Length: 7.2 km (4.5 miles), terrain hilly
London Running Routes:
Best London Running Routes: Overview
Docklands-LimehouseRegent's Canal and Camden Town
3-Parks Route: Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park
Heathrow Harmondsworth Moor
Wimbledon Common Trail Run
Royal Docks/ExCeL Route
For more running routes, see Route List.
I ran this route again this week to get the pictures, but it was raining out! But even wet runs are great runs.
Hampstead and its sprawling open countryside, the Heath, gives you a feeling of being in an English village, while standing in the heart of London. The Heath spreads out over 800 acres, including hills, a string of ponds, woods, a manor house, a formal park and lots of great running trails. This is my favorite place to run in London.
|Hampstead Heath meadows|
The Heath can be divided into the larger East Heath (which includes Parliament Hill, most of the ponds and Kenwood Manor) and the smaller West Heath, which includes Golders Hill Park and an extension to the north. The two parts are split north/south by Spaniards Road and North End Way.
This route will visit some of the nicest parts of the village, then loop around the East Heath, providing one of the most varied and charming settings London has to offer.
The East Heath Run
Standing with your back to the Hampstead Tube Station entrance, turn right and run uphill on Heath Street just one block, and take the first right turn, and then run downhill on Back Lane for another block. There are some beautiful cottages along this lane. When the street ends at the next intersection, Flask Walk, turn right at the Flask pub and run through the pedestrian shopping block.
The way to the left looks nice, too, but don't worry, we'll come back that way later.
|Back Lane during a shower|
|Cottages off Downshire Hill|
Keep running straight, and when the path splits, take the way to the left, with the next pond to your right. After the second pond, turn right over the pedestrian path between it and the third pond, the mixed-bathing pond. Yes, you could swim here. I've done it before, sneaking in after hours, but the water was a bit murky in the late summer.
|Mixed baths in the summer: photo by Chris Hauser|
Ahead of you, eastwards, downhill across the lawn, you'll see more ponds and then another hill rising beyond: that's Highgate, with its famous graveyard.
|View from Parliament Hill, photo by Chris Hauser|
Just keep running north. You'll pass the mens' swimming pond and the ladies' pond, and still more ponds. After the last pond, the path will lead into a field where the real track ends, and there is only a trampled way through the meadow ahead. Just run straight across. You will run into the next real path on the other side of the meadow.
Soon you'll come to a sign marking the entrance to the grounds of the Kenwood Estate at a fenced-in woods.
|Kenwood Estate entrance|
|The ancient Ken-Wood: lions and tigers and bears, oh my!|
A bit of film trivia: The Kenwood lawn was the location of a Notting Hill film scene where Julia Roberts is filming a Henry James period film, and poor Hugh Grant overhears her tell a colleague that Hugh is "just some guy", breaking his heart.
|Kenwood House without Hugh or Julia|
Soon you'll come to the real exit of the estate, going through the old iron fence. When going out the gate, keep to the left. It quickly turns right again and then heads southwards the whole way back towards Parliament Hill, curving through the woods.
There are some amazing old oak trees here. You'll pass a grassy knoll with a bench on it, to your left. Soon you'll be able to see across the grassy fields leading down to the string of ponds to your left. It is a bit hard to explain how to navigate this stretch, where many unmarked paths intersect, but just keep going straight south.
|Way back from Kenwood to Parliament Hill|
Willow Road goes uphill for a while (sorry!). When you get to Burgh House museum, turn left on Flask Walk, another street with nice old homes. Flask brings us to the Flask Pub and the pedestrian shopping block again, which you run through again, but this time turn right on the High Street to run the last block back to the tube station.
|Along Flask Walk|