London River Cruises: Twixt the Tate Galleries, go to Greenwich or dine out on a sailing barge – Father Thames can treat you in many ways. Or seek out quieter hideaways in a canal boat trip.
Enjoy a tour of Tate Modern in the morning, a relaxing trip on the Tate Boat and a tour of Tate Britain in the afternoon. The Tate Boat travels between Bankside, Embankment, Millbank and St George Warf piers.
Spend a day or evening on a historic wooden sailing vessel built in 1923, the Thames Sailing Barge Lady Daphne, and have Tower Bridge raised especially for you during your trip.
S. B. Lady Daphne is one of the most famous of London’s classic wooden vessels still sailing. She was one of the many thousands of Thames sailing barges built for the English coastal trade. Now there are fewer than 40 barges left in Britain, and fewer than 10 wooden barges with passenger certificates. You can live history by spending a day on Lady Daphne, as it was during her working life. Imagine life as it was, on board one of thousands of red-sailed ships dominating London’s skyline in the days before road transport took over.
Lunch and Dinner Cruises in London operate from either Embankment or Westminster Pier and offer a great way of enjoying a meal as you sail past the icon sights of the city. From the centre of the river guests get a unique view of the Houses of Parliament, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, the Docklands and the Millennium Dome whilst at the same time enjoying first class service and a delicious meal prepared by the onboard chefs. London Cruises operate every day for Lunch, Afternoon Tea and Dinner.
Little Venice to Camden walk: The Regent’s Canal tiptoes through the capital. This is a city walk through the backdoor, catching London in private, with its slippers on. The Regent’s Canal was named after the Prince Regent, later to be King George IV, and first opened in 1820. London, naturally, is rife with royal connections. The canal even treads on land that was once the hunting grounds of Henry VIII (until in 1811 John Nash landscaped them into the Royal Park).
The pool of Little Venice makes a grand start to this walk. This wide-open space is lined with boats and surrounded by white stucco-clad Regency houses. The small island is named Browning’s Island after poet Robert Browning, thought to be the first to name the area Little Venice. Boat trips run from here, a boat café is moored at one end and there’s even a Puppet Barge theatre.
Take the towpath under Warwick Avenue Bridge. The scene ahead is of moored boats on both sides of the water, mirrored by terraces of Regency houses. Some residential boat owners have developed canal-side gardens to such an extent that it’s become a haven of pots and wisteria.
Follow the road alongside the canal then, just above Maida Hill Tunnel, cross over Edgware Road to Aberdeen Place. Carry on until you pass Crocker’s Folly pub on your left, then continue straight along a path signposted Regent’s Canal to re-join the towpath down steep steps.
Past boat moorings and another couple of road and rail bridges, you enter a scene of tranquillity as the canal skirts Regent’s Park. John Nash was designer of both the canal and Regent’s Park. He had intended that the canal should run through the middle of the park but he was convinced by others that the delicate residents of the park would be horrified by foul language used by navvies building the canal – so in the end, he decided to take the canal round the edge instead.
White mansions line the canal, their gardens and weeping willows swooping down to the water, so perhaps not too terrible a compromise for canal-goers today!
Look out for the aptly named ‘Blow Up Bridge’ (bridge no.9) – a boat with a cargo of gunpowder bound for the Midlands exploded here in 1874, demolishing the existing bridge and terrifying residents. When it was rebuilt, its pillars were turned around, so historic rope grooves now show on both sides.
Cages and wire now show that the canal goes through part of London Zoo – watch for Red River hogs, the giraffe house and a huge aviary of exotic birds (the aviary is named after Lord Snowdon who designed it).
Beyond Cumberland Basin, with its moored boats and unusual Chinese restaurant boat, the canal curves under a quick succession of low road and rail bridges.
The walk ends at busy, multi-coloured Camden. The double lock at the heart of Camden is known as Camden Lock but is actually Hampstead Road Lock. Its market is world famous!
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