Travel: Take London in your stride

Follow in the leisurely footsteps of Andy Bull and see the City from a different angle, on The Silver Jubilee Walkway trail
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The Independent Culture
London may be awash with holiday visitors, but few seem to realise that the best way to see the capital is on foot. And it's surprising what you can find beneath your feet in London. You may, for instance, spot a dull metallic disc the size of a dinner plate set into the pavement, engraved with the words "Silver Jubilee Walkway 1977".

It is 21 years since the Walkway, a 12-mile loop that manages to encompass London - Westminster, the West End, the City and a swath of river bank - was laid down to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne.

Today, it is largely forgotten. And the discs don't really help. But if you have a Walkway map - the London Tourist Board has a few left - the Silver Jubilee Walkway is all yours.

The route splits naturally into a river walk and a city walk. I like to start on the north side of the Thames at Tower Bridge, at the far east of the route.

So I would begin by enjoying an excellent view of Tower Bridge, from the first floor of the Tower Thistle Hotel.

The first leg of my walk would take me across the bridge to Butler's Wharf and from there I'd head west, past HMS Belfast and the nightmare of Minster Court, with its cluster of steep, curly roofs and turd-coloured marble cladding.

The riverside starts to become grand - a mix of modern company headquarters and the huge Hay's Galleria Pass beneath London Bridge and the mood changes again. Here is Southwark Cathedral looking squat and grubby. Inside it is a different world, a vast, blond, sandy cave of light.

A few steps away is Shakespeare's Globe. Just beyond, Cardinal Cap Alley is said to be the spot at which Wren watched his re-created St Paul's take shape. Certainly this view of the cathedral is one of the best.

From here you realise that London is not a high-rise city at all. If it were, how could so many of the city's Wren churches poke their towers above the surrounding rooftops? From outside the former Bankside power station an information panel mounted at the riverside identifies half a dozen of them.

Take a quick stroll on to Blackfriars. This is where you realise that no fewer than five bridges have flitted past. On the riverside stretches of the Silver Jubilee Walkway, the whole of London is brought within easy reach. And from the Oxo Tower, the bar offers fantastic views towards Hampstead Heath.

The stretch from South Bank to County Hall is one of the most pleasant. The river here is full of boats. Behind them is the white stone summit of the Shell Mex building. Nearby at night, the giant, luminous blue Fifties jukebox which is above Charing Cross station adds to the variety.

Past Hungerford Bridge is County Hall, now boasting a Marriott hotel and a health spa. Then it's on beneath Westminster Bridge and the view across to the Houses of Parliament, before Lambeth Palace, where you leave the river bank via Lambeth Bridge.

From here the Silver Jubilee Walkway takes on an entirely different character, runs around the Parliament Square side of the Houses of Parliament and darts down Great George Street and through St James's Park to The Mall. Skirting Trafalgar Square, it makes for Leicester Square, then through the back streets to Covent Garden.

Now you enter the City, passing first through Lincoln's Inn Fields and Fleet Street, with St Paul's like an oasis at the top of Ludgate Hill.

From here the walkway dips south down Peters Hill and then follows Queen Victoria Street to the point where it meets Poultry, Princes Street, Cornhill and King William Street, at the crossroads of the financial world.

Then it is down King William Street, with the gilded flaming urn on the top of the Monument ahead, and the dark, cool sanctuary of St Mary Woolnoth to your left.

Slightly to the south of the walkway is the Monument to the Great Fire, a fluted Doric column of Portland stone completed by Wren in 1677. It bears the legend that, over three days in 1666, 13,000 houses were lost. It is 202ft tall, which is exactly the same distance from the baker's shop in Pudding Lane where the fire started.

Continue south down Fish Street Hill and you come to another wonderful church, St Magnus Martyr, of which TS Eliot wrote in The Wasteland: "... inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold".

But the most magical moment is yet to come. It is when, as you pass down Eastcheap and Great Tower Street, Tower Bridge comes back into view. And you know that you have really seen London.

For the Silver Jubilee Walkway booklet call at the London Tourist Board's office at Victoria station (0171-370 7744)