head east along the bank, passing Somerset House and the Inner Temple Gardens. Cross Blackfriars Bridge back to the south of the river, quickly followed by Millennium Bridge, close to St Paul’s Cathedral to the north and the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern to the south. Continue along the north bank, past the monument to the Great Fire of London and across London Bridge, which offers excellent views of The Shard, London’s tallest and most striking building. Take the riverside path past The Shard and reach Tower Bridge, one of London’s most photographed and famous sites. The walk is then complete as you cross the bridge towards the Tower of London.
YHA stay: YHA London Central
Best for – Parks and Nature – Richmond Park (7.35 miles, Difficulty – Medium, Duration – 2.75 hrs)
Richmond Park is London’s largest royal park, covering 955 hectares and providing a home to a large number of deer who roam freely within the park. The most popular walk within the park is the Tamsin Trail, which navigates the perimeter of the area, and allows access from a number of the surrounding car parks which serve the park. The walk is best enjoyed at a steady pace, with the occasional break for a photograph of the scenery or to enjoy a cheeky ice cream during the warmer months. If you want to enjoy a more distant view of Central London, a slight detour up Sawyer’s Hill is well worth the effort, rewarding you with a scene including the London Eye, the Gherkin and various other famous London landmarks.
YHA stay: YHA London Earl’s Court
Best for – History – Hampton Court (8 miles, Difficulty – Easy, Duration – 3 hrs):
If the hustle and bustle of the city becomes a little much and you fancy taking things down a gear there are plenty of places to walk near London. Head westwards and out into Surrey to the leafier town of Kingston-upon-Thames, and enjoy the charms of Hampton Court Palace and Park, alongside Bushy Park. You’ll feel a lot further than just 13 miles from Big Ben as you step out from Hampton Court Station and head onwards toward Hampton Court Park.
This walk explores the two royal parks next to Hampton Court Palace before making its way back to the palace itself. The walk leaves Home Park at Kingston Gate and crosses the main road to enter the larger Bushy Park. The route goes through the Woodland Gardens to the recently-restored Water Gardens, a reminder of the park’s baroque history. It then loops back through the centre of the park and goes along part of the mile-long Chestnut Avenue, past the Diana Fountain to Hampton Court Gate, opposite the palace’s Lion Gates. The final part of the walk is through the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. At the end of the route you can choose to enter the palace and gardens, though this will come at a cost of around £20. It offers an insight into the life of famous British Monarch, Henry VIII.
YHA stay: YHA London St Pancras
Best for – Suburban Sundays – Morden Hall Park (2 miles, Difficulty – Very Easy, Duration – 1 hr):
Situated at the end of the Northern Line in deepest south London, Morden Hall Park offers a taste of the country within a stones’ throw of the capital. National Trust owned, with free access to the public, the park retains hints to its industrial heritage, with mills and buildings remaining as local hubs –including a learning centre and craft workshops. When spring has sprung and the trees are in bloom, there’s very little to indicate that you are actually in one of Europe’s largest cities, with nature surrounding you. A short walk to be enjoyed by those of all walking abilities, the route takes in Snuff Mill, passes Morden Cottage, its rose garden and Morden Hall. Water is a focal part of Morden Hall Park. During the walk you will cross over the River Wandle several times and visit the vibrant riverbanks and islands which provide homes to a number of plants and birdlife. For a detailed guide to this dog-friendly Greater London walk, click here
YHA stay: YHA Oxford Street
Best for – Pub Lunch Walk – Medway Valley (11.7 miles, Difficulty – Medium, Duration – 6 hours):
Heading south-eastwards from London and out into Kent, this walk will allow you to enjoy the delicate and beautiful landscape of the county known as the Garden of England. Just an hour’s train journey from London Bridge station is Leigh, the village where the walk begins. The lengthy route will take you through the grounds of Penshurst Place and the quintessential English village of Penshurst, before snaking its way along the River Medway and into Royal Tunbridge Wells via woods and parks which extend into the town. The real treat of the day is a stop for food and drink in a local pub, and there is no shortage of options available, with country pubs dotted along the route. If afternoon tea is more your thing, then the route also offers stop offs at a range of cafes and tea rooms. Once at the end of the route, a train back from Tunbridge Wells to Charing Cross will take approximately 55 minutes. A detailed version of this route can be found here.
YHA stay: YHA London Thameside