London Circular Canal Walk
This post documents a superb circular walk around London, following mostly waterways, that I did with my eldest daughter, Steph, during August. The weather was fantastic, London was heaving with people, but we experienced a different tranquil, fascinating side to London that was new to me. I highly recommend this walk, or a subset of it, as it’s nearly 26 miles in total.
We were staying in Kew at an excellent Premier Inn, that’s just by the Thames. Our walk started at the hotel and we walked along the Thames bank to Kew Bridge railway station. The trains proved especially busy due to the Tube strike, so we had to stand up the whole way but this was the only time that we really experienced the crush of humanity that can be London, except for a short detour along Oxford Street that Steph wanted, but regretted.
We arrived at Waterloo over ground station and headed immediately for the river, which took us to the London Eye. For a few minutes I was tempted to have a go, but the crowds and prices put me off and I’m pleased they they did as better awaited us.
I love the Thames water front, it’s such a varied walking experience, providing views of amazing apartment conversations, modern office blocks, quaint shops and markets, so many bridges and of course fantastic river views
We didn’t expect to go on this part of the walk as we had planned to take the Tube from Waterloo, but as it happened walking to Limehouse Basin along the Thames was one of the best experiences of our holiday. The only tricky part came when we needed to get across the Thames as we’d passed all of the bridges and the Tube strike denied the tunnels to us. Fortunately a helpful pedestrian pointed us in the direction of the one over land service that was still crossing the Thames, ironically via a tunnel.
Once we crossed the Thames, we were greeted by a superb view of Canary Warf, the home of the financial City of London, by comparison with the rest of the walk, a grim and imposing view that captured most of the side of London I dislike, but we were soon rid of it as we entered the canal network.
I’m a big fan of canal walking and I’d watched a TV series about great canal journeys in which Regents Canal featured prominently and it was my initial motivation for this holiday. Much as we’d enjoyed the Thames we were very pleased to start the walk in earnest as we had a long way to go.
Limehouse Basin provided a vibrant start to the experience as well. A fantastic mix of up market apartments, surrounding a wide range of boats, many of them had people living on them, making for a very welcoming community feel to the place.
Then we were on to the canal proper and what a surprising walk it was. I’d expected much of it to be neglected and run-down, but in contrast it was clean, well signed, bordered by well maintained parks, offices and apartments, it had a fantastic vibe and everyone we met were very friendly. We particularly liked some of the narrow boats that we passed and speculated about their liveability.
When I was still working for CSC I’d discovered that not far from their central King’s Cross office was a freshwater swimming pond and I really wanted to give it a go. Unfortunately I retired from CSC before I got chance to visit the new offices. Not to fear, the Regents Canal goes within a few minutes of the pond and it provided a superb mid walk break. I’d booked a few weeks in advance and £8 got both of us a 4 hour swimming and sunbathing slot, we were running late because of the tube strike, but we still really enjoyed an hour there. It’s a little bit of paradise amid the high rise blocks that surround it, we cooled off nicely and enjoyed the peace and quiet.
After our swim we found time to relax on the recliners in the sun and dried off nicely, before discovering a superb lunch spot overlooking the canal.
Our third sight to see at Kings Cross was St Martin’s University where Anna hopes to study and as luck would have it, the main building was directly behind our picnic spot, so we sneaked inside and had a good look around. Anna and I are having a proper tour in October, but I already know she will love it here if she decides to go.
At this point we were half we were half way along the Regents canal, we still had a walk along the side of London Zoo to enjoy and some spectacular canal side houses and a cooked food market that Stephie really found it hard to pass by.
We ended the canal walk with a snack in a canal boat cafe and then refreshed we made our way back to the railway station. This stretch of the walk also proved to be surprisingly enjoyable as much of it was through, Hyde, St James’ and Green Park. When we arrived back in Kew we found we had almost walked a Marathon so tired though we were we struck out for another couple of miles along the Thames, watching the sunset and in the end we walked almost 27 miles.
It was a great day, one of the few I’ve been lucky enough to spend with Steph this year.
Prior to this walk we’d driven down to Kew and spent an afternoon walking around Kew Gardens. On the day following this walk we explored the parks and museums and spent another relaxing couple of hours swimming in and lounging around in the sunshine at the Serpentine Lido. I also spent a day exploring the superb Chartwell House while Steph met up with friends. On our way home I was pleased to get the chance to meet Steph’s new boyfriend, Graham, who gave us a guided tour of Oxford.
I’m writing up this walk in my conservatory office, it’s a lovely day, but I’m not feeling well. I have a mild cold, but it’s knocked me for six. I’ve just woken up from an afternoon nap and felt the need to do something productive, hence this blog post, long overdue was born. Note that the route map looks like a cute little sausage dog!