Discover a green oasis in the heart of the capital.
Minimum time 1h00
Distance 2.5 miles (4km)
Suggested map OS Explorer 173 London North
Start/finish West Carriage Drive car park; grid ref: TQ 269800
Trails/tracks well-surfaced paths
Landscape urban parkland
Public toilets in the park
Tourist information London Line, tel 09068 663344
Bike hire London Bicycle Tour Company, 1a Gabriels Wharf, 56 Upper Ground, SE1, tel 020 7928 6838
Recommended pub The Wilton Arms, Kinnerton Street
Notes Be sure to give priority to pedestrians on shared-use paths. Beware of unpredictable rollerbladers!
© Automobile Association 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
The West Carriage Drive car park is south of the bridge over the Serpentine. It can be approached from the A402 Bayswater Road to the north or the A315 Kensington Gore/ Kensington Road to the south. The pay-and-display car park is open 8.30am-6.30pm.
1 From the West Carriage Drive car park, opposite the Serpentine Gallery, cross the road and join the cycle track on the pavement on the west side of West Carriage Drive. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is on your right.
2 The track drops down on to the road to cross the Serpentine bridge. Once across be sure to look out for the point where the path resumes on the pavement, as the cycle lane on the road surface stops abruptly.
3 At Victoria Gate cross the road and follow the cycle path along The Ring. The path here is on the road, but it is often traffic-free.
4 As you approach Cumberland Gate and Marble Arch, look for the cycle route sign for Chelsea Bridge and cross the road to pick up the cycle path on Broad Walk. You may need to reduce speed here as the cycle lane can be obstructed by crowds milling around at Speakers' Corner. It then heads south on Broad Walk, a pleasant, wide, tree-lined boulevard.
5 On the approach to Queen Elizabeth Gate at Hyde Park Corner, follow signs to the right for Rotten Row to return to the car park at West Carriage Drive. If heading for The Wilton Arms pub, you will need to leave the park through this gate. On Rotten Row, keep to the left on this fairly narrow path shared with pedestrians and rollerbladers. At West Carriage Drive, use the pedestrian crossing and pick up the cycle track again on the west side in front of the Serpentine Gallery. (This simple circular ride can be easily extended eastwards with a foray along Constitution Hill's excellent parallel cycle track to see Buckingham Palace, or to the west to explore Kensington Gardens. Notices at the park entrances show where cycling is currently permitted.)
Henry VIII and his court once hunted deer in Hyde Park; the Tudor monarch acquired the land from the monks of Westminster Abbey in 1536. Public access was first permitted under James I, but it was Charles I who opened the park fully to the general public in 1637. During the Great Plague in 1665 many Londoners set up camp in the park, hoping to escape the disease. The Serpentine - the vast ornamental lake dominating the park - was created in the 1730s by Queen Caroline, wife of George II.
The latest in Hyde Park's long line of royal connections is the controversial £3.6 million Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, unveiled by the Queen in 2004. The fountain was designed by US architect Kathryn Gustafson, and is based on an oval stone ring. Water enters the fountain at its highest point, then bounces down steps. It picks up momentum and is invigorated by jets. As it flows westwards it resembles a babbling brook. Air bubbles are added as it approaches a waterfall before entering a water feature. Water from east and west meets at the reflecting pool, before being pumped out to restart the cycle.
An ideal ride for families with very young children, this is a chance to make the most of a huge expanse of green space that Londoners often forget they have on their doorstep. Glance to your left as you cross the Serpentine Bridge and you'd never guess that you were in the heart of the capital. Yet elsewhere there are surprising views of familiar London landmarks.