Hampstead Heath Walks: Exploring London’s Natural Beauty

Hampstead Heath, a sprawling 791-acre park in London, is a green oasis that offers a refreshing escape from the bustling city. The park is home to a diverse range of terrains, from meadows to woodlands, and boasts several walking trails that cater to different interests and fitness levels. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, Hampstead Heath has something for everyone.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best walks in Hampstead Heath, including the Hampstead Heath Circular Walk, Parliament Hill Walk, and Golders Hill and Hampstead Pergola Walk. We’ll also provide information on alternate ways to explore the park and offer practical tips to help you plan your visit.

Key Takeaways

  • Hampstead Heath is a 791-acre park in London that offers a refreshing escape from the city.
  • The park boasts several walking trails that cater to different interests and fitness levels.
  • Visitors can choose from a variety of walks, including the Hampstead Heath Circular Walk, Parliament Hill Walk, and Golders Hill and Hampstead Pergola Walk.

Hampstead Heath Circular Walk

The Hampstead Heath Circular Walk is a six-mile trek that takes approximately four to five hours to complete. It covers the periphery of Hampstead Heath and offers a glimpse of the highlights that the park has to offer.

The walk begins at the Parliament Hill Cafe, located at the Gospel Oak end of the heath. From there, the path takes you past the Highgate Ponds to Kenwood, a 17th-century manor in the middle of the park. The lane you follow is known as Poet’s Lane, named after the fact that both Coleridge and Keats used to sit here and listen to the nightingales.

If you have time, you can visit Kenwood and its extensive art collection, which features Rembrandt, Turner, and Gainsborough, among others. However, it’s best to leave this for a separate trip to do it justice.

From Kenwood, you will cut down to Bird Bridge and cross onto the West Heath. The path takes you through Golders Hill Park and Hampstead Hill Garden & Pergola. Golders Hill Park is much more manicured than the main section of the heath as it used to be the private garden of the now-demolished Golders Hill House.

After exploring, you will cross back onto the East Heath and make your way to Parliament Hill before returning to the cafe to finish. This circular walk is an excellent way to explore Hampstead Heath’s highlights and take in the beautiful scenery.

Parliament Hill Walk

The Parliament Hill Walk is a 1.5-mile (2.5 km) trail that takes approximately one hour to complete. The walk is centered around the stunning lookout point of Hampstead Heath’s Parliament Hill, which provides breathtaking views of London’s iconic landmarks, including The Gherkin, Canary Wharf, and The Shard.

At the top of Parliament Hill, visitors can spend hours spotting smaller landmarks peeking out from between the trees. After taking in the views, the trail leads to another unique sight on Hampstead Heath: the Tumulus. This large earthen mound is covered in pine trees and surrounded by an iron fence, and its origins remain a mystery.

While some speculate that the Tumulus is the burial place of Boudicca, there is no concrete evidence to support this theory. Other theories suggest that it was a shrine, a battlefield, or simply a decorative folly to be admired from Kenwood House.

The Parliament Hill Walk concludes with a return down the hill to the Parliament Hill Cafe. Overall, this walk offers a peaceful and scenic escape from the hustle and bustle of London, with plenty of opportunities to take in the city’s sights and explore the mysteries of Hampstead Heath.

Golders Hill and Hampstead Pergola Walk

The Golders Hill and Hampstead Pergola Walk is a scenic 1.7 miles / 2.7km trail that takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete. The walk begins at Golders Hill Cafe and leads to the Hill Garden & Pergola, which is one of the prettiest spots in London. The Hampstead Hill Garden Pergola is an eccentric garden structure that was originally part of Inverforth House and was gifted to the public several decades ago.

The trail then follows the path of Gibbet Elms, where captured highwaymen used to be hung as an example to the locals. The path then continues to Sandy Heath, which has an undulating landscape that pays testament to the sand excavated over the years. This area is home to plenty of gorse and wildlife that cannot be found in other parts of the heath.

The trail then loops back along Hampstead Way before returning to Golders Hill Cafe. Along the way, visitors will enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the beautiful Pergola and the unique wildlife that can be found in this part of the heath. Overall, the Golders Hill and Hampstead Pergola Walk is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting London who wants to experience the beauty of the city’s natural surroundings.

Alternate Ways to Walk on Hampstead Heath

With the Ramblers

The Hampstead Heath Ramblers is a group of individuals who enjoy walking for both the pleasure and health benefits. They welcome anyone who desires to join them on their group rambles across the heath. Walking with the Ramblers is an excellent way to explore the heath while making new friends.

Get to meet new peopleMay not be able to walk at your own pace
Learn about the history and culture of the areaMay have to adjust to the group’s schedule
Safety in numbersMay have to follow the group’s route

The Foraging Tour

For those who want to explore the green pastures of Hampstead Heath while learning about the local flora and fauna, the foraging tour is an excellent choice. With Bettina’s Kitchen, participants can head up onto the heath with a trained foraging expert and gather wild food safely. The expert will guide the participants in identifying edible plants and avoiding poisonous ones.

After gathering wild food, participants will take their haul back to the restaurant where the chefs will cook it up into a delicious feast. Alternatively, foraging expert Heath Bunting holds semi-regular foraging tours on Hampstead Heath. These tours offer a unique opportunity to learn about foraging from an experienced expert.

Learn about local flora and faunaMay not be able to eat everything that is gathered
Unique experienceMay have to adjust to the tour’s schedule
Opportunity to taste wild foodMay have to pay for the tour

Overall, these alternate ways to walk on Hampstead Heath offer unique experiences that allow individuals to explore the heath in different ways.

Hampstead Heath Walking Map

  • A PDF map for all three walks is available online.

Hampstead Heath Walks: Practical Information

To make the most of the Hampstead Heath walks, visitors should check the start point for each walk and choose their transport accordingly. The closest tube stations are Hampstead, Golders Green, and Archway, and there are overland stations at Hampstead Heath and Gospel Oak.

There are a few cafes on the heath itself, including The Brew House Cafe at Kenwood House and Parliament Hill Cafe, as well as Golders Hill Cafe in the Golders Hill section of the Heath. However, visitors can also find plenty of options in Hampstead Village where they can stock up on picnic supplies.

For those who prefer a pub meal, The Spaniards Inn is a quaint pub in Hampstead that serves great food. This pub is known for being a favorite spot of the romantic poet John Keats, who apparently penned his famous “Ode to A Nightingale” in its garden. Whether or not visitors are moved to such extremes, it’s still a great place for a lunch or post-walk stop.