Make the most of your August Bank Holiday by cycling, running or walking to some magnificent locations.
The August bank holiday is upon us once again, sadly marking the end of summer holidays for many. What better opportunity though, for us to look at some fun ways that you could use your three days off to combine exercise with some of the many cultural attractions that London has to offer.
All of the stunning locations on our list below are accessible by cycling, running or even walking (depending on exactly where in London you live, of course). Here are our top picks from (almost) all the points of the compass.
During its more than 150 year history, Alexandra Palace has been used for recreation and education, as well as a television studio and a popular gig venue for live bands. It’s also been restored twice after being ravaged by devastating fires, the first in 1873 and the second in 1980. If you don’t expend all of your energy cycling there, you could walk, run or cycle around the 196 acres of park.
The palace itself is currently closed to visitors inside, but they've set up London’s largest beer garden on their terrace, so you can reward yourself for all that exercise! You will need to book a table in advance and order your food and drink through a smartphone app, but they’ll bring everything to your table while you enjoy stunning panoramic views of London.
William Morris Gallery has recently reopened its doors to visitors, although you will need to pre-book your free ticket online. They’ve implemented all of the safety measures you’d expect: a one-way system, hand sanitising facilities, etc., plus it’s mandatory to wear a mask inside unless you have valid exemption. It’s a great place to visit for any art-lover, as the collection contains over 10,000 objects.
The building itself is situated in Lloyd Park, which offers access to a wide range of sports including basketball, pétanque and tennis (make sure you’ve done your shoulder strengthening exercises). There’s also an outdoor gym, a skate park and lots of wide-open fields to run around. There’s even an island surrounded by a moat!
Thames Barrier Park is a wonderful place to explore, exercise or just have a picnic and there’s a great network of segregated cycle lanes to help you get there safely. What better way to do the cycling leg of your triathlon training!
The park itself is beautifully landscaped and offers fantastic views of the Thames Barrier, which has protected London from flooding since 1982. It’s not only a marvel of British engineering, but when the sun shines on the seven silver structures that sit majestically in the river, it really is breath-taking.
Eltham Palace was originally built as a royal residence in the early 1300s, but by the mid-1600s, the medieval palace had been abandoned by the royal family and fallen into ruin. It was lovingly restored along with the addition of a beautiful art-deco style building in the 1930s. It’s worth checking out just for the gorgeous interiors and art-deco furniture.
The palace and the gardens have recently reopened to visitors, but you will need to pre-book a timed slot and bring a face covering with you if you want to go inside. The 19 acres of gardens boast a moat, cascading water features and both rock and rose gardens. You’ll also be blessed with stunning panoramic views of London. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic after a long cycle journey.
Crystal Palace Park is the home of the National Sports Centre and of course, Crystal Palace Football Club. Similar to Alexandra Palace in north London, this grandiose Victorian exhibition hall has a history of hosting sporting, educational and entertainment events. Unfortunately, the palace itself fell into disrepair and (like its northern cousin) was destroyed by fire in 1936, but the gardens have seen a much longer history of sporting activity.
The National Sports Centre has recently reopened with reduced facilities, but they do include tennis, gym and the athletics track, as well as swimming for fitness in the 25-metre training pool (hopefully the 50-metre racing pool will reopen soon). You could also check out the boating lake and the skate park. But if you’re exhausted from just getting there, you can always check out the 30 dinosaur sculptures that, although recently restored, have been fascinating visitors since 1854.
Chiswick House and Gardens These beautiful gardens have remained opened to the public throughout the lockdown and are a great place to have a picnic or to finish off your exercise with some stretching. If you cycle there, why not try these excellent stretches to help release tightness in your back.
Chiswick House are taking a phased approach to reopening and although the actual house, playground and conservatory are still closed to visitors, the café and toilets are open daily from 8am-5pm and the gardens are open from 7am until dusk. There are actually four different gardens to explore: north, south, east and west.
Highlights of the north garden include Lebanese cedar trees dating back to the 1720s, and an Ionic Temple which overlooks a large pool of water with an obelisk rising out of its centre. The south garden boasts a cascading waterfall and a raised terrace with views over the river. The east garden is where you’ll find the conservatory, and although it’s currently closed to visitors, it’s great to explore from the outside. Finally, the west garden features a recently restored stone bridge dating back to 1774, which traverses a river (technically a man-made lake). You can also get lost down the winding paths of the wild woodland, or even hire out their cricket ground and pavilion for a private event. There’s a wide variety of different environments to explore here.
Of course, all of these historic gems are open all year round, so there’s no need to worry if your August Bank Holiday schedule is already jam packed. Whatever your plans, please stay safe, wash your hands and wear a mask when appropriate. But most importantly, have fun!
Why not treat yourself to a massage after a long weekend of exercise?
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