London’s an incredibly green city - just think of the centre’s parks, the commons, and our wonderful Hampstead Heath (nicknamed the ‘green lung’ of London, where a walk makes you think you’re in the heart of the English countryside)

But there’s somewhere else not far from our Hampstead Village neighbourhood which we think is really exploring - it’s called the Parkland Walk and it’s the largest linear nature reserve in London, stretching 4kms, all the way from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace.

Maybe because tourists are so spoiled for green spaces in London and often head for the ‘big hitters’ such as the Royal Parks - including Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and St. James’ Park - they overlook this gem, but that’s a mistake.  Truly, it has so much to offer - and, like all the parks in London, it makes for a great free day out.

So, once you’ve walked on the Heath, climbed up to the top of Primrose Hill and explored the Golders Hill Pergola, this really should be a place to check out if you’re visiting north London.  Here below is a bit of history and information to send you on your way!

History of the Parkland Walk

Interestingly, the route follows what used to be a railway line.  Opened in 1873, the train passed through areas such as Finsbury Park, HIghgate, Muswell Hill and Alexandra Palace - only 16 days later the Palace caught fire and the line stopped running!  It did start up again eventually but by the turn of the century, buses and trams were giving the railways a run for their money.

In the 1930’s a plan was floated to extend the line but the war interrupted things and by the 1950’s demand was so low, it really didn’t seem worth keeping the line open.  The last passenger train ran in 1954 and the last train in 1970.  

What’s really cool about the Parkland Walk though is that there are still benches along the path where the tracks were (where people once sat waiting for their train!) and old tunnel structures are covered in graffiti now.  Look at this video of where the trains used to come in…

Strolling the Parkland Walk

The Parkland Walk is worth exploring at any time of the year, but now that spring has arrived, dog walkers, ramblers, runners and cyclists are all going to hit the circuit.  Still, you can wander along slowly, and appreciate the endless flora and fauna around you.  There are over 200 kinds of flowers, not to mention hedgehogs, foxes, butterflies and birds. 

And the trees…the trees!  Close to HIghgate station, these enormous trunks and their leaves form a huge canopy and even on a sunny day you’ll suddenly notice how little light is coming in!  

Something else that’s really interesting in this section is the closed-off tunnels on which you’ll stumble.  They used to lead to Highgate tube but were blocked some time back.  Why?  For an amazing reason - because there are bats living in them and the authorities have taken the view that the bats need to be protected! to protect some furry mammals that live there.  Yes, the tunnels are home to a veritable bat cave…

Another fabulous part of the trail is Highgate Wood  - acres of ancient woodland, which were once part of the ancient Middlesex forest (which covered much of London).  It’s full of natural footpaths and species of beech, oak and plane tree to name but a few.

And let’s not forget the magnificent Alexandra Palace, at the end of the trail.  Established in an area which was once Tottenham Wood (dating back to 1619) it was built to be a ‘People’s Palace’ boasting recreation facilities for the public (north London’s answer to south London’s Crystal Palace).  

As we said, after sadly burning down, it was rebuilt and today it’s a wonderful place to ice skate, boogie on down at concerts, have fun at Arts and Crafts Fairs, enjoy Guy Fawkes night firework displays each November or just stroll and enjoy the fantastic views that you get, since it’s high on a hill.

How to Find the Parkland Walk Trail

The Parkland Walk is divided into two sections - the first runs from Finsbury Park to Highgate and the second from Cranley Gardens through Muswell Hill to Alexandra Palace.  So you can walk them either separately or together, depending on how long a walk you fancy.

The distance between the two sections is around 1,5 kms and if you walk the entire trail, you will cover around 5 km,

Sarah Mann, La Gaffe’s social media guru and blog writer, started her journey at Finsbury Park (the entrance is close to the tube) and walked all the way to Highgate tube, then the following week picked up the trail in Muswell Hill! and strolled all the way to Ally Pally!  Look at this map, published by Friends of the Parkland Walk - it gives you a good idea of the route to follow.

Finsbury Park tube is on the Piccadilly and Victoria Line (light and dark blue) and the 210 bus goes there all the way from Whitestone Pond, a moment’s walk from La Gaffe.

Alternatively, take the same 210 bus to Highgate and then walk up through Highgate Wood to Muswell Hill and pick up the trail there.   If you need transport back from Ally Pally, there’s a handy W3 bus which will take you all the way back to Finsbury Park, via the charming north London neighbourhood of Crouch End.

In general, the path is pretty level as you walk along (not too many hills) but we’d advise putting on a good pair of shoes, since you might want to explore a bit and there are some embankments and, if it’s been raining, lots of mud!  It’s also popular with cyclists, if you feel like renting a bike.

Finally, if you’re planning on staying in London and looking for a place to rest your weary head, feel free to get in touch with us - our comfortable, family-owned, small hotel in Hampstead, is perfectly located and we guarantee you a warm welcome and a wonderful Italian breakfast cappuccino!