London Landmarks: The Cycling Route to Take This Summer
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In the midst of a pandemic and rising concerns over the city’s ever-growing air pollution (most of which is caused by polluting vehicles, according to TFL), there really is no better way to explore the city than by bicycle – and we have just the route to take. Extracted from Tom Bogdanowicz’s comprehensive London Cycling Guide, produced in association with the London Cycling Campaign, this scenic two-hour route will carry you across the city, past some of its best-loved sights, from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch. Here’s how best to explore London’s landmarks by bike – helmet on, and enjoy!
How to See London’s Landmarks by Bike
‘This classic tour shows how wonderful it can be to visit historic London on a bicycle: see dozens of the capital’s great sights in an afternoon while avoiding most of the traffic that congests the central streets. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Royal Hospital in Chelsea are all on the route, along with St James’s Palace and the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Westminster Cyclists consider the section of route through Hyde Park to be one of the capital’s most attractive cycle rides. For security reasons the police do not permit cycle parking in the streets around Whitehall and Parliament – bikes attached to railings are removed. You will find the nearest bike stands in Great Smith St and others just west of the National Gallery in Cockspur Street.’
- Start outside the entrance to the Gothic Westminster Abbey, where coronations and state funerals take place. The Abbey’s construction was started in 1245 by King Henry III in Gothic style – it has numerous later additions. Cross the road at the traffic signal into Storey’s Gate, and then take care at the junction with Great George St, where you turn left and immediately right.
- Riding down Horse Guards Road, where the annual Trooping the Colour military display takes place, you pass the backs of both the Foreign Office and Downing St and you can visit the Cabinet War Rooms (nearest bike stands near Inn the Park). On the right is Horse Guards Parade, where the Queen’s Life Guard is changed daily at 11 am (Mon–Sat). The gate in the centre leads through to Whitehall. Passing through the gate you can see the façade of the Banqueting House, by Inigo Jones, which was planned as the centrepiece of a larger palace. Returning to Horse Guards Road, on the other side of the road is St James’s Park (WCs) and the pleasant Inn on the Park café (cycle parking nearby).
- At the junction with The Mall, cross right over the carriageway and use the segregated track to the left that leads past the Tudor St James’s Palace, up to Buckingham Palace, designed by Regency architect John Nash but somewhat spoiled by a later front extension. Changing of the Guard takes place here at 11.30 am on days listed at changing-the-guard.com. You can visit Buck House, as locals call it, in August and September and the adjoining Queen’s Gallery throughout the year (bike stands in Buckingham Gate). The cycle track takes you to the right behind Canada Gate along the side of Green Park, following the route of the Cycle Superhighway.
- At Hyde Park Corner, there is a special crossing for cyclists that takes you under Wellington Arch (which you can visit) and over to Hyde Park itself.
- Inside the park turn right and left to follow the road north of the Serpentine, which can be spectacular at sunset. The Serpentine Kitchen and Bar are on the left (with cycle parking). A short detour just before a wooded area takes you past the old police station, now HQ for the Royal Parks. Bearing left, following the route of the Cycle Superhighway, you arrive at the Serpentine Bridge with fine views to either side. The Lido café, a short walk from the south side of the bridge, past the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain, pro- vides an al fresco tea stop.
- Just before the Cycle Superhighway reaches the park gate, cross over the pedestrian crossing, pass through Coalbrookdale Gate and admire the intricate craftsmanship on the Albert Memorial, erected by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband. Across the road you can see the Royal Albert Hall, where classical and pop concerts take place.
- Exiting the park, ride down Queen’s Gate (opposite) to reach the Natural History Museum (cycle parking outside the main entrance).
- Riding south down Onslow Gardens you pass the Sloaney Anglesea Arms.
- After crossing Fulham Road, continue along Old Church St. It’s worth taking a look at Carlyle Square on the left.
- On reaching the River Thames turn left and first left into Cheyne Walk. Nos. 38–39 were designed by C. R. Ashbee in Arts and Crafts style. Former residents of Cheyne Walk include writer George Eliot and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger.
- After joining the main road and passing through the traffic signals at the approach to the Albert Bridge, go through the cycle gap on the left into the east section of Cheyne Walk. At the end, turn half-left into Royal Hospital Road. On the right is the Chelsea Physic Garden (open Wed–Fri and Sun, afternoons), created to help apprentice apothecaries identify useful and medicinal plants. Its café is open April to October.
- Continuing along Royal Hospital Road, you pass the 17th-century Royal Hospital built by Wren to house retired service people, known more commonly as Chelsea Pensioners. They are easy to spot, wearing their distinctive long red military overcoats and campaign medals.
- Continue into Pimlico Road, with a Starbucks and bike stands across the road.
- Cross Ebury Bridge with its classic view of Battersea Power Station (architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott). Bear left at the mini-roundabout into Warwick Way and take the second right (Alderney St). Take the fourth left (Charlwood St) and walk over the road closure.
- The Lillington Gardens Estate at the junction of Vauxhall Bridge Road and Charlwood St is an admired example of high-density housing (architects Darbourne and Darke). It is worth visiting the gardens reached through passages on both sides of Charlwood St.
- Crossing over Vauxhall Bridge Road and heading for Big Ben you circle Vincent Square, home to the Royal Horticultural Society at no. 80 on the far side. Turn left into Vincent St, left again into Marsham St and take care turning right into Horseferry Road.
- Turning left after the traffic lights from Horeseferry Road into Dean Bradley St, the Marquis of Granby (open Mon–Fri) serves food till 9.30 pm (bike stands in Smith Square).
- St John’s Church (17th-century) in Smith Square often has classical concerts.
- Exiting Smith Square by Lord North St, you pass elegant Georgian houses in Cowley St and, after crossing Great Peter St, Lawrence of Arabia’s former home at no. 14 Barton St. Turn left at the end into Great College St.
- Where the street turns left, enter the archway on the right (open daytime hours) into Dean’s Yard, which houses Westminster School. You exit the square to arrive back in front of Westmin- ster Abbey. The Westminster Arms (in Storey’s Gate, opposite) is the nearest pub (bike stands in Great Smith Street).
Local Cycle Guide: 7
Start point: Westminster Abbey
Length: 12 km (71⁄2 m)
Time: 2 hours
Type of ride: Easy. Mostly quiet streets and cycle paths in parks
Sights and places to visit
- Westminster Abbey, 20 Deans Yard SW1P 3PA. Tel 020 7654 4889
- Buckingham Palace, Buckingham Palace Rd, SW1A 1AA. Tel 020 7766 7300
- Wellington Arch, Grosvenor Place SW1X 7. Tel 020 7930 2726
- Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road SW7 5BD. Tel 020 7942 5000
- Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4HS. Tel 020 73525646
Eating and drinking
- Inn the Park, St James’s Park SW1A 2BJ. Tel 020 7451 9999
- Serpentine Bar and Kitchen, Serpentine Road, W2 2UH. Tel 020 7706 8114
- Lido café, south side of the Serpentine W2 2UH. Tel 020 7706 7098
- Anglesea Arms, 15 Selwood Terrace SW7 3QG. Tel 020 73737960
- Marquis of Granby, 41 Romney St SW1P 3RF. Tel 020 7227 0941
- Westminster Arms, 9 Storey’s Gate SW1P 3AT. Tel 020 7222 8520
Rail stations: Victoria
Underground stations: Westminster, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Sloane Square, Pimlico
Extract taken from The London Cycling Guide by Tom Bogdanowicz in association with the London Cycling Campaign, IMM Lifestyle Books, £9.99, waterstones.com