Main Walk: 13 km (8.1 miles). Two hours 50 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 6½ hours.
Explorer 161. Hampton Court is on the Greater London/Surrey border, 3 km SW of Kingston.
1 out of 10.
This walk explores the two royal parks next to Hampton Court Palace before making its way back to the palace itself. Although Historic Royal Palaces decided to end the free winter opening of the formal gardens in 2016, the grounds to the north and west of the palace building are still freely open to the public.
After a short stretch past the palace on the Thames Path the walk enters Home Park, the local name for Hampton Court Park. It was originally enclosed as a hunting ground for Henry VIII and still contains a herd of fallow deer, but its appearance has changed significantly since Tudor times. The Long Water was added by Charles I and the three lime tree avenues by William III & Mary II, completing its transformation into parkland typical of the 17thC baroque period.
The annual RHS Flower Show is held in Home Park in early July and the suggested route through the park will not be possible around this time.
The walk leaves Home Park at Kingston Gate and crosses the A308 to enter the larger Bushy Park. This too started as a royal hunting ground and has had a similar evolution into more formal parkland. Its many water features were the result of Charles I ordering the construction of the Longford River through the park to bring fresh water from the River Colne to Hampton Court Palace. In the 20thC two attractive plantations were created along the course of the river and the walk goes through these Woodland Gardens to the recently-restored Water Gardens, another reminder of the park's baroque history. It then loops back through the centre of the park and goes along part of the mile-long Chestnut Avenue (with the iconic Diana Fountain as its centrepiece) to Hampton Court Gate, opposite the palace's Lion Gates.
The Water Gardens are closed on Mondays (except Bank Holidays, when they are closed on the Tuesday).
The final part of the walk is through the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. This was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey but when he fell out of favour in 1529 it passed to Henry VIII and was enlarged into a royal palace. At the end of the 17thC it was again greatly extended by William & Mary, who grafted a completely new baroque palace onto the Tudor buildings as well as redesigning the surrounding parkland (but not perfectly: the king was fatally injured by a fall from his horse when it stumbled on a molehill in Home Park). Full-price admission to the palace buildings, maze and formal gardens can be as high as £21 (2016), but there are usually 2-for-1 offers available; eg. on the train companies' Days Out Guide.
Note that some of the parks and gardens along the route close around dusk.
There are many places where you can shorten the full walk. You could cut out the first section by travelling to Hampton Wick station and starting the walk there. If you want to spend time visiting Hampton Court Palace you could replace the 4½ km loop out to the Water Gardens with a short meander around the Woodland Gardens. A few minor short cuts are mentioned in the text and a glance at the map will suggest others.
There are bus routes along the roads around Bushy Park (but none through it), so head for the nearest gate if you want to abandon the walk in the middle.
There is a half-hourly service between Waterloo and Hampton Court, taking 36 minutes. The station is in TfL Zone 6, as are all those close to the walk route.
If you want to arrive in style (if not speedily) there is a summer riverboat service from Westminster, Richmond and Kingston to Hampton Court.
If driving, the station car park costs £6.50 Mon–Fri, £6 Sat & BH, £2 Sun (2016). There is a small car park at the palace (£1.50/hr) and a larger one 500m away on Hampton Court Green (£1/hr).
As there are several possible lunch and tea places (see below) you could start this walk at any convenient time. If you are planning to have lunch about halfway through the walk at the café in the centre of Bushy Park, take the train nearest to 10:30 from Waterloo to Hampton Court. If you would prefer to stop for an early pub lunch in Hampton Wick, leave at least half an hour later.
The most convenient place to stop for lunch is the Pheasantry café (020-8943 1347), just inside the entrance to the Woodland Gardens in the centre of Bushy Park; it is usually open to 5pm in winter, 6pm summer. It is likely to be busy on fine days but you have two chances to stop there for refreshment as the walk loops back to the same place an hour or so later.
If you want a pub lunch you could stop earlier in Hampton Wick, after 4 km. The walk route passes the Old Kings Head (020-8977 8444) at 1 Hampton Court Road, just outside Kingston Gate; if you want to investigate alternatives a short detour up the High Street will take you past the White Hart Hotel (020-8977 1786) at #1, the Swan (020-8977 2644) at #22 and the Foresters (020-8943 5379) at #45.
If you have had an early pub lunch you could break for tea when you pass the Pheasantry café (see above) for the second time. There are of course many opportunities towards the end of the walk at Hampton Court, with the main place being the popular Tiltyard café (020-3166 6971) inside the palace grounds; it is open to 4.30pm.
On the way to the station you pass some large pubs on the other side of the main road, while a short detour into East Molesey will reveal a number of independent cafés and more pubs. There is a Coffee Bay kiosk in the small station concourse.
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).
- Hampton Court Station to Hampton Wick (4 km)
- Go straight ahead out of Hampton Court station, following signs to the palace. Stay on the right-hand side of the main road as you cross Hampton Court Bridge.
Opened in 1933, this is the fourth bridge over the River Thames at this site. Upstream is Molesey Lock.
- On the other side of the bridge turn right onto Barge Walk, signposted as the Thames Path. You pass piers and mooring points on the river and Hampton Court Palace on the left, with the Tijou Screen in front of the Privy Garden.
The elaborate wrought-iron screen was designed by Jean Tijou (a French Huguenot ironworker) for William III's Privy Garden in the 1690s. When the baroque style went out of fashion the garden had been allowed to revert to a semi-wild state but was restored to its original appearance in the 1990s.
- At the end of the palace grounds the path splits into a cycle route and footpath (you can take either). In 400m go through Jubilee Gate in the park wall and then another gate into Hampton Court (or Home) Park.
- Keep ahead on a grassy path, taking care as you cross a number of golf fairways. You go through one of the long avenues of mature lime trees radiating out from the palace, then pass the tree-lined Oak Pond on your right and Farm Cottages on your left. Continue up to the Long Water and turn right to walk alongside it, away from the palace.
Two new avenues of lime trees were planted alongside the Long Water in 2004 to recreate its original appearance.
- At the end of the Long Water turn left. Just after the start of an avenue of trees parallel to a tarmac lane on your right, bear left onto a track which leads to a surfaced lane in front of the Stud Nursery.
This was built in the early 19thC when George IV used Home Park for breeding and training horses.
- Follow the lane round to the right and back towards the avenue of trees for a short distance, then turn half-left onto a clear grassy path.
- At the end of the final avenue of lime trees from the palace there are a number of path crossings; turn right at the second one.
- Follow the grassy path up to the right-hand side of the long Hampton Wick Pond and continue alongside it. At the end keep ahead and leave the park through Kingston Gate, with the Old Kings Head pub (a possible early lunch stop) on your left.
- Unless you want to detour through Hampton Wick, cross the A308 carefully at the traffic lights and go up Church Grove. Go past an entrance to some sports pitches and a café, but at the pedestrian crossing by St John's church turn left through a gate in the park wall, with a LOOP waymarker.
The London Outer Orbital Path runs for 240 km around the edge of outer London. The route through Bushy Park to the Water Gardens more or less follows this well-waymarked path.
- To investigate other pubs turn right onto the A308. Cross over at the pedestrian crossing and keep left at the roundabout into Hampton Wick's High Street. The White Hart Hotel is by the roundabout, the Swan on the right at the junction with Lower Teddington Road and the Foresters at the junction with Park Road and St John's Road. To rejoin the main route go along St John's Road to the far end, across Church Grove and through the gate in the park wall.
- Hampton Wick to the Woodland Gardens (2 km)
- Go along the tarmac path to the far end and through another gate into Bushy Park. Keep ahead briefly on a surfaced path, then bear right onto a broad grassy track.
- At the corner of a cricket pitch turn half-right onto the right-hand of two grassy paths and follow it towards the right-hand end of a wood 400m away.
- At the edge of the wood bear left to come to a crossing point over a canal joining Leg-of-Mutton Pond (on your right) and the next pond, 200m further on. Go over the canal and turn left to walk alongside it.
- At the end of the canal veer right and left to continue alongside Heron Pond, initially on a surfaced path and then on a potentially muddy path by the water's edge.
- Follow the path round to the right to continue alongside the Model Boating Pond. At the end of this second pond keep ahead on a grassy path alongside a narrow water channel.
- At the end of the channel turn half-left and make your way across the grass towards a cast-iron water pump and Chestnut Avenue, the main road through the park.
The mile-long avenue was conceived by Sir Christopher Wren as a grand formal approach to Hampton Court Palace. It is flanked on both sides by a row of horse chestnuts and several rows of lime trees.
- Go straight across the avenue and head for a pedestrian gate in the boundary fence around the Woodland Gardens, about 100m to the left of a vehicle entrance from the main road.
This area was originally fenced off in 1823 to protect a new plantation of oak trees from the deer. The gardens were developed by the Park Superintendent in 1947, with informal clumps of rhododendrons and azaleas around a channel of the Longford River. They consist of two enclosures separated by a narrow strip of parkland, Ash Walk.
- Go through the gate into the first enclosure, the Pheasantry Plantation. For the main route, bear right to cross the stream at Crocodile Bridge and follow the path up to the Pheasantry café.
- If you are not visiting the café you could turn left instead of crossing the bridge, going directly onto the main route through the plantation.
- The Woodland Gardens to the Water Gardens and back (4½ km)
- From the café make your way to some small ponds ahead on your right, cross the stream on your left at Duck Bridge and then turn right at a T-junction. Follow this main route heading W through the Pheasantry Plantation (taking either path where it splits into two).
- At the end of the plantation go out through a wooden gate, across Ash Walk and through another gate into the second enclosure, the Waterhouse Plantation.
- If you do not want to explore the small maze of paths here you can keep right at path junctions to reach the long straight path heading N to the far end of the plantation, in which case continue the directions at  below.
- For the suggested route take the first path off to the left to come to Fisher's Pond. Continue on any route heading roughly westwards to reach the larger Waterhouse Pond (with a small brick building on its far side, the Water House).
- The main path heading N away from the pond would take you directly to the exit, as mentioned above.
- For the suggested route veer left across a glade on the north side of the pond, passing the Canadian Totem Pole.
This was erected in 1992 to commemorate the country's links with Bushy Park in WWI, when Upper Lodge was used as a convalescent hospital for Canadian troops.
- Continue on a path alongside the Longford River (on your left), initially heading W but soon turning right to head N. Follow the riverside path up to a sharp left-hand turn, where there is a striking avenue of hornbeams on your right.
The trees are a cultivar (fastigiata) with upward-pointing branches creating a ‘cathedral’ effect.
- The suggested route is to keep ahead on a path which meanders through the woodland. When you reach the boundary fence, turn right to come to the exit.
- You could also continue on the riverside path to the boundary and turn right (a slightly longer and potentially muddier route), or walk down the hornbeam avenue and turn left onto the main path through the plantation.
- Leave the Waterhouse Plantation through a wooden gate and turn right. Go out through another gate into the parkland and turn left onto a broad grassy path heading N, with a fence on your left.
- In 500m, where the path crosses a small stream and turns half-right, there is a grassy path off to the left leading to the Water Gardens.
- To bypass these gardens (eg. on a day when they are closed) stay on the main path as it goes round to the right, then turn right again onto a surfaced path from the gardens. Keep ahead (crossing a surfaced lane) and turn right when you reach a large clump of trees, the Canal Plantation. Continue the directions at  below.
- For the main route, fork left and follow the grassy path up to another surfaced path, which leads to a gate. Go through this into the Water Gardens.
The Upper Lodge Water Gardens were created in 1710 by the Earl of Halifax, Ranger of Bushy Park. They gradually fell into disrepair and were virtually forgotten by the 20thC, but after a long campaign and many years of detailed research they were eventually restored to their 18thC baroque style, reopening in 2009.
- Make your way past the cascade to the far side of the upper pond and leave through a gate in the wooden fence (not the bridge over the river leading to the Brewhouse).
- Follow the surfaced path round to the right and up to a T-junction with a driveway and turn right onto it. Go along this drive (or the cycleway to its left), soon passing Upper Lodge on the right.
The present house dates from the 1840s; earlier buildings on the site were used as the Ranger's official residence. It was used as a wartime hospital in WWI and became part of Camp Griffiss in WWII, an important base for the US forces. The house is now part of the Crown Estate and privately occupied.
- At a junction of tracks follow the drive briefly round to the right, then immediately bear left onto a narrow path across the grass, up to the right-hand end of a large clump of trees surrounding a body of water, the Canal Plantation; the white buildings beyond it are part of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
The NPL is the national measurement standards laboratory for the UK. The new buildings were constructed between 1998 and 2007.
- At the corner of the plantation bear slightly left, aiming for a cottage 300m away (the most direct route can be boggy and you could take a firmer grassy path to its right almost back to the lane, then turn left alongside a canal towards the cottage).
- Pass to the right of Bartons Cottage and continue in much the same direction towards the right-hand end of a wood 400m away, still parallel to the lane on your right and passing some sports pitches on the left.
- Go past the trees and bear right, crossing the lane (now called Cobbler's Walk) into a car park. At the far end take a broad grassy path heading SSE and passing to the left of an isolated oak tree.
The large house which comes into view behind you is Bushy House (originally Lower Lodge). This former hunting lodge became the original site of the NPL in 1900 and is still part of the organisation.
- In 250m go through a gate in the wooden fence to return to the Pheasantry Plantation. Inside the gardens the left-hand path leads past Mediterranean Mound to the Pheasantry café.
- If you are not visiting the café you could take the other path up to the ponds and across Duck Bridge, then turn left at the T-junction to reach the gate by Crocodile Bridge.
- The Woodland Gardens to Hampton Court Station (2½ km)
- From the café bear left and follow the path across Crocodile Bridge. Leave the Woodland Gardens through the gate by which you entered on the outward leg.
- Where the surfaced path turns left just outside the gate, go straight ahead on a grassy path across the parkland, roughly parallel with Chestnut Avenue off to your left.
- In 400m you go up a small bank where the River Longford flows into a culvert. Bear left to head back towards Chestnut Avenue and cross the main road into the Basin for a closer view of the Diana Fountain.
The Royal Parks controversially maintain that the bronze statue (gilded in its 2009 restoration) actually represents the nymph Arethusa rather than the Roman goddess of hunting. It was commissioned by Charles I from Le Sueur in 1637 and originally stood at Somerset House. It was later moved to the Privy Garden at Hampton Court before being installed as the centrepiece of Wren's grand Chestnut Avenue in 1713.
- From the fountain head S down Chestnut Avenue, keeping the main road on your right. Leave the park through Hampton Court Gate.
- Cross the busy A308 at the pedestrian crossing on the left and go through the imposing Lion Gates into the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.
The Portland stone piers and wrought-iron gates were designed by Wren in the reign of Queen Anne and her successor, George I.
- Start by forking right inside the Wilderness, alongside the hedge maze. At the first path junction the entrance to the Maze is on your right.
The Wilderness was designed as a place for courtiers to wander along winding paths, not unlike the now-famous Maze which was constructed for William III in 1690.
- Take any route through the Wilderness to the far right-hand corner. Go through a gap in the brick wall into the Tiltyard and turn right for the Tiltyard Café.
As the name indicates this part of the grounds was used for jousting in Tudor times; above the café is the one surviving brick tower used by spectators. William III later divided the area into the Kitchen Garden, Rose Garden, etc.
- Make your way from the café to the path alongside the high brick wall on the far side and turn left. In the corner of this enclosure the Rose Garden is straight ahead and the newly-recreated Kitchen Garden is on your right.
The latter has been planted with vegetables, fruit and flowers typical of an 18thC kitchen garden.
- Make your way out through the Rose Garden into the main forecourt. Ahead on your left is the great Gatehouse into the Tudor palace, its entrance flanked by the King's Beasts.
These ten statues of heraldic animals (lions, dragons, unicorns, etc) represent the ancestry of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour.
- Leave the palace grounds by the main Trophy Gate (or one of the side entrances onto Barge Walk) to come out onto the A309. Go across Hampton Court Bridge to find the station directly ahead.
There are some large pubs directly opposite the palace entrance, and more pubs and coffee shops across the bridge in East Molesey. There is also a convenient refreshment kiosk inside the station.
» Last updated: December 4, 2016