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Roses and Romance Around Regent's Park

Rose gardens, an open-air theatre, panoramic views from Primrose Hill, birdsong along the Regent's Canal, and Little Venice.

Distance 3.3 miles (5.3km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 131ft (40m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Paved streets and tarmac paths

Landscape Exclusive properties and idyllic park

Suggested map AA Street by Street London

Baker Street tubeWarwick Avenue tube

Dog friendliness No particular problems

Public toilets None on route

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1 Take the north exit from Baker Street tube and turn right, along Baker Street. Cross the road via two sets of pedestrian lights and enter Regent's Park. Turn right. Cross the bridge over the lake and then bear left, past the bandstand.

2 Turn left when you reach the Inner Circle road. Beyond The Holme turn left, through the metal gates, and over Long Bridge. When the paths fork ahead, take the right-hand one and keep ahead at the next crossing of paths.

3 Go through the gate, cross the Outer Circle road and follow the path opposite to cross Primrose Hill Bridge. Turn left along a path leading down to the Regent's Canal, then turn sharp left. Continue along this path - which initially leads underneath the bridge and then leads past the aviary of London Zoo - for ¼ mile (400m). You'll also pass under a couple of bridges with ornate ironwork and some colourful canal boats.

4 At the second bridge turn left up the path leading to St Mark's Church. At the gate turn left along Prince Albert Road and past an entrance to London Zoo. Continue for 100yds (91m) then, at the pedestrian lights, cross the road to enter Primrose Hill. Take the right-hand path and follow it uphill to the viewpoint.

5 Follow the path that bears left, leading downhill, to join a straight path that leads to Prince Albert Road. Cross at the zebra crossing and turn right. At a footpath, signed 'Canalside Walk', turn left.

6 Don't cross the bridge but turn right along a hedge-lined path that bends sharply to the left on to the tow path. Turn right and follow the tow path for ½ mile (800m). The banks of the canal are ivy-clad with weeping willows, and palatial homes line this stretch of the walk. Continue ahead under the railway bridges - less enchanting but rest assured that better things lie ahead - and, after a few paces, you'll pass the houseboats moored at Lisson Green before a tow path tunnel.

7 As the canal disappears under another tunnel, walk up the steps on the right and continue ahead along Aberdeen Place. At the end cross a road and follow Blomfield Road into Little Venice. Cross Warwick Avenue and follow the road as it bends to the right, past the footbridge. Turn right into Warwick Place and then left again to find Warwick Avenue tube 100yds (91m) ahead.

'I must go seek some dew-drops here

So sings the Fairy to Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare's romantic fantasy. If you think that romance is dead, you need to try this walk, especially on weekdays, when it's quieter. Along these canals you'll see barges rather than gondolas, but on a fine, balmy day you can return to Regent's Park in the evening to see a performance at the magical open-air theatre, and there isn't one of those in Venice. You never know, this walk could well turn out to be a recurring midsummer night's dream.

'It shall be called Bottom's Dream because it hath no bottom?' wrote Shakespeare. In a similar way, this walk was John Nash's dream because, in 1820 when he designed the area, it was the grandest piece of town planning ever devised in central London. In fact, it has not been matched since. His scheme was based on a park peppered with large villas that looked like separate mansions but which actually consisted of more than 20 houses. Sprinkle on to this some grand terraces and the result is idyllic Regent's Park and its little sister, Primrose Hill. Although only 210ft (64m) above sea level, the views over London from Primrose Hill are exhilarating.

If you're lucky enough to find that A Midsummer Night's Dream is on at the open-air theatre, don't expect it to be one of Shakespeare's best stories, for it's about ideas rather than plot. 'The course of true love never runs smooth' explained the bard and this concept carries on throughout the play. Shakespeare uses the common theme of a daughter who wants to marry against her father's wishes and the comic caricatures are portrayed by Bottom and Puck. Since the play was first published in 1600 it has been the source of inspiration for countless stories of tiny fairies living in the woods. Walt Disney made a fortune from the idea, but it didn't entertain the prominent diarist Samuel Pepys, who saw it in 1662 for the first time and wrote: '? nor shall I ever (see it) again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life'. Pepys did, however, admit to appreciating the play's good dancing and attractive women!

Had Pepys seen it in the unique setting of Regent's Park however he might have thought differently. He could have arrived early to picnic and drink champagne on the lawn, and afterwards taken a stroll to Primrose Hill to see London's carpet of flickering lights below. Try it one midsummer's day and if this little potion doesn't bring some magic into your life, you'll have to ask Puck for some help.

While you're there

Take a wander through the circular Queen Mary's Gardens inside the Inner Circle of Regent's Park. You can reach them by taking the path ahead instead of turning left after the bandstand. Enclosed by hedges, the rose gardens are quiet, yet vibrant and include a fountain.

Where to eat and drink

Just a few paces from Warwick Avenue tube lies the Little Venice Town House in Warrington Crescent. The building was once a hospital (it has an unusually shaped lift that carried stretchers to the old operating theatre) and it was here that Alan Turing, the mathematician responsible for breaking the Enigma code during the Second World War, was born in 1912. Pop in here for afternoon tea after the walk. Alternatively, Jason's Lady Rose canal boat has outdoor seating adjacent to the canal in Little Venice.

What to look for

Regent's Park's Open Air Theatre was founded in 1932 and is the premier professional outdoor theatre in Great Britain. Many well-known artists have appeared here during the summer season including Deborah Kerr, Vivian Leigh, Felicity Kendal, Jeremy Irons and Maria Aitken. With seating for well over 1,000, it's larger than the Barbican and the Olivier Theatre on the South Bank.

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