Hampstead Heath London cycle route

Hampstead heath reflections of trees on the highgate ponds

In the busy city of London, it’s reassuring to discover peaceful retreats such as Hampstead Heath. It is an area with a distinct village feel to it. Which is all the more contrasting when you consider how near to central London you are. I was kicking myself that I didn’t include this very special ride in the first edition of the London Cycle Routes eBook. There’s so much to experience here. You’ll discover a secluded pergola, the swimming ponds of Hampstead Heath and sweeping views over London.

Riding the route

The London Overground provides bicycle friendly access to Hampstead. The ride starts just outside the station, in an area filled with small shops and excellent pubs. However, it’s best to leave any eating to the end of the ride as there’s a couple of big hills to tackle first.

After a short uphill section you reach Back Lane. Near here there are plenty of small boutiques specialising in everything from clothing to antiques. Continuing uphill you pass Hampstead Village and take a turn along back roads.

At the top of the hill you reach a small man-made pond. You really feel like you are at the top of London.

Hampstead Pergola with trees and bushes overgrowing on all corners

The next part of the ride takes you to the undiscovered Hampstead Pergola. You’ll find it by sneaking down Inverforth Close and keeping to the left. The garden is open until 6pm and the chances are you’ll be one of only a couple of visitors.

The Pergola started life as an private Edwardian venue for garden parties and evening strolls. It was acquired by the then London County Council in 1960 and has been open to the public since 1963.

Pickup your bike again and head downhill for a short exploration of the gorgeous houses in this expensive part of London. Pedalling back up, you reach Hampstead Lane and eventually join the cycle path.

Hampstead heath views

Turning left you enter Hampstead Heath. The Heath incorporates hilly meadows, large open grassy spaces and woodland to create one of the most beautiful spots for cycling or walking in London. Cycling is permitted on a couple of designated routes through the park which are shared with walkers. The official speed limit is 8mph so make sure you keep your fingers on the brakes. After all, there’s no point speeding through such an extraordinarily beautiful area.

Follow the cycle route through the park and to the Highgate ponds. If you’ve packed your swimming costume then the men’s ponds are open for swimming on the right side of the route and the women’s are slightly further North. There’s also a mixed pond on the other side of Heath but this is only open in the summer.

Continuing, you exit the park briefly only to re-enter at Parliament Hill fields. If the sun is shining then this part of the route will undoubtedly be busy. There are some excellent activities in this area for kids which include the paddling pool.

You then pedal back to the station and take an optional detour uphill to Parliament Hill. This is one of the highest spots in London and provides splendid views.

How to follow this ride

This ride is part of the London Cycle Routes eBook. The eBook shows you around the best of London through 35 amazing rides. To download the Hampstead Heath sample ride follow the below link:

http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/hampstead-heath-cycle-route.pdf

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5 Responses to Hampstead Heath London cycle route

  1. John 18/10/2011 at 7:55 pm #

    I would imagine it’s looking fantastic with the autumn colours on the trees there now, good enough reason to forget it’s not summer but still worth a trip at this time of the year.
    Pass on the swimming bit though!

  2. Dermot 20/10/2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Thanks for posting this ride!

    I often ride up to Hampstead and Highgate (from Shoreditch) but I’d never heard of the pergola so, having a day off today, I headed up there this morning.

    I didn’t follow your route exactly – coming from Shoreditch via Islington, I’d already tackled quite a few hills: Hillmarton Road, Brecknock Road, Dartmouth Park Hill and Highgate High Street (the last two are pretty tough!) – so I skipped the northern loop around Hampstead Golf Club and headed straight along Hampstead Lane to the West Heath.

    The West Heath – which I’d never been to before – was more or less deserted which made for a really nice off-road ride. I eventually came to the pergola which was very impressive – a real hidden gem.

  3. James H 21/10/2011 at 10:09 am #

    Great ride idea.

    One point I would note – the station you mention at the beginning is not on the Overground – it sounds like the Northern Line tube station. The Overground is Hampstead Heath, down the bottom of the hill (so quite a climb back up to where you start!).

    Thanks again

    James

  4. Simon 08/11/2011 at 11:32 am #

    If the ride is half as nice as the photos show, then wow!

    You would almost be tempted to get the train into London just to give it a go.

    • Andreas 09/11/2011 at 3:00 am #

      Thanks Simon – It’s a great route – recommend it if we get any days of sunshine!

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