The Three Parks – Daylight Route (7.2 miles)
Route in figures
A surprisingly traffic-free (except for Hyde Park corner) course right in the centre of London. The route follows the outer perimeter of the historic Royal Parks of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park and St James's Park.
For visitors to London, this route covers an impressive list of London's famous landmarks, including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, Horse Guards, the Mall, Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Speakers' Corner, the Albert Hall, St James's Palace, and Kensington Palace.
This route is only suitable for daylight hours, because Kensington Gardens is closed when it is dark. If you want to run when it is dark, see the evening route variant of this route.
|"Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2003)"
Start and finish
The route starts and finishes at Speakers' Corner, near Marble Arch.
If you are a member of the Serpentine Running Club, or if you are running with us on Saturday morning, you can use the shower and changing facilities at the Seymour Leisure Centre, which is half a mile from the start and finish of this route.
There are public toilets at Marble Arch.
"Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2003)"
|0||Start at lamppost number 2, next to Cumberland Gate. Head west, away from Marble Arch, along the cycle path. Follow the cycle path to the right, and cross North Carriage Drive.|
|0.1||Turn left left just before you reach Bayswater Road, along the path inside the park. Follow the footpath, with North Carriage drive to the left and Bayswater Road to the right.|
|0.5||Cross the road. During daylight hours, bear left and keep Victoria Lodge to your right. (In the evenings, Kensington Gardens are closed and you will have to follow the winter variant of this route). Keep the green railings on your right, and pass Buckhill Lodge to your right.|
|0.7||Pass a water fountain to your left. Keep along the edge of the park.|
|1.0||One mile is reached as you pass a gate to your right, leading to the Thistle Hyde Park Hotel.|
|1.2||Cross the Broadwalk (a footpath). The Princess Diana Memorial Gardens are to the left, Black Lion Lodge is to the right.|
|1.3||At the end of the path, as you reach the wall of the coach park, turn left towards Kensington Palace. The Silver Limes along this path were presented by the people of Berlin.|
|1.6||Go through the pedestrian gate at the end, and past the Orangery on the left. Turn left just before the State Apartments. 30m later, turn right into the Sunken Garden, and run round the three sides of the sunken garden. Turn right out of the garden, and right again on to the Broad Walk.|
|1.8||Pass the statue of Victoria to the right. Turn right just past the statue and pass in front of Kensington Palace. At the end of the path, turn left, and follow the path along the brick wall.|
|2.0||The two mile mark is a bricked up gateway in the wall on your right, visible because of two white stone blocks in the wall buttresses.|
|2.1||Follow the path to the left, keeping as close to the edge of the park as you can, and turn first right.|
|2.2||Turn left, signposted to the Albert Memorial, along the path just inside the perimeter of the park, with public toilets to your right.|
|2.4||With gates to the right, the footpath widens into a roadway.|
|2.5||Pass between the Albert Memorial to the left and the Royal Albert Hall to the right.|
|2.6||Cross the road. Follow the footpath ahead, on the left hand side of the road alongside the horse riding track.|
|3.0||The three mile mark is the tower block on the right hand side of the road, housing the troops at Hyde Park barracks|
|3.3||Follow the path to the right and turn left onto the footpath alongside the road (South Carriage Drive). Cross South Carriage Drive when it is safe.|
|3.6||Turn right down the second set of steps out of Hyde Park down on to the road. Turn left on the pavement, and go down the ramp (Exit 1) into Hyde Park Corner underground station. Keep left all the way through the subway, coming up a ramp (Exit 2) into the traffic island in the centre of Hyde Park Corner.|
|3.7||Apsley House, a monument to Wellington, is to your left. Follow the path bearing right to the pedestrian/cycle lights at the top of Constitution Hill. Danger! Wait for them to turn green (having pressed the button if no-one has already done so) and go to the island in the middle of Constitution Hill. Wait for the green signal to go across. Follow the cycle path and footpath down Constitution Hill. To the right, hidden behind the wall, are the gardens of Buckingham Palace.|
|4.0||The four mile mark is a gate in the metal barrier to the right. Keep straight ahead to the end of the cycle track.|
|4.1||Buckingham Palace is on your right, the Canadian War Memorial to the left. At the traffic lights, keep left, staying just inside Green Park, with the stone wall to your right. Follow the curved wall round to the right.|
|4.2||Emerge at the foot of The Mall, and cross at the lights. Go straight ahead, and up 5 steps onto a curved path. Buckingham Palace is to your right.|
|4.3||Go down 6 steps, and turn left on to the pavement. Great view to your left across the lake to your left.|
|4.4||Turn left on to Birdcage Walk. The Wellington barracks and the Guards Museum are to the right.|
|4.8||Turn left into Horse Guards Road just past the small, yellow brick police station with a traditional blue light. There is a great view of Big Ben ahead. To your right are the backs of the Treasury, Foreign Office and Downing Street.|
|5.0||The five mile mark is the Household Division war memorial to the left.|
|5.1||Turn left on to the Mall towards Buckingham Palace.|
|5.2||The Duke of York Steps to the right mark 2 miles to go. Cross the Mall whenever it is safe to do so, and keep along the pavement. Cross Marlborough Road and Stable Yard. (The London Marathon finishes on the Mall level with Stable Yard).|
|5.6||Turn right up the footpath which runs along the side of Green Park, with Lancaster House to the right. Go up the hill.|
|5.9||Turn left just before you reach Piccadilly at the top of hill, staying on the footpath just inside the park.|
|6.0||The six mile mark is the pedestrian gate to your right, just past the disused gates out of the park onto Piccadilly. Don't go through the gate, but keep straight ahead.|
|6.2||There is one mile to go when you reach the street sign to your right for the Ring Road (S) and Ring Road (N). Follow the footpath as it bends to the left.|
|6.3||Continue around to Constitution Hill, turning right and taking great care crossing the 2 sets of pedestrian lights to the island in the middle of Hyde Park Corner, passing under the Victory Arch. Bear right and then left to go down the ramp to the underpass at Exit 2. Leave up the ramp at Exit 1. Turn right at the top of the ramp, and do a hairpin bend up the steps. Turn right along the pavement.|
|6.5||Cross the road (South Carriage Drive) and keep along the pavement. Go out of the Queen Elizabeth gates, and turn left up Park Lane for 30m.|
|6.6||Pass the statue of Achilles on the left, and turn back into the park through the second gate. This path is called "Lovers' Walk".|
|6.7||The lamppost in the middle of the path marks the point where you have half a mile to go.|
|6.9||At the Joy of Life Fountain, keep right, and go round the statue anticlockwise. Take the first path to the right.|
|7.0||Turn right next to the cycle path. Keep straight ahead when the cycle path bends to the left, and go into Speakers' Corner.|
Finish at the solitary lamppost in the middle of Speakers' Corner.
Sights and history
Hyde Parkwas enclosed by Henry VIII in 1536 to be used as a deer chase. In 1637, it was opened as a public park, and the crowds came to watch horse-racing and other sports. Deer were still hunted here during the 18th century, and finally disappeared in about 1840. The Great Exhibition took place here in 1851, between Rotten Row and Knightsbridge, and the profit was used to establish the museums in South Kensington.
Hyde Park has an area of 361 acres, and Kensington Gardens around 274 acres.
Marble Archwas designed by John Nash in 1827. Made of white Italian marble, it was intended to stand in front of Buckingham Palace to celebrate the end of the Napoleonic Wars. But the arch was too narrow for the Gold Stage Coach, and in 1837, the arch was dismantled and moved to its present position, which is the site of the Tyburn gallows.
Speakers' Corner was established in 1872. Contrary to the urban legend, there is no particular right of free speech at Speakers' Corner: there is, however, a right of assembly.
At Victoria Gate, where you cross the road leading out of the park, is the famous pet cemetery established in 1880. The gravestones can be seen from the Bayswater Road.
As you cross the road, you enter Kensington Gardens. These were once the private gardens of Kensington Palace. Their design is due to Queen Caroline, wife of George II.
At the north end of Long Water (as the section of the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens is called) are the Italian Gardens – a paved garden with pavilion and fountains. Note the 1796 statue on the left of Edward Jenner, the man who discovered vaccination. On your right is the Queen Anne's Alcove designed by Kent.
To your left is Long Water– the name for the Serpentine Lake in Kensington Gardens. The Lake was created by damning the river Westbourne, which flows down to the Thames (this river accounts for many of the local place names: Knightsbridge, Pont Street, the Swan Pub on Bayswater). It was in this lake that Harriet Westbrook, first wife of the poet Shelley, drowned herself in 1816.
The Orangerywas built in 1704 by Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh, with a massive stone centrepiece by Hawksmoor. It is open as a cafe, and inside you will see a second century marble crater with Roman reliefs which was found in Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli.
Kensington Palace was built in 1605, and bought in 1689 by William III (of whom there is a statue behind the front gates). From then until the death of George II in 1760 it was a residence of the reigning sovereign. The old house was altered and extended by Sir Christopher Wren. In recent years it has been used as a high class apartment block for the minor royals, most notably Princess Diana.
The Albert Memorial (1864-1872) is a mid-Victorian monument to Albert, consort of Queen Victoria. Designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, the centrepiece is a 14ft statue of the Prince Consort made of gun metal, surrounded by statues.
The Royal Albert Hallwas build in 1867-1871. The round hall was designed by Captain Fowke, a Royal Engineer. It is almost a quarter of a mile in circumference. The Royal Albert Hall is the site of the annual Proms concerts, including the Last Night of the Proms.
At three miles, you pass the Knightsbridge Barracks and stables on your right. These were built in 1970. 270 horses are stabled in the East Wing. In 1984, the IRA planted a bomb which killed several guardsmen and horses, not far from the Cavalry Memorial near the bandstand.
At Edinburgh Gate on the right, admire the Pan sculpture by Jacob Epstein, finished in 1959. This was his last work.
The Triumphal Archat Hyde Park Corner was built in 1828, designed by Decimus Burton. The Wellington Monument(the statue of Wellington on the back of his favourite horse, Copenhagen) is by Boehm.
Green Parkwas added to St James's Park in 1667 by Charles II, who would walk up a path to what is now Hyde Park Corner (hence the name Constitution Hill). On a quiet day, if you stand in the middle of Green Park, you can hear the river Tyburn flowing underneath to its outflow in the Thames near Lambeth Bridge. Three attempts were made on the life of Queen Victoria on Constitution Hill (1840, 1842, 1849) and Sir Robert Peel was fatally injured here by a fall from his horse.
Buckingham Palace was originally built as a house by John Sheffield, newly created Duke of Buckingham, in the early 1700s. George III bought the property in 1762 for £28,000. In 1825, John Nash, fresh from completing the Brighton Pavilion for George IV, was commissioned to turn the house into a palace. It was Queen Victoria in 1847 who added the east wing, to enclose the courtyard. This wing is the front of the palace, and includes the famous balcony used by the Royal Family on big occasions.
St James's Park is London's oldest, and is known for its birds. The first pelican was given to Charles II by a Russian ambassador. It promptly flew off, and was shot over Norfolk. Charles II set up aviaries down one side of the park (now known as Birdcage Walk).
The Wellington Barrackswere built in 1833 by Sir Francis Smith and Philip Hardwick. The Guards Museum displays the history of the Guards from their origins in the Civil War to the present day.
Big Ben is not the name of the clock tower, but the name of the bell which hangs there and which chimes on the hour. The tower in which it hangs is more properly called St Stephen's Tower. The tower was built in 1858, replacing a tower which had stood there since 1288. The Houses of Parliament were designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin in the 1830s.
Turning left into Horse Guards Road takes you past the Cabinet War Rooms on the right. This was the nerve centre of the second world war, including the Transatlantic Telephone Room and the Map Room.
Also on the right are the back of the Treasury, the Foreign Office and Downing Street, where No.10 is the official residence of the Prime Minister since 1732, and No.11 the residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1805.
The Parade Ground on the right is the Horse Guards Parade, which acts as the official entrance to Buckingham Palace. The buildings around the parade ground were designed in the 18th Century by William Kent. The Guards Memorial on the left, which marks 5 miles, dates back to 1926.
The Mall dates back to the 17th Century. It was turned into a venue for state occasions in 1910, when the Queen Victoria Memorial by Sir Aston Webb was put outside Buckingham Palace. George V was the first monarch to ride along the Mall to his coronation.
As you turn left in to the Mall, Carlton House Terraceis to your right. The original Carlton House (which was home to George IV before he inherited the throne) was demolished in 1829. The terrace you see now, which includes the official residence of the Foreign Secretary, was built by Nash in the 1830s. Charles de Gaulle was based here during the second world war. The Institute of Contemporary Arts, built into the basement of Nash House jus before the steps, is home to an excellent cafe and bar.
At the six mile mark, the Duke of York Steps to the right is topped by a pink granite column with a statue of the Duke of York at the top.
At the end of Carlton House Terrace there is a double flight of steps up to a 1955 statue of George VI by W. McMillan. The red brick house on the right is Marlborough House, built by Sir Christopher Wren for the Duchess of Marlborough in 1711. The third story was added in 1770. The building is now used as offices by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
St James's Palace, the irregular red brick building on the right after you cross the road, was established by Henry VIII in 1532. Much of the buildings were destroyed by fire in 1809. Charles I, most of whose children were born in the palace, spent his last night in the guardroom, before walking across St James's Park to his execution on Whitehall in 1649. Charles II had Wren provide state apartments overlooking the park. In 1698 St James's Palace became the formal royal residence, and the sovereign is proclaimed from the balcony in Friary Court (which is the open courtyard you can see from Marlborough Road). St James's Palace is now the official residence of the Prince of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra.
Next to St James's Palace is Clarence House. This distinctive white stucco home was built in 1825 by John Nash for the Duke of Clarence (the future William IV).
On the corner just before you turn right is Lancaster House. This stone mansion was built in 1825 for the Duke of York, who died in 1827. It became the town house of the Marquesses of Stafford and the Dukes of Sutherland. During the 19th century it was the scene of many balls. Queen Victoria, visiting it, remarked to the hostess "I have come from my house to your palace." Today, it is the official Government hospitality centre, and was the venue of the Rhodesia settlement in 1979.
When Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash in 1997, her funeral procession began at her apartments at Kensington Palace. It passed through Hyde Park, down Constitution Hill, The Mall, Horse Guards, Whitehall then to Westminster Abbey for a funeral service.
As you run along the top side of Green Park, Piccadillyis to your right. The name derives from Pickadill Hall in the early 1600s, which was an imposing mansion built here by a Somerset tailor who made a fortune making frilled lace borders known as "pickadills" which fashionable Elizabethans attached to their ruffs and cuffs.
In Hyde Park Corner, glance to your right at Apsley Houseon the other side of the road, the London home of the "Iron" Duke of Wellington, victor at Waterloo and later Prime Minister. This was the site of a pub, and then the old lodge of Hyde Park. The house was built in the 1780s, and bought by Wellington in 1817. In 1947, the 7th Duke of Wellington presented the house to the nation. The museum contains mainly artefacts associated with the Duke of Wellington including his death mask and his and Napoleon's swords from Waterloo.
As you leave Hyde Park on to Park Lane, you pass through the over-ornate Queen Elizabeth Gate, erected in 1993 to celebrate the Queen Mother's 93rd birthday, and paid for by public subscription. The stainless steel and bronze gates were designed by Giuseppe Lund, and the lion and unicorn panels were sculpted by David Wynne.
Then to your left is the Achilles Statueby Richard Westmacott, cast from captured cannon, in honour of the Duke of Wellington. It was the first nude statue in England, and said to have embarrassed the women who presented it to Wellington. Opposite, in the centre of the road, is a bust of the poet Byronand his dog, Bo'sun, by Belt.
As you return to Speakers' Corner, spare a thought for the victims of the Tyburn Gallows, commemorated by a stone in the railings in Bayswater Road. The gallows here were first a tree, then a gibbet and finally an iron triangle for multiple executions. 72,000 people died here during the reign of Henry VIII alone. The condemned were drawn through the streets from the Tower or from Newgate, and then hanged (and often drawn and quartered too) before the huge crowds which gathered to hear the last words, and to enjoy the side shows. Popular victims were toasted in gin or beer as they passed.