Unless you happen to frequently visit London as a tourist, or you are a native to the city then it is likely that when you think about the major attractions and activities which can be found in the capital then certain major ones immediately jump out. Of course, London’s great historical and cultural background is what makes it such a fascinating place to visit and its famous landmarks such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Thames are all worthy of several hours’ exploration but equally London has some diverse and interesting attractions which often get overlooked.
If you fancy heading somewhere a little more off the beaten track during your next holiday break to London, or want to escape the hordes of tourists then here are some fantastic suggestions of places which will offer a slightly different view on the interesting past of the capital city:-
London Canal Museum
There are two different concepts to discover in this unusual London museum; the first is the history and importance of London’s canals. You can learn how and why they were built, the lives of those who worked them, the horses, the cargo and how they work as well as having the chance to see inside a canal narrowboat. The second concept is the story of the ice industry in London. The museum itself is housed in a former ice warehouse which was constructed in 1862 for Carlo Gatti; a well known ice-cream maker and there is still a commercial Victorian ice well on display which was used to store imported ice. This museum certainly provides another side to the story, showing how London’s waterways were about more than just trading on the River Thames.
St Pancras Old Church and Gardens
Is it thought that there has been a church standing on this site from more than 1,700 years and it is clear that it dates back to Roman times; you can still see fragments of Roman material in the current building including a 6th century altar although the main church building has been rebuilt many times throughout the ages. However, it is not so much the church which is of interest but the former churchyard, St Pancras Gardens. Approximately 150 years ago, the Victorians decided to build a railway line through the churchyard and many of those who were buried there had to be exhumed and moved. Their bodies were reburied with the original tombstones around the base of a tree, under the direction of author and poet Thomas Hardy, who was then just a young surveyor. A visit to the Gardens is also not complete without visiting the striking Soane family mausoleum; built by Sir John Soane its design went on to inspire Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s famous red telephone box which is certainly not a story you hear every day! St Pancras Old Church and Gardens is located in the borough of Islington and would be just a short walk if you were staying in The Montcalm London City At The Brewery Hotel.
Camley Street Natural Park
Set right in the heart of London; concealed by the urban King’s Cross, Camley Street Natural Park is two acres of wild woodland, meadow and water. Run by London Wildlife Trust this is a favourite green space with people of all ages and is a wonderful place to visit if you want to escape the busyness of the capital city for a short time. It has been designed to attract a variety of wildlife such as birds, bees, butterflies and amphibians and there is also a diverse mix of plant life too. Camley Street Natural Park was built on an old coal yard and has been standing since 1984; with a visitor centre and picnic facilities it is the ideal place to spend a few hours on a warm and sunny afternoon.
John Ritblat Gallery
Located within the British Library, the John Ritblat Gallery is home to more than 200 beautiful treasures including the likes of Gutenberg’s Bible of 1455, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, Handel’s Messiah, and Shakespeare’s First Folio. It is also a permanent home to many more magnificent scientific texts, historical manuscripts, musical works and hand-painted books. Over half the items on display have not been seen by the public for many years. This is a real treat for anyone with an interest in the literary world and is open Monday to Sunday with no charge for entry. A truly amazing gallery to be experienced.
If you find yourself at a loose end during your next visit to London then any of the above attractions would offer a more unusual way to spend a couple of hours and should be enjoyed and appreciated at lease once. We guarantee you won’t be left feeling disappointed.