This 15km (9 mile) circular cycle route will take you through leafy Royal parks past Buckingham Palace, the Royal Albert Hall, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum in Kensington, through historic Brompton Cemetery, exclusive Chelsea, a Physic Garden dating from 1673 and Tate Britain, all 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 the corner of Lewisham Street and Storey’s Gate, just to the West of Parliament Square near the Palace of Westminster (Map Point 1).
Just near here you will find the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its name, which is derived from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey. The first royal palace was built on the site in the 11th century, and Westminster was the primary residence of the Kings of England until fire destroyed much of the complex in 1512. After that, it served as the home of the Parliament of England, which had been meeting there since the 13th century, and also as the seat of the Royal Courts of Justice, based in and around Westminster Hall. In 1834, an even greater fire ravaged the heavily rebuilt Houses of Parliament, and the only significant medieval structures to survive were Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St Stephen’s, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, and the Jewel Tower.
The subsequent competition for the reconstruction of the Palace was won by the architect Charles Barry, whose design was for new buildings in the Gothic Revival style, specifically inspired by the English Perpendicular Gothic style of the 14th–16th centuries. The remains of the Old Palace (except the detached Jewel Tower) were incorporated into its much larger replacement, which contains over 1,100 rooms organised symmetrically around two series of courtyards and has a floor area of 112,476 m2 (1,210,680 sq ft). Part of the New Palace’s area of 3.24 hectares (8 acres) was reclaimed from the River Thames, which is the setting of its nearly 300-metre long (980 ft) façade, called the River Front. Barry was assisted by Augustus Pugin, a leading authority on Gothic architecture and style, who designed the interior of the Palace. Construction started in 1840 and lasted for 30 years, suffering great delays and cost overruns, as well as the death of both leading architects. The Palace of Westminster has been a Grade I listed building since 1970 and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/
Also close to here is Westminster Abbey. An architectural masterpiece of the 13th to 16th centuries, Westminster Abbey also presents a unique pageant of British history – the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, the tombs of kings and queens, and countless memorials to the famous and the great. It has been the setting for every Coronation since 1066 and for numerous other royal occasions, including sixteen royal weddings. Today it is still a church dedicated to regular worship and to the celebration of great events in the life of the nation. Neither a cathedral nor a parish church, Westminster Abbey (or the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster to give it its correct title) is a “Royal Peculiar” under the jurisdiction of a Dean and Chapter, subject only to the Sovereign and not to any archbishop or bishop. https://www.westminster-abbey.org/about-the-abbey/history/history-of-westminster-abbey/
Another popular attraction is the Churchill War Rooms. Located just off Horse Guards Road alongsideSt James’ Park, here you can discover the secrets hidden beneath the streets of Westminster in the underground nerve centre where Winston Churchill and his inner circle directed the Second World War. See more at https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms
From the bike dock station head North up Storey’s Gate towards St James’ Park and at the traffic lights cross over to the far side of the road and turn left along the dedicated cycle lane into Birdcage Walk. Follow this cycle lane along Birdcage walk with St James’ Park on your right hand side.
St James’ Park – St James’s Park includes The Mall and Horse Guards Parade, and is surrounded by landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Whitehall. The park’s famous flower beds at the front of Buckingham Palace are a familiar backdrop to pageants including Trooping the Colour, as well as state visits and other ceremonial occasions. Enjoy impressive views of the lake and fountain from St James’s Café, watch the resident pelicans at feeding time, or while away a sunny afternoon in a deckchair. Pelicans have lived in St James’s Park for nearly 400 years. They were originally presented as a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II. St James’s Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks and covers an area of nearly 57 acres. https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-park
Birdcage Walk – The street is named after the Royal Menagerie and Aviary which were located there in the reign of King James I. King Charles II expanded the Aviary when the Park was laid out from 1660. Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn both mention visiting the Aviary in their diaries. Storey’s Gate, named after Edward Storey, Keeper of the King’s Birds at the time of Pepys, was originally the gate at the eastern end of Birdcage Walk: the name is now applied to the street leading from the eastern end to Westminster Abbey, which was formerly called Prince’s Street. Only the British Royal Family and the Hereditary Grand Falconer, the Duke of St Albans, were permitted to drive along the road until 1828, when it was opened to the public.
At the end of St James’ Park, follow the cycle lane round to the right heading towards the roundabout and statue in front of Buckingham Palace. Follow the cycle lane around the roundabout, crossing over The Mall, and follow it round to the left into Constitution Hill. The cycle lane diverts off the road here onto the wide pavement on your right hand side. Follow this pavement along Constitution Hill with Green Park on your right hand side until you see the large Wellington Arch in the centre of a roundabout ahead of you (Map Point 2).
The Mall – The Mall began as a field for playing pall-mall (a lawn game that was mostly played in the 16th and 17th centuries and was a precursor to croquet). In the 17th and 18th centuries it was a fashionable promenade, bordered by trees. The Mall was envisioned as a ceremonial route in the early 20th century. As part of the development – designed by Aston Webb – a new façade was constructed for Buckingham Palace, and the Victoria Memorial was erected. The Queen Victoria Memorial is immediately before the gates of the Palace, whilst Admiralty Arch at the far end leads into Trafalgar Square. The surface of The Mall is coloured red to give the effect of a giant red carpet leading up to Buckingham Palace. During state visits, the monarch and the visiting head of state are escorted in a state carriage up The Mall and the street is decorated with Union Flags and the flags of the visiting head of state’s country. During the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, over one million people packed The Mall to watch the public displays and the appearance of the Royal Family on the palace balcony. These scenes were repeated in 2011 for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, and again in 2012 for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the Jubilee concert.
Buckingham Palace – Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Originally known as Buckingham House, the building at the core of today’s palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 on a site that had been in private ownership for at least 150 years. It was acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and became known as The Queen’s House. During the 19th century it was enlarged, principally by architects John Nash and Edward Blore, who constructed three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace became the London residence of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The last major structural additions were made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the East front, which contains the well-known balcony on which the royal family traditionally congregates to greet crowds. The palace has 775 rooms, and the garden is the largest private garden in London. The state rooms, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public each year for most of August and September and on some days in winter and spring.
The Green Park is a peaceful triangle of mature trees and grasslands and offers a quiet retreat from city life, right next to Buckingham Palace. Visit a range of memorials, fountains and statues and look out for Royal Gun Salutes when ceremonial guns are fired to mark special royal occasions. Rumour has it, back in the seventeenth century King Charles II’s wife demanded all the flowers be removed from The Green Park after she caught him picking flowers there for another woman. The park still has no formal flowerbeds but is riot of yellow in spring, when around one million daffodil bulbs are in bloom. https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/green-park
Wellington Arch was built as an original entrance to Buckingham Palace, later becoming a victory arch proclaiming Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon. Crowned by the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, it depicts the Angel of Peace descending on the ‘Quadriga’ – or four-horsed chariot – of War.
At the end of Constitution Hill, cross over at the traffic lights to head under Wellington Arch and cross over another two sets of traffic lights on the other side, one ahead then one to the right, to cycle under the 3 stone archways into Hyde Park.
As you pass through the archway into Hyde Park, cross over the traffic lights ahead of you and turn right along the cycle lane. Just around the bend to the left is Serpentine Road leading into the park – turn left here, then almost immediate right up The Broadwalk (a wide path) which heads North along the park’s Eastern side and has a dedicated cycle lane along the right hand side. Take care when crossing over other paths for other cyclists, walkers and runners!
Hyde Park – Set right in the heart of London, Hyde Park offers both world-class events and concerts together with plenty of quiet places to relax and unwind. Dip you toes in the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, brave an open water swim in the Serpentine, or just admire the views across the lake from a waterside café. Have a go at boating, tennis, horse riding, or join the many joggers, walkers and cyclists enjoying the open air. Hyde Park has a long history as a site of protest, and still hosts rallies and marches today. Visit Speakers’ Corner on a Sunday morning to hear people from all walks of life share their views. Hyde Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks and covers an area of 350 acres. https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park
Follow The Broadwalk up to the top right hand (North East) corner of the park, past Speakers Corner, then round to the left where it joins North Carriage Drive which runs along the top (Northern) edge of the park.
Turn left onto North Carriage Drive and cycle along here until you reach the junction with West Carriage Drive (Map Point 3). Turn left here onto the dedicated cycle lane which runs alongside West Carriage Drive, heading South across the park towards the Serpentine lake.
Follow the cycle lane round to the right just as you reach the lake. You may wish to change your bike at the docking station in the car park on this corner. Cross the bridge over the Serpentine. Keep following the cycle lane on the other side, passing the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain on your left and the Serpentine Gallery on your right.
Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. The fountain was built with the best materials, talent and technology. It contains 545 pieces of Cornish granite – each shaped by the latest computer-controlled machinery and pieced together using traditional skills. The design aims to reflect Diana’s life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. The water is constantly being refreshed and is drawn from London’s water table. The Memorial also symbolises Diana’s quality and openness. There are three bridges where you can cross the water and go right to the heart of the fountain. See more at https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park/things-to-see-and-do/memorials,-fountains-and-statues/diana-memorial-fountain
Serpentine Galleries – there are two exhibition spaces situated on either side of The Serpentine lake: the Serpentine Gallery and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am-6pm, the Galleries offer free admission throughout the year. In addition to a seasonal exhibitions programme of eight shows per year, the Serpentine presents its annual Serpentine Pavilion during the summer months, the first and most ambitious architecture programme of its kind in the world. See more at https://www.serpentinegalleries.org/about
You will eventually come to a set of traffic lights at the edge of the park. Follow the cycle lane directions to carry straight on over South Carriage Drive and then right onto A315 Kensington Road (Map Point 4) for a short section as far as the Royal Albert Hall.
Royal Albert Hall – The Hall, a Grade I listed building, is an ellipse in plan. The great glass and wrought-iron dome roofing the Hall is 41 m (135 ft) high. Around the outside of the building is a great mosaic frieze, depicting “The Triumph of Arts and Sciences”, in reference to the Hall’s dedication. Proceeding anti-clockwise from the north side the sixteen subjects of the frieze are:
- Various Countries of the World bringing in their Offerings to the Exhibition of 1851
- Princes, Art Patrons and Artists
- Workers in Stone
- Workers in Wood and Brick
- The Infancy of the Arts and Sciences
- Horticulture and Land Surveying
- Astronomy and Navigation
- A Group of Philosophers, Sages and Students
- The Mechanical Powers
- Pottery and Glassmaking
Above the frieze is an inscription in 12-inch-high (300 mm) terracotta letters that combines historical fact and Biblical quotations:
This hall was erected for the advancement of the arts and sciences and works of industry of all nations in fulfilment of the intention of Albert Prince Consort. The site was purchased with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of the year MDCCCLI. The first stone of the Hall was laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the twentieth day of May MDCCCLXVII and it was opened by Her Majesty the Twenty Ninth of March in the year MDCCCLXXI. Thine O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty. For all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine. The wise and their works are in the hand of God. Glory be to God on high and on earth peace.”
Below the Arena floor there is room for two 4000 gallon water tanks, which are used for shows that flood the arena like Madame Butterfly. https://www.royalalberthall.com/
In Hyde Park on the opposite side of the Kensington Road to the Royal Albert Hall is The Albert Memorial. One of London’s most ornate monuments, designed by George Gilbert Scott and unveiled in 1872, it commemorates the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, who died of typhoid fever at the age of 42. Influenced by the series of 13th Century Eleanor Crosses (Charing Cross perhaps being the most famous) and other statues in Edinburgh and Manchester, the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens is one of the grandest high-Victorian gothic extravaganzas anywhere. Officially titled the Prince Consort National Memorial, it celebrates Victorian achievement and Prince Albert’s passions and interests. The memorial shows Prince Albert holding the catalogue of the Great Exhibition, held in Hyde Park in 1851, which he inspired and helped to organise. Marble figures representing Europe, Asia, Africa and America stand at each corner of the memorial, and higher up are further figures representing manufacture, commerce, agriculture and engineering. Yet further up, near the top, are gilded bronze statues of the angels and virtues. All around the base of the memorial the Parnassus frieze depicts celebrated painters, poets sculptors, musicians and architects, reflecting Albert’s enthusiasm for the arts. There are 187 exquisitely carved figures in the frieze. See more at https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/memorials,-fountains-and-statues/the-albert-memorial
Turn left into Kensington Gore immediately before the Royal Albert Hall building. Cycle down Kensington Gore, admiring the impressive red brick Victoria Mansion apartment buildings here. Follow the road past the side of the Royal Albert Hall, then to the left, then right until you come to the junction with Prince Consort Road, with the impressive Imperial College building ahead of you. Turn left here, then at the roundabout turn right into Exhibition Road. Cycle along here, passing the Science Museum on your right, until you reach the traffic lights at the end, with the Natural History Museum on your right and the Victoria & Albert Museum on your left. Cross straight ahead at these lights.
Science Museum – was founded in 1857 and today is one of the city’s major tourist attractions, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually. Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Science Museum does not charge visitors for admission. Temporary exhibitions, however, may incur an admission fee. The Science Museum now holds a collection of over 300,000 items, including such famous items as Stephenson’s Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive), the first jet engine, a reconstruction of Francis Crick and James Watson’s model of DNA, some of the earliest remaining steam engines (Including an example of a Newcomen steam engine, the world’s first steam engine), a working example of Charles Babbage’s Difference engine, the first prototype of the 10,000-year Clock of the Long Now, and documentation of the first typewriter. It also contains hundreds of interactive exhibits. https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/
Natural History Museum – The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology. The museum is a centre of research specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin. The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons and ornate architecture—sometimes dubbed a cathedral of nature—both exemplified by the large Diplodocus cast that dominated the vaulted central hall before it was replaced in 2017 with the skeleton of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/
Victoria & Albert Museum – The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The Museum holds many of the UK’s national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance. https://www.vam.ac.uk/
Kensington is, in general, an extremely affluent area, a trait that it now shares with its neighbour to the south, Chelsea. The area has some of London’s most expensive streets and garden squares, including Edwardes Square, most of the Holland Park neighbourhood and Wycombe Square, all private redevelopments in Regency architecture. Kensington is also very densely populated; it forms part of the most densely populated local government district (the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) in the United Kingdom. This high density is not formed from high-rise buildings; instead, it has come about through the subdivision of large mid-rise Georgian and Victorian terraced houses (generally of some four to six floors) into flats.
Kensington High Street is one of western London’s most popular shopping streets, with upmarket shops serving a wealthy area. Kensington High Street is also home to a large part of the British music industry, with the UK offices of major labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and EMI all situated in the area.
After crossing straight ahead at the lights, follow the Quiet Route cycle signs (towards Chelsea) to turn right at the traffic lights straight after. You will now be cycling along Thurloe Place. Follow this round to the left at the end, and at the traffic lights follow the Quiet Cycle Route signs to turn right into Harrington Road (Map Point 5).
Keep following Harrington Road, go straight ahead at the traffic lights into Stanhope Gardens, Cycle Quiet Route 15. Continue straight ahead at the traffic lights into Harrington Gardens, Cycle Quiet Route 15. Continue straight ahead at the mini-roundabout to stay on Harrington Gardens. Continue straight ahead at the next roundabout into Collingham Gardens. Don’t forget to admire the beautiful mansion style apartment buildings along here!
At the end of Collingham Gardens, turn left, then right into Bramham Gardens to stay on Cycle Quiet Route 15 towards West Brompton. At the traffic lights at the end of Bramham Gardens, go straight ahead over Earl’s Court Road into Earl’s Court Square. Follow this all the way to the next traffic lights, and cross straight ahead again, over Warwick Road into Kempsford Gardens, still Cycle Quiet Route 15. Follow this round to the left until you reach the end where it joins A3218 Old Brompton Road. Follow the cycle route diagonally across this road to the left to head under the archway on the other side into Brompton Cemetery (Map Point 6).
Old Brompton Road – There are several 5-star hotels and upmarket shops along this road. One of the most famous auction houses in the world, Christie’s, is located near the eastern end of the road at number 85. The Coleherne pub (now The Pembroke), located at number 261, has become infamous for being the stalking ground for three serial killers, Dennis Nilsen, Michael Lupo and Colin Ireland. It is also mentioned in the song ‘Hanging Around’ by The Stranglers, as well as in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City book Babycakes. Another landmark of the road is the Troubadour which has been a cultural hub for over fifty years. The coffee-house above, now a restaurant, has hosted the founding of Private Eye and the writing of many books, while the club below has been a venue for Bob Dylan and Adele. The most famous resident was Diana, Princess of Wales before her 1981 engagement and subsequent marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales. She shared a flat with three others before subsequently moving on to Clarence House, the home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Brompton Cemetery – The Grade I listed Brompton Cemetery is the well-loved resting place of over 200,000 people, a haven for wildlife and a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Nestled among the spectacular trees and undergrowth are over 35,000 gravestones and monuments. The cemetery is alive with the amazing stories of all the people buried there since the 1830s, including some well-known names like Emmeline Pankhurst and John Snow.
Whether you want to learn about Brompton’s rich history, go for a stroll, grab a cup of coffee or just sit in quiet contemplation, Brompton Cemetery is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of West London. A recently completed restoration project, part funded by the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery funds, returned the spectacular chapel to its original glory. A new café and visitors centre by the North Lodge and an exciting calendar of events has made Brompton one of the most unique cemeteries in London. https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/brompton-cemetery
Follow the main path under the archway all the way down to the domed circular building.
Follow the path round to the left of this building, and at the back turn left along the main pathway through the cemetery. This then heads right before coming out of the cemetery onto A304 Fulham Road.
You are now on the edge of Chelsea. The exclusivity of Chelsea as a result of its high property prices has historically resulted in the term Sloane Ranger being used to describe its residents. Since 2011, Channel 4 has broadcast a reality television show called Made in Chelsea, documenting the lives of affluent young people living there. Moreover, Chelsea is home to one of the largest communities of Americans living outside the United States, with 6.53% of Chelsea residents being born in the U.S. Chelsea shone in the 1960s Swinging London period and the early 1970s. The Swinging Sixties was defined on King’s Road, which runs the length of the area. The Western end of Chelsea featured boutiques Granny Takes a Trip and The Sweet Shop, the latter of which sold medieval silk velvet caftans, tabards and floor cushions, with many of the cultural cognoscenti of the time being customers, including Keith Richards, Twiggy, and many others. Chelsea at this time was home to the Beatles and to Rolling Stones members Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards. In the 1970s, the World’s End area of King’s Road was home to Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s boutique “SEX”, and saw the birth of the British punk movement.
Turn right out of Brompton Cemetery onto the A304 Fulham Road then first left into Hortensia Road. You may wish to change your bike at one of the docking stations near here.
Continue to the end of Hortensia Road, then turn right into A308 Kings Road (use the zebra pedestrian crossing on your right if busy). Take the second left into Tetcott Road, and the end go into and straight ahead across Westfield Park. Continue straight ahead out the other side along Tetcott Road. Turn right into Burnaby Street, then left into Lots Road. At the roundabout turn left to stay on Lots Road (Map Point 7).
You are now on National Cycle Route 4. At the end of Lots Road turn right onto the pavement on the right hand side of A3220 Cremorne Road. The pavement here, shared with pedestrians, forms part of the cycle route 4. Follow this alongside The Thames until you reach Battersea Bridge.
Cross straight over here (don’t cross over the river!) to continue along the pavement on the other side alongside The Thames and A3212 Chelsea Embankment until you reach the lovely Albert Bridge.
Albert Bridge – Built as a toll bridge, it was commercially unsuccessful. Six years after its opening it was taken into public ownership and the tolls were lifted. The tollbooths remained in place and are the only surviving examples of bridge tollbooths in London. Nicknamed “The Trembling Lady” because of its tendency to vibrate when large numbers of people walked over it, the bridge has signs at its entrances that warn troops to break step whilst crossing the bridge.
Cross straight over Albert Bridge (don’t cross over the river!) to continue along the pavement the other side. Continue along here until you reach the next bridge, Chelsea Bridge A3216. You will pass the Chelsea Physic Garden (Map Point 8) and Royal Hospital Chelsea on your left as you cycle along here.
Chelsea Physic Garden (Map Point 8) – Since 1673 Chelsea Physic Garden has occupied four acres of land on the edge of the Thames. First established by the Apothecaries in order to grow medicinal plants, this extraordinary garden in London has had wide reaching impact around the world. The Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden and contains a unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful and medicinal plants. The Garden’s location feels special and secret. It is nestled behind walls and positioned close to the River Thames. The ideal Thames location is no accident as back in 1673 the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries chose their Chelsea village site for its proximity to the river to make the most of its warm air currents. It gave them a base to moor their barge, allowing them to conduct plant finding expeditions in surrounding areas and to teach their apprentices to identify plants, those that might cure and those that might kill! The site is also blessed with a south facing aspect and good quality warm light soil, having previously been the site of a market garden. The River access allowed plants arriving from around the world to be introduced to the British Isles via the Garden, allowing the Garden to make a big impact from early on. Its international reputation was established quickly as a result of the global seed exchange scheme, known as Index Seminum, which it initiated in the 1700s and continues to this day. The Garden’s unique microclimate and location has allowed many of our gardeners throughout our history to grow plants not frequently found outside in the UK, including the UK’s largest fruiting olive tree. In 1976 the head gardener collected a record crop of 7lb of ripe olives, which is a London crop record!
Royal Hospital Chelsea – The Royal Hospital Chelsea is a retirement home and nursing home for some 300 veterans of the British Army. King Charles II founded the Royal Hospital in 1682. Chelsea Pensioners are entitled to come and go from the Royal Hospital as they please, and are permitted to wear civilian clothing wherever they travel. However, within the hospital, and in the surrounding area, pensioners are encouraged to wear a blue uniform (known fondly as “blues”). If they travel farther from the Royal Hospital they should wear the distinctive scarlet coats instead of the blue uniform. The scarlet coats are also worn for ceremonial occasions, accompanied by tricorne hats. (At other times a peaked shako is worn.) In uniform, the pensioners wear their medal ribbons and the insignia of rank they reached while serving in the military. They may also wear other insignia they earned during their service and many pensioners now wear parachute jump wings and even SAS jump wings. The site is used each year for the World famous Chelsea Flower Show.
Cross straight over at the traffic lights on Chelsea Bridge to continue ahead alongside the river on Cycle Superhighway 8, painted blue on the road. After going under a railway bridge, look out for the cycle signs to the left at the next set of traffic lights. Cycle Superhighway 8 continues straight ahead but we will follow National Cycle Route 4 off to the left, which is on quieter roads. So turn left at these lights into Lupus Street (Map Point 9).
Follow Lupus Street round to the right then continue for some distance along Lupus Street, going straight ahead through several sets of traffic lights. There are several bike dock stations on or just off Lupus Street is you need to swap your bike.
Continue along Lupus Street passing St. George’s Square gardens and Pimlico underground station. Continue ahead as the road changes into Bessborough Street and again into Drummond Gate. At the traffic lights with the main road A202 Vauxhall Bridge Road, turn right onto the segregated cycle lane on the far side of the A202, and then first left into B326 John Islip Street (still National Cycle Route 4). Cycle along here and you will pass Tate Britain on your right hand side.
Tate Britain – opened in 1897. It houses a substantial collection of the art of the United Kingdom since Tudor times, and in particular has large holdings of the works of J. M. W. Turner, who bequeathed all his own collection to the nation. It is one of the largest museums in the country. https://www.tate.org.uk/about-us
Keep following the B326 John Islip Street past Tate Britain, continuing into Dean Ryle Street. At the junction with Horseferry Road, continue straight ahead when safe to cross, into Dean Bradley Street. Follow the road clockwise to the left around St John’s Smith Square (Map Point 10) to the far side to continue ahead into Lorn North Street.
St John’s Smith Square – The magnificent church of St John the Evangelist was designed by architect Thomas Archer as part of the ‘Commission for Building Fifty New Churches’ of 1710. St John’s was the most elaborate of all, with construction lasting 14 years, from 1714 to 1728. For over 200 years, St John’s Smith Square served as a parish church, though not without incident. In 1742 a major fire led to extensive restoration and modification to Archer’s design. In 1815 the church was struck by lightning, causing subsidence to the towers, and in the early twentieth century it was the target of a Suffragette bomb plot. Ironically, in 1928, the church held Emmeline Pankhurst’s funeral. Perhaps the most dramatic night in St John’s history was 10 May 1941, the final night of the Blitz, when a direct hit from an incendiary bomb gutted the church. After the war it lay as a ruin and there was talk of turning the site into a car park. This galvanised the local people, and under the leadership of Lady Parker of Waddington, funds were raised to buy the site and restore the building. When the work was completed in 1969, St John’s Smith Square was re-born as one of the finest concert halls in London. You can read more and see what’s on at https://www.sjss.org.uk/
Continue around to the back of St John’s and into Lord North Street. At the junction, cross straight ahead over Great Peter Street when safe to do so, into Cowley Street. Turn left to follow the beautiful, historic Cowley Street, then around to the right into Barton Street, and at the end right again into Great College Street. Further along here is the bike dock station, close to the Palace of Westminster, where this route ends.
Overview of Route:
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