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Five of north London’s most scenic walking routes

Whether it’s through parks, along canals or around leafy residential backstreets, exploring the capital on foot never gets old. These five routes showcase north London at its best.

Published 13 Mar 2021, 08:00 GMT, Updated 15 Mar 2021, 14:58 GMT
The Regents Canal has born witness to epoch-defining events, including the industrial revolution and both World ...

The Regents Canal has born witness to epoch-defining events, including the industrial revolution and both World Wars.

Photograph by Getty Images

1. Regents Canal


Distance: 6 miles 
Start: Kensal Green
End: Camden Town
Terrain: Flat, but the path is often busy and gets very narrow at points

Two centuries of London history have played out around the Regent’s Canal. The waterway, which celebrated its bicentenary during the nationwide lockdown last year, has born witness to epoch-defining events, including the industrial revolution and both World Wars. Its adjacent path can no longer be called under-the-radar; it’s both well-loved and well-trodden, and dodging bicycles while trying not to fall in is all part and parcel of a day out by the water. 

The whole nine-mile stretch starts from Paddington Basin and ends at Limehouse, but consider heading slightly further west for a wander around Kensal Green Cemetery first. The graveyard is one of London’s ‘Magnificent Seven ‘(among which, the more famous Highgate Cemetery and Nunhead Cemetery also feature) and a veritable labyrinth of ornate Catholic mausoleums, some decaying, others immaculate. 

From there, head through Notting Hill and past Portobello Market to link up with the canal in Maida Vale. Pause by Little Venice Pool and tip your hat to the resident swans, who often have a bevy of signets in tow in spring, before continuing up through Regents Park. 

The path cuts through London Zoo, so wildlife continues to feature; keep your eyes peeled for the warthog pen, the aviary and a couple of resident giraffes peering over their enclosure. Continuing on into Camden, this stretch of the canal is lined with particularly pretty house boats, often painted myriad colours and covered in flowers. 

Read more: A walking tour of east London's public art

Epping Forest is a quiet part of the capital where traffic noise dims.

Photograph by Getty Images

2. Epping Forest Centenary Walk


Distance: 6.5 miles
Start: Manor Park
End: Chingford
Terrain: Parks, wetlands and woodlands, so wear walking boots

Swaying grassland, wildflowers, and a serene, duck-filled pond all combine to beautiful effect on Wanstead Flats, the first point of note on the Epping Forest Centenary Walk towards London’s outskirts. This is a quiet part of the capital, where traffic noise dims and dog walkers sip from KeepCups and chat about the weather. 

A mile further brings you to Hollow Pond, a name that belies the enormity of the site: 13 acres of waterways complete with islands, pedalos and rowing boats. This green stretch through Upper Walthamstow is worth taking at an amble, pausing perhaps for a picnic before continuing up into Hingham’s Park. If, per chance, you haven’t had your fill of rowing, another boating lake features here, as well as an impressive neoclassical manor house, from which the park gets its name. 

Sprawling greenery makes way for dappled woodland as you leave inner London; Hatch Forest is broad and winding, and leads to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, built at the request of Henry VIII and now a small museum. Chingford Station is only a short hop away, although keen walkers should plough on into Epping Forest, a spectacular 6,000-acre woodland and the largest open space in Greater London.

3. Lea Valley Walk


Distance: 8 miles 
Start: East India DLR Station 
End: Tottenham Hale
Terrain: Flat, with varying terrain from pathed road to muddy wetland

Nature and industry sit cheek by jowl on this walk, which begins at the East India Dock and follows the river for 50 miles to Luton. While a swan symbol sporadically materialises to point you in the right direction, often the way isn’t obvious, so have a phone handy to check directions. 

At the start, the 02 Arena appears almost immediately, before the path winds through Bow Creek, now a nature reserve and where views stretch out across the Olympic Park. The giant, crimson structure rising helter skelter-like from the ground is an artwork called ArcelorMittal Orbit, by Anish Kapoor and is currently closed, although normally it can be climbed. 

As the path heads north, the harsh industrial landscape transforms, coming first to Hackney Marshes and home of Sunday league football (the area has the highest number of full-size pitches in the world). In summer, Londoners descend on its shores in droves to paddle and picnic, though in spring the path is often quiet. Before reaching Tottenham Hale, you’ll also pass through Walthamstow Wetlands, one of London’s last surviving marshlands and a haven for birdlife such as kingfishers, garganeys and the rare green sandpiper.

The New River Path, along which Clissold Park features, is in fact an aqueduct — completed in 1613 to carry drinking water from Hertfordshire into central London.

Photograph by Alamy

4. The New River Path


Distance: 6 miles
Start: Bowes Park
End: Islington
Terrain: Flat, but only partly pathed, so wear sturdy footwear if it’s wet

The New River is neither new nor a river. It is, in fact, an aqueduct, completed in 1613 to carry drinking water from Hertfordshire into central London. The footpath arrived much later, in 1992, and follows the flow of this ancient waterway through the wide-open expanse of Lee Valley, past Waltham Abbey and through the enviable residential areas of Stoke Newington and Islington. 

Walking its full length would mean starting in Hertfordshire and covering 28 miles; this is perhaps a tad ambitious, so aim for the well-signed, six-mile stretch from Bowes Park instead. Here, the aqueduct is a little more elusive, often running underground, although the walk is no less beautiful, first passing underneath Wood Green Tunnel before continuing through Finsbury Park and past some truly palatial houses built in the late 1900s. 

Pretty, hipster hangout, Clissold Park, also features — expect heavily bearded Londoners having covert barbecues year-round — before the reservoir gurgles merrily on through Islington, where a walk into Angel for a flat white from Redemption Roasters is pricey but worth it.

5. The Parkland Walk


Distance: 4.5 miles 
Start: Alexandra Palace Station
End: Finsbury Park Station 
Terrain: A small hill at the start, then flat from there on in

Slicing through the leafy, village-like neighbourhoods of Crouch End and Highgate, Parkland Walk follows the route of a decommissioned railway line, out of action since 1984. The four-mile route has been transformed into a nature reserve (London’s longest, no less), home to diminutive muntjac deer, as well as 200 species of wildflower. 

Ten minutes in, from atop Muswell Hill, views stretch out across the city, before the path plunges into a woodland of oak and hornbeam. If you time your stroll to coincide with spring, bluebells carpet the stretch through Highgate, before the track takes you to the crumbling ruins of Crouch End Station. Nature is slowly reclaiming the structure, now home to an impressive colony of bats, as well as ‘the Spriggan’, an eerie, fairy-like sculpture emerging from the bricks, and work of local artist Marilyn Collins. 

When pubs reopen, be sure to end your walk with a visit to The Faltering Fullback, a London gem with one of the best beer gardens in the city.

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