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Parks & Palaces: 8 Great Royal Attractions

Alison Hjul

Want to scoot or cycle through London’s most stunning parks? Or follow in the steps of Henry VIII through the corridors of his favourite royal palace?

From the birth of the newest little Windsor earlier this year to the exploits of Prince Harry, the young royals may grab all the headlines. But they’re blessed with a rich heritage that goes back hundreds of years.

 

1 - Hampton Court Palace

http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/

Cycle or scoot along the Thames Path to King Henry VIII’s favourite royal residence, which celebrates its 500th anniversary this year with a host of events for kids of all ages.

With the help of a cast of characters from the Palace’s past, visitors can stroll through the its magnificent rooms, marvel at the amazing tapestries in its medieval Great Hall and explore the vast kitchens, where a team of cooks will roast meat on an open fire every day throughout the summer.

Hampton Court is just as spectacular outside. Its grounds include 60 acres of formal gardens, planted with more than 200,000 flowering bulbs, and a 750 acre deer park.

But the gardens’ star attraction must be its famous Maze, planted with yew and the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze. How long will it take your kids to negotiate its twists and turns before discovering its centre – and, with relief, the correct route back out again?

We love the scenic scoot or ride to the Palace alongside the river or through Bushy Park. But you’ll have to store or carry the scooter or park your bike when you get there because scooting and cycling aren’t allowed in the grounds so remember to take your ScooterSlingz bag!

 

Opening Times & Admissions

Palace and Maze: 29 March – 24 Oct, 10am to 6pm

Admission:

Palace, Gardens, Maze: Adult £19.30, Concession £16, Child 5-15 15 £9.70, Child under 5 Free

Maze only: Adult £4.40, Child 5-15 £2.75

Gardens only: Adult £5.80, Concession: £4.90, Child up to 15 Free

 

Wheely Friendly?

Scooters: Not permitted in the Palace or grounds. Limited free of charge storage space near the main entrance, at owner’s risk.

Buggies: Not permitted inside the Palace. Free storage space, at owner’s risk.

Bikes: Cycling not allowed in the grounds. Bike racks to left of main palace entrance, by entrance to the Wilderness Garden.

 

Public Transport

Overground: Hampton Court Station

Bus: 111, 216, 411, 461, 513, R68

Boat: Hampton Court Pier

 

2 - Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground

www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/sports-and-leisure/diana-memorial-playground

Famed for her rapport with children, Princess Diana would have loved this enchanting tribute to her. Set around a magnificent wooden pirate ship among plants and trees, the free playground provides a safe environment for children to play in the sand, follow a sensory trail, hang out in tepees, and investigate interesting toys and sculptures.

Take the scooters for a whizz around the paths of Kensington Gardens, where the playground is located, or a visit to Kensington Palace, if they’ve any energy left.  

But the playground isn’t suitable for scooting, so you’ll have to carry your scooter between different areas.

 

Opening Times

Only adults supervising children up to the age of 12 will be admitted. On busy days, queue management takes place.

May-August: 10am to 7.45pm; April & September: 10am to 6.45pm

 

Wheely Friendly?

Scooters & Buggies: Kensington Gardens has paths suitable for scooters and buggies. There are some shaded spots to park buggies and scooters in the playground, or you’ll need to carry them between different areas.

Bikes: Cycling not allowed in the playground. There is a bike rack in front of the entrance to the playground.

Cycling allowed on all roads and some specially designated cycle routes in Kensington Gardens. Popular routes include the Broad Walk, Palace Walk and Mount Walk. Children up to 10 allowed to cycle on all paths.

 

Public Transport

Underground: Queensway (nearest for Diana Memorial Playground). Also Lancaster Gate, Bayswater, High Street Kensington

Buses: Numerous

 

3 - Regent’s Park

www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park

http://www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo

Flora, fauna and a host of family friendly facilities make Regent’s Park the perfect destination for a day out in London. Designed in 1811 by architect John Nash, the park features more than 12,000 roses, and large collections of waterfowl and birds.

But the main attraction for kids is surely London Zoo, the world’s oldest scientific zoo and home to 750 different species of animals.

Or, if you’re feeling more culturally inclined, Regent Park’s Open Air Theatre stages productions every summer.

 

Opening Times

5am to 9.30pm

 

Wheely Friendly?

Scooters & Buggies: The park has many paths suitable for scooters and buggies.

Bikes: Cycling allowed on all roads and some specially designated cycle routes. A popular cycling route is the northern section of the Broad Walk (between Chester Road and Outer Circle). Children up to 10 allowed to cycle on all paths. Cycle racks in 15 locations across the park.

 

Public Transport

Underground: Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street, Baker Street, St John’s Wood, Camden Town

Buses: Numerous

 

4 - Richmond Park

www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park

At 2,500 acres, the largest royal park in London is a National Nature Reserve, and home to herds of red and fallow deer.

Other wildlife abound throughout the park, including kestrels, owls, waterfowl and more than 1,000 species of beetle.

Richmond Park is also renowned for its ancient trees and popular for its expanses of grassland and woodland gardens. Most notable among these is Isabella Plantation, with its exotic flowers, such as large collections of azaeleas, rhododendrons and camelias.

 

Opening Times

Pedestrian gates are open 24 hours except during the deer cull in November and February, when they’re open 7.30am to 8pm

 

Wheely Friendly?

Scooters & Buggies: The park has paths suitable for scooters and buggies.

Bikes: Cycling allowed on all roads and some specially designated cycle routes. Popular routes include: the Thames Cycle Route across the park from Ham Gate to Roehampton Gate; the Tamsin Trail, a 12km popular leisure path round the park’s perimeter. There are also cycle hire facilities in the car park near Roehampton Gate from April-September.

Children up to 10 allowed to cycle on all paths.

Cycling isn’t allowed within Isabella Plantation. It is allowed to the Peg’s Pond Gate of Isabella Plantation within the disabled user’s car park, accessed from the main park road at Ham Cross. This gate has a cycle stand.

 

Public Transport

Overground and Underground: Richmond Station

Buses: numerous, providing transport to the different gates. These include 371 and 65 from Richmond Station to the pedestrian gate at Petersham.

 

5 - Hyde Park

www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park

Another one of London’s eight Royal Parks, Hyde Park is a haven for active families.

From walking, scooting and running along its paths, to swimming and boating on the Serpentine, the Park has sporting and recreational facilities for all ages – there’s even a playground for grandparents!

The park also has a dedicated horse riding area and two routes for riding.

 

Opening Times

5am to midnight

 

Wheely Friendly?

Scooters & Buggies: The park has many paths suitable for scooters and buggies.

Bikes: Cycling allowed on all roads and some specially designated cycle routes. Popular routes include: from Alexandra Gate to Hyde Park Corner, along Rotten Row; from Hyde Park Corner along Serpentine Road; from Victoria Gate along North Carriage Drive towards Speakers’ Corner and along the Broad Walk.

Children up to 10 allowed to cycle on all paths.

Cycle stands close to the Lido Cafe and the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain.

 

Public Transport

Underground: Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge

Buses: Numerous

 

6 - Tower of London

http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/

This historic castle and former royal residence is infamous as a place of imprisonment, torture and death. From queens to crooks, its luckless captives have included Queen Elizabeth 1, Guy Fawkes and the Kray twins.

But today it is best known for the Crown Jewels, ravens and ‘Beefeaters’.

Joining a Yeoman Warder (as Beefeaters prefer to be called) tour is the best way to find out about the Tower’s gruesome and glorious past, and discover its historic buildings. At its centre is the White Tower, dating back to Norman times and now home to the impressive Royal Armouries collection. 

 

Opening Times & Admissions

1 March – 31 Oct – Tue to Sat: 9am to 5.30pm; Sun to Mon: 10am to 5.30pm

Admission: Adult £24.50, Concession £18.70, Child £11

 

Wheely Friendly?

Scooters: Not permitted in the Tower buildings or grounds. Limited free of charge storage space near the main entrance, at owner’s risk.

Buggies: Not permitted inside the Tower buildings. Free storage space, at owner’s risk.

Bikes: Cycling not allowed in the grounds. Bike racks next to the main shop at the Tower.

 

Public Transport

Overground: Fenchurch Street, London Bridge

Underground: Tower Hill (District Line)

Buses: 15, 42, 78, 100,RV1

Boat: Tower Pier

 

7 - Kew Palace, the Royal Kitchens and Kew Gardens

http://www.hrp.org.uk/KewPalace/

This bijou and beautiful royal residence is most famous as the home of ‘mad’ King George III and Queen Charlotte. Visitors can experience life as a Georgian royal in the second-floor bedrooms, which remain untouched for 200 years, and Royal Kitchens, recently opened to the public.

Kew Palace is located in the world famous Kew Gardens, with more than 30,000 species of plants. Outdoor and indoor play areas, a human-scale badger set and aquarium are among the wealth of activities for younger visitors.

If you cycle or scoot along the river to Kew Gardens you’ll have to park your bike or carry your scooter when you get there, since cycling and scooting aren’t allowed in the Gardens.

 

Opening Times & Admissions

Gardens:

22 April to 31 Aug 2015:

Mon to Fri – 10am to 6.30pm; Weekends/Bank Holidays – 10am to 7.30pm

1 Sept to 24 Oct – 10am to 6pm

 

Admission to Kew Gardens gains access to all buildings in the Gardens, including Kew Palace: Adults £15, Concession £14, Child 4-16 £3.50, Child 3 & under Free

Palace:

22 April to 27 Sept - 10.30am to 5.30pm

Closed from 27 Sept

 

Wheely Friendly?

Scooters: Not allowed in the grounds of Kew Gardens. There is limited storage space in Kew Palace so they need to be left outside the palace, at the owner’s risk, or carried.

Buggies: Buggy storage area outside the Palace and in the nearby buggy park, at owner’s risk. Buggies aren’t permitted inside the Palace, for conservation reasons and also due to narrow passageways.

Bikes: Cycling isn’t permitted in the Gardens. There are bike racks in Kew Gardens, at Victoria Gate and Brentford Gate.

 

Public Transport

Overground: Kew Gardens Station (London Overground); Kew Bridge (South West Trains)

Underground: Kew Gardens Station (District Line)

Buses: 65, 391, 237, 267

Boat: In summer, Thames River Boats operate a service from Westminster Pier to Kew. Kew Pier is approx 500m from Kew Gardens’ Elizabeth Gate entrance.

 

8 - Royal Observatory, Greenwich

http://www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory

Visit the home of Greenwich Mean Time where you can stand on the world’s Prime Meridian line, Longitude 0º, which divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth. The Greenwich Meridian has been the centre of world time since the 19th century, and it was also the official starting point for the new Millennium. 

The Royal Observatory also houses London’s only Planetarium, where children over 5 can experience a series of spectacular journeys into space, from landing on Mars to exploring the birth of a star.

 

Opening Times & Admissions

10am to 5pm daily

Admission: Adult £9.50, Concessions £7.50, Child £5, Child under 5 Free

 

Wheely Friendly?

Scooters: Not permitted in the Observatory. Can be left in the buggy park, at owner’s risk.

Buggies: Max 4 buggies (and/or wheelchairs) allowed in South Building at any one time. Buggies not allowed in other buildings at the Royal Observatory. Buggy park in the courtyard with limited storage capacity. Buggies left at owner’s risk.

Bikes: Free cycle racks in the National Maritime Museum car park in Park Row.

 

Public Transport

Overground: Cannon Street

DLR: Bank, Tower Gateway

Boat: Greenwich Pier

Buses: 177, 180, 188, 199, 286, 386

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