‘I would walk 500 miles,’ sung the Proclaimers. ‘And I would walk 500 more.’ Well, that sounds a bit excessive, if you ask us, but it’s certainly nice to go on a nice long stroll. In that spirit of ambition tempered with equivocation, here’s our guide to Walking A Lot Less Than One Thousand Miles But Still A Pretty Long Way By Most People’s Standards.
1) The Capital Ring
Distance: 70 miles
Do you ever feel like you’re going around in circles? Well turn your figurative ennui into an actual route – this 78-mile path around London, roughly following Zones 3/4 on the tube map.
Taking in Crystal Palace, Stoke Newington, Wimbledon, Greenford and everywhere in-between, the Ring is divided into 15 sections of about five miles each. (Although you are going to walk for longer than five miles, aren’t you? Have you seen ‘Wild‘?) We walked the whole thing, and here’s what it’s like.
2) The London LOOP
Distance: 150 miles
You scoff at the meagre mileage of the Capital Ring! You long for a longer challenge. You are, dare we say, loop-y. Embark upon the London Outer Orbital Path, then, which encircles London in much the same way as it’s laughably-stunted inner-London cousin, but at a rather greater remove. Consequently it has a more rural vibe, and you’ll finally discover the ancient mysteries of Cockfosters, Uxbridge, Chigwell, Upminster, and other places you know only from the train indicator boards on the tube. Here’s what it looks like:
Split into 24 sections, it provides even the lostest of souls plenty of time for self-location. And won’t it be symbolic when you finish back where you started? Truly, the London LOOP has a lesson for us all. Here’s TfL’s guide.
3) The Thames Path
Distance: 184 miles total; 32 miles from Teddington to the Thames Barrier
Yes, you once walked from London Bridge to Waterloo rather than take the tube. And we applaud you! But it’s time to extend your ambitions beyond the South Bank, and show Old Father Thames who’s the real daddy. Head east from central London to visit Shad Thames, Greenwich, the looming financial skydicks of Canary Wharf and onto the creepy industrial bits around the O2, before finishing your journey at the Thames Barrier. Keep going to explore the estuary itself.
[Photo: The Thames at Putney © Andrew Robertson]
Or instead wander west to Battersea, Putney, Hammersmith, Chiswick, Kew, all the way on to Hampton Court. If you dare leave the cosy confines of Greater London, keep walking and you’ll reach Windsor, Henley, and Oxford, before arriving at the the bubbling source in the Cotswolds. (Note: may not actually be bubbling.) The best thing about the Thames Path is it’s jolly difficult to get meaningfully lost. Just follow the big long water thing – but take TfL’s guide with you just in case.
4) The Lea Valley Walk
Distance: 50 miles
Pop on the train to Luton (50 minutes from St Pancras) and then walk back to London along the river Lea. You could do it the other way around, but who wants to celebrate arriving at Luton? Sorry Luton. Anyway, in London proper, you’ll take in various marshes, reservoirs, parks, and end up at the lovely Trinity Buoy Wharf.
▶ Download the Time Out London Walks app
▶ London walks: the music walk in Camden
▶ London walks: the foodie walk in Shoreditch
▶ In pictures: walking the London LOOP
▶ We walked the Capital Ring and here’s what we learned