When meeting friends in London last Sunday, I was tasked with coming up with an itinerary, so I looked north.
Our meeting point was Warwick Avenue tube station, from where we walked a few minutes to the Regents Canal and Little Venice.
We had decided to take the narrow boat to Camden Lock, which leaves pretty much hourly during the day and also stops at London Zoo.
You could easily walk it in under an hour following the tow path, the boat taking 50 minutes and costing £9 for adults and £7.50 for kids.
A word of warning – the boat is pretty popular and it is first come first served, so it is a good idea to turn up twenty minutes before your departure to secure a seat.
The ride is pleasant as you pass dozens of brightly painted house boats and some very grand land based homes with accompanying splendid gardens.
We disembarked by Camden Market, more specifically the hot takeaway food section. It was nearly 1pm and the place was heaving, making it hard work to make our way to Camden Town tube.
We were heading for Highgate Village, but upon arrival at the tube station found that it had shut at 1 and would be closed until 5.30 to avoid over-crowding, a regular occurrence apparently.
We had planned to go to Archway tube and catch the 210 bus to Highgate, a route that would have taken us past Highgate Cemetery, burial place of Karl Marx, Malcolm Mclaren and a host of other luminaries.
We decided to leave a visit there for another day. The East Cemetery where Marx and Malcolm are buried costs £4 to enter and you are free to wander as you please, whilst the West Cemetery is guided tour only.
Other notable graves include George Eliot, Douglas Adams, Michael Faraday & Jeremy Beadle.
Luckily we found a nearby bus stop and caught a bus direct to Highgate Village, where we stopped for lunch at the Gatehouse pub.
The roast beef we had was universally acclaimed as the best we could remember and set us up nicely for our afternoon activity – a visit to Kenwood House situated on the edge of Hampstead Heath.
We took the 210 and greedily devoured a vanilla ice cream at the main entrance to the heath.
The current mode of Kenwood House was designed and remodelled by Robert Adam in the 1760s. Run now by English Heritage, it is free entry, a condition of its bequeathal to the nation by Edward Cecil Guinness who saved the property from possible demolition when he purchased it in 1925.
The first thing that struck us were the gardens, full of beautiful blooms that filled the air with sweet scents. We had been to Kenwood before on Summer evenings for concerts in the grounds, but never before had we seen the gardens at their stunning Spring best.
The interior was also top notch. The library and music room being the pick of the bunch.
The library is a striking room with its blue and pink ceiling adorned with classical art painted onto it. The shape of the room is also unusual with its curved walls and neatly fitted bookcases following the arc of the room.
The music room has regular string quartet recitals and contains some splendid period instruments including an uncommon four pedalled harp. Kenwood is stuffed with classic art and it is this room that houses perhaps the highlights of the collection including a self portrait by Rembrandt and others by Turner, Vermeer & Gainsborough.
The orangery was also a fine example of Georgian craftsmanship, fitting therefore that it holds regular craft Sundays for kids. A great idea to maybe allow parents to wander off for a peaceful browse or refreshment in the adjacent tea rooms with their sunny courtyards.
We saved the upstairs for another day and instead went for a refreshing stroll in the ample flower-laden gardens and down the heath to the lake.
We finished off with tea & cake sat outside in the late afternoon sunshine, before leaving to catch the bus to Archway, pausing on the way out to picture the splendid view across Hampstead Heath to London’s iconic skyline.
Plenty of people were sprawled out on the grass dining al fresco, whilst bringing the dog was also highly popular.