Sunday 29 April 2012

London - England

Tower Bridge (taken on Instagram) where the route gets going
Okay I know I am biased being English and all but London is surely the greatest city on the planet?

Yes it rains a lot, the roads are carnage and everybody is in an almighty rush, but there really is just something for everybody.

Whether you like sightseeing, sporting amphitheatres, Oxford Street, the West End, museums, galleries, striking architecture, innovative leading commerce or vibrant nightlife and elegant parks, All and more can be found in London.

The Tube can be both frustrating and crowded for Londoners but for tourists it offers one of the best public transport networks in the world. In addition, connections to both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports meaning you can be North America, Europe, Asia and Africa in as little as 6 hours. 

For this route I tried to capture as much of London's wide reaching appeal as possible...

The run started at the Tower of London, home to the crown jewels on the north side of the Thames (nearest tube stop is Tower Hill on Circle Line) and led me east only a matter of metres to Tower Bridge.

After crossing over to the south bank, I turned west staying close to the public walkway as much as possible, passed Belfast and Hay's Galleria until I reached London Bridge.

There were some works taking place on the Thames footpath on other side of the road so I decided to cross back over to the north bank using both the wide pavements and cycle lanes.

Back on the north bank, simply follow the signposted Thames West Path all the way to St Paul's Cathedral. The imposing dome will shortly be visible to your right but instead you will continue under Southwark Bridge to the Millenium footbridge.

Millenium Bridge links St Paul's Cathedral to The Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. It featured in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
I crossed back over to the south bank on Millenium Bridge upon reaching Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. Dubbed the wobbly bridge because of initial problems when opening in 2000 to mark the millenium, the bridge closed for two years while engineering work took place.

From here it was just a case of kicking on further west towards the Southbank Area, a hotspot for tourists, passing London Television Studios and the National Theatre en route.

Once you reach the London Eye & London Aquarium, just be careful as there will be a lot of congestion on the footpath on weekends in particular. 

As you no doubt have noticed by now to your right - it's only BIG BEN!

Taking in the historic views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, turn right at Westminster Bridge and cross the Thames for the fourth and final time - beware though that it is difficult not to stop and stare in appreciation of its sheer beauty at this point!

Continuing west past Westminster Abbey to St James Park on Great George Street, real London first-timers can take a right for two streets and have a look at Downing Street before looking back to Great George.

Westminster offers some of London's most iconic skylines. The route crosses Westminster Bridge seen here
 Westminster is probably my favourite part of London as it combines everything foreigners typically love about the UK - the monarchy, the iconic sites and British traditions - with beautiful parks such as St James Park and Hyde Park, separated by Marble Arch & Buckingham Palace.

Carrying on west you will reach beautiful St James Park before getting your first glimpse of the world famous Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria was the first Monarch to live in the Palace in 1837.

Passing the Palace to the right you will now be faced with Marble Arch. A long straight gradual incline to the monument flanked by the Gardens of Buckingham Palace and Green Park.

From here it is just straight across the roundabout using the underpass and into Hyde Park. This is where you can see lots of other runners as you begin to run west towards High Street Kensington where this route ends.

The Park is glorious all year round and hosts several concerts throughout the summer. Famously in 1969 the Rolling Stones performed with well over a quarter of a million people in attendance. There is also a memorial for the victims of 7/7 terrorist attack in 2005 and the Park will also host the triathlon in the London 2012 Olympics.

The downside of running from east to west means you tackle a very long relatively steep incline for the best part of a mile! Passing the Royal Opera House as you cross the road into Kensington Gardens, you will then exit to your left out of the Queen's Gate entrance.

Now on Kensington High Street, the tube stop is just ahead of you on your left hand side. The route in total was around 6.8 miles and is certainly one of my favourites.

The downside is that in the early part there is quite a bit of congestion on the footpaths so it is hard to get into an early rhythm, but by the time you reach Westminster Bridge you can open your legs and take in London's finest landmark and some spectacular parks to get you away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

If you are visiting London for the first time, 100% take in this route as you will not be disappointed!

Not London's biggest park but certainly one of the most popular - Hyde Park

Start - Tower of London/Tower Bridge
Journey - Cross Tower Bridge to south bank, run west along river wall. Cross London Bridge and follow north bank to Millenium footbridge. Cross and continue along south bank to Westminster Bridge. Follow Great George Street to Buckingham Palace, west to Marble Arch and into Hyde Park. Follow park through to Kensington High Street.
Finish - High Street Kensington Tube Station

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