This long walk from King’s Cross, via Arsenal, to Highbury & Islington is full of things that make a great urban walk – street art, secret gardens, independent shops and idyllic back streets. If you’re looking for a long walk with variety of things to experience, this is your route.
I can’t tell you how much I recommend this walk – one of the best walks in London. The day I did it, I dropped my mum off at King’s Cross and wanted to see Gillespie Park. It so happened that it’s quite a distance from the station, but hey, I’m a city walker, am I not? I embarked on this journey through the streets of North London, not knowing what I was going to see. It was exciting, refreshing and gave me a chance to enjoy London on a weekday. I loved every bit of it – mostly the length and the variety.
In the end, I walked all the way from King’s Cross to Highbury & Islington via Arsenal and here are the 7 most interesting things I came across. You can go for this walk solo or take your friends, because it gives an insight into the character of the city.
Read about all the places and things I came across. By the end of the post you’ll know what to do this or another weekend.
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Street art and hidden garden
As soon as I left hustle and bustle of King’s Cross, I entered a different world. It was quieter, more laid back and slower. First thing I discovered there was Edward Square, a small green space on Copenhagen Street. If it wasn’t for the local community, who fought for it, it would’ve been wiped out and turned into apartments and/or offices.
It would be such a shame, because it’s a bit of a secret garden. It’s small and hidden, with just a few chair-like benches and a bit of green space, but what a place to rest. It’s hard to even call it a park, because it’s more like your back garden, only with a chance of meeting other people.
While relaxing look at Tolpuddle Martyrs Mural by Dave Bangs. It was painted in 1984, but the story of Tolpuddle Martyrs goes back to 19th century. The mural shows the gathering of people organised by the Central Committee of the Metropolitan Trade Unions to march between Copenhagen Fields, an area local to Kings Cross, to demonstrate against the transportation to Australia of early trade unionists who became known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
Urban spirit of Caledonian Road
While strolling along Caledonian Road I enjoyed observing everyday life of this part of Islington. I spotted a scene like the one on the picture below.
It amused me to see elderly ladies sitting in front of this bakery and two hip-looking guys leaving the same shop (moments before I took the picture).
Caledonian Road is busy, with a lot of little shops, but it’s a nice change from the previous part of the walk.
As you walk further along Caledonian Road, you’ll find Harold And Leslie, an unusual combination of hair salon, antiques & coffee shop. Across the road is another interesting building, though for different reasons. It’s Her Majesty Prison Pentonville, which you may have heard of in the news, because of two prisoners escaping from there in 2016.
The urban wildlife
Gillespie Park is a lovely place as it’s not just a park – it’s an ecological centre with many interesting plants and species of butterflies. It’s Islington’s largest nature reserve with ponds, woodlands and meadows. The park’s Ecology Centre gives advice on wildlife, gardening and sustainable living.
Even though London is a big city it really surprises me how close to the nature it is. Even if you live in a middle of brick and concrete house you can still enjoy wildlife at its best.
I saw only a little part of the park as most of it wasn’t accessible to me with a pushchair but at least I got to see some of its wonderful floor mosaics.
Coffee and independent shops
If you fancy a stop in the area, Blackstock Road has a lot to offer. You can enjoy a cup of coffee or a lunch in one of its nice-looking cafés, or have a browse in a second-hand shop Out of the Attic.
What I’d seen until I reached Blackstock Road were single spots and what had begun after that was an absolute paradise for a city walker – back streets of Islington with old houses, pretty views and some extra local attractions. Have a look for yourself.
As I turned in to one of the streets I found old Arsenal’s stadium, also known as Highbury Stadium. You may not know that apart from the new Emirates Stadium, which is home to Arsenal FC, there is also an old one built in 1913. It stopped serving its purpose in 2006 and part of it was re-developed into flats. Part of it still remains and you can see its East Stand that looks monumental in this lovely neighbourhood.
It’s an example of modernist architecture, which I like tracing around London. The buildings built in this style always look monumental and dominate over the neighbourhood.
Highbury & Islington
This walk finishes around Highbury & Islington station with the last highlight being Highbury Fields. It’s a nice park with a café, and a great spot for locals and visitors alike. It’s a perfect place to have some rest after all these miles.
Between the places I’ve mentioned, you’ll see some other which are also interesting, but there’s not that much to write about them. They’re just interesting. You can also choose a shorter route or divide this walk into a few smaller ones. Whichever way you go, it’ll give you a good insight into the character of North London. I enjoyed walking through the streets of Islington discovering the borough for myself and you can do that too, over any of the weekends.
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If you know other places in the area and you would like to recommend them to me and other readers, please leave a comment.