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London is a city of two sides.

Sometimes busy, noisy, smelly, polluted, crowded, expensive, oppressive, harsh, unforgiving. Sometimes green, fresh, wild, freeing, inspiring, calming, welcoming, peaceful, beautiful.

Imagine yourself strolling along with a gentle breeze in your face, the sweet smell of wildflowers hugging to the warm summer air, your boots crunch in the dry dirt as you meander your way through a meadow. You are alone with your thoughts, your peace interrupted only by distant chirps and flourishes of blackbirds prancing in and out of a nearby hedgerow…

Pretty magical huh?! Now what if I told you that a scene like this is never further than 45 minutes from every Londoner, no matter where you are or live. Don’t believe me or want to find out more? Read on.

Ultimate walking guide for London

In this ultimate walking guide for London, we are going to be exploring London’s wilder side by celebrating some of it’s best and unexpectedly nature rich walks. I’ll take you from the banks of the Thames, through ancient oak forests, past palaces, watch towers, canal locks and even quintessential babbling brooks.

Each of the walks included in this guide can be reached by tube/train/bus and non require you to have any special equipment or experience. All you need is a charged phone, an eye on the weather(forecast) and a desire to escape from the urban jungle for a few blissful hours.

(If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous – check out our Two Day Canoe Trip on the River Thames – from £60pp)

The 15 Best Walks in London

 

London is one of the best cities in the world for urban hiking, if you know where to look. We have carefully curated a list of some of the best mid distance walks (5 – 10 miles) in the capital, many of which I have personally completed. With just this selection alone you could do a beautiful walk once a month in London for a whole year, with little or no planning (and have 3 spare).

We have split the walks into 5 areas, with 3 walks in each. So whether you want to escape in North, East, South, West or Central London all you have to do is bookmark this page, pick one and go. So, what are you waiting for?

 

The Best Walks in North London

 

1. Highgate to Stoke Newington Walk

Start: Highgate Tube Station

Finish: Stoke Newington Tube Station

Length: 5 miles

Time to complete: 2 – 3 hours (depending on stops)

Highgate Wood
Highgate Wood

Highlights: A surprisingly green and beautiful walk, the route takes you along the longest nature reserve in London where you’ll truly feel like you’re in another world (even when metres from houses). The towering forest that hugs the path for much of the first half has to been seen to be believed. Stop off and check out some of the graffitied abandoned railway architecture before stopping off halfway for a drink or bite to eat at the family run Finsbury Park Cafe.

Next you’ll be following the 400 year old “New River” before your watery journey continues as you pass two reservoir and nature reserves. The walk continues through the perfectly formed Clissord Park – if you have time, explore the Pump House, Animal Enclosure and Clissold House. Finish with a short detour through Abney Park Cemetery.

Map and route: Highgate to Stoke Newington PDF

2. Rickmansworth to Chesham Walk

Start: Rickmansworth Tube Station

Finish: Chesham Tube Station

Length: 10 miles

Time to complete: 4 – 6 hours (depending on stops)

Highlights: Fancy strolling through wheat fields, forests, past babbling brooks, fields of horsey friends and finishing off with a dip in an open air Lido? If that sounds awesome, you’ve come to the right place.

The Chess Valley (where the walk takes place) has some of the most attractive countryside in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is a landscape rich in wildlife, with a long and fascinating history.

Along the way there are historic buildings and estates, water meadows, ancient field systems and nature reserves. To top it all off, at the end of the walk there is the opportunity to take a dip in  the Chesham Village Lido (open air swimming pool) – one of the most tranquil swimming pools I’ve ever had the pleasure to use.

Map and route: Rickmansworth to Chesham Walk PDF

 

3. Hampstead Heath Circular Walk

Start and Finish : Either Gospel Oak or Tufnell Park Stations (+ walk in)

Length: 6 miles

Time to complete: 2 – 3.5 hours

Hampstead Heath

Highlights:  Starting/finishing at the Parliament Hill Lido this walk could begin or end with an optional swim in an amazingly large fresh water Lido.

The walk itself circumnavigates the entire Hampstead heath, taking you past all the famous sights (and sites) including the Goodison Fountain, Kenwood House, Golders Hill Park, Pryors Field as well as taking you to the highest natural summit in London for some spectacular views of the capital.

This has to be one of the greenest and most pleasant walks in London and is a MUST for any urban walkers bucket list. For those looking for a little more adventure, why not stop off for a wild swim in one of Hampstead Heaths single gender or mixed swimming ponds – I cannot recommend a dip more highly!

Map and route: Hampstead Circular Walk PDF  (see trail 2 and page 6 for a map)

 

The Best Walks in East London

 

4. Hackney Wick Circular Walk

Start and Finish: Hackney Wick Tube Station (+ walk in)

Length: 7 miles

Time to complete: 2 – 2.5 hours

Highlights:  One of the more bizarre walks in this collection, this walk skirts the edge of what is essentially a HUGE playing field with over 80 grass football, cricket and rugby pitches. Before you give this one a miss, the walk itself keeps to the strip of wildlife managed grassland and trees that surrounds the park.

During this walk you will pass through areas of trees, hedges, woodland, open water, riverbank, open grassland, meadow and along the Lea Canal  – with much of the land designated for nature conservation. Well worth a visit. Tip: start and finish at Hackney Wick and walk along the River Lea to start the walk in an anticlockwise direction (click on here to see route to start).

Map and route: Hackney Wick Circular Walk PDF

5. Victoria Park Circular Walk

Start and Finish: Mile End Tube Station (+ walk in)

Length: 5 miles

Time to complete: 2 – 2.5 hours

Highlights:  Start your walk at Mile End station and walk to and from Victoria Park along the Regents Canal. Once you reach the park you can either choose your own route, or combine the routes in the PDF below to take in the best of London’s oldest public parks (over 170 years old). The park is one of the most popular in London with over 9 million visitors per year and for good reason – with over 4500 trees and many native and non-native species the park is host to an abundance of flora and fauna.

I would highly recommend combining the two trails below to form a fully encompassing investigation of the park and it’s delights. Each trail focuses on visiting the wide variety of tree species throughout the park but they also take you past plenty ponds, pagodas and park benches – perfect to pause and ponder (or people watch) ;).

Map and route 1: Victoria Park Walk 1 PDF

Map and route 2: Victoria Park Walk 2 PDF

6. Rainham Marshes to Purfleet

Start : Rainham Train Station (Essex)

Finish : Purfleet

Length: 8 miles

Time to complete: 3 – 4 hours

Highlights: A great birdwatching walk that will take you along through atmospheric and open land alongside the tidal Thames River. Whilst this walk is one of the furthest from central London that is featured in this list, I wouldn’t consider it a countryside walk. That’s not to mean it doesn’t pass through some spectacular scenery, it does, but thank marshes, mudflats and huge skies rather than meadows and thickets. Taking this into consideration I would suggest completing the walk in Autumn or Winter when the well kept footpath will allow you to take in some of the local curios including passing some beached and abandoned landing craft used in the D-Day landings and a large public work of art known as “The Diver”.

Finish the walk by visiting the great RSPB Reserve at Rainham Marshes and it’s excellent visitor centre. The marshes themselves are one of very few ancient landscapes remaining in London, these medieval marshes hosting a wealth of water fowl, sea birds, waders and birds of prey. Just remember to take some binoculars!

Map and route: Rainham Marshes to Purfleet Walk PDF 

 

The Best Walks in South London

 

7. Falconwood to Grove Park Walk

Start : Falconwood Tube Station

Finish : Grove Park Tube Station

Length: 4 miles

Time to complete: 1.5 – 2 hours

Highlights: The whole of this four mile walk is shared with the Green Chain Walk, although it is waymarked with distinctive Big Ben Capital Ring signs. The route passes Eltham Palace (the highlight of this walk), which is open to the public. Other interesting locations include Eltham Park South, the house where the celebrated cricketer W G Grace lived, as well as Eltham College. The route passes through open areas with parks and playing fields linked by pleasant residential areas.

Map and route: Falconwood to Grove Park Walk PDF 

8. Crystal Palace to Forest Hill Walk

Start : Crystal Palace Tube Station

Finish : Forest Hill Tube Station

Length: 8 miles

Time to complete: 3 – 4 hours

Highlights: A lovely route for a stroll, you will pass through 5 different gardens and parks with plenty of things to see and explore along the way. An interesting and varied walk, particularly because of the curiosities you pass along the way. These include the infamous (and bizarrely shaped) Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, a selection of sculptures dating back to 1852 making them the first in the world.

Next you’ll pass the Dulwich Picture Gallery (European old masters paintings) and towards the end the Horniman Museum with it’s unusual collection of natural history – which is well worth a visit.  Not the wildest of walks but lovely non the less.

Map and route: Crystal Palace to Forest Hill Walk PDF

 

9. Oxshott to Ashtead Walk

Start : Oxhsott Train Station

Finish : Ashtead

Length: 12 miles

Time to complete: 5 – 7 hours

Highlights: We’re at walk number 9 in our list and it’s time to step things up a little. Oxshott is still on 34 mins train from central London (Waterloo) but this walk has all the trappings of a proper countryside ramble. Many parts of this walk would be more at home in deep in the Sussex Weald, but remarkable the entirety of this walk is within the M25 ring road. So onto the walk itself.

At 12 miles this is the longest of our walks and arguably one of the wildest. With a mixture of paths, this is a great walk from Spring through to early Autumn and will have passing through a Site of Special Scientific Interest, heathland, grassland, scrub, ancient woodland and past areas of marsh, bog, and open water. Unsurprisingly this walk has a real wildness feel at times with an abundance of wildlife along it’s route.

I would recommend taking snacks and a packed lunch, but there are also opportunities to stop off for a refreshment or to buy your lunch along the way. If you start the walk early, at the 8 mile mark you will pass a pub called The Star which offers great wholesome grub.

Map and route: Oxshott to Ashtead Walk PDF

 

The Best Walks in West London

 

10. Osterley Lock to Greenford Walk

Start : Boston Manor Tube Station

Finish: Greenford Lock Tube Station

Length: 5.5 miles

Time to complete: 2 – 2.5 hours

Highlights: This is one of favourite walks in London (definitely top 3). Why? For three reasons:

  1. It’s really easy to get to from central London
  2. It’s unbelievably green and au natural
  3. You only cross 3 roads in over 2 hours of walking….in London (how is this possible!?)

Starting alongside the Grand Union Canal you will immediately transported away from the hustle and bustle of a major city to a slower, simpler and much calmer setting. Picture canal boats drifting along the Grand Union Canal, open parkland, grassy meadows and thickets of shrubs and trees. You’ll even pass some historic sites including the impressive Wharncliffe Viaduct and beautifully peaceful Brent Lodge – which is nestled in it’s own sloping parkland. Brent Lodge Park would be an ideal place to break for lunch, grab a toilet break and spend half an hour exploring.

Map and route: Osteerly Lock to Greenford Park Walk PDF

 

11. Richmond Circular Walk

Start/Finish Richmond Tube Station

Length: +5 miles (depending on detours)

Time to complete: 1.5 – 2.5 hours

 

Highlights: Another great walk, this will probably be one of the busier walks in this list and for good reason. Starting and finishing in Richmond, a beautiful and quaint ‘village’ nestled on the banks of the River Thames, you’ll start by heading away from the river up towards the boundary of Richmond Park. As you gain height the views to your right, looking West, will reveal to you some of the finest views in West London. When I last took in this panorama I was shocked by the amount of greenery on display, with trees as abundant as the forest of chimneys and rooftops.

 

From a vantage point, using the fixed telescope provided you can look East through a long avenue of trees back towards central London to reveal a famous landmark miles away in the distance (I’ll leave it to you to discover this for yourself).

As you return back down to the Thames, your route will take you past  Ham House followed by Petersham Meadows as you return back to Richmond via the Thames Path. A perfect walk for a crisp Spring day or lazy Summer afternoon.

Map and route: Richmond Circular Walk PDF

 

12. Richmond to Hammersmith Walk

Start: Richmond Tube Station

Start: Hammersmith Tube Station

Length: 6 miles

Time to complete: 2 – 3 hours

Highlights: Another Thames based walk and the easiest to follow, in terms of directions, out of the 15. Again starting in Richmond this time you walk to the river and turn right and that’s it, for the next 6 miles you’ll be following the Thames Footpath along a beautiful section of the Thames.

After clearing Richmond and the surrounding area you will soon be on a section of the Thames that seems a lot more rural than central London. With Kew Gardens on your right and Syon Park and House across the river on your left the sounds of the city will melt away to be replaced by the rustle of leaves, creak of trees and chirps of a passing Chiff Chaff.

As you get closer to Hammersmith you’ll pass St Paul’s School (one of the oldest in the country) before you reach Hammersmith Bridge and your riverside walk is almost at an end. If you’re feeling peckish or have a dry mouth after your romp, across the bridge you’ll find The Blue Anchor – a riverside pub with outside benches where you can sit out in the sun. From here it’s a short walk to Hammersmith Station.

Map and route: Richmond to Hammersmith Walk PDF

 

The Best Walks in Central London

 

13. Regents Park & Primrose Hill Circular Walk

Start/Finish: Regents Park Tube (or Baker Street)

Length: 5 miles

Time to complete: 1.5 – 2.5 hours

Highlights:  Are you a grass starved urbanite with limited time and a desire to stay central? This walk is perfect.

Once you’ve made your way from the busy Marylebone Road a pleasant stroll around Regents Park awaits. As this walk is almost 100% on concrete or well managed paths this is a perfect walk if you’re with those with less suitable footwear or on days when the ground could be muddy underfoot.

You’ll first skirt the boating lake before walking through a selection of avenues of manicured trees and shrubs – a common sight on this route. After crossing the outer circle road (that encircles Regents Park) and crossing a footbridge you’ll be on a quiet section of the Regents Canal, passing on the other side of the river from the London Zoo.

You’ll now climb onto the refreshingly open land of Primrose Hill, with it’s panoramic views of London and thickets of mature deciduous trees. On a sunny day this is a favourite spot for many who are out to enjoy the weather so be warned – this may not be the quietest walk! To end the walk you’ll return back to Regents Park and the huge open concrete paths that criss cross the parkland.

Map and route: Regents Park and Primrose Hill Circular Google Maps Link

 

14. Big Ben to Surrey Quays (5.5 miles)

Start: Westminster Tube Station

Finish: Surrey Quays Overground Station

Length: 5.5 miles

Time to complete: 2 – 2.5 hours (or take it easy and spend 5)

Highlights: This is the most “urban” and least “wild” walk in the 15. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a look. Taking you through the centre of central London, with the Thames as your companion you will be literally walking past some of the most famous landmarks in London. These are listed below with the parks/green spaces in bold:

The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, The London Eye, Jubilee Gardens, Southbank Centre, National Theatre, Television Centre, Somerset House, Inner Temple Garden, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, Potters Fields Park, London Bridge, HMS Belfast, King Stairs Gardens and Southwark Park.

A very busy walk in places, this walk never feels as claustrophobic as it should due to the open expense created by the Thames providing you with a consistently big sky. With so much to do and see along the way I would recommend taking your time and making a day of it, stopping off along the way as you see fit.

Map and route: Big Ben to Surrey Quays Google Maps Link

 

15. Big Ben to Notting Hill Gate Walk

(Via Buckingham Palace, Green Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, Holland Park, Kyoto Garden and Notting Hill)

Start : Westminster Tube Station

Finish : Notting Hill Gate Tube Station

Length: 5.8 miles

Time to complete: 2 – 3.5 hours (depending on stops)

Highlights: Fancy seeing some amazing London Landmarks whilst taking in three of central London’s most famous parks? Then look no further.

Starting at Big Ben and Parliament square, you will first be sampling the delights of St Jame’s Park, one of eight Royal Parks and measuring a not too shabby 57 acres in area (40 football pitches). Make sure to stop off and see the resident pelicans in the lake before making your way towards the crowds in front of Buckingham Palace – home to our Queen.

From here you’ll pass to the right (East) of the Palace into the smaller Green Park, which nonetheless has some beautiful natural areas at it’s centre. As you pass the large roundabout, dominated by the Wellington Arch you will be closing in on the greenest stretch of the walk – Hyde Park.

Your meandering route (see link below) will take you through all it’s best areas including along the Serpentine in two places and through the meadows in the North of the Park. Kensington Palace is your next stop (home to Kate, William and Harry). From here you could head straight for Notting Hill Gate Tube or continue on through the back streets of Kensington and the beautifully formed Holland Park and the Kyoto Garden.

This walk is a MUST for all native Londoners and visitors alike.

Map and route: Big Ben to Notting Hill Google Maps Link

 

And there it is…over a years worth of monthly walks in London. I really hope that you’ve found this resource useful and that you find time to go on at least one of these walks soon. I promise you won’t regret it.

If you go on any of these walks please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you think of them. Similarly if you can think of any walks that I have missed please comment that too :).

Happy walking!

(If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous – check out our Two Day Canoe Trip on the River Thames – from £60pp)

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