London Cycle Canary Wharf & Olympic Park
This 16km (10 mile) circular cycle route will take you from Canary Wharf, along historic canals, through vibrant parks, to the home of the 2012 London Olympics and back along peaceful waterside. All of this along mostly quiet cycle paths and roads. There are plenty of delightful places to stop, rest, eat, drink and shop along the way!
Our London bike routes have been designed so you can use the Santander Bike Hire scheme – click here for more details. Our routes are all within the Bike Dock areas and we suggest sections of route which will take you only 20 minutes or so to complete, so you can dock your bike comfortably within the 30 minutes (usually). Then spend time seeing the area around that bike dock station, before taking another bike out for another 20 minute ride along our Walk Run Cycle route. But as all routes are circular you can start/stop where you wish. Our static maps below show bike dock station locations as red stars.
We start this cycle route at the bike dock station on Westferry Circus roundabout at Canary Wharf (Map Point 1 at the upper landscaped level, not the underground road tunnel!).
Canary Wharf – In three decades, the Canary Wharf area has been transformed into 16million sq ft of superior office, retail and leisure space, in an instantly recognisable London skyline attracting some of the world’s greatest companies. The 120,000 jobs draw employees from all over the globe. Its five malls – with more than 300 shops, cafes, bars and restaurants – are shared by some of the world’s leading luxury brands. There are also more than 200 performing arts and events every year and there are more than 70 works of art by 45 artists and designers on public display. Buildings however, are only part of a community and a fifth of Canary Wharf’s 97 acres have been created as landscaped parks, fountains, tree-lined plazas and walkways. With more than 1,000 oaks, silver limes, horse chestnuts and London planes, plus 70,000 seasonal plantings every year, Canary Wharf is one of the capital’s greenest sites where buildings and nature share this huge space on a human scale.
From the bike dock station, head towards the river and take the lift down to the pathway alongside The Thames. Turn right along the river, heading in a North West direction. Just past some steps down to the river bank on your left, turn right onto Three Colt Street, which has the blue signs for National Cycle Route 1. Follow this road up to the junction with Milligan Street and cross straight ahead when safe to do so into a continuation of Three Colt Street. At the junction with Limehouse Causeway / Narrow Street, turn left then immediate right into a continuation of Three Colt Street, also signed National Cycle Route 1.
Follow this road, bending to the left into Newell Street shortly before a railway bridge with church spire behind. Follow Newell Street round to the right then turn first left into Oak Lane, signposted cycle route to Limehouse Cut. Go straight ahead at the end of Oak Lane into the park area, and follow the cycle path down onto the canal pathway that runs alongside Limehouse Cut. Turn right onto the canal to head in a North East direction at Map Point 2 (this canal towpath can be a little wet & muddy in places when it has rained).
Limehouse Cut – is a historic landmark – the oldest canal in London. The River Lea Act of 1766 authorised the construction of the Limehouse Cut, a straight section linking the Lee Navigation at Bromley-by-Bow to the Thames at Limehouse. It saved sailing barges coming down the Lee to London from having to wait for the tide before navigating the long southward loop of the Thames around the Isle of Dogs. Historically the Limehouse Cut attracted an unsavoury reputation, but massive redevelopment over recent years has improved both the canal and the surrounding area substantially.
Cycle all along Limehouse Cut towpath for approx. 2km until you come to the ramped bridge at Bow Locks that takes you over to Three Mills Island.
You may wish to swap bikes before the end of Limehouse Cut at the bike dock station on Teviot Street (Map Point 3)– exit the canal onto Mallory Close then follow this round to the bike dock station. There isn’t another bike dock station between here and Olympic Park that is easy to reach off the route.
Follow the path over the bridge then continue straight ahead after the bridge along a narrow strip of land with water on both sides of you. Keep ahead along this narrow strip of land, eventually following the path alongside the river that branches off to the left. A little further along you will see the historic buildings of Three Mills Island ahead of you on your left. Come off the canal path here to turn right along the cobbled street through these buildings.
Three Mills Island – There have been mills here since Saxon times, so it’s fitting that the world’s biggest tidal mill is sited at Three Mills Island. The House Mill is Grade I listed and you can join a guided tour on Sundays, or at other times by appointment. You’ll also find the Grade II listed Clock Mill, which is now part of 3 Mills Film Studio, and the reconstructed Miller’s House. A thousand years ago, Three Mills Island was already a centre of industry, with some of London’s earliest tidal mills turning grain from Essex and further afield into flour for the city’s bakers. A decade ago, it was best known as the location of the original Big Brother House and site of punk festival Deconstruction. Now, it is home to one of the city’s best green spaces and its largest film and TV studio, 3 Mills Studios. You can visit London’s oldest surviving tidal mill, dating from 1776, the House Mill, or play in a brand new playspace for children, Wild Kingdom.
You will see the entrance number 3 into Three Mills Film Studios ahead of you – follow the road to the left here. You will come out into a green park area with a canal on your left hand side. Follow the path alongside this canal, heading in a North direction. When you come to a bridge over a section of canal off to the right (Map Point 4), go straight ahead over this bridge. You will see the sculptural form of the ArcelorMittal Orbit towering ahead of you which is what we are heading towards.
After crossing the bridge follow the canal towpath to the left off the bridge around the back of some houses. Follow the ramp at the end up off the canal onto the main road, High Street A118.
Turn right onto the pavement and proceed a short distance to the traffic lights to cross to the other side of the road. Turn right onto the blue cycle lane and then first left onto Warton Road. Follow this under a large railway bridge to the roundabout, then take the cycle path off the left hand side of the roundabout up towards the river, then over the bridge heading towards the tall red sculptural tower of the ArcelorMittal Orbit ahead of you. Follow the pathways to the ArcelorMittal Orbit and visitor centre for the Olympic Park, where you may wish to swap your hire bike (Map Point 5).
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – is where inspiration becomes participation. Whether you like to watch or compete, the Park is full of exciting opportunities to take part. Sit on the edge of your seat to watch the world’s best return to London again and again. Or use the inspiration of champions to push your own personal best – run, swim, cycle, play or dive in one of the iconic venues from London 2012’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is free to visit every day of the week. It’s home to the London Stadium, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the London Aquatics Centre, the Copper Box Arena, Lee Valley VeloPark and Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre – as well as parklands, waterways, playgrounds and cafes. There’s always something new to explore – so come along and experience sports, events and iconic venues, or just relax and take in the views.
Within the park you will find the following sites:
Lee Valley Velopark – Centred on the iconic, award-winning, 6,000-seat velodrome where Sir Chris Hoy and Dame Sarah Storey, along with their Team GB and Paralympics GB compatriots set the London 2012 Games alight, Lee Valley VeloPark is the first place in the world where you can take part in four types of cycling in one place: Track cycling, road racing, BMX or mountain biking. The VeloPark caters for all abilities, from beginners to elite: anyone can cycle here! You don’t even need a bike – you can hire everything you need – so there’s nothing stopping you from experiencing the fun of two wheels. The indoor velodrome is the fastest track in the world. Try out an introduction to track cycling with a one hour session, or if you’re already familiar with the velodrome track, why not go through the four-stage accreditation course? Alternatively, experience an adrenaline rush on the remodelled Olympic BMX track, with over 30 bumps, jumps and berms. The floodlit one-mile road circuit is perfect for getting back on your bike if it’s been a while. Or if you prefer to go off-road, there are 8km of traffic-free mountain bike trails on offer.
London Aquatics Centre – In 2012, the spectacular London Aquatics Centre, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, provided the breathtaking backdrop to countless world records and Ellie Simmonds’ dramatic swim into the history books. Now everyone can feel the thrill of swimming under that familiar wave-like roof and enjoy some of the best community swimming facilities in the country for the same price as local leisure centre swimming pools. Designed for swimmers of all abilities, from absolute beginners to Olympic and Paralympic champions. London Aquatics Centre offers a wide-ranging programme of activities; fun family sessions, lane swimming, diving, swimming and diving lessons, community swim sessions and other aquatic disciplines.
London Stadium – As the centrepiece of London 2012, the London Stadium hosted spectacular opening and closing ceremonies and saw some of Britain’s most memorable sporting moments take place in front of sell-out crowds. Now sports fans, music lovers and London 2012 enthusiasts are able to explore the venue once again. Visitors to the London Stadium can also go behind the scenes and put themselves in the shoes of their sporting heroes on one of the venue tours. Take a journey through the players’ changing rooms, athletes’ warm up track and player’s tunnel before finishing pitch side at the famous venue.
ArcelorMittal Orbit – Standing at 114.5m tall, the ArcelorMittal Orbit gives you the chance to explore London’s famous skyline through stunning floor to ceiling windows before experiencing the city’s landmarks from the outside observation walkway suspended 80m above the ground. Famously designed by Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond for London 2012, the ArcelorMittal Orbit perfectly combines awe-inspiring city views with fun and contemporary art. Interact with the sculpture itself, flip the horizon in Anish Kapoor’s two huge concave mirrors and enjoy the gentle descent of the 455 steps that wind their way around the sculpture and immerse you in a collection of distinctive London sounds. Challenge your friends and family to a 40-second journey through the twists, turns and drops of The Slide, a hair-raising experience that’s not for the faint-hearted. The world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide loops its way around the ArcelorMittal Orbit 12 times taking visitors through gentle curves, thrilling drops and a tight corkscrew named ‘the bettfeder’ – bedspring in German.
Cycle or walk around the Olympic Park to explore, heading through the landscaped grounds up to the Velopark.
Then when you are ready to continue your cycle, head down Copper Street next to the Copperbox Arena. Go straight ahead past the Copperbox Arena following the windy cycle path down to the Lee Canal towpath.
Turn left along this towpath, cycle under a railway bridge, then at the next bridge, go through to the other side then a little further along double back on yourself to follow the ramp up off the canal onto the road you just cycled under, White Post Lane. Turn left onto White Post Lane, cross over the bridge, then turn immediately left back onto the canal towpath on the other side of the canal. Follow this straight ahead off the bridge then round the corner of the canal to the right (Map Point 6).
Follow this towpath along the Hertford Union Canal all the way until you it comes out at the main Regent’s Canal. You will pass alongside Victoria Park on your right.
Victoria Park – Victoria Park is one of London’s most important historic parks and its oldest public park, visited by millions of Londoners for nearly 170 years as a place of healthy recreation, sports, play and relaxation. The park is the largest in Tower Hamlets at 86.18 hectares and has one of the highest visitor numbers of all the London parks with around 9 million visits per year. A wide range of formal and informal sports, sponsored activities, events and festivals take place throughout the year. Victoria Park is a key link in a green corridor that stretches from the River Thames at Limehouse, along the Regents Canal and through Mile End Park, along with the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park virtually next door.
When you reach the end of Hertford Union Canal (Map Point 7), follow the ramp up onto the Regent’s Canal towpath and turn left to head South East along Regent’s Canal towpath. You may wish to swap your hire bike at the bike dock station on B119 Roman Road at the first bridge you come to on Regent’s Canal, just after Wennington Green.
Follow the towpath all the way to Limehouse Basin, passing Mile End Park on your left.
Regent’s Canal is 13.8 kilometres (8.6 miles) long and was built during the early 19th century. However, by the early twentieth century, with trade lost to the railways and roads, the canal had fallen into decline. Today it is used for pleasure cruising and the canal’s towpath has become a busy cycle route for commuters. National Cycle Route 1 includes the stretch along the canal towpath from Limehouse Basin to Mile End.
Mile End Park – Mile End Park is a linear park of some 32 hectares and was created on industrial land devastated by World War II bombing. Some of this land is separated by roads, railways and waterways. The Park follows the Regent’s Canal from Victoria Park to Limehouse Basin, and is separated from the southern edge of Victoria Park by the Hertford Union Canal. The Green Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over the Mile End Road, which bisects the Park close to Mile End tube station, opened in July 1999. The award winning bridge was designed by Piers Gough. The park is home to The Ecology Park, the Ecology Pavilion , The Arts Park and The Art Pavilion, The Play Pavilion and Children’s Park, Mile End Park Leisure Centre, Mile End stadium, Mile End Climbing Wall, the skate park and Urban adventure base. Nearby are an extreme sports centre and Revolution Karting, an electric Go Kart track as well as the Ragged School Museum.
Limehouse Basin (Map point 8) – the gateway between the River Thames and over 2,000 miles of navigable canals and rivers. It connects to the rest of the canal network along the Limehouse Cut – the oldest canal in London and one you may recognise from a certain Mission Impossible film sequence. Once a dock, today Limehouse is a marina, home to narrowboats, yachts and visiting ocean-going pleasure craft. Yet with shops and cafes, it still makes for a great spot for a family day out or afternoon stroll. Look out for the road swing bridge at the entrance to the Thames. When tall masted boats either arrive or leave the basin, Narrow Street traffic is stopped. Red lights and a siren indicate to the traffic that they must stop, then the barriers come down before the bridge swings open.
You may wish to swap your hire bike at the bike dock station at Farnborough Street and Yorkshire Road just to the West of Limehouse Basin, by the train station.
Follow Regent’s Canal towpath all the way to the very end, then round to the left in front of the apartment buildings at Limehouse Basin Approach. Follow the basin round to the left of the buildings, then take the ramp up off the water level onto the road, Basin Approach. Turn right onto the road, then straight ahead through the buildings (don’t follow the path to the right alongside the water at this point). Follow the road round to the right then head towards the bridge between the far buildings which takes you over the canal and into Ropemakers Field. Follow the path through Ropemakers Field straight ahead off the bridge until you come to A1203 Narrow Street. Turn right onto Narrow Street and cycle along here, marked Cycle Route 13.
Narrow Street – A combination of tides and currents made this point on the Thames a natural landfall for ships, the first wharf being completed in 1348. Lime kilns or oasts (“lymehostes”) used in the production of mortar and pottery were built here in the fourteenth century. The area grew rapidly in Elizabethan times as a centre for world trade and by the reign of James I nearly half of the area’s 2,000 population were mariners. The area supplied ships with ropes and other necessities; pottery was also made here for the ships. Ship chandlers settled here building wooden houses and wharves in the cramped space between street and river. Narrow Street may take its name from the closeness of the original buildings, now demolished, which stood barely a few metres apart on each side of the street. In 1661, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary of a visit to a porcelain factory in Narrow Street alighting via Duke Shore Stairs:
At the office all the morning, and at noon Mr. Coventry, who sat with us all the morning, and Sir G. Carteret, Sir W. Pen, and myself, by coach to Captain Marshe’s, at Limehouse, to a house that hath been their ancestors for this 250 years, close by the lime-house which gives the name to the place. Here they have a design to get the King to hire a dock for the herring busses, which is now the great design on foot, to lie up in. We had a very good and handsome dinner, and excellent wine. I not being neat in clothes, which I find a great fault in me, could not be so merry as otherwise, and at all times I am and can be, when I am in good habitt, which makes me remember my father Osborne’s rule for a gentleman to spare in all things rather than in that. So by coach home, and so to write letters by post, and so to bed.” Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 19 October 1661.
On the south side of Narrow Street is a rare example of an early Georgian brick terrace. With the exception of the westernmost property (The Grapes public house) it was standing derelict and abandoned, but in 1964 the writer Andrew Sinclair bought and saved one of the houses and persuaded his Cambridge friends to buy the others. (Early Georgian houses can be distinguished from late ones in the way that the windows are not set back from the brick frontage.) The Grapes (formerly The Bunch of Grapes, and known to the young Charles Dickens) was notably bought in 2011 by actor Sir Ian McKellen, director Sean Mathias and Evening Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev. The street is home to a number of good pubs and restaurants, including The Narrow, a gastropub run by Gordon Ramsay.
Cycle all along Narrow Street to the corner to the right just before it ends on the main A1203 Limehouse Link road (Map Point 9). On this right hand corner of Narrow Street, look for the pathway that runs straight ahead alongside Keeper Wharf. Follow this path around the back of this building and onto the Thames Pathway. Turn right to follow the Thames Pathway along past the Rotherhithe Tunnel Air Shaft in King Edward Memorial Park.
Keep following the riverside route around the edge of Shadwell Basin to the far side and into the small Wapping Woods (Map Point 10).
Follow the Discovery Walk path alongside the Ornamental Canal water channel through Wapping, to Spirit Quay.
Keep following Cycle Route 13 to Hermitage Basin then out onto Wapping High Street.
Wapping – is situated between the north bank of the River Thames and the ancient thoroughfare simply called The Highway. Wapping’s proximity to the river has given it a strong maritime character, which it retains through its riverside public houses and steps, such as the Prospect of Whitby and Wapping Stairs. Wapping’s proximity to the river gave it a strong maritime character for centuries, well into the 20th century. It was inhabited by sailors, mastmakers, boat-builders, blockmakers, instrument-makers, victuallers and representatives of all the other trades that supported the seafarer. Wapping was also the site of ‘Execution Dock’, where pirates and other water-borne criminals faced execution by hanging from a gibbet constructed close to the low water mark. Their bodies would be left dangling until they had been submerged three times by the tide. Perhaps Wapping’s greatest attraction is the Thames foreshore itself, and the venerable public houses that face onto it. A number of the ‘watermen’s stairs’, such as Wapping Old Stairs and Pelican Stairs (by the Prospect of Whitby) give public access to a littoral zone (for the Thames is tidal at this point) littered with flotsam, jetsam and fragments of old dock installations. The area is popular with amateur archaeologists and treasure hunters. This activity is known as mudlarking; the term for a shore scavenger in the 18th and 19th centuries was a mudlark.
Turn right onto Wapping High Street then left into St Katharine’s Way (Cycle Route 13). Follow St Katharine’s Way all the way into the main historic dock area (Map Point 11).
St Katherine Docks – St Katharine Docks took their name from the former hospital of St Katharine’s by the Tower, built in the 12th century, which stood on the site. An intensely built-up 23 acre (9.5 hectares) site was earmarked for redevelopment by an Act of Parliament in 1825, with construction commencing in May 1827. Some 1250 houses were demolished, together with the medieval hospital of St. Katharine. Around 11,300 inhabitants, mostly port workers crammed into unsanitary slums, lost their homes; only the property owners received compensation. The scheme was designed by engineer Thomas Telford and was his only major project in London. To create as much quayside as possible, the docks were designed in the form of two linked basins (East and West), both accessed via an entrance lock from the Thames. Steam engines designed by James Watt and Matthew Boulton kept the water level in the basins about four feet above that of the tidal river. The area now features offices, public and private housing, a large hotel, shops and restaurants, a pub (The Dickens Inn, a former brewery dating back to the 18th century), a yachting marina and other recreational facilities. It remains a popular leisure destination. The east dock is now dominated by the City Quay residential development, comprising more than 200 privately owned flats overlooking the marina. The south side of the east dock is surrounded by the South Quay Estate which was originally social housing. The dock is still used by small to medium-sized boats on a daily basis.
Follow St Katharine’s Way to cross over the red metal road bridge over the dock and through the tunnel under the concrete hotel ahead. Turn right at the end, by Tower Bridge, to head up to the main road. Push your bike over to the other side of Tower Bridge road at the traffic lights and return at the bike dock station in the Tower of London Park where this route ends.
Tower of London – The Tower of London was founded near the end of 1066 during the Norman Conquest of England. The famous White Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and used as a prison from 1100 all the way through until 1952, although it’s main purpose was that of Royal residence and Palace. Some famous prisoners over the years have included Queen Elizabeth 1 and Sir Walter Raleigh. Despite it’s dark reputation in history as a place of torture and death, coining the phrase being “sent to the tower”, it only ever saw 7 executions up to the World Wars in the 20th Century. Today, the Tower of London is an extremely popular tourist attraction, and where you can view the Crown Jewels.
Overview of Route:
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