So much to see! From the high street to back streets, through palaces and parks, together we will explore the areas of London that you want to discover. The walks below are tried and tested but you can mix and match to create your own personal bespoke tour. Your perfect London experience is waiting for you.
Chelsea Literary Landmarks: Austen, Wilde, Eliot, AND so many more!
During a three-mile walk in Chelsea, we’ll track the neighbourhood’s many phases of development from its medieval origins on to stints as a wealthy suburb; dangerous outpost; manufacturing and design centre; Bohemian artists’ colony; swinging ‘60s headquarters and right up to today’s status as one of the wealthiest boroughs in all of England.
We’ll hear quotes from and about famous writers who have lived here – all the way from the 1500s to the present. Come and see where Jane Austen enjoyed a musical soiree and was “quite surrounded by acquaintance, especially gentlemen.” Listen to the heart-breaking story of Oscar Wilde’s arrest and see where he penned some of his best-known works.
Stand in awe by the glorious mansions of Cheyne Walk to hear a poem that George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) wrote from her sitting room. Further along this glamorous road, learn why Ian Fleming suffered ridicule over his manuscript for Casino Royale. (Who had the last laugh there?)
We’ll walk the same streets where Thomas Carlyle strolled with John Stuart Mill. The eerie quiet of post-World War II Chelsea comes to life with the diary of Laurie Lee. Americans will be interested to know that Chelsea was popular with some of America’s best exports, such as Henry James and Mark Twain. (We’ll divert from literature a bit to hear about American artists, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent – both neighbours of Oscar Wilde).
Secrets of Southwark
Kensington Palace: From William III to Prince William
As royal palaces go, Kensington is relatively modest. But these walls echo with drama. We start with the building’s beginning as a suburban retreat for William III and move on to the lavish antics of wannabe courtesans desperate to impress Kings George I and II. Queen Victoria experienced a bizarre upbringing here. And now, the “young Royals” have brought the Palace back to life.
We can also stroll through Kensington Gardens, originally laid out by Queen Caroline and still one of London’s most beautiful parks. And then how about a walk through the back streets of Kensington, one of London’s most charming residential areas? I lived here for many years and will show you some secret corners.
London 101: Quintessential Instagram sites
Many of London's most famous landmarks are conveniently close together in Westminster. Join me on a properly royal walk past Buckingham Palace, along the Mall (Queen Victoria's ceremonial route), and on to Parliament Square for a look at the Palace of Westminster where the British Parliament sits.
We can include the guard change at Buckingham Palace if timing permits.
Delight in the splendour of Westminster Abbey, the church where monarchs have been crowned since 1066. You'll see the coronation chair and the world's first tomb of an unknown warrior.
Not only do you get a special Blue Badge admission rate but you can enter from Dean's Yard and skip the queue at the North entrance.
Southbank: Shakespeare, Dickens and Bawdy Entertainment
Once home to brothels, theatres and bear-baiting arenas, Southwark has an exhilarating past. Step back in time to when the south side of the River Thames was where people ventured for a bit of bawdy fun.
The riverside is still where people go to be entertained although nowadays it's all a bit more mainstream. We'll talk about how this area has become a sought-after residential enclave in recent years. But you need to explore the back streets by following in the footsteps of Shakespeare, Dickens and impoverished Victorians in order to appreciate the development of this richly-layered neighbourhood.
Victoria and Albert: The Glories (?) of Albertropolis
A lot has been written about Queen Victoria but as we just celebrated the 200th anniversary of her birth in 2019, maybe it's time to take a closer look. Much has been written about Victoria's contribution to Britain but how much of that was really Albert's doing?
No one can say for sure what goes on in a private marriage but there's no question that these two royal figures had a fascinating dynamic. Was their marriage the romantic fairy tale that is so often portrayed, a marriage of misery that's sometimes suggested or somewhere in between?
In addition to walking the streets of South Kensington to explore the development of this cultural and intellectual quarter, we'll pop into the British galleries at the Victoria and Albert museum for a tour that probes the intricacies of this famous duo.
All things Royal: Walking through Monarchy
How has Britain's monarchy survived through religious dissension, royal land grabs, civil war and the scrutiny of an outspoken media? Britain's monarchy is one of the fascinating aspects of this country and its pomp and circumstance continue to entice thousands of visitors.
Does the monarchy still have a place in modern society?
As we walk through central London, passing palaces and enjoying the splendid royal parks, we'll stop at sites connected to royalty and talk about the history of monarchy, as well as its future. We can include changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (if it's on) or Horse Guards.
I'll bring to life kings and queens who have shaped Britain's history, including the doomed Charles I, controversial Henry VIII and our very real stoic Queen Elizabeth.
Let's Get Out of Town: Windsor? Hampton Court?
Two royal palaces are within easy reach of London - just a quick train ride away. Let's go!
As the oldest continuously inhabited castle in the world, Windsor is filled with royal tales. And they aren't all in the past. Queen Elizabeth spends her weekends here and St George's Chapel, the on-site chapel, has recently hosted the royal weddings of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank. It's easy to see why: St George's Chapel boasts splendid vaulted ceilings in a style that can only be seen in a few locations in England.
Fans of the dramatic reign of Henry VIII can't miss Hampton Court. But there is so much here to enjoy: some of the Royal Collection's finest art treasures, impeccable gardens and tales from the reigns of William and Mary and Elizabeth I.
Both these royal residences can be explored in a half-day excursion from London.
It's all about you: Design your own tour
Don't see what you're looking for?
Not to worry - just let me know where you want to go and what you'd like to learn, and I'll craft the ideal tour for you.
I've planned some offbeat walks, including a look at medieval craftsmen in Chelsea, the development of the south side of the River Thames and following in the path of Charles Dickens' characters near Smithfield Market.
I love to sink my teeth into a new theme so feel free to challenge me!
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