London’s largest and most prestigious Royal park, Hyde Park’s bursting at the seams with fascinating features, ornate beauty and a never-ending expanse of glorious grassland and peaceful trees. However, as this is a guide to this most esteemed public space, let’s take a closer look at the 360-hectare attraction’s greatest elements…
Although the land now known as Hyde Park was first laid out in 1536 (thanks to the legendary King Henry VIII characteristically seizing it from Westminster Abbey’s monks so he could hunt on it) and the park itself first opened in 1637 (at the behest of King Charles I), its most recognisable feature, The Serpentine lake, wasn’t actually constructed until 1730. It owes its existence to Queen Caroline, consort of King James II, and can be found at the western end, before it stretches into the neighbouring Kensington Gardens and becomes the Long Water. Nowadays it’s loved by locals and tourists alike for swimming in on warm days and boating and messing about in pedalos.
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
A firm favourite of visitors staying at hotels near Hyde Park, this relatively recent but already iconic monument to the late, much loved member of the Royal family is a place for reflection and solitude certainly, but also something that will surely impress enthusiasts of modern, dynamic landscaping and artwork. Located to the south-west of the Serpentine, strictly-speaking it’s more an impressionist take on a stream than a fountain, designed as it was by US landscapist Kathryn Gustafson and, in fact, comprising 545 separate segments of Cornish granite.
One of the park’s most famed facets, this spot at its far northern end, established way back in 1872, is still pleasingly used as a space for the voicing of public opinion on all manner of important topical – often political – subjects. Every Sunday morning then, people gather to speak freely on whatever they feel is important, often sparking lively debate and a difference of opinion. It’s what free speech in a civilised society should be all about, of course – definitely worth checking out one weekend morning should you be staying at the Hyde Park London hotel.
Finally, this four-mile-long bridle path – the most famous of its kind in the country – runs along the southern end of the park. Why’s it worth mentioning? Because back in the day it was established as a personal roadway by King William III so he didn’t have to depend on the public route from Kensington Palace to St. James’s Palace filled by commoners and so ‘dangerous’ to His Royal Personage. This led it to being fitted with safety-ensuring oil lamps, thus meaning that, in time, it would become the UK’s first lit public road. Today it’s frequented by experienced and not so experienced horse riders – making it a favourite of London visitors – as well as many joggers. Note: its name isn’t a derogatory term; on the contrary, it actually comes from the French for ‘King’s Road’ (‘Route de Roi’).