The Two Parks – Evening Route (4.3 miles)
Route in figures
An almost traffic-free course right in the centre of London. The route follows the outer perimeter of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
For visitors to London, this is a splendid way to see Marble Arch, Speakers' Corner, Kensington Palace, the Albert Hall and Hyde Park Corner.
This route is suitable for running in darkness when Kensington Gardens is closed. If you want to run in daylight, see the Summer 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 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. Turn right out of the gate, and left along the pavement along Bayswater Road. (Note: during daylight hours, follow the summer route inside the park instead.)|
|1.0||One mile is reached as you pass a gate to your left, opposite 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||Pass the coach park on your left.|
|1.4||Turn left into Kensington Palace Gardens, through the guarded gates.|
|1.8||At the end of the railings, turn left towards Kensington Palace. After 100m, as you reach the wall of Hyde Park, turn right.|
|2.0||The two mile mark is a bricked up gateway in the wall on your left, visible because of two white stone blocks in the wall buttresses.|
|2.1||Turn left on to the pavement along Kensington High Street.|
|2.3||Pass Palace Gate to the left: keep straight on.|
|2.5||Pass between the Albert Memorial to the left and the Royal Albert Hall to the right.|
|2.6||Cross the road. Turn left into Hyde Park, and immediately right. Follow the footpath ahead, on the right hand side of the road (South Carriage Drive)|
|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). There is one mile to go.|
|3.7||Stay on the footpath, and go out of the Queen Elizabeth Gate. Turn left up Park Lane for 30m. Pass the statue of Achilles on the left, and turn back into the park through the second gate. This path is called "Lovers' Walk".|
|3.8||The lamppost in the middle of the path marks the point where you have half a mile to go.|
|4.0||At the Joy of Life Fountain, keep right, and go round the statue anticlockwise. Take the first path to the right.|
|4.1||Turn right next to the cycle path. Keep straight ahead when the cycle path bends to the left, and go into Speakers' Corner.|
|4.3||Finish at the solitary lamppost in the middle of Speakers' Corner.|
Sights and history
Hyde Park was 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 Arch was 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.
Across the road is Kensington Gardens. These were once the private gardens of Kensington Palace. Their design is due to Queen Caroline, wife of George II.
Kensington Palace Gardens – often known as "millionaires' row" – is guarded at either end. This private avenue is almost exclusively for embassies and ambassadorial residences. The original houses were planned in 1843 when the palace kitchen gardens were sold for development. At the top, on the left, is the remarkable modern building which used to be the Czechoslovakia Embassy. Further down, No.8 was the primary interrogation centre for German prisoners during the Battle of Britain.
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 Hall was 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 Arch at 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.
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.
In Hyde Park Corner, glance to your right at Apsley House on 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 Statue by 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 Byron and 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.