The Original London Walks

While there are many tour companies offering walking tours in London, The Original London Walks are the most comprehensive. All of the guides are Blue Badge Guides, graduates of a rigorous 2-year training course. There are walks to suit anyone's interests, and at 5.5 pounds, the price is right.

The Original London Walks

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 16, 2005

Beware! Once you take your first walk, you may become addicted. The guides are entertaining and knowledgeable, and the walks are a wonderful way to meet people with your interests. The Original London Walks website lists about a dozen walks per day, along with special Explorer Days walks that may involve a train ride to Hampton Court, Oxford, or other destinations. The schedule changes a couple of times per year, so check the website before making plans.${QuickSuggestions} If you have a London Pass, you receive a £1 discount from the normal £5.5 price of a walk. If not, you can also buy a discount card from your guide on your first walk. The card costs £1, so you will have to take two additional walks for it to be of any benefit.

I don't have to tell you to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, but do travel light. Even a small bag can become heavy and annoying after 2 hours of walking. Be sure to slip a small pair of binoculars into your pocket. The detail on some of the buildings is very interesting and difficult to see from the ground level. And be sure to orient yourself at the end of the tour. The guides will normally tell you where the nearest Tube stops are, but you are essentially left on your own at the end of the tour. ${BestWay} All of the walks begin at a designated Tube station, and the guides are easy to spot. They will be holding up copies of the walking guide. It's best to have exact change, since there are sometimes a lot of people trying to pay at the same time. And don't be late -- the guides are very efficient and the tour leaves promptly at the designated time.

The Inns of Court: Legal and Illegal London

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 17, 2005

Our small group of about a dozen was evenly split between lawyers and Da Vinci Code fans. Our guide, Shaughan, led us through the labyrinth of alleyways and courtyards that comprise the legal district in London, with fascinating stories and observations that made the two hours fly by.

After meeting outside the Holborn tube stop, we were led first to Gray's Inn, then to Lincoln Inn, Middle Temple, and Temple Church. Along the way, we explored beautiful courtyards, stood aside as frantic law students and lawyers rushed by, and soaked in the history all around us.

Visitors are not normally allowed inside the inns of court, since they are in daily use by the members of the bar. However, since our group was small and the hall was not in use at the time, Shaughan persuaded the guard to allow us to visit Middle Temple Hall. It was an amazing experience, to be in the same room where Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake, and other luminaries of the last four centuries have met for dining and entertainment.

Our guide pointed out the legal book store nearby, where old legal documents are available for sale. These make wonderful gifts for lawyers, and I bought a deed from 1743, which is now framed and hanging in my office.

Our walk ended outside the Royal Courts of Justice, across the street from Twinings Tea Shop and a couple of blocks from a great pub recommeded by Shaughan -- the Old Bank of England. It is a true gin palace and was a great place to rest up with a pint and eavesdrop on the lawyers who crowded around the bar.

This walk is not strenuous, and takes place during the daytime. If you are a Da Vinci Code fan, the Master of the Temple gives a Da Vinci Code talk and tour of Temple Church at 1pm on Fridays.

Lincoln's Inn (Inns of Court)
Lincoln's Inn Fields
London, England, WC2A 3TL
+44 20 7405 1393

Ghosts of the Old City

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 17, 2005

Beginning at the St. Paul Tube Stop, we had no trouble spotting our guide. He was dressed in a long, black hooded cape, and his tall, thin frame and ghostly pallor certainly set the mood for the walk.

We roamed the area around St. Paul's, down dark passageways and into secret courtyards, accompanied by Shaughan's insightful commentary. We then walked northwest past the Old Bailey, a haunted bombed-out churchyard that has been turned into a rose garden, West Smithfield (where William Wallace and many Protestant martyrs were put to death), and then into the churchyard of St. Bartholomew the Great.

There is apparently a ghost every few feet in London, and I don't want to spoil the walk for anyone by giving too many details. We had no frightening experiences, although we did stay pretty close together. It's easy to let your imagination run wild when you're walking around in a 2,000-year-old city.

Even for those not particularly interested in ghosts, this is a great tour. Shaughan threw in plenty of history and anecdotes that did not involve the supernatural, and it was a great opportunity to explore the city at night without feeling unsafe.

This group was larger and rowdier than the sedate group that toured the Inns of Court the day before. Several of the younger people fortified their nerve with cans of beer (carried in their pockets), and by the end of the tour, they were feeling no pain. But Shaughan handled the situation well, and everyone had a good time.

London Walks: Ghosts of the Old City
St. Paul Tube Stop
London, England
+44 (020) 7624 3978

Old Westminster: 1,000 Years of History

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 17, 2005

We met our guide outside the Westminster Tube Stop, right across the street from Big Ben. The tour takes place entirely outdoors and gives a great overview of the Westminster area, so you can go back and explore in more depth the things that interest you most.

We walked around Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey, and our guide was very entertaining and informative. Many of the facts she gave us were new to me, and she was able to answer everyone's questions. Formerly employed by the House of Commons, she knew many inside stories and gave us some real insight into the history of English government.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was a walk throught the residential area behind Westminster Abbey. Long an enclave of the rich and powerful, the homes in this area are beautiful, and our guide shared many anecdotes about the residents, both past and present.

As dusk began to fall, the narrow old streets were suddenly filled with the sound of wolves howling, and it sounded as though a pack was about to round the corner. I assume the howls came from the London Zoo nearby, but it was quite eerie.

The walk ended at the Cabinet War Rooms, where we were given a group discount and left on our own. This is a must-see, and we were transported back to World War II and the amazing resilience and courage of the people of London during those trying times.

London Walks: Old Westminster - 1,000 Years of History
Westminster Tube Stop
London, England
+44 (020) 7624 3978

The British Museum Tour

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 17, 2005

We met our guide (Tom) at the Holborn tube stop, then wound our way through Bloomsbury on our way to the British Museum. Tom pointed out the homes of the famous and infamous, past and present, and we then arrived at the British Museum.

As would be expected, the place is huge and crowded, and one could easily spend weeks there without seeing everything. Tom took us directly to the highlights, and his commentary was insightful and informative, adding immensely to the experience.

After seeing the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Marbles, the Assyrian friezes, and a wealth of other artifacts, we were left on our own to explore further the things we found most interesting. My friend and I had tea in the snack area in the Great Hall, which was very tasty and reasonably priced. The gift shop is wonderful, with great gift items for everyone on your list, including yourself.

Since we visited during the school year, there were few tourists, but many groups of uniformed school children. Our guide informed us that the children are given free rein so they may develop enthusiasm for art and learning. They were pretty rowdy at times, but it was really great to see their energy and excitement.

Admission to the museum is free, although donations are requested. A tour is a great way to become oriented and then go back to explore the museum's treasures in more depth. Since the museum covers over 13 acres, an orientation tour can save you from wasting your valuable time roaming around aimlessly.

British Museum
Great Russell Street
London, England, WC1B 3DG
+44 (207) 7323 8299

Jack the Ripper Haunts

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 18, 2005

This is the most popular of the Original London Walks and begins at the Tower Hill Tube Stop. We were there in November, which is definitely the off-season, and at least 200 people showed up for the walk. Donald Rumbelow, the foremost expert on Jack the Ripper and his crimes, was to be our guide. However, once the size of the crowd became apparent, he called for reinforcements, and the group was split in two. Our group was guided by Steve, who did a wonderful job.

After a brief stop at one of the largest remaining segments of the original Roman city walls, we began our tour of the Jack the Ripper murder sites. As we wound our way through the dark passages of Whitechapel while listening to the details of the crimes, we were given a sense of the desperate lives the victims lived. The poor suffered terribly during the late 19th century in London, and the murders raised awareness of their plight and led to reform.

Few of the murder sites are still in their original condition, but the pub the victims (and Jack) frequented is still in business. The Ten Bells Pub marks the end of the tour, and this is not a great part of town at night. Be sure you know how to get to the nearest Tube stop before you allow your guide to get away.

If you are traveling with children, I do NOT recommend this tour. The murders are described in gory detail, and I would not feel safe walking in this area at night without being part of a group.

Original London Walks
PO Box 1708
London, England, NW6 4LW
+44 20 7624 3978

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