The Capital Ring is a circular hike around London that crosses the city’s leafiest suburbs and explores some of its most-prized parks, woodlands, marshlands, lakes, reservoirs, and wildlife-rich nature reserves.
Whilst London might be perceived as a vast urban landscape, this hike shows just how much green and semi-rural space is hidden amid the ancient streets; affording a wonderfully-fresh perspective on England’s capital city.
Starting and finishing at the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, the 78-mile (126 kilometer) loop encircles inner and central London, taking in the city's best scenery, many historic places, and some of London’s most enchanting viewpoints.
The walking is leisurely throughout. Whilst there are hills, they are gentle and the trail is generally flat, well-maintained, and well-signposted. Whilst there are significant sections on hard surfaces, there is a good proportion of walking on a more natural terrain.
Regarding signage, if you are in an open space, look out for a white disc on a wooden post featuring a Big Ben logo and directional arrow. On the streets, look out for large aluminum signs featuring the walking man symbol strapped to lamp posts and other street furniture.
The Capital Ring is split into 15 short sections by Transport for London (TFL). However, in this Collection, we combine three TFL sections in each stage; making for a five-stage clockwise loop of the trail.
Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation. Public transport links are excellent throughout and accommodation is abundant. There is nothing to stop you walking the route counterclockwise either.
King George V tube station is half-a-mile (one kilometer) from the start of the hike. From the station, you can access the full London Underground network, taking you to any train station or coach station you require with ease.
For more information about the Capital Ring, visit: tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/capital-ring.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
For more information about the London Underground, visit: tfl.gov.uk/maps/track/tube.
The first stage of the Capital Ring explores the South East London Green Chain; a linked system of open spaces between the River Thames and Crystal Palace.
You begin by crossing underneath the Thames via Woolwich Foot Tunnel and emerge on the south bank near the mighty Thames Barrier.
You follow the river for a short while and then climb gradually through Maryon Park, Charlton Park, Hornfair Park, and across Woolwich Common.
The trail reaches a high point at Castlewood and then descends steadily through woodland to Eltham Park.
You continue through a medley of parks, most notably Beckenham Place Park, which has London's first purpose-built swimming lake, numerous historic buildings, and large areas of ancient woodland.
This stage finishes at the entrance to Crystal Palace Park, in the borough of Penge. There is a good range of accommodation nearby, as well as places to eat and drink, shops, and other attractions.
This stage takes you into a landscape where herds of deer skip through ancient woodland and wildlife-rich grasslands thrive.
You begin by exploring Crystal Palace Park, a pleasant Victorian parkland that boasts one of the largest mazes in the country, a farm, boating lake, museum, and more.
The trail then continues along residential streets and through small parks before reaching the expanse of Norwood Grove.
You hike through the districts of Furzedown and Streatham Park and then emerge onto Tooting Common.
The trail continues through Wandsworth Common and Wandsworth Cemetery and eventually crosses Wimbledon and Putney Commons.
After crossing the A3, you emerge into Richmond Park, a wild and rural landscape not a stone’s-throw from central London.
The largest of the city’s Royal Parks, Richmond has many ancient trees and is home to many species of fungi, birds, beetles, bats, grasses, and wildflowers.
This stage finishes next to Richmond Bridge, which is the oldest bridge over the Thames in London.
The borough of RIchmond has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
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You begin this stage by exploring Kew Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to 50,000 different species of plants.
With Victorian glasshouses, an Alpine rock garden, a Mediterranean Garden, an arboretum, and an old deer park, there is much to see in Kew Gardens and in this route follows a detour to show it. However, this does add around three-and-a-half miles (five-and-a-half kilometers).
You follow the north bank of the Thames for a short while, cross Syon Park and then follow the river through Boston Manor Park and eventually through Brent River Park.
Covering an area of 400 hectares, Brent River Park comprises semi-natural areas, wildflower meadows, parks, golf courses, sports grounds, and allotments. It provides a habitat for a wide range of bird, insect, mammal, and amphibian species.
At Paradise Fields, the trail climbs to the summit of Horsenden Hill, an open space that affords excellent views over Harrow on the Hill, Wembley Stadium, Northala Fields, and even to the Home Counties of Surrey in clear conditions.
You continue climbing to Harrow on the Hill, a historic village in the borough of Harrow, where this stage finishes. There is a good range of accommodation nearby, as well as places to eat and drink, shops, and other attractions.
This stage takes you right across North London through an array of parks and nature reserves.
From Harrow on the Hill, you drop into school playing fields, cross Preston Park, and continue along residential streets until you reach Fryent Country Park.
A designated nature reserve, Fryent is home to lots of wildlife including 80 species of birds, 21 types of butterfly, and 500 species of wildflowers.
You continue along elegant streets and soon reach Brent Reservoir, which has been designated as a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the diversity of breeding waterbirds.
The trail cuts through Brent Cross and continues along tree-lined paths; through parks and some of the most exclusive London neighborhoods.
After Highgate Library you enter London's longest nature reserve, Parkland Walk, which is home to more than 200 species of wildflowers, as well as hedgehogs, foxes, butterflies, many species of birds, and the rare muntjac deer.
Parkland Walk leads you right into Finsbury Park and then you follow the trail through the Woodberry Wetlands to Clissold Park.
The stage finishes in Stoke Newington. There is a good range of accommodation nearby, as well as places to eat and drink, shops, and other attractions.
The final stage takes you back to a time when the Thames Valley was not a vast urban metropolis but a place of gentle grasslands, woodlands, and marshlands.
You start along Stoke Newington Church Street and soon enter Abney Park, one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ garden cemeteries of London.
In the park, you find Abney Park Chapel, which opened in 1840 and was the first non-denominational cemetery chapel in Europe.
You cross the districts of Cazenove and Upper Clapton, pass through Springfield Park, and soon step into Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve, one of the last remaining pieces of London’s river valley grasslands.
Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Walthamstow Marshes are home to birds of prey such as buzzards and peregrine falcons, as well as two of Britain’s rarest plants, creeping marshwort and brookweed.
You join the River Lea and follow it through London’s Olympic Park, which was built for the 2012 Summer Olympics and the Paralympic Games.
You then cross the district of Canning Town and rejoin the River Thames to finish in Thames Barrier Park.
There is a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions close to the finish.