These scenic country walks in London are a perfect way to explore a different side of the city for serious trekkers and casual wanderers alike. Here’s our guide to where to visit and what you’ll find.
This certainly feels like the most excited we have ever been for summer. Like kids wishing away the hours until the school holidays begin, we’re absolutely counting down to the start of the season, which will be marked as June 21st (should the Government’s lockdown-easing roadmap remain on course).
If you’re a Londoner and all-too familiar with the sticky heat and sweating on the Tube, you might think that summer’s charms won’t be as easy to enjoy in the city. But the capital is home to lots of beautiful walking routes that are perfect for spending an afternoon in the sun.
From canal towpaths and deer parks to palace gardens and cemeteries, there are loads of hidden gems of greenery right on your doorstep – it’s just a case of knowing where to look.
We’ve cherry-picked the best country walks in London that will give you the satisfaction and fresh air that comes with leaving the city behind, without actually having to. Both ambles and gentle jaunts, they cater to everyone, whether you’re a serious trekker, just fancy a wander or are looking for somewhere to read a good book.
What are you waiting for?
The Jubilee Loop
Distance: 2 miles
When we usually think of a country walk we imagine stretching fields and rolling hills, but if you’re going to take a stroll in London, why not see some of the magic this city is known for? The Jubilee Loop still includes lots of green spaces including St James’s Park and Parliament Square, but also stops off by Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square for some sightseeing, too.
Stoke Newington to Hackney Wick
Distance: 4 miles
This relatively short, easy amble is perfect for those who love the water, with a route that tracks the River Lea and crosses through the nature reserve at Springfield Park. Finishing in Hackney Wick is great news for those looking to reward themselves with a drink. We recommend popping into Crate or Grow to feel fed and watered again.
Highgate to Stoke Newington
Distance: 5 miles
North London is famed for its leafy parks, and this pleasant walk gives you the opportunity to stroll through many of them. Starting at Priory Gardens in Highgate, you’ll amble through many a grassy patch. The route continues to Parkland Walk – London’s longest nature reserve – then Finsbury Park, the Stoke Newington Reservoirs, Clissold Park and House (which are just moments away from the adorable Church Street, a great place to venture for a cup of tea if you fancy) before arriving at the eerily beautiful Abney Park Cemetery.
Three Mills to East India Dock
Distance: 2 miles
This is just a little one to get you started, perfect for those who haven’t done a long walk in a while. If you’re loving it, though, do not fear – there is an extended version and neighbouring walks you can add on to your route (find them here). Starting at Bromley-by-Bow, you’ll head out of this lovely, leafy area of South East London and gun for the river, passing highlights such as St Anne’s Church and Bow Creek Ecology Park as you go. Ending at the East India Docks, you can explore the wealth of shops and restaurants at Canary Wharf nearby, or continue into east London.
Erith Riverside to Old Bexley Village
Distance: 8.5 miles
Take this easy amble which consists mainly of riverside pathways and views alongside the Thames, and end up in the historic village of Old Bexley. As you go, you’ll see sights such as the Waterside Gardens and Hall Place, which has plenty of cafes and shops to stop at. What’s a country walk without a piece of cake and cup of tea, after all?
Hampton Court to Albert Bridge
Distance: 23 miles
This one is a corker. There’s a lot to see on this lengthy walk, but don’t worry this monster route can be done in smaller sections, depending on what you’d like to see most. Starting at Hampton Court and following the river the entire way, highlights include Kew Gardens, Syon Park, Chelsea Harbour and Marble Hill. There are some great traditional pubs and cute cafes along the way too.
Clissold Park to Springfield Park
Distance: 3 miles
Starting off in Clissold Park, which was built in 1790, there’s lots of history to take in as you wander through the nearby Abney Park Cemetery grounds, hailed one of the ‘magnificent seven’ garden cemeteries built in the second half of the 19th century. From here it’s on to Stoke Newington Common and eventually to Springfield Park, with views over the flood plains of the River Lea.
Woolwich Foot Tunnel to Falconwood
Distance: 7 miles
This mainly level route is one of the longest sections of TFL’s Capital Ring, with a landscape that continues to be contrasting throughout. The walk starts by the southern end of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, adjacent to the River Thames and heads along by the river towards the Thames Barrier giving a lovely, watery view. It continues through Maryon Park in Greenwich, before taking you to Charlton House, with original Tudor features and a delightful tea rooms. After passing through Shooters Hill (the highest point in Greenwich), you’ll end up at the beautiful gothic tower, Severndroog Castle.
Hampstead Heath Circular Walk
Distance: 4 miles
This ramble begins on Hampstead High Street, where you pass the Wells and Campden Baths and Wash Houses, red brick public buildings built in 1888 to help north London’s workers stay clean.
You head back further in time as you reach Burgh House, a museum and arts centre, dating back to 1703. Then it’s onto the Heath proper. Almost straight away you’ll come across its famous ponds but, if you prefer not to bathe, start the slow ascent up Parliament Hill. The panorama at the top – across central London – is well worth the effort.
On the way down, take in Kenwood House and its art collection, which includes works by Turner, Gainsborough and Rembrandt, and look out for Barbara Hepworth’s Monolith-Empyrean on Kenwood’s lawn.
The home stretch includes Hampstead’s peaceful woods and picturesque views at Viaduct Bridge, as well as Hampstead Grove, one of the most genteel streets in London.
The Thames Path from Putney Bridge to Barnes
Distance: 4 miles
This stretch along the River Thames forms the majority of the route taken during the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race.
When it’s not inundated with excited students, this is the perfect place for a peaceful amble. Along the mainly-flat path, you’ll go through Fulham Palace Gardens, with its 19th century walled garden, and briefly skirt away from the river to circumvent the perimeter of Fulham Football Club. Then it’s back to the riverside where you can spy Harrods’ exceedingly grand depository across the way and the boat houses of St Paul’s School.
Finish off with a pint in Barnes’ most famous pub, The Sun Inn, which overlooks the village pond.
Richmond to Ham House Walk
Distance: 4.5 miles
This walk begins with an iconic view from the top of Richmond Hill down towards the Thames, the only view in the country protected by an act of Parliament.
Look out for deer as you head into Richmond Park and King Henry’s Mound, where on a clear day you can see St Paul’s Cathedral, 10 miles away.
After leaving the park, you’ll find yourself in the gorgeous village of Ham with its beautiful Georgian mansions and polo club. It’s just a short jaunt from here to Ham House, a National Trust property with a second-hand bookshop and excellent cream teas.
The Princess Diana Memorial Walk
Distance: 7 miles
As well as taking visitors through four of the city’s royal parks, this commemorative walk features buildings and locations associated with Princess Diana during her lifetime.
It’s amazing to think that there is almost continuous greenery this close to the centre of London but starting at St James’s Park, it’s a quick hop across the Mall to Green Park, then under the Wellington Arch to Hyde Park and onto Kensington Gardens.
Look out for the three palaces and two mansions along the way, as well as The Albert Memorial, The Round Pond and Green Park’s Broad Walk, which comes into its own in the summer.
Chiswick House Gardens
Distance: 1 mile
This is less a walk, more a meander through 65 acres of restored 18th century gardens.
Don’t think there isn’t still plenty to see; these gardens were the inspiration behind Capability Brown’s work at Blenheim and are a unique combination of stunning vistas, Italian follies, secret pathways and lots of colourful flowers.
Choose your own route but be sure to visit The Cascade, a waterfall that descends through a series of rock steps and three archways, and the Raised Terrace, which offers visitors views of Kew Gardens across the river.
Crystal Palace to Nunhead Cemetery Green Chain Walk
Those who don’t like a climb will be pleased to learn that this walk starts from the high point of Crystal Palace before beginning a descent.
After heading past the giant dinosaur sculptures of Crystal Palace Park and through the leafy avenues of Sydenham Wells Park, you’ll come to the Horniman Museum and Gardens. If you’re not in a hurry, it’s worth stopping off at its little aquarium but otherwise continue on to the pretty gravestones of Camberwell Old Cemetery.
It’s then on through Brenchley Gardens and into the peace and quiet of New Camberwell Cemetery before the final leg takes you to the third and final cemetery on this route at Nunhead.
The Lime Trail, Wanstead Flats
Distance: 1.5 miles
With its short distance and well-maintained path, it’s easy to see why the Lime Trail, which meanders through Bush Wood Flats, has become a hotspot for families on warm weekends.
The walk only takes 30 minutes to complete but highlights include the 300-year-old sweet chestnut trees that line part of the route and the chance to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker, which has made this wood its home.
North Greenwich to Blackheath Walk
Distance: 8.5 miles
This eclectic walk starts with the Millennium Dome and Antony Gormley’s Quantum Cloud artwork at North Greenwich Pier, before it follows the river past Greenwich Yacht Club (apparently there is such a place) and continues on to the Thames Barrier.
Next it’s on through Hanging Wood, where 18th century highwaymen once lay in wait, and on to Charlton Park and Charlton House, where you can also visit the Amnesty International Peace Garden. The walk continues onto the grassy expanse of Woolwich Common, via the smaller Hornfair Park.
The next highlight is Morden College, a 17th century alms house with extensive landscaped gardens that takes you to the corner of Blackheath and its village pond.
The Jubilee Greenway (Little Venice to Camden Lock stretch)
Distance: 2.3 miles
This pleasant jaunt, which is entirely along canal towpaths, forms the second leg of the Jubilee Greenway, a 37-mile route around the north of London.
You follow the Grand Union Canal as it turns into the Regent’s Canal, and finish at Camden Lock, but there’s more to see than just narrow boats and aqueduct bridges. You can stop off for a few overs at Lord’s Cricket Ground or visit the animals in ZSL London Zoo en route.
A large section of this walk is also along the north side of Regent’s Park with its neat landscaping and pristine lawns. Camden marks the end of the ramble but leave time to wander around its market and find a bargain.
The River Ravensbourne (Catford to the Thames)
Distance: 4.2 miles
If you fancy a river-side stroll, this stretch of Waterlink Way is worth a try.
Start at Catford Bridge Station and finish at the River Thames at Greenwich.
The River Ravensbourne flows through parkland and open concrete chutes as it weaves through south London. However, over the past few decades, some of these chutes have been removed to allow the river to flow through a more natural environment and wildlife to return – so expect the best of both worlds.
Additional words: Amy Beecham / Images: iStock / Rex / Getty Images