L. E. Travel Tips: The Heath, an Oasis Close to the Centre of London

Contributing editor: Emma Walton

Whilst many people come to London for the thrill of being in a fast paced city, for the rumble of the underground beneath their feet, and to immerse themselves in the chatter of the crowds, sometimes all you need is a little peace and quiet. Fortunately, beyond the glass sky scrapers and black taxis whizzing around their feet, there are a number of green spaces where you can go to chill out. One of my favourite places to relax is Hampstead Heath – known as the Heath to locals.

The Heath is a sprawling park made up of meadows, hills, woodland and lakes just 4 miles north of the centre of London. Covering 790 acres there is a lot to see and do. Whether you are young or young at heart, have just an hour to explore or even a whole week there is something for everyone.

The nature lovers amongst you will be able to try and spot roughly 180 species of birds, 23 species of butterfly, snakes and bats – not to mention the plant life! Kids and adult alike will also have fun at the zoo and deer enclosure.

Enjoy looking at architecture? Head to the top of Parliament Hill where you can spot the likes of St Pauls, the Shard and the London Eye from a mile (or four) off! Make sure you bring a camera with a good lens to capture some stunning shots of the London skyline.

The view of central London from the Heath

Artists should head over to Kenwood House where you can see paintings collected by Edward Cecil Guinness, the first Earl of Iveagh which includes the likes of Rembrandt and Turner. Along the way you can also admire sculptures by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth amongst others.

Kenwood House

Kenwood House

If you’re feeling brave, why not take a dip in the famous bathing ponds. There are separate pools for men and women or you can jump into the mixed pool. If you’d rather engage in sport on dry land, you could also try your hand at ping pong, tennis, petanque, or a run around the athletics track. There are even cricket pitches, football pitches, and rugby pitches to the north of the park.

Bathing pools

Spreading from Hampstead to Highgate, the Heath is a must visit for anyone visiting or living in London. It's a refreshing break from the concrete jungle and freshly manicured lawns that you will find in other parks across the city. Your real London adventure begins when you run through the long grass, get lost in the woodlands, and throw caution to the wind before flying a kite on Parliament Hill.

Woodlands within the Heath

To get there, simply hop on the tube to Hampstead or an overground train to Gospel Oak or Hampstead Heath. There are also lots of buses that stop around the park, so there really are no excuses. Oh, and don’t forget your picnic!