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Archive for October, 2012

National Trust in Hampstead


Many think the National Trust only has grand houses in the countryside but there are two interesting properties in Hampstead, north London: Fenton House and 2 Willow Road.


Fenton House


Fenton House Garden during the annual Apple Weekend
© Laura Porter


This 17th century merchant’s house is a lovely place to visit and has a popular, tiered walled garden. The Head Gardener, Andy Darragh, arrived in 2011 after 10 years as a garden team leader at The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. The gardens include a sunken rose garden, a formal lawn, herbaceous borders and a wisteria clad Mediterranean terrace. The working kitchen garden adjoins the three hundred year old apple orchard and further fruit vines climb against the heritage walls.


View of St Paul’s Cathedral from the balcony of Fenton House
© Laura Porter


Lady Katherine Binning bought the house in 1936 and filled it with her highly decorative collections of porcelain, Georgian furniture and 17th-century needlework. It is a treasure trove of fine furnishings, porcelain and art, and also home to the Benton Fletcher collection of early keyboard instruments.


View of the ‘Admiral’s House’ from the balcony at Fenton House
© Laura Porter


Fenton House and Garden is frequently used as a film location and is situated below the original Admiral’s house from the 1964 film Mary Poppins. Don’t miss the views from the top-floor balcony which include Canary Wharf and the City of London, plus a good look into the immaculate garden across the road which is where the film director Ridley Scott lives.


View of Ridley Scott’s garden from the balcony at Fenton House
© Laura Porter


Address: Fenton House and Garden, Hampstead Grove, Hampstead, London NW3 6SP


2 Willow Road


This is a much more recent building from the 1930s but it’s a fascinating insight into an architect’s dream. 2 Willow Road was designed by architect Ernö Goldfinger and is a fine example of a Modernist home. He moved into the family home in 1939 and the internal walls that fold back make it clear that he loved to have parties.


2 Willow Road
© Laura Porter


It’s intriguing to see where he lived and worked, and to check the book shelves. The house is facing Hampstead Heath so has great views. He also collected modern art so you can see pieces by Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Henry Moore and Bidget Riley.


The house has guided tours from 11am to 2pm on the hour and from 3pm to 5pm visitors can explore the house at their leisure. There is also a changing exhibition programme of contemporary responses to Goldfinger’s work.


Address: 2 Willow Road, Hampstead, London NW3 1TH



Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.

Love Locks in London

Love locks, or love padlocks, are seen as yet another way to declare undying love. Write/paint/engrave your names on a padlock, attach it to a bridge and throw the key into the water. What was once done together in secret at night is now a ceremony performed in broad daylight with accompanying blatant photos and videos to prove you did it.


It seems the origin of this romantic gesture is not known although Italian’s have the 2006 novel ‘I Want You’ by Federico Moccia to note for inspiration. Venice and Rome authorities are now spending a lot of time and money removing the locks as they are damaging historic bridges.


The idea has been seen across Europe since the early 2000s and some say the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris was where it all started.


I’ve heard it said it’s a souvenir to leave in a city you love that you hope you can visit when you next return together. Others say it simply disfigures a beautiful bridge. Either way, love locks can now to be seen in London and I went out to see how many I could find.


Location 1: Golden Jubilee Bridge

This footbridge connects the Southbank, outside the Southbank Centre, to Charing Cross station on the north side of the river Thames. (Hungerford Bridge is the railway bridge that runs parallel.) There weren’t many to be seen here and I spotted under ten locks in total.


Golden Jubilee Bridge
© Laura Porter


Best view: Look east towards Waterloo Bridge and in the distance you can see St Paul’s Cathedral. The Royal Festival Hall also looks rather good on the Southbank.


Anything else to spot?  Do look over at the ‘skateboard graveyard’ where the local skateboarders throw boards when they break.


Nearest tube stations: Waterloo (on the south) or Charing Cross (on the north).


Directions to Location 2: Catch the RV1 bus from behind the London Eye/Royal Festival Hall to Tate Modern.



Location 2: Millennium Bridge

New newest bridge in London, this footbridge links Tate Modern on the south to St Paul’s Cathedral on the north.

Millennium Bridge
© Laura Porter


Best view: Look north to St Paul’s Cathedral.


Anything else to spot?  If the tide is out, watch people mudlarking on the north riverbank. You can join in for free – just check the tide is a long way out first. Also on the north side, look for the ‘Funicular railway’ that runs next to the steps down under the bridge. If it’s working, it’s free to use.


Nearest tube stations: Southwark (on the south) or Blackfriars (on the north).


Directions to Location 3: Walk past Shakespeare’s Globe and Borough Market, past London Bridge, beside HMS Belfast and then City Hall before reaching Tower Bridge.



Location 3: Tower Bridge

This London landmark is a bridge used by traffic and pedestrians. Tower Bridge opened in 1894 and was only painted the iconic red, white and blue in 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. And it’s not London Bridge – that’s the plain concrete bridge to the west.


Tower Bridge
© Laura Porter

Best view: Look up to Tower Bridge’s high walkways, or look north to the Tower of London, or look south to City Hall (that glass egg-shaped building).


Anything else to spot?  Lots of good views from this bridge so just take it all in. And do wave to the boats that go under as it’s considered good luck for them to get a wave from someone on Tower Bridge.


Nearest tube stations: London Bridge (on the south) or Tower Hill (on the north).


Directions to Location 4: Catch the 78 bus from Tower Bridge (going north) to Shoreditch.



Location 4: Shoreditch Station

In London this loving idea has spread from bridges to a wire fence opposite Shoreditch station.  From the station entrance/exit simply look across the street to your left. You really can’t miss them as there are over 100 padlocks here at the last count.


Shoreditch High Street Station
© Laura Porter


Anything else to spot?  Look out for street art in this part of town.


Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street (London Overground).




Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.

London Monopoly Board Locations

This popular board game was first produced in the UK by Waddingtons in the 1930s after they obtained a licence from the US company Parker Brothers. Some of the locations are still worth visiting and some are strange choices but let’s look at them in order and see what’s of interest nearby.


Old Kent Road  The only location south of the river, I’d like to say there was a good reason to head down here but there aren’t many. The Cuming Museum is a lovely little local history museum over on Walworth Road and the Electric Elephant Cafe is a fine place to stop in an artist’s quarter nearby.


Whitechapel Bell Foundry
© Laura Porter


Whitechapel Road  There are Jack the Ripper connections to this area, and a thriving cheap street market but the place to really know about is the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. It’s where Big Ben was made and the original Liberty Bell. They also cast the bell that welcomed the start of the London 2012 Olympics. There’s a small museum to visit and you can see into the foundry from the side gate. Tours can be booked but plan months ahead.


Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station
© Laura Porter


King’s Cross Station  I’ve got to mention Harry Potter here, haven’t I? There is a Platform 9 ¾ available for photo opportunities in the new departures concourse by platform 10.


The Angel, Islington  Upper Street is a street of bars and restaurants for the upwardly mobile. Worth exploring just off Upper Street, near Angel tube station, is Camden Passage – a thriving antiques village with shops, arcades, malls and markets.


Wellcome Collection
© Laura Porter


Euston Road  Both the British Library and the Wellcome Collection are worth visiting. The British Library has the Magna Carta, hand-written Beatles lyrics, Bibles and much more. The Wellcome Collection is also free to visit and it explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future.


Pentonville Road  The Big Chill is a bar and club at the King’s Cross end of the road with the same laid back vibes as the annual Big Chill Festival. It’s fun here from breakfast ’til bedtime.


Pall Mall  This road is parallel to The Mall. At one end you could wander over and see the only Nazi memorial in London and at the other you can see St James’s Palace.


Dismounting Ceremony
© Laura Porter


Whitehall  This street runs from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square, passing 10 Downing Street (the home of the Prime Minister) and Horse Guard’s Parade where you can see the mounted cavalry. Top tip: there’s a daily dismounting ceremony at 4pm.


Northumberland Avenue  Also running from Trafalgar Square, just off of here is Craven Street and Benjamin Franklin House, the world’s only surviving former home of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.


Winter Garden at The Landmark London
© Laura Porter


Marylebone Station  The Beatles filmed scenes for A Hard Day’s Night here in 1964 and John Lennon tripped on the cobbles. It’s also where you’ll find the stunning five star Landmark London Hotel. I’ve stayed there and can confirm it’s totally wonderful.


Bow Street  On the edge of Covent Garden, opposite the Royal Opera House, look out for Enzo Plazzotta’s Young Dancer bronze statue at the junction with Broad Street.


Marlborough Street  (This means Great Marlborough Street, I believe.) The Courthouse Hotel is on the site of the former Magistrate’s Court which saw many famous faces in the dock. Charles Dickens worked here as a court reporter – so he was a good boy, but Oscar Wilde, Mick Jagger and John Lennon all attended court cases and – as it is a heritage building – there are a couple of cells still in the bar area.


Vine Street, W1
© Laura Porter


Vine Street  Probably the most uninteresting location of all, this back street has nothing to offer. But it is just off Piccadilly so pop across to the Piccadilly Market at St James’s Church. Or head into the Royal Academy courtyard to see what’s on display for free there. Look out for the unusual wooden postbox at the entrance (on the left) and the first red telephone box (on the right).


Strand  Go to the Aldwych end of the street and turn off at Surrey Street and into Strand Lane where you’ll find a Roman bath! Also, pop over to Australia House and ask if you can look inside (just from the doorway) as it’s the location used for Gringott’s Bank in the Harry Potter films.


Fleet Street  There are lots of places to see on this street once synonymous with the newspaper industry. A pub on a former site of the Bank of England, called the Old Bank of England pub. Sweeney’s Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, had his barber shop at 186 Fleet Street, the Dundee Courier building. Or visit the Twinings Tea Shop which has a small museum at the back.


Trafalgar Square  Already on most people’s ‘must see’ list for their trip to London, look out for the world’s smallest police box in the southeast corner, now used as a cleaner’s storage.


Leadenhall Market
© Laura Porter


Fenchurch Street Station  Wander over to Leadenhall Market, the restored, covered Victorian Market. It’s a lovely place to shop or grab lunch and you may well recognise it as Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter movies.


Leicester Square  As this is the home of London film premieres look out for the movie star handprints around the square. M&M World arrived in 2011 and the four floors of chocolate fun is popular all day long.


Coventry Street  At Piccadilly Circus you’ll also find Ripley’s Believe It or Not! – part of a global chain of odditoriums, with over 700 authentic, original, and unbelievable exhibits collected from all over the world, representing the places and cultures visited by Robert Ripley during his travels.


Fortnum & Mason clock
© Laura Porter


Piccadilly  Do head into the 300 year old department store, Fortnum & Mason. On the hour pop outside and see Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason appear from the clock above the front entrance, bow to each other and then go back inside.


Regent Street  Hamleys, the world’s largest toy store, is where I would go. When peckish, go into Heddon Street for the Regent Street Food Quarter where tibits is the best veggie buffet in town.


Oxford Street  A street of excessive shopping awaits. Selfridges and John Lewis are excellent department stores and many love Primark for its bargain clothing.


Allies statue
© Laura Porter


Bond Street  At the junction of Old Bond Street and New Bond Street is a bronze bench statue of Churchill & Roosevelt called Allies. There’s enough space between the gentlemen for you to squeeze in and it makes a fun photo opportunity.


Liverpool Street  Old Spitalfields Market is great to explore as is Denis Severs’ House, an unmodernized 18th century house that is home to a fictional family of Huguenot silk weavers.


Park Lane  In Hyde Park, at the Marble Arch corner, there’s Speaker’s Corner every Sunday where free speech reigns.


Mayfair  Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair is an unusual spot to stop for a sandwich at lunchtime. It’s an Italianate raised, paved garden over Duke Street Electricity Substation.



A good read on exploring the London Monopoly Board further is Do Not Pass Go by Tim Moore, and my friend, Andy Jarosz, has walked to all the London Monopoly Board locations in a day but you can read his post so you don’t have to.



Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. You can follow her at @AboutLondon and find out more at about.me/lauraporter.

Hampstead Heath Hill Garden and Pergola

This little known section of the sprawling Hampstead Heath is a hidden treasure. Some call it the ‘secret garden’ as you can be very near without knowing it’s there. (I can concur this is true as when I visited we walked nearby for some time before discovering it so I’ve added helpful directions at the bottom.) It’s a wonderful example of faded Edwardian grandeur and still feels secret although it has been open to the public since the 1960s.


© Laura Porter


Hill Garden History

In 1904 a large town house on the edge of Hampstead Heath called ‘The Hill’ was bought by William H Lever who was the founder of Lever Brothers. This soap magnate, who later became Lord Leverhulme, was a wealthy philanthropist, and patron of the Arts, architecture and landscape gardening.


In 1905 he purchased the surrounding land with the intention of creating a stunning pergola for garden parties and a place to spend time with family and friends. Thomas Mawson, a world famous landscape architect, was put in charge of the construction. Mawson was a leading exponent of the Arts and Crafts garden and took his lead from Humphrey Repton; both who proclaimed the importance of linking a garden to the wider landscape with gradually lessening degrees of formality. The Hill Garden and Pergola has become one of the best surviving examples of his work.


© Laura Porter


Work began on the Pergola in 1905 with incredibly fortuitous timing as the Northern Line Hampstead extension was being built and there was an abundance of excess soil to be disposed of. Ever the smart businessman, Lord Leverhulme actually received a fee for each wagon load of soil he received from the tunnelling which gave him the ability to realise his dream and have his pergola raised high, as planned.


By 1906 the Pergola was finished but extensions and additions continued for many more years.


© Laura Porter


In 1911 more surrounding land was acquired and a ‘public right of way’ concern was dealt with by the construction of a stone bridge over the public path.


Progress was interrupted by the Great War (1914-18) so the next development wasn’t completed until 1925 with an extension to the Pergola, adding a Summer Pavilion, shortly before Lord Leverhulme died on 7 May 1925.


© Laura Porter


Baron Inverforth bought Hill House and renamed the property Inverforth House. He stayed here until his death in 1955 and the property had a short life as a convalescent home for Manor House Hospital.


But the former opulence of Lord Leverhulme’s Hill Garden wasn’t maintained and the dilapidation meant many of the original timbers of the Pergola were rotted away beyond repair before the London County Council bought the Pergola and associated gardens in 1960.


Thankfully the Council and its successor bodies (Greater London Council and City of London Corporation who now maintain the space) have worked to restore the gardens and the area has been open to the public since 1963 when the lily pond was added on the site of a tennis court.


© Laura Porter


The Pergola

At nearly 800 foot long, the Pergola is a Grade II listed structure and is as long as Canary Wharf tower. It includes a majestic avenue of classical stone columns with supporting wooden beams and provides a raised walkway with overgrown vines and flowers.


© Laura Porter


There’s a unique atmosphere at Hill Garden as you can sense the faded grandeur but it is full of character. It’s a wonderfully peaceful location and a perfect spot for a romantic picnic.


© Laura Porter


It’s a dog-free zone – the gate sign declares “NO DOGS (not even yours)” – so you can enjoy the lawns and relax on the grass too.


© Laura Porter




Address: Inverforth Close, off North End Way, London NW3 7EX


Nearest Tube Station: Golder’s Green (Northern Line)

Come out of the station and turn left and walk up the hill along North End Road. After about 10 minutes you’ll see the entrance to Hampstead Heath and Golders Hill Park on the right, opposite the turning for Hampstead Way on your left. There is a pedestrian crossing to cross to the park. Enter the park and there’s a cafe here and toilets. When ready, opposite the cafe is a signpost directing you towards the ‘Hill Garden & Pergola’. Take this path, go up the steps, and go straight across to the gate to enter the Hill Garden. You’ll enter near the lily pond. There are other gates but this should be the easiest to find when you first visit.


Opening Hours

Open daily: 8.30am to dusk. Closing time varies throughout the year from 3.45pm to 8.30pm.


Official Website: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk