Free London Walks: North London Villages

On a dry day in the Capital, there is nothing better than immersing yourself amongst the diversity that contributes to making London the fine city that it is. Walking is one of the best ways of familiarising yourself with a place, and what’s more, it is great for your health and it is free! The vastness of London can make the decision of choosing where to walk an overwhelmingly difficult one. Here I will walk you through some key areas to explore for free London walks in the north. From quaint country (like) villages to the grungy and edgy corners.

Free London Walks: Camden to Kentish Town

Starting out in Camden Town, leave the tube station and turn right, heading north along Camden High Street. This takes you through the heart of Camden Town; the word “vibrant” is an understatement. Take the time to soak in the street art, but don’t stop for too long, this part of town is generally always bustling, particularly on a Sunday.

Free London walks, Camden Town street art

Free London walks, eye-catching buildings in CamdenContinue walking towards Camden Lock. Upon crossing the lock, Camden Town Market will sprawl before you in all directions. Take the time to meander through the winding alleys of stalls, pick up a bite to eat from the many street food vendors, or relax with a drink alongside the still waters of the lock.

Free London walks, Camden Lock Market

Free London walks, Camden Town street food vendors

Free London walks, Camden LockNext, head off in the direction of Kentish Town. Depending on how far you delved into Camden Market, you may need to backtrack slightly. After crossing the bridge over the lock in a northerly direction, take an immediate right turn into the market along the Grand Union Tow Path. As you wander through the market and reach the more secluded back entrance, your eyes will be drawn to more street art.

Free London walks, Camden street art

Upon reaching Kentish Town Road, turn left and continue heading north. This next section of the walk has less to draw in the eye but allows enough time to recover from the frenzy that was Camden. Keep your eyes peeled for the odd piece of unexpected outdoor art.

Free London walks, Kentish TownAnd be sure to glance down the side streets off Kentish Town Road (to the left) so you don’t miss this rarefied technicolour village-type lane.

Free London walks, colourful houses in Kentish TownFree London Walks: Kentish Town to Highgate Village

Continue heading north past Kentish Town Station (on the right), and then veer left onto Highgate Road. After walking for approximately ten minutes, the greyer exterior of Kentish Town becomes the leafier, lusher, greener and quainter Highgate Village.

Parliament Fields spreads out to the left, whilst ahead, the steep incline takes you to the centre of Highgate Village. This is where the walk turns dirty; a serious amount of house porn dominates, you will just not know where to look!

Free London walks, Parliament Fields

Free London walks, Highgate Village church

Free London walks, houses in Highgate VillageAfter all that house porn and the steep stroll up the hill, you will be needing to catch your breath when you reach the centre of Highgate Village. Pond Square is nestled behind the village amenities and will be a shady spot to sit and snack to re-energise. Highgate villagers certainly take pride in their appearance, so enjoy the colourful flower displays and the neatly trimmed hedgerows. Or, there are numerous pubs and cafes dotted within a stone’s throw of the Square, so take your pick.

Again, there are plenty of houses to occupy your eyes with.

Free London walks, Pond Square

Free London walks, flowers in Pond SquareFree London Walks: Highgate Village to Hampstead

In the centre of Highgate Village there are two mini roundabouts. At the first one (with the Gatehouse pub on the corner) take the first exit. At the second roundabout, take the first exit which takes you left into Hampstead Lane. Beautiful houses (yawn!), cricket pavilions and Kenwood House; country living in London Zone 2!

Free London walks, cricket pavilionYou can take time out and have a wander around the grounds of Kenwood House. Indeed, you could terminate the walk here and finish it with a picnic in the grounds. Or, you can continue to walk along Hampstead Lane, passing the Spaniards Inn on the right hand side. If a country pub is on your agenda, I can think of no better example that the Spaniards. Real log fires in the winter, and a huge beer garden for the summer. Definitely worth stopping for a half if you have the time and pennies to spare.

Free London walks, The Spaniards Inn

Free London walks, Spaniards Inn beer gardenAfter passing The Spaniards, continue along Spaniards Road. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and really try to soak up the flora and fauna which borders the road in both directions.

Free London walks, Hampstead Heath wildlifeSoon you will come to a clearing in the trees and the City of London pans out before you. Just stunning.

Free London walks, London skylineHere you have two options: you can either dive into Hampstead Heath for some off-road tramping, or if you are seeking more houses to exploit with your eyes, continue on the footpath and follow the road until you reach the junction at the head of the Heath. Here you will reach Whitestone Pond and you need to head off to the right hand side of this, crossing over the road and taking the quiet entrance into Lower Terrace. Away from the traffic you are once again immersed into village life. I love meandering through these quiet little lanes, and any route you take will be tranquil and lined with English village charm. The route I took was to continue along Lower Terrace, then I took a left into Windmill Hill, and then followed signs to the Holly Bush pub (another country style favourite), before turning left into Golden Yard, an alleyway which leads you back onto the main road into the centre of Hampstead, Heath Street. Turn right at the bottom and cross over the road where possible. Take a right turn into Back Lane and enjoy the quaintness of these narrow streets.Free London walks, The Holly bush pub

Free London walks

Free London walks, Hampstead houses

Free London walks, Hampstead housesAt the bottom of Back Lane I turned left into Flask Walk and meandered my way towards the Heath. There is some serious money held in these properties so take the time to enjoy their splendour.

Free London walks, Hampstead Village housesFinish this walk with a stroll through Hampstead Heath, a picnic by the duck pond, a swim in the bathing ponds, or immerse yourself in a good novel under a canopy of trees.

Free London walks, Hampstead Heath

Free London walks, swimming pond in Hampstead Heath

Free London walks, tramping on the heath

Free London walks, Hampstead HeathDays Out Check-list

How much does it cost?
If you stick to the main public areas of this walk, then it does not cost a thing to do (aside from your transport to the start and end points of the walk). You may need a few pounds for any drinks or snacks, and also if you decide to look around Kenwood House or take a dip in the bathing ponds on Hampstead Heath. Plan ahead for refreshments and this could be a free outing.

Where do I need to go?
Start this walk from Camden Town tube station. Depending on how far you wish to walk, other key stations passed on route are Kentish Town (Northern Line and main line), Gospel Oak (London Overground) and Hampstead (Northern Line).

What to look out for?
Street art and obscure protrusions from buildings in Camden. This route is shrouded with captivating houses, from the big and the beautiful, to the more modest but mesmerisingly pretty. Given the wealth invested in real estate, these areas are popular spots for celebs. If you have a tendency to be starstruck, keep your eyes wide for celebrities without a full face-on. Or, if nature is more your thing, there is plenty of wild life and wild plants to enjoy along this walk, be it rarer breeds of bird, or seasonal herbs.

What should I wear?
This walk is on pavement the entire length, unless you choose to take the time to enjoy any of the greener expanses which are passed. As this is a fairly long walk, I suggest you wear supportive shoes. Aside from that, wear whatever you feel comfortable in and take heed of the weather forecast!

What should I take with me?
There are many shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants passed along this route if you run low on sustenance. If you want to keep spending to a minimum, pack up a good amount of water (or other thirst quenching drink) and some snacks for refuelling. Alternatively, plan to end the walk with a pre-prepared picnic in one of the parks.

Are there loos?
There are many pubs scattered along the first half of this walk and so you will not have to walk far to find facilities to use. After leaving Highgate Village, there could be up to 30 minutes in between stopping points, so plan ahead if you can.

How much time do I need?
Not including journey times to the start and from the end point of this walk, the following walking times are approximate, based on a moderate walking pace and not including any stops:
Camden Town to Kentish Town: 20-30 minutes
Kentish Town to Highgate Village: 40-50 minutes
Highgate Village to Hampstead Heath (Hampstead Village end of the Heath): 40-50 minutes

Happy tramping.

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6 thoughts on “Free London Walks: North London Villages

  1. Steve

    A most excellent site Bex! Having lived in the south of England for years myself, and as a lover of London… I will recommend this site to anyone I know who is travelling to England – a fantastic alternative guide to a great city!

  2. John

    Bex, that’s a great post. I’ve been interested in visiting the UK, and when I do, I’ll be looking at your web site for suggestions and ideas. Keep the great information coming!

  3. Jennifer

    Wow, Ty for doing a website on London I have always wanted to go to London, now I wanna go even more… so many neat places to see. Definitely don’t forget the camera.. Would love to go see Camden town looks like you can spend hours just checking out all the neat stores…

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