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Holland Park

Holland House was built by the diplomat Sir Walter Cope in 1605. He was a contemporary of Robert Cecil and was a key advisor to James 1. His friends nicknamed the house Cope Castle. When King James's eldest son Prince Henry died of typhoid King James and his second son the future Charles I spent time at Cope Castle. On his death the house passed to his daughter who was the Countess of Holland. Hence the name of the house.

The house originally stood in grounds of 500 acres. Over a period of time the house changed ownership passing to the Rich family and then to the Fox family, where it became an important gathering ground for Whigs in the 19th century.

Gradually parts of the estate were sold off for development and during the WWII blitz Holland House was largely destroyed by German firebombing. Holland House and its remaining grounds were bought by the London County Council in 1948 from the then owner Lord Ilchester.

The remains of Holland House form a backdrop for the open air Holland Park Theatre. An YHA hostel was located in the house for many years but was closed in 2012. A Staysafe tourist hostel now operates there. Three buildings survived the blitz. The Orangery is now an exhibition space, the Summer Ballroom now a restaurant, and the former ice-house is now a gallery.

Contained within the park is the beautiful Kyoto Garden; a Japanese garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991.

Today Holland Park is spread over 53 acres and contains formal gardens, a tortoise sundial, a large chess set and a number of peacocks. It is open from 7.30am to half an hour before dusk.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace began as a simple two-story Jacobean mansion built by Sir George Coppin in 1605 in the village of Kensington. Shortly after William III and Mary II assumed the throne in 1689, they began searching for a new residence as William was a bad asthma sufferer and Whitehall Palace was unsuitable, so they acquired the Jacobean mansion from the then owner the Earl of Nottingham. The mansion was then renamed Kensington Palace. 

​Sir Christopher Wren was hired to expand the mansion which was renamed Kensington Palace. William had a highway created (later this became Rotten Row) so that he could walk to St James's Palace. He installed 30 oil lamps and it became the first artificially lit highway in Britain.

For the next seventy years it was the main residence for the British monarchs. The last monarch to live in Kensington Palace was George II who died in 1760. Kensington Palace was the childhood home of Queen Victoria.

Today Kensington Palace is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and other members of the Royal Family. The State Apartments were open to the public in 1899 and since then Kensington Palace has a dual role as a public museum and a royal palace.

Kensington Gardens

​Kensington Gardens was originally the western section of Hyde Park, which had been created by Henry VIII in 1536 to use as a hunting ground.

​In 1726 Queen Caroline wife of George II wanted to formerly separate Kensington Gardens from Hyde Park and employed Henry Wise and Charles Bridgeman as designers. They introduced the Round Pond, formal avenues and a sunken Dutch Garden. Bridgeman created the Serpentine by damming the River Westbourne. It created a single large lake replacing 11 natural ponds which existed originally. Eventually the Westbourne became so polluted that it was diverted into a calvert. Instead 3 bore holes were drilled which provide clean water for the Serpentine.

​In the 1820s, the park was extensively redesigned by Decimus Burton. At the same time, John Rennie built the Serpentine Bridge to carry the newly built West Carriage Drive along the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, dividing the lake into the Serpentine (east) and the Long Water (west).

​The Albert Memorial is one of London's most important monuments, designed by George Gilbert Scott. Unveiled in 1872. It commemorates the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, who died of typhoid fever at the age of 42. It celebrates Victorian achievement and Prince Albert's passions and interests.

​The Princess Diana Memorial Children’s Playground opened in 2000. The centrepiece is a huge wooden pirate ship. At the entrance to the playground is the Elfin Oak. This is the stump of a 900-year-old oak tree carved and painted by Ivor Innes in 1928 to look as though elves, gnomes and small animals are living in its bark.

​The Italian Gardens is a 150-year-old ornamental water garden located at the end of the Long Water. It was restored in 2011 using money donated by the Tiffany Foundation of USA.

​Today Kensington Gardens covers an area of 242 acres and is opened from 6 am to dusk.

​Animals at War Memorial

​The memorial was designed by English sculptor David Backhouse to commemorate the countless animals that have served and died under British military command throughout history. It was unveiled in November 2004 by Princess Anne.

Constructed in Portland stone and cast bronze, 58ft wide and 55ft deep, the memorial has a strong visual impact, both from distant and close views.

Grosvenor Square

Grosvenor Square is a garden square developed by Sir Richard Grosvenor in 1721. For a long time it has been one of the most fashionable parts of London. The United States Embassy has been based here for many years but is moving to Nine Elms in 2017. The square is home to statues of Roosevelt and Eisenhower and contains a monument to pilots from the Eagle Squadron (American volunteers for the RAF). A 9/11 Memorial Garden has also been established in memory of the 67 Britons killed on that fateful day. The square is now managed by the Royal Parks.

Refreshments Available

​The route passes plenty of pubs along the banks of the Thames at the start of the stage.

There is a Wetherspoons pub the William Morris opposite Hammersmith Station and another one the Metropolitan next to Baker Street tube.

There is an excellent cafe in St Pauls Church which is passed on route.

There is a cafe in Holland Park.

There is a restaurant in Kensington Palace.


​The State Apartments at Kensington Palace may be visited:

There are guided tours of the Albert Memorial.

There is free admission to the Serpentine Art Gallery is in Kensington Gardens.

There is free admission to the Wallace Collection which is a national museum which displays works of art bequeathed to the British nation by Lady Wallace, in 1897. The collection includes the famous Laughing Cavalier.

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