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Big Screen Diversions in Holland Park

Holland Park has something for everyone: cinemas, cafés, wildlife and memorable architecture.

Distance 3.3 miles (5.3km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 66ft (20m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Paved streets and tarmac paths

Landscape Exclusive properties and an idyllic park

Suggested map AA Street by Street London

Start/finish Notting Hill Gate tube

Dog friendliness On lead near peacocks and in woodland areas

Public toilets Holland Park and Notting Hill Gate


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1 From Notting Hill Gate tube head towards Holland Park Avenue, passing the Gate Cinema and a few paces further, the Coronet. This busy road is lined with some quaint shops and pubs, including one of the finest organic butchers in London.

2 About 650yds (594m) after Holland Park tube turn left into Holland Park Gardens. Just after the red brick school on the right the road joins Addison Road.

3 Turn left past St Barnabas Church into Melbury Road. Cross Abbotsbury Road and continue to the next road. Look out for the huge palm trees in the manicured garden on the corner. Turn left here to reach the gates of Holland Park. Take the path ahead and walk through the arch. On the left is the ice house.

4 Bear right through the hedged garden and, after passing under another arch, turn left to follow the footpath as it descends a set of stone steps. The strange man you see with rolled-up sleeves walking towards you is, in fact, a realistic bronze sculpture. Follow the path as it swings to the right.

5 At the end of this fenced path turn right along a long, straight path that heads slightly uphill, flanked by lime trees. Ahead is a statue of Lord Holland sitting high above a pond, the local watering hole for squirrels. If you're a keen birdwatcher, take a look in the woods behind the pond. Otherwise continue towards another sculpture.

6 Make what you will of this huge bronze entitled The Two of Us by contemporary sculptor Stephen Gregory, then turn right. Soon go left and pass a metal gate. Turn left along Holland Walk, a tarmac path also used by cyclists (if you turn right here you'll end up on Kensington High Street). Follow Holland Walk to the end.

7 Turn right and take the next right, Aubrey Road, which has an eclectic mix of architectural styles. Follow it as it bends to the left and later passes St George's Church. At the crossroads continue ahead, turning into the first road on the left, Hillgate Street.

8 After crossing Hillgate Place and its attractive rows of pastel-coloured terraced houses, turn right into Notting Hill Gate and back to the start.

The walk begins at Notting Hill Gate, for it wouldn't be fair to mention 'diversions' without including Holland Park's lively neighbour, Notting Hill. Most cinema audiences throughout the world are now familiar with this area thanks to the film of the same name, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. The blue front door that featured in many scenes was, at that time, the home of Richard Curtis, the film's scriptwriter. And of course, there's that colourful annual event known as the Notting Hill Carnival that takes place in August, not to mention the world-famous Portobello Road antiques market? but where does Holland Park fit into all this?

Holland Park is a bit like Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the hare. While it may lack the racy pace of its neighbour, it knows its limitations and is comfortable in its own, refined skin. Some of the architecture here is truly memorable. The area includes some of the most sought-after properties in London but it has a soft centre in the form of a delightful 54 acre (22ha) park, in which lie the partial ruins of a Jacobean mansion, Holland House.

Lady Holland hosted some lavish parties in this building for guests including Lord Byron, Earl Grey, Lord Palmerston and Charles Dickens. The building was largely destroyed during the Blitz in the Second World War. The section that remains is now a youth hostel with 201 beds. For less than the cost of a theatre ticket you can stay overnight in one of the loveliest parks in London. You can still see some remnants from the house's glorious past, such as the old ballroom (which is now a Marco Pierre White restaurant called The Belvedere) and the manicured garden that includes a mural of an 1870s garden party.

And that's not all. Take the striking Gate Cinema, for example: it was was once a theatre and now shows international films. If it's open you should take a peek inside, as you should with the Coronet, a little further on. The Coronet is now the only cinema in London to permit smoking during the film, although non-smokers usually find safety in the stalls, as smokers are restricted to the dress circle. Addison Road also has its fair share of architectural delights. Keep an eye out for No 8, a monster of a house that was designed for the store magnate, Sir Ernest Debenham. Love it or hate it, this building is so 'in your face' that it's hard not to form an immediate opinion of the turquoise and blue glazed brickwork.

Where to eat and drink

You are definitely spoilt for choice around here. There's a café in the park but if your budget allows, the Belvedere is pure decadence, not simply for the menu featuring fish and game but for the surroundings, being what was once the grand ballroom of Holland House. If you prefer a cosier environment, Il Carretto, an Italian restaurant in Hillgate Street, is reasonably priced and very snug.

While you're there

Make the small detour to Leighton House in Holland Park Road. Inside this pre-Edwardian, red brick exterior is an extensive collection of paintings, some by Lord Leighton, who was a president of the Royal Academy. The opulent Arab Hall is magnificent. It has a high ceiling and gilt mosaics and tiles. It's well worth a visit to see this alone.

What to look for

If you turn right at the bronze sculpture of the walking man you will reach the Kyoto Garden, built to commemorate the friendship between Japan and Great Britain. It was erected for a Japanese festival in 1991. In the adjacent area are peacocks and if it's summertime, check what's showing at the open-air theatre - it may persuade you to return later.


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