The great London walk: Telegraph Tours


by Sophie Campbell

With fascinating insights from our heritage expert and insider access to London’s finest attractions, this four-day guided walk across the capital – from Hampton Court Palace to the Thames Barrier – will be unforgettable

It never ceases to amaze me how far and how fast your feet can take you in London. It’s satisfying to look back at the end of the day and see how far you’ve come without going near public transport. On long walks you hit your stride, as you do when walking in mountains or fields, and landmarks loom and recede at startling speed.

That’s why I love this walk, which starts by the glowing sprawl of red-brick that is Hampton Court Palace and follows the curves of the Thames as it slides steadily towards the city, widening all the while.

Until the 19th century our monarchs would have used the river a great deal – the other option being appalling roads, proximity to the great unwashed and slow carriages with lousy suspension – and Royal Watermen were employed to row the royal barge up- and downstream. As I walk I like to imagine Queen Elizabeth I or Frederick, Prince of Wales floating past me , propelled by a fringe of gold oars. Thanks to the Thames Path – voted one of the world’s top 10 urban walks by Lonely Planet last year – we can follow the riverbanks almost all the way.

The first day takes us to Richmond, which still has the ruins of its own Tudor palace. This is where Elizabeth died . On the way, there are agonising choices to be made: Marble Hill, Ham House, Syon Park, Strawberry Hill House? I’ve opted for the last, Horace Walpole’s glorious icing-white Twickenham home, as shrewdly designed as it is eccentric, and full of delights and conceits.

Later we pass Teddington Lock, where the river becomes the Thames Tideway for its last 95 miles, and jurisdiction over it passes from the Environment Agency to the Port of London Authority. Oh, and Eel Pie Island, where the Who and Mick Jagger have performed, now home to artists’ studios.

Day two takes us from the peaceful riverside suburbs to industrial Wandsworth. We start by visiting Kew Palace with its triple Dutch gable: this 17th-century villa became a royal residence under King George II and has long been outgunned by its gardens.

By way of the enviable houses at Strand-On-The-Green , we reach Hammersmith with the promise of venerable pubs and the William Morris Museum. That suits, somehow, because the River Wandle – which we reach at the end of the day – connects Merton, where Morris had his factory, with the Thames.

Battersea and Chelsea were much loved by artists. Turner painted here. Whistler sued Ruskin for libelling his depiction of Cremorne Gardens . Penelope Fitzgerald lived on a Chelsea Reach barge that sank. Paul Theroux put St Mary’s Church into a story. Day three starts with Chelsea, to see the church where Thomas More worshipped and the house where Thomas Carlyle wrote (moaning about the noise in what was then a rural suburb).

And so the landmarks pass: Battersea Power Station and the hogs’ bristle of cranes over the Embassy Quarter, otherwise known as Nine Elms, Tate Britain, the MI6 building, Lambeth Palace and the Palace of Westminster.

At Waterloo Bridge you can look one way to the City of London, 2,000 years of history marked by a fistful of novelty skyscrapers, and the other to the City of Westminster, a mere 1,000 years old, but far more traditional in its royal, political way. We pass the South Bank, Globe Theatre, Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge . After Tower Bridge, gateway to the Pool of London, once jammed with ships, the river relaxes. It loops and meanders through Docklands, out towards the sands and spits of the estuary. We will collapse into a Rotherhithe hotel. Our final day includes the Brunel Tunnel, the Painted Hall and the shells of the Thames Barrier, raised, I like to think, in salute: we’ve made it.

The itinerary

Join Sophie Campbell, the Telegraph’s heritage expert, and discover London on foot, walking from Hampton Court to the Thames Barrier.

Starting at Hampton Court, you will walk the city from end to end with stops overnight in Richmond, Wandsworth and Rotherhithe. Visits will include Strawberry Hill House, Kew Palace and Gardens, William Morris’s house, Chelsea Old Church, Tate Britain, the Painted Hall at the Old Naval College in Greenwich and finally the Thames Barrier.

Day 1: August 26
Hampton Court to Richmond

Mid-morning meet at Hampton Court, where you will be greeted by Sophie Campbell. Deposit luggage, which will be transported to your first hotel. Walk from Hampton Court to Richmond with en route visit to Strawberry Hill House. Famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic-revival architecture, Strawberry Hill House was built in 1749 by Horace Walpole to house his vast collection of treasures. Walpole built the house with the intention of creating a theatrical experience for the visitor.

You will be able to explore the house from the grey stone entrance hall to the sumptuous Gallery, Round Room and State Apartment, while learning about the restoration of the building.

Afterwards, arrive at the Richmond Hill Hotel for check-in. Evening welcome drink and dinner with wine at the hotel.

Day 2: August 27
Richmond to Wandsworth

Walk from Richmond to Wandsworth with visits to Kew Palace and Gardens and to the Coach House, Hammersmith, based in the basement of William Morris’s Kelmscott House.

Kew Palace, in Kew Gardens, has a rich history spanning nearly 400 years. Built in 1631 by Samuel Fortrey, it was bought by King George III in 1781 for his wife Queen Caroline and their ever-growing family. The palace has undergone a 10-year internal and external restoration, opening to the public in 2006.

The Coach House, Hammersmith, in the basement of Kelmscott House, houses the Morris Society’s comprehensive collection of Morris & Co wallpapers, watercolour designs and textiles ranging from a Hammersmith rug and woven hangings to silks and embroideries. Please note that Kelmscott House is privately owned and not open to the public.

Arrive at The Alma hotel, Wandsworth for check-in. Evening welcome drink followed by dinner with wine at the hotel.

Day 3: August 28
Wandsworth to Rotherhithe

Walk from Wandsworth to Rotherhithe with visits (time permitting) to the Chelsea Old Church; the home of the historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane at 24 Cheyne Row in Chelsea; Tate Britain; the Garden Museum in Lambeth; and Tate Modern.

Arrive at the Hilton London Docklands Riverside hotel for check-in. Evening welcome drink and dinner with wine at the hotel.

Day 4: August 29
Rotherhithe to Thames barrier

Walk from Rotherhithe to the Thames Barrier with visits to the Brunel Museum and the Painted Hall at the Old Naval College, Greenwich. The Brunel Museum, originally the Brunel Engine House built to house the drainage pumps for the Thames Tunnel, displays information on the construction of the tunnel and other projects undertaken by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

You will get the chance to descend into the Grand Entrance Hall of the tunnel, first opened in 1843. The Painted Hall at the Old Naval College is where the body of Horatio Nelson lay in state before his burial at St Paul’s. The hall was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor and painted by James Thornhill.

The tour will finish at the Thames Barrier mid-afternoon.

The order of the excursions may vary according to conditions and the tour manager’s discretion.
The distance walked each day will be approximately 10 miles, departing at 9am and finishing around 5pm.
As there will be a considerable amount of walking on this tour, please note that it is not suitable for people with walking difficulties.


Strawberry House
Horace Walpole, son of Robert Walpole, our first prime minister, was a collector, antiquarian and man of letters. He built his Twickenham “plaything” in the 1740s, in the Gothic style, and printed his novel The Castle of Otranto here. We will tour the house, with its marvellously over-the-top gallery, papier-mâché ceilings, Holbein Chamber and Library, and the gardens.

Kew Palace
A tall, symmetrical palace, it was a merchant’s home before it was leased by the Royal family. George III spent summers here with his wife and 15 children and retreated here when ill. We will see the house, Georgian exhibition, kitchens and cottage, as well as Kew Gardens.

Kelmscott House
This handsome building on Hammersmith Mall is named after the Oxfordshire manor house owned by the artist, designer and social philosopher William Morris. He lived here for the last 18 years of his life and we will see the coach house where he had his loom, Britain’s last Morris printing press and the fireplace that he designed for his servants.

Painted Hall
The dining hall was built for naval veterans in the early 1700s. It took the artist James Thornhill 18 years to decorate it and, when he finished, it was deemed far too smart for the veterans, who moved into the basement. We will see the Hall, including the place where Nelson lay in state, and the Chapel.

Brunel Museum
A tall chimney in Rotherhithe marks the spot where Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel embarked on an extraordinary undertaking — to build a tunnel under the Thames. We will see the chimney and engine room, and have a tour of the Grand Entrance Hall, which was wildly fashionable when it first opened in 1836.


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