Friday 12 November 2010

London Hyde Park Running Route, UK

Click here for route map
Length: 7.5 km (4.7 miles), terrain flat

London Running Routes:
Best London Running Routes: Overview
Thames Embankment
Docklands-LimehouseRegent's Canal and Camden Town  
Hampstead Heath  
3-Parks Route: Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park  
Regent's Park  
Hyde Park   

Heathrow Harmondsworth Moor  

Richmond Park
Notting Hill
Victoria Park
Wimbledon Common Trail Run
Royal Docks/ExCeL Route 
Kew / Brentford Thames Run  
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.
Looking east along the Serpentine
NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
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 either half in the evening, don't worry, there are exit-turnstiles at the major gates.
In Hyde Park
The Hyde Park Route
Here's a running 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-traveled 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.
Kensington Palace from the back side
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.
Albert Memorial
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
We'll turn right, and run along the path along the south side of the lake. During the day, the lake is full of rowboats and waterbirds. When you get to the east end of the lake, at the cafĂ©, cross the stone bridge over the little dam, and then turn right at the first chance, to go by a beautiful spot with the waterfalls at the dam. 
The falls as seen from below
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.

Flower beds in Hyde Park
We've now reached the south-east corner of the park, with Park Lane and ritzy Mayfair straight ahead. We'll turn left, though, staying in the park and then turn left again right away, and run back on Serpentine Road along the north shore this time, closer to the boat-houses and rental boats.
Boats on the Serpentine
Just before you arrive back at The Ring road, where it bridges the lake, stay directly along the water and take the tunnel under the bridge. (Or, if you don't like dark tunnels, run through the parking lot, up over the road, and then look for the fence-gate into Kensington Gardens right next to the bridge.)
The statue, looking back at Kensington Palace
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 modern sculpture (used to be a giant reflecting disc on the same spot). After that, this half of the Serpentine is more secluded, almost natural. The lake curves northward and ends in a formal gardens, the Italian Gardens, with fountains and pavilion.
The Italian Gardens
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.

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