11km London Cycle Thames Circular

11km London Cycle Thames Circular

This 11km (7 mile) circular cycle route will take you from Westminster and past many landmarks such as Lambeth Palace, County Hall, London Eye, Southbank, Tate Modern, Wobbly Bridge, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe, The Shard, Borough Market, HMS Belfast, Fire of London Monument, Inns of Court, Somerset House and along the fantastic Thames Cycle Superhighway. Most of the route is along mostly quiet roads and dedicated cycle lanes. There are plenty of delightful places to stop, rest, eat, drink and shop along the way! This route has been designed so you can use the Santander Bike Hire scheme – click here for more details. The route is all within the Bike Dock areas, and we suggest sections of the route which will take you only 20 minutes or so to complete so you can dock your bike comfortably within 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. All routes are circular so you can start/stop where you wish, but we make suggestions on route sections based on our route start/stop points. Our static maps below show bike dock station locations as red stars. You can use Parkopedia to find parking spots near you before and after your journey. Also, see this website for more information on bicycles on public transport and this website for bike hire at major stations.

Click here to populate part 1 of the route on Google Maps
Click here to populate part 2 of the route on Google Maps
Route overview of London Cycle Thames Circular

Route overview

We start this cycle route at the bike dock station just South of the Palace of Westminster, at the corner of Great College Street and Millbank, the Abingdon Green docking station (Map Point 1).

Part 1 of London Cycle Thames Circular starting at the Palace of Westminster

Part 1 of London Cycle Thames Circular

Palace of Westminster – The Palace of Westminster is 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.

Palace of Westminster, London

Palace of Westminster, London

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.

Westminster Abbey, London

Westminster Abbey, London

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.

From the bike dock station, head South along Millbank, away from the Palace of Westminster until you reach the roundabout. Turn left here to follow signs for National Cycle Route 4 across Lambeth Bridge. Turn left at the end of the bridge onto A3036 continuing to follow the signs for National Cycle Route 4. You will see Lambeth Palace on your right hand side.

Lambeth Palace – Lambeth Palace is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The oldest remaining part of the palace is the Early English chapel. Lollard’s Tower, which retains evidence of its use as a prison in the 17th century, dates from 1435 to 1440. The front is an early Tudor brick gatehouse built by Cardinal John Morton and completed in 1495. Cardinal Pole lay in state in the palace for 40 days after he died there in 1558. The fig tree in the palace courtyard is possibly grown from a slip taken from one of the White Marseille fig trees that have been here for centuries (reputedly planted by Cardinal Pole). Within the palace is Lambeth Palace Library, the principal repository of records of the Church of England. It was founded as a public library by Archbishop Richard Bancroft in 1610 and contains a vast collection of material relating to ecclesiastical history, including archbishops’ and bishops’ archives, some dating as far back as the 9th century. As it is a working palace and a family home, Lambeth Palace is not open to the public on a daily basis.

Part 2 of London Cycle Thames Circular towards Westminster Bridge down Belvedere Road passing County Hall and the London Eye

Part 2 of London Cycle Thames Circular

As you approach the large junction further along the A3036, stay in the segregated cycle lane to turn left at the roundabout when the dedicated cycle lights are on green, towards Westminster Bridge. Before you go over Westminster bridge, turn right at the pedestrian crossing lights in the road to cross both lanes and cycle down Belvedere Road Map Point 2 (one way towards you for cars, but two way for cycles along National Cycle Route 4 still). You will pass County Hall on your left, as well as the London Eye.

London Eye at sunset with County Hall behind

London Eye at sunset with County Hall behind

County Hall – was the headquarters of London County Council (LCC) and later the Greater London Council (GLC). Today, County Hall is the site of businesses and attractions, including the London Sea Life Aquarium and London Dungeon. For 64 years County Hall served as the headquarters of local government for London. During the 1980s the then powerful Labour-controlled GLC led by Ken Livingstone was locked in conflict with the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. Since the Parliament buildings were just across the river from County Hall, the façade of County Hall frequently in more than one year of her tenure served as a billboard for opposition slogans.

At 135m, Coca-Cola London Eye is the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel. It was conceived and designed by Marks Barfield Architects and was launched in 2000. It has won over 85 awards for national and international tourism, outstanding architectural quality and engineering achievement. In fact, it has become the UK’s most popular paid for visitor attraction. A remarkable feat of design and engineering, the London Eye gave London’s skyline a dramatic new addition and has been offering guests a new perspective on London ever since. Originally, it was intended as a temporary structure, able to be dismantled and transported to a new location, and had planning permission for just five years. But with millions boarding it every year, its popularity has prompted its lease to be extended. Today it is a permanent fixture on the London skyline and a beautiful symbol of modern London.

If your 30 minute bike hire period is getting close to the end, then there are bike dock stations on Belvedere Road on the right hand side just after the London Eye, and also just off on the first road on the right past here on College Hall Approach.

Part 3 of London Cycle Thames Circular along Belvedere Road passing Southbank Centre

Part 3 of London Cycle Thames Circular

Continue along Belvedere Road, passing the Southbank Centre on your left.

Southbank Centre – is a complex of artistic venues. It comprises three main performance venues (the Royal Festival Hall including the Saison Poetry Library, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room), together with the Hayward Gallery, and is Europe’s largest centre for the arts. It attracts more than six million visitors annually. Over two thousand paid performances of music, dance and literature are staged at Southbank Centre each year, as well as over two thousand free events and an education programme, in and around the performing arts venues. In addition, three to six major art exhibitions are presented at Hayward Gallery yearly, and National Touring Exhibitions reach over 100 venues across the UK.

Continue along National Cycle Route 4 as it changes from Belvedere Road into Upper Ground. You will pass the National Theatre on your left.

National Theatre – It is over five decades since the National Theatre Company under Laurence Olivier gave their first-ever performance. Since the opening night of Hamlet, starring Peter O’Toole, on 22 October 1963, the National Theatre has produced well over 800 plays. The National now stages over twenty new productions each year. Several different productions can be seen in any one week and there are over 1,000 performances every year, given by a company of 150 actors to over 600,000 people, with many more seeing NT productions in the West End, on tour or via NT Live cinema broadcasts.

National Theatre, London

National Theatre, London

Part 4 of London Cycle Thames Circular along Upper Ground passed Gabriel's Wharf and the OXO building towards Blackfriar's Bridge

Part 4 of London Cycle Thames Circular

Continue along Upper Ground past Gabriel’s Wharf on your left (lots of food and drink outlets), and the OXO building and design shops also on your left just past here. Keep following the cycle lane along Upper round until you reach the main road A201 with Blackfriars Bridge to your left (Map Point 3).

At this junction turn right at the traffic lights when safe to do so, to head South away from the river along the A201, for a short distance to the next set of traffic lights and then turn first left onto A3200. Go under the railway bridge then take the first left on the other side into Hopton Street (still part of Cycle Route 4). Follow Hopton St round to the right to continue along Holland Street then left onto the pedestrianised Sumner Street at the back of Tate Modern. There is a bike dock station here if you wish to walk around this area.

Tate Modern

Tate Modern

The Tate Modern – In December 1992 the Tate Trustees announced their intention to create a separate gallery for international modern and contemporary art in London. The former Bankside Power Station was selected as the new gallery site in 1994. The following year, Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron were appointed to convert the building into a gallery. That their proposal retained much of the original character of the building was a key factor in this decision. The iconic power station, built in two phases between 1947 and 1963, was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It consisted of a stunning turbine hall, 35 metres high and 152 metres long, with the boiler house alongside it and a single central chimney. The huge machinery was removed and the building was stripped back to its original steel structure and brickwork. The turbine hall became a dramatic entrance and display area and the boiler house became the galleries. Since it opened in May 2000, more than 40 million people have visited Tate Modern. It is one of the UK’s top three tourist attractions and generates an estimated £100 million in economic benefits to London annually.

Millennium “wobbly” Bridge

Millennium “wobbly” Bridge

On the Thames side of the Tate Modern you will find the infamous Millennium “wobbly” Bridge – Initially opened in June 2000, Londoners nicknamed the bridge the “Wobbly Bridge” after pedestrians experienced an alarming swaying motion on it’s first day of opening. The bridge was closed later on that same day and, after two days of limited access, closed completely for almost two years while modifications were made to eliminate the motion. It reopened in February 2002 but the nickname stuck!

The bridge’s movements were caused by a ‘positive feedback’ phenomenon, known as synchronous lateral excitation. The natural sway motion of people walking caused small sideways oscillations in the bridge, which in turn caused people on the bridge to sway in step, increasing the amplitude of the bridge oscillations and continually reinforcing the effect. On the day of opening, the bridge was crossed by 90,000 people, with up to 2,000 on the bridge at any one time. The risks of lateral vibration problems in lightweight bridges are well known. Any bridge with lateral frequency modes of less than 1.3 Hz, and sufficiently low mass, could witness the same phenomenon with sufficient pedestrian loading. The greater the number of people, the greater the amplitude of the vibrations. For example, Albert Bridge in London has a sign dating from 1873 warning marching ranks of soldiers to break step while crossing!

Part 5 of London Cycle Thames Circular into Park Street passed Shakespeare's The Globe Theatre along New Globe Walk

Part 5 of London Cycle Thames Circular

Continue the cycle along Sumner St and into Park Street, where you will pass close to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on your left, just along New Globe Walk.

During the first years of Elizabeth’s reign, the English playing companies used inns, inn yards, college halls and private houses for their performances. It was not until 1576 that the actor-manager James Burbage built the Theatre in Shoreditch, the first purpose-built playhouse in London. Shakespeare joined the resident troupe at the Theatre in the 1580s and the company (later known as the Chamberlain’s and then the King’s Men) flourished there for 20 years. In Christmas 1598 the company sought a drastic solution: they leased a plot near the Rose, a rival theatre in Southwark, demolished the Theatre and carried its timbers over the river. To cover the cost of the new playhouse, James Burbage’s sons Cuthbert and Richard, offered some members of the company shares in the building. Shakespeare was one of four actors who bought a share in the Globe. By early 1599 the theatre was up and running and for 14 years it thrived, presenting many of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. In 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII, wadding from a stage cannon ignited the thatched roof and the theatre burned to the ground ‘all in less than two hours, the people having enough to do to save themselves’. The theatre was quickly rebuilt, this time with a tiled roof. Shakespeare may have acted in the second Globe, but he probably never wrote for it. It remained the home for Shakespeare’s old company until the closure of all the theatres under England’s Puritan administration in 1642. No longer of use, it was demolished to make room for tenements in 1644.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was a professional actor and playwright from Stratford-Upon-Avon. He worked in London, writing on average three plays a year for the acting company the Lord Chamberlain’s – later King’s – Men, whilst sustaining his family in Stratford. Whatever we think about him as a writer, he was principally a man of the theatre: he worked collaboratively and knew his playhouses intimately. He acted in plays by other playwrights and, as a shareholder in the Globe he profited from every aspect of the playmaking business. This made him rich, and he is recorded as being a careful and conservative investor. Shakespeare was born in 1564. His father was a glover and later an alderman. He was educated at the local grammar school, gaining a strong grounding in Latin and rhetoric, ideal skills for accessing classical source material for plays and writing dramatic dialogue. He married young, becoming a father at the age of eighteen; as such there were many things binding him to Stratford – this makes it all the more remarkable that he chose a career far away in the unpredictable and disreputable London theatres. However, Shakespeare remained rooted in Stratford, buying property and investing locally. His plays contain many allusions to Warwickshire dialogue, people and places. He died in Stratford in 1616.

Continue along Cycle Route 4 Park Street, with views of the tall glass Shard building ahead of you. When you get to the brick arches of the bridge at the end, turn left and then right under the bridge by Vinopolis into Clink Street. Continue under the bridge along the narrow Clink Street and past The Clink Prison Museum.

The Clink was a prison which operated from the 12th century until 1780. The prison served the Liberty of the Clink, a local manor area owned by the Bishop of Winchester rather than by the reigning monarch. As the Liberty owner, the Bishop kept all revenues from the Clink Liberty, and could put people in prison for failing to make their payments. As the Bishop, he could also imprison heretics. The Clink was possibly the oldest men’s prison and probably the oldest women’s prison in England. There has been a prison owned by the Bishop of Winchester in one form or another since the year 860, although at that time it would only have been one cell in a priests’ college. By 1076 an archbishop had listed the types of punishment allowed: scourging with rods; solitary confinement; and bread and water in silence. As the gaolers (jailers) were very poorly paid, they found other ways to supplement their income. This meant that prisoners with money and friends on the outside were able to pay the gaolers to make their time better. The gaolers hired out rooms, beds, bedding, candles and fuel to those who could afford it. Food and drink were charged at twice the outside price. They accepted payments for fitting lighter irons and for removing them completely. For a fee, prisoners would be allowed outside to beg or even to work. Madams were allowed to keep a brothel going, with payments going to the gaolers. Poorer prisoners had to beg at the grates that led up to street level and sell anything they had with them, including their clothes, to pay for food. Today, The Clink Prison Museum exhibition is located on Clink Street, near to the original site.

Turn right past the Clink Museum into Stoney Street then left into Winchester Walk, still following the little blue signs for Cycle Route 4. At the end of Winchester Walk, you will find Borough Market on your right, and the continuation of Cycle Route 4 to your left.

Borough Market

Borough Market

Borough Market is rich with history. As London’s oldest food market, it has been serving the people of Southwark for 1,000 years, and that extraordinary heritage is an important part of its appeal. First and foremost, though, it is a source of genuinely exceptional produce. Many of the Market’s stallholders are themselves producers: the farmer who reared the animal, the fisherman who caught the fish, the baker who baked the bread. Other traders have built their reputations on seeking out small-scale artisan producers and bringing their wares to Borough. Together, the Market’s stalls, shops and restaurants reflect London’s status as a truly global city, with traditional British produce sitting alongside regional specialities from around the world.

The Golden Hinde.

The Golden Hinde. Credit: Alison Day

Turn left out of Winchester Walk into Montague Close. You will see the replica Golden Hinde ship on your left by the river.

The Golden Hinde – The original Golden Hind was an English galleon best known for her privateering circumnavigation of the globe between 1577 and 1580, captained by Sir Francis Drake. The ship on display in London is a full-size reconstruction of the original ship, built by traditional methods in Appledore, North Devon and launched in 1973.

Continue along the cobbled Montague Close and Cycle Route 4 to the right, following it parallel to The Thames, underneath London Bridge and into Tooley Street (Map Point 4).

At the end of this quiet section of Tooley street, turn left onto the busier A200 Tooley Street. Opposite you here you will find London Bridge Station and The Shard.

The Shard is a 95-story supertall skyscraper, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. The glass-clad pyramidal tower has 72 habitable floors, with a viewing gallery and open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor, at a height of 244 metres. Renzo Piano, the project’s architect, designed The Shard as a spire-like sculpture emerging from the River Thames. He was inspired by the railway lines next to the site, the London spires depicted by the 18th-century Venetian painter Canaletto, and the masts of sailing ships. However, Piano’s design met criticism from English Heritage, who claimed the building would be “a shard of glass through the heart of historic London”, giving the building its name, The Shard!

Part 5 of London Cycle Thames Circular along Cycle Route 4 down Tooley Street onto Weaver's Lane by Potter Fields Park

Part 5 of London Cycle Thames Circular

Continue along Cycle Route 4 A200 Tooley Street until you reach Weaver’s Lane by Potters Field Park (Map Point 5). ​

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge. Credit: Charles Postiaux

We suggest you drop your bike off here before walking over Tower Bridge (which can be narrow and busy for cyclists). Once you have dropped your bike off, head through the Park towards the bulbous City Hall building ahead of you and the Thames riverbank for lovely view of Tower Bridge on your right. ​

City Hall is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority (GLA), which comprises the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. It was designed by Norman Foster and opened in July 2002, two years after the Greater London Authority was created. The building has an unusual, bulbous shape (purportedly intended to reduce its surface area and thus improve energy efficiency, although energy use measurements have shown this building to be fairly inefficient in terms of energy use with an Energy Performance Certificate rating of just “E”). It has been compared variously to a helmet (either Darth Vader’s or simply a motorcyclist’s), a misshapen egg, and a woodlouse. Former mayor Ken Livingstone referred to it as a “glass testicle”, while his successor, Boris Johnson, made the same comparison using a different word, “The Glass Gonad” and more politely as “The Onion”.

HMS Belfast is the most significant surviving Second World War Royal Navy warship. You can explore all nine decks of HMS Belfast to discover what life was like on board for the crew at war and at sea. See more at

Walk towards the bridge and take the steps up onto the bridge level and walk over to the other side of the Thames. To avoid these steps, walk through the tunnel under the bridge where you will find a lift on the other side.

Tower Bridge – was built over 120 years ago to ease road traffic while maintaining river access to the busy Pool of London docks. Built with giant moveable roadways that lift up for passing ships, it is to this day considered an engineering marvel and beyond being one of London’s favourite icons, it is arguably one of the most famous and instantly recognisable structures in the entire world. Since 1982, visitors have been able to see inside Tower Bridge and discover the history of the bridge and why it came into existence through fascinating exhibition content. Visitors can also experience the exciting new glass floor and spectacular panoramic views from the high-level Walkways as well as the Victorian Engine Rooms, which house the beautiful steam engines that once powered the bridge lifts.

As you walk off the bridge you will see the Tower of London on your left and St Katherine Docks to your right.

Tower of London at night

Tower of London at night

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.

St Katharine Docks

St Katharine Docks

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.

Part 6 of London Cycle Thames Circular around Tower of London onto Cycle Superhighway to Westminster Bridge

Part 6 of London Cycle Thames Circular

Walk along the Tower Bridge road A100 to the back of The Tower of London, follow the pavement round to the left, and you will find a bike dock station on Tower Hill to pick up another bike (Map Point 6).

From the bike hire station, cross over the main road behind the Tower (A100) at the traffic lights on the corner and on the far side of the road you will find a Cycle Superhighway, segregated bike lane. Head left (West) along here so the Tower is on your left hand side and follow this cycle superhighway all the way to Westminster Bridge and the Palace of Westminster along the A3211, eventually reaching a lovely section alongside The Thames. Keep safe at the traffic lights – this is a dedicated cycle lane the whole way with it’s own separate lights at junctions. ​

Part 7 of London Cycle Thames Circular continuing down the Cycle Superhighway

Part 7 of London Cycle Thames Circular

On the way, there are various points of interest that you may want to drop your bike off and walk around for a short while, including the following:

Sky Garden, London

Sky Garden, London

Not far from The Tower of London, and off to your right hand side from the cycle superhighway, you will find the Sky Garden at the top of the “walkie talkie” building at 20 Fenchurch St. This is a unique public space that spans three storeys and offers 360 degree uninterrupted views across the City of London. Visitors can wander around the exquisitely landscaped gardens, observation decks and an open air terrace of what is London’s highest public garden. Entry to the Sky Garden is free, but please note space is strictly limited and visits must be booked online in advance.

As you are cycling along the cycle superhighway you will also see up a road to your right the Monument to the Great Fire of LondonThis monument was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666. The fire began on Pudding Lane, in Thomas Farriner’s bakery house, on Sunday 2 September 1666. It went on to destroy thousands of homes, hundreds of streets, public buildings and churches before eventually being put out a few days later on Wednesday 5 September. The Monument is 61 metres (202 feet) high, the same distance between the Monument and where the fire began in Pudding Lane. As well as the source of the Great Fire of London, Pudding Lane has the unusual claim to fame of being one of the World’s first one way streets, being designated as such in 1617!

Part 8 of London Cycle Thames Circular continuing down the Cycle Superhighway

Part 8 of London Cycle Thames Circular

Samuel Pepys is famous for the daily, detailed diary he kept of daily life in London between 1660 and 1670, during which time he witnessed the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. Pepys was born on Fleet Street, worshipped regularly at St Olave’s Church and was buried there, next to his wife. On the morning of 2 September 1666, Pepys was woken by his servant informing him of a fire nearby. Pepys didn’t think it was serious so went back to bed. Waking later that morning, his servant informed him that 300 houses had already been destroyed. Pepys took a boat out onto the Thames and observed the fire for an hour or so, writing about it as follows:

Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys

I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Poor Michell’s house, as far as the Old Swan, already burned that way, and the fire running further, that in a very little time it got as far as the Steeleyard, while I was there. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that layoff; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down. Having staid, and in an hour’s time seen the fire: rage every way, and nobody, to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and leave all to the fire, and having seen it get as far as the Steele-yard, and the wind mighty high and driving it into the City; and every thing, after so long a drought, proving combustible, even the very stones of churches, and among other things the poor steeple by which pretty Mrs.XXX lives, and whereof my old school-fellow Elborough is parson, taken fire in the very top, and there burned till it fell down…”

Part 9 of London Cycle Thames Circular passing Victoria Embankment and the Inns of Court

Part 9 of London Cycle Thames Circular

Further along the cycle superhighway, near where it crosses the road to the other side, you will be passing by some of the Inns of Court on your rightIn the earliest centuries of their existence, beginning in the 14th century, the Inns were any of a large number of buildings where lawyers traditionally lodged, trained and carried on their profession. Over the centuries, the four Inns of Court became where barristers were trained, while the more numerous Inns of Chancery – which were affiliated to the Inns of Court – became where solicitors were trained. The four Inns of Court are:

The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn
The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple
The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple
The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn

Inns of Court London

Inns of Court London

There have been lawyers in the Temple since 1320. In 1337 the premises were divided into Inner Temple, where the lawyers resided, and Middle Temple, which was also occupied by lawyers by 1346. Lincoln’s Inn, the largest, is able to trace its official records to 1422. The records of Gray’s Inn begin in 1569, but teaching is thought to have begun there in the late fourteenth century. In 1620 it was decided at a meeting of senior judges that all four inns would be equal in order of precedence.

In the 16th century and earlier, students or apprentices learned their craft primarily by attending court and sharing both accommodations and education during the legal terms. Prior to the English Civil War in 1642, this training lasted at least seven years; subsequently, the Inns focused their residency requirements on dining together in the company of experienced barristers, to enable learning through contact and networking with experts. In the mid-18th century, the common law was first recognized as a subject for study in the universities, and by 1872, bar examinations became compulsory for entry into the profession of law.

Victoria Embankment Gardens

Victoria Embankment Gardens

As the cycle superhighway continues alongside The Thames, you will pass Victoria Embankment Gardens on your right hand side. This vibrant public park is part of the chain of open spaces along Victoria Embankment, designed by Sir Joseph Bazelgette and opened in 1865. The historical Watergate is in one corner of the park, built in 1626 as an entrance to the Thames for the Duke of Buckingham. The gate is still in its original position, but since its creation the Thames water line has moved and the gate is some 100 metres from the water.

Cycle Superhighway

Cycle Superhighway

A little further along you will pass Somerset House on your right (Map Point 7). From its 18th-century origins, Somerset House has been a centre for debate and discussion including the first home of the Royal Academy of Arts and other learned societies – an intellectual powerhouse for the nation. For over 200 years the building housed various government departments including births, marriages and deaths and the Inland Revenue until Somerset House Trust was established in July 1997 to conserve and develop Somerset House as an arts centre.

Somerset House ice rink at night

Somerset House ice rink at night

Part 10 of London Cycle Thames Circular continuing passed Victoria Embankment Gardens along the Cycle Superhighway

Part 10 of London Cycle Thames Circular

If you wish to avoid the busier roads near Westminster (though they do still have separate bike lanes and traffic lights) then you may want to drop your bike back at the docking station by Whitehall Gardens and Northumberland Avenue, just after the bridge under Charing Cross / Embankment Stations.

Part 11 of London Cycle Thames Circular onto Westminster Bridge by the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Part 11 of London Cycle Thames Circular

Otherwise, continue along to Westminster Bridge by the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, and turn right at this junction (Map Point 8). ​

Follow the main road round to the left at the traffic lights just after you have passed Big Ben, and keep to the left-hand side of the road to continue straight alongside the back of the Houses of Parliament at the next traffic lights. Just after the buildings on your left finish, you will see some green park space on your left (Victoria Tower Gardens) and on your right (College Green). You will find the bike dock station where we started this circular route just at the far end of College Green on Great College Street.

Click here to populate part 1 of the route on Google Maps
Click here to populate part 2 of the route on Google Maps


If you enjoyed this route, see our 14km Shoreditch and Regents Canal cycle

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Information from various sources including wikipedia.org.

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