For our money here at Drawing Down the Moon, the crazy rise of romantic walking dates was one of the only good things to come out of lockdown. Socially distanced dating served to remind us all of what really matters when it comes to flirting, romance and love: that all-important in-person connection. Sure we missed the accidentally-on-purpose grazing of hands, the tantalising moment you stand a little too close together for the very first time, the seating arrangement on a cramped bench with a coffee… but hey—nothing’s stopping you from those special moments of sensuality now we’ve moved on from the pandemic!
Sometimes the simplest dates are the most inspiring, so grab your boots or otherwise appropriate footwear and get ready to ramble. Forget pricey restaurants and noisy bars. When the setting is minimal, it’s all about you and your date. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t pick somewhere picturesque—and if you and your date love taking in the sights of London hand in hand on a long and meandering walk, here are 5 of the best to whisk them off to—with total ‘spontaneity’, of course!
1) Get up in the treetops at Kew Gardens
Towering 18m (59 ft) above the lush greenery far below, the Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens is a marvellously constructed trail from the same architects who brought the London Eye to the capital. The charming, gently swaying walkway up in the heights of 200-year-old lime, oak and chestnut trees affords you and your date a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the world-famous gardens, which also boasts, among other things, awe-inspiring cactus displays and astonishing glasshouses, each an artwork in its own right. Look down if you dare, and you’ll see sculptures carved from tree trunks which illustrate the microscopic elements of trees to explain how they grow. (And once you’ve descended from the Walkway and fancy a closer look, there’s even a path leading underground to the superbly named Rhizotron, a subterranean lab constructed to study the soil.) On the Treetop Walkway in Kew Gardens you and your lovely date are guaranteed to enjoy a unique panorama of the Big Smoke’s skyline, and get close to nature up with the bugs and the birds, where no one can hear your sweet nothings.
2) Head into the wilds—at St Dunstan-in-the-East
St Dunstan-in-the-East was a parish church on St Dunstan’s Hill, sadly destroyed in World War Two—but the silver lining is that its ruins have been turned into a stunning public garden. The Church Garden is a bona fide oasis amid the bustling city, complete with discreet benches for some peace and privacy, a gorgeous fountain, and greenery draping every medieval wall you lay your eyes on. The garden features exotic plants, and all manner of London’s wildlife call it home. It was even awarded a Landscape Heritage Award in 1976, and it retains that prestige to this day. The Church Garden is a haven, tucked away in the most unlikely of spots—so if your date’s something of a history buff, they’re sure to love walking the winding cobbled paths, trodden by countless Londoners of yore.
3) Take a Thames route the tourists don’t know about
Holidaymakers typically stroll the Thames via the crowded South Bank—but show off your local knowledge with a far more leisurely and secluded walk around the Hammersmith Bridge area. The Thames Path National Trail is a 10km point-to-point trail between Hammersmith and Fulham, and takes about two and a half hours to complete—more than enough time for some deep meaningful conversations (although the time will likely whizz by if you’re in the presence of The One!). This pleasant and relatively quiet stretch of the river often hosts rowing competitions come summertime, and there are photo ops galore in this scenic patch of the capital. Plus with historic pubs dotted along the riverside at convenient intervals, the two of you can clink your glasses as you watch the world (and boats) go by.
Walking the Thames Path National Trail between Hammersmith and Fulham will show your date the capital in a whole new light
4) Get in the midst of the wildlife—on the Parkland Walk
You can’t get much more romantic than strolling through the unfiltered beauty and natural serenity of greenery and wildlife. Enter: the Parkland Walk. At 4km (3.1 miles), it’s the longest linear nature reserve in London, running the route of an old train track from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace. The Parkland Walk is positively teeming with bright flowers and blooming trees, passing beneath dramatic disused railway arches, and—like any good London walk—culminating in several cosy pubs where you can rest your weary legs with a glass of the good stuff.
5) Stand in the spot where one of our greatest poets met his love—in Hampstead
Hampstead is world-renowned for its windswept heights and staggering views of the London cityscape—and no romantic walk along its heath is complete without stopping by Keats House, the former home of English poet John Keats. It was here he’d write perhaps his most famous work, ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, after having become profoundly enamoured of his neighbour Fanny Brawne. But it wasn’t meant to be for these star-crossed lovers: Keats would die of TB at just 25, before they could even wed. His literary masterpieces live on, though, and you can keep their exaltation of nature’s beauty front of mind as you sit with a picnic on the heath, drinking in the timeless scenery—hand in hand with your very own John Keats or Fanny Brawne.