Length: 7.5 km (4.7 miles), terrain flat
London Running Routes:
Regent's Canal and Camden Town
3-Parks Route: Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park
Heathrow Harmondsworth Moor
For more running routes, see Route List.
This week my company had mercy, and let me stay in Bayswater, released from my Heathrow exile (see article). If you're staying anywhere in central London, Hyde Park will definitely be high up on your list for quality running time: it's green, traffic-free, beautiful, full of wide vistas, and has a variety of interesting scenery and people.
This big green rectangle measures 2 km wide and 1 km high, and is abutted by many great London neighborhoods: Kensington, Mayfair, Paddington, Knightsbridge and popular Bayswater, with its countless tourist hotels.
When I say Hyde Park, I should really say Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, because the park is divided into two halves. The west half is Kensington Gardens. This doesn't really need mentioning except for the fact that Kensington Gardens closes at dusk each day (like Regents Park and other royal parks), whereas Hyde Park is open till midnight. If you get locked inside in the evening, don't worry, there are exit-turnstiles at the major gates.
|In Hyde Park|
Here's a route around the park that views some of the nicest stuff while keeping you away from the loud edges most of the time. The park is lined with busy streets on the east, north and south, so it's better to stay a bit inside the park, even if you rack up a bit less distance that way. Only the west edge, with Kensington Palace is quiet.
Like all loop-routes, it really doesn't matter where you start. But let's assume that you were suckered into staying at one of the Bayswater hotels (elegant on the outside, but kind of run-down on the inside). So we'll start at Queensway, the main drag, at the corner of Bayswater Road, which runs right along the north side of the park(s). There is a main gate into the park just across the street, the Black Lion Gate. There are no lions to be seen here, it's named after the great old pub across the street.
This is the logical place to enter the park, but this time we'll run down a little-travelled side-street that is worth the 2 block detour. Run west (park on your left side) down Bayswater Road to the street called Kensington Palace Gardens, and turn left. Don't be intimidated by the police guard-station at the beginning of the street: it's open to the jogging public. The street is lined with graceful old mansions housing mainly embassies.
After awhile, you'll see Kensington Palace coming up on your left. This was Princess Diana's house after she split up with Charles. Run past the palace and turn left into the park on the first path. You'll probably see flowers and notes that pilgrims have placed at the fence, in memorium.
You'll soon see the Round Pond almost straight ahead on the left, with its swans, and when you cross the Broad Walk, take the path that leads diagonally to the right. We are now running south-east, towards the gothic spire of the Albert Memorial. The path cuts through a narrow wooded strip. Then turn left and run straight towards the memorial. I don't get very excited by the memorial tower itself, but across the street you'll see the Royal Albert Hall with its domed roof, looking like the Pantheon. Behind it lies South Kensington, full of museums and universities.
But we'll head north-east, along The Ring road for a short time till we get to the main lake in the park, the Serpentine (also called the Long Water). The north/south Ring divides the two parks, so we now enter Hyde Park, just before the road bridges the lake.
|Sunrise over the Serpentine|
You will run straight towards the horse-riding track, Rotten Row, where you should turn left and continue eastwards towards the most beautiful corner of the park. If you like gardening, you'll love the amazing flower gardens coming up on your left. Nobody but the English can come up with landscaping like this. Any landscape architect who doesn't go on a pilgrimage to England should hang up his drafting board right now.
|Winter joggers along the serpentine|
You are back in Kensington Gardens again. Continue following the path along the water, with the Serpentine to your left. First, you'll pass the cool reflecting mirror artwork, a gigantic concave round mirror that reflects the lawn below it. After that, this half of the Serpentine is more secluded, almost natural. The lake curves northward and ends in a formal gardens with fountains and pavilion.
Turn left just before the pavilion, to get a look at the fountains, and now run straight westwards towards the Black Lion gate, running along the path, parallel to Bayswater Road.
Right at the Black Lion gate, there is a great playground, with a bizarre tree-sculpture of elves behind the "Time flies" clock tower (did my boss donate that one?). Otherwise, we've arrived back at the beginning, much the happier for this great London running experience.