While a stay at the Rubens at the Palace evokes something of a country manor feel, there’s no escaping the fact that London is, clearly, a big city. With a population of around 10 to 12 million, depending on where and how you draw the borders, the terraced houses, the monuments, the skyscrapers and the underground can sometimes leave you gasping for fresh air.
Some of my favourite parks live and breathe right in the centre of London: Hyde Park is one, and then there’s St James’s as well. All have real grass, not fenced in concrete or wooden chips like you’ll find in some other capital cities.
Yet that’s only the beginning of London’s green space. Travel just a short while further and you’ll experience rolling hills, wild deer, history and some of the best views of London.
Here’s a hand-picked selection of some of my favourites:
Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park
Climb the 78 metre hill in Regent’s Park to look back at the city of London spread out right before you. Primrose Hill not only describes the hill itself but also the fashionable and upmarket district that surrounds it. In fact, you’re only a stone’s throw away from Lord’s, the home of cricket.
Greenwich offers less in terms of spectacular views but more, much more in terms of history and even the concept of space and time. The Greenwich Observatory lives in Greenwich Park, where the Meridian Line defines zero degrees longitude. It’s also the home of Greenwich Mean Time and makes for an invigorating stroll between the Observatory at the top and the market at the bottom.
Surely one of the wildest parks in London, Richmond Park covers more than 2500 acres and houses more than 600 deer. Its steep hills and leafy off-road tracks make it a popular spot for cyclists but there’s also plenty of peace to find in the flowery Isabella Plantation. Walking here makes you feel as though you’ve left London completely behind, until you reach the spot where you can see St Paul’s, more than 12 miles away.
With a swan-filled lake and wide expanses of grass so long that deer can hide in them, Bushy Park really brings the countryside to London. It neighbours the notorious Hampton Court Palace and the Hampton Court Maze but provides a welcome escape from all the politics of the realm of Henry VIII (and the 21st century world as well.)
By Abigail King
Abigail writes for Inside the Travel Lab about the art and science of unusual journeys.