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Corridors of Power

A look at some of the city's landmarks, from Whitehall through to Smithfield.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Paved streets

Landscape Main processional routes, busy streets

Suggested map AA Street by Street London

Westminster tubeFarringdon tube

Dog friendliness A dog's nightmare

Public toilets Westminster, Strand


© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 Leave Westminster tube following signs to the Houses of Parliament. Cross Abingdon Street to Westminster Abbey and the adjacent St Margaret's Church. Turn back along Abingdon Street and continue ahead as the road becomes Parliament Street, and then Whitehall. Follow it past the Cenotaph, a simple block of Portland Stone that commemorates those people who died in the First and Second World Wars, all the way to Trafalgar Square.

2 Turn right here and cross Northumberland Avenue. Turn right into the Strand, the road that links Westminster with the City of London. Turn right at Savoy Street, to see the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy; otherwise carry on along the Strand, past Somerset House.

3 Turn right into Surrey Street, past the Roman Baths, left into Temple Place and left again along Arundel Street. The two churches in the middle of the road are St Mary-le-Strand and St Clement Danes. After these the road becomes Fleet Street.

4 After the banks of Lloyds and Child & Co turn right into Whitefriars Street. At the end turn left and left again into Dorset Rise. Take the next right into Dorset Buildings, past the Bridewell Theatre and along Bride Lane to St Bride's Church. Cross New Bridge Street.

5 You are now in Ludgate Hill. Turn left into the street called Old Bailey and continue to the Central Criminal Court, known as 'The Old Bailey' - it lies on the site of the notorious former Newgate Prison. Cross Newgate Street and follow Giltspur Street to reach St Bartholomew's Hospital.

6 Walk under the archway to the hospital, with the only remaining sculpture of Henry VIII, to visit St Bartholomew-the-Less, the parish church of the hospital where the Stuart architect Inigo Jones was baptised. As you continue past the central square opposite Smithfield Market, notice the marks on the stone wall left by a Zeppelin raid during the First World War. At St Bartholomew-the-Great turn left into Hayne Street and again into Charterhouse Street.

7 At St John Street turn right and then bear left into St John's Lane. A few paces further on you will find St John's Gate. Keep going to reach Grand Priory Church, bear left to Jerusalem Passage, then turn left at the end, on to Aylesbury Street. Cross Clerkenwell Street and walk along Britton Street, turning right into Benjamin Street to reach Farringdon tube where the walk ends.

It's easy to take sights for granted in a city where, around every bend, is another symbol of its historic importance. Hopefully, this walk, through some of the better-known parts, will sharpen your senses and alert you to some of the buildings and streets you may be familiar with, and others that you have yet to notice. It's best to avoid this walk on Mondays when some of the places mentioned are closed.

The walk begins across the road from the Houses of Parliament at Westminster Abbey, where every king and queen since 1066 has been crowned and where many are buried. On a corner opposite Horse Guards Parade is one of the best places to stand for a grandstand view of the Queen's carriage as it heads up Whitehall for the State Opening of Parliament. We move on to the Strand, once one of the most influential thoroughfares in Britain with many fine mansions, some of which you can still see today. One of these is the magnificent Somerset House, which has awesome grounds for central London and is much-loved by film companies for its grandeur and seclusion.

The street names from here on give a clue to the past inhabitants. Think of dukes and earls - Arundel, Surrey and Essex - as the Strand enters Aldwych (a name that derives from 'Old Wic' meaning old settlement). The grand buildings in this area are symbols of the architectural legacy of the Empire. If you're after proof, notice how Canada House, the South African Embassy and the Australian High Commission each take pride of place in Trafalgar Square, the Strand and Aldwych respectively. Where the Strand ends and Fleet Street begins are a number of banks. These serviced those working at the Inns of Court, including Lloyds Bank with its floral tiles, and Child & Co Bankers. The latter has a display of guns in a cabinet that the partners of the bank acquired during the Gordon Riots of 1780 'for the defence of the building'. Here too is one of the first cheques - made out in 1705.

We end the walk by another church, St Bartholomew-the-Great, which dates from 1123 and is still surrounded by small streets as it was in the Middle Ages. Near by is Smithfield, the scene of jousting, tournaments and fairs and the site for executions where criminals were not just hanged but boiled, roasted or burnt. During the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 the rebel leader Wat Tyler was stabbed by the Lord Mayor William Walworth and taken to St Bartholomew's Hospital but soldiers dragged him out and decapitated him.

While you're there

While Westminster Abbey may seem like a tourist trap with its admission charge, if you go early in the morning before the coaches arrive, you can easily spend two or three hours here. Outside, the Little Cloisters, reached by a stone tunnel off the main Cloisters, offer an impressive view of the Houses of Parliament. The tombs and monuments in Poet's Corner are dedicated to those worthy of the highest posthumous honour the Queen can grant. Along with architects and historians, these include Chaucer, Darwin and Newton.

Where to eat and drink

The Black Friar in Queen Victoria Street is one of those special pubs. It has a bronze art nouveau/Edwardian interior and tongue-in-cheek phrases such as 'haste is slow' and 'wisdom is rare' written above the doorways. The back room will leave you gaping in wonderment. There are bar snacks, ales on hand-pump and gallons of atmosphere. If the Jerusalem Tavern in Britton Street reminds you of an old style coffee house, don't be surprised because that is what it once was. Now it's cavernous and hugely attractive and serves an interesting selection of beers, including organic wheat beer.

What to look for

St John's Gate was the main entrance to the Grand Priory in Clerkenwell and later a coffee house run by Richard Hogarth, father of the painter William. When the nave of the church was blown up the stone was used by the Lord Protectorate in 1550, to rebuild his palace on the Strand, known as Somerset House.


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