Ask, and it shall be given you...
"I passed someone in a yellow safety hat the other day - she said she was excavating for the Museum of London. I said Where are you? She said About 1450."
Well, first of all of course, let me stress that we'll be more than happy to get one to you before you set out for London! If you drop us an email – or telephone – or fax – or even write to us by snail-mail (if you want to be delightfullly "retro") – we'll pop one in the post to you.
And indeed, the same goes for getting a leaflet to your hotel or wherever you'll be staying in London. If that's what you'd prefer. Just give us the details and we'll get one off to you there – have it waiting there for you when you arrive!
And then moving on from those possibilities...
Well, for starters, the guides always have a goodly stock of London Walks leaflets with them. So if you turn up on a walk "leafletless" – and would like to remedy that deficiency – well, just ask the guide to stand and deliver!
Yes, but where can I pick up a copy of the London Walks leaflet?
Good question. Not least because leaflets – like cello tape dispensers, pencil sharpeners, keys, corkscrews, etc. – have a habit of going walkabout. They get left in desk drawers or books or coat pockets, etc. etc. So if you've pitched up in London and lo and behold your London Walks leaflet* – which you thought you'd carefully packed with the maps and the tube guide, etc. etc. – is nowhere to be found.... well, all is not lost. Though you will have to have read this "pop up" and made a mental note.
Here are two absolutely brilliant places in central London where you can always pick up a London Walks leaflet!
Primus inter pares is the wonderful Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the old church in Trafalgar Square. Their information tables are always well stocked with London Walks leaflets. There are two information tables right there, just inside the entrance, at the bottom of the steps. They also have them on the counter (right by the cash register) in their little shop.
And look, just to drive the point home: you should be going to the Cafe in the Crypt for a whole lot of other reasons in addition to its "carrying" London Walks leaflets. Reasons that are best summed up in its having been awarded the Palm d'Or in its "sector". Yup, the Cafe in the Crypt, winner of Les Routiers London Cafe of the Year Award. And, hey, it's not as though going to Trafalgar Square is in the least inconvenient, a detour. T-Square is, after all, the great crossroads of London, the very centre of the jampot!
And if you're on the other side of the river, well make a beeline to the best outdoor book market in London. The one on the riverside, right by the National Theatre. You can't miss it. Tables of books – heaven! – spread out directly underneath Waterloo Bridge (so it's an outdoor market that's weather proof!) on the southbank. Ask for Richard, London's friendliest second hand book dealer. He'll rustle up a leaflet for you. And pass the time of day with you very agreeably – talk books and prints and London generally.
Trafalgar Square and beside the Thames at the Southbank Arts Complex: London "points" don't come any more nodal than those two. So how convenient is that? There's even a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone factor to all of this, which if you think about it means that either of those pick-up points will even save you the half hour or so that you would have "spent" if you hied off to an Information Centre to get the leaflet. And since nothing's more precious than time... yaddah yaddah yaddah.
Closing argument: why the leaflet? Why not murmur that little eight-letter word – Internet – and leave it at that? Well, lots of reasons. Everything from roving charges to sites being down to the battery dying a death to the plain fact of the matter that a leaflet is easier on the eyes than a screen. And indeed easier to navigate.
And that's not to take anything at all away from this medium. At a very high risk of belabouring the obvious, all the information in the leaflet is of course readily to hand right here on this website. There's the London Walks Timetable – Week at a Glance page. And, if anything even more convenient, the London Walks Calendar, which sets it out day by day, date by date. I said "all the information" but actually of course there's vastly more information available on www.walks.com
(And, for the record, if you're printing from home, the pdf form condenses matters to something like 11 or 12 pages. In the old days people just try to print the whole website out and it would come to dozens of pages. No worries on that count any more. Indeed, the "itinerary planner" effectively reduces the print out to just a couple of pages. Pretty handy, pretty efficient,)
*Yes, that leaflet – the distinctive white one that's become one of the iconic London brands! Here's what it looks like, Gino [and anybody else who would like a peek]!
If London Walks didn't exist, you wouldn't be able to invent it.
"If this were a golf tournament every single name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide"
Legal London walking tours guided by a barrister. Medical London tours guided by a public health physician. Spies of Hampstead tours guided by the former Editor and CEO of Independent Television News and author of Guy Burgess The Spy Who Knew Everybody. London Building Stones tours guided by a professional geologist.
Jack the Ripper tours guided by the distinguished crime historian who wrote the definitive book on Jack the Ripper and is “internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper.” Brunel Tours guided by the Curator of the Brunel Museum. Shakespeare’s London Tours guided by two actors who are members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Thames Archaeology tours guided by the Intertidal Archaeologist who is the foremost expert on the central London stretch of the Thames. Magna Carta Tours guided by a criminal defence lawyer. Rock ‘n’ Roll Pub Tours guided by a musician who does a live 20 minute set on the stage of a historic R ‘n’ R venue.
Dickens Tours guided by a literary historian who was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen in recognition of his work on Dickens. Royal London Tours guided by the author of Royal London. London Archaeology Tours guided by a former Museum of London Archaeologist. Theatreland Tours guided by a distinguished, Tony-nominated actor. Various tours guided by five different winners of the London Tourist Board’s Guide of the Year Award. Tours guided by the award-winning guide whom Travel & Leisure crowned “the world’s greatest guide.”
Tours guided by an OBE. Tours guided by two MBEs. Tours guided by seven different London Walks guides who’ve been invited to meet the Queen in recognition of outstanding achievements in their chosen field. Tours guided by London’s most decorated guide. Tours guided by the legendary BBC producer and writer whom The Telegraph described as “the one true genius the BBC ever produced.” Target London Tours guided by a distinguished former member of Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorism Squad.
Jewish London tours guided by the author of Jewish London. Fleet Street Tours guided by a national journalist. Photography tours guided by a professional photographer. Tours guided by historians who have authored standard works on London’s history.
“London Walks puts you into the hands of an expert on the particular area and topic of a tour” The New York Times
It all comes down to the guiding
Indeed there is a London Walks "Season Ticket". It's what we call the Discount Walkabout Card. The way the Discount Walkabout Card works is you have to pay the full amount on the first walk. I.E., £10 for adults. The Card itself costs an additional £2. Then once you've got the Card you can go on unlimited London Walks for the special Discount Walkabout Card rate of £8 (or £14 – a £4 saving on the adult rate – for the out-of-town tours to Cambridge, Bath, Oxford, Stonehenge, The Cotswolds, etc. – the Excursions as we call them).
The Discount Walkabout Card is valid for one month for visitors and three months for UK residents. The guides have Walkabout Cards with them.
When you pay the guide for your very first walk tell him or her you'd like a Discount Walkabout Card. The guide will produce the card (and sign it and date it, which "activates" it) – you produce your £2 and hey presto you're a Discount Walkabout Card holder. I.E., show your card to the guide on the next walk and the next and the next and so on and you'll save yourself quite a bit of dosh – 22 percent off the full price. Can't be bad.
No advance booking is necessary. In fact, we don't even operate a booking scheme. There's no red tape with London Walks! The walks always take place - however many or however few people turn up. And everybody who turns up gets to go. You simply meet the guide on the pavement just outside the designated London Tube Stop (Underground Station) at the time stated.
The guide will be holding up copies of the distinctive white London Walks leaflet. Simply introduce yourself to the guide, settle up with him or her, join the group, and hey presto you're on a London Walk. It couldn't be simpler.
The guide will be standing on the pavement ("sidewalk" in American parlance) immediately outside the exit of the designated Tube stop (or Underground Station if you prefer – the terms are interchangeable). So the important thing is that you have to emerge out of the station...the guide's not going to be inside the station down on the platform meeting the Tube train as it pulls into the station. You have to emerge from the station. But just as soon as you set foot out of the station you'll spot the guide. He or she will be holding up the distinctive white London Walks leaflet. And chances are they'll be sporting the very stylish little London Walks badge. And of course once the group starts to form up, it's dead easy to spot the guide - he or she is the person in the middle of the group handing out London Walks leaflets and making change.
Some of London's Tube stops have more than one exit. And in those cases we specify on the leaflet (or indeed on our web site) which exit is the meeting point. So, for example, the Along the Thames Pub Walk - which goes every Wednesday and Friday night at 7 pm – meets outside exit 1 of Mansion House Tube stop. The Ghosts of the Old City Walk – which goes every Tuesday and Saturday night at 7.30 pm – meets outside exit 2 – the cathedral exit – of St. Paul's Tube stop.
The only significant exception is Embankment Tube Stop - and indeed several of our walks – e.g., The National Gallery walk, the Alleyways, Apparitions & Ale walk, the London by Gaslight walk, Eccentric London, etc. – go from Embankment Tube Stop. And, yes, there are two exits from Embankment Tube Stop. But the fact of the matter is we don't specify an exit there because if the winos are having a convention outside the Embankment exit the guide will pitch camp outside the Villiers Street exit. Or vice versa. And the thing is, the two exits out of that station are so close together – they're barely a sluggish grasshopper's bound apart from each other – that it's not really necessary to lock ourselves into either patch. If you go through the ticket barrier ("subway turnstile" in North American parlance) and turn left you will come out into Villiers Street. If you go through the ticket barrier and turn right you will come out onto the road called the Embankment (i.e., the road that runs along the north bank of the river Thames. But – as per what I've said above – the two exits are only 10 yards apart from each other – you can stand outside the Villiers Street exit and look directly through the concourse and see the Embankment exit. And vice versa. Anyway, to cut a long story short if the guide's not outside the Villiers Street exit just be a little bit pro-active, i.e., simply toddle through the concourse to the Embankment exit. Or indeed, ask the newspaper vendor where the London Walks group is. They keep pretty good tabs on us!
Most of the walks take about two hours. There are a handful - e.g., the Beatles Walks, the Old Kensington Village Walk (when we've got access to the Roof Garden!), the Sunday afternoon Shakespeare and Dickens's London - the Old City Walk - that take about two hours and ten minutes. The pub walks take two hours and a half. (Or two hours and 40 minutes if I'm your guide...yeah, it's me, David.) They take that bit longer because they include two brief "pub stops" (15 - 20 minutes or so in each) enroute).
The Explorer Days - they're the all-day excursions to places like Bath, Oxford & The Cotswolds, Cambridge, Canterbury, The Cotswolds, Stonehenge and Salisbury, Royal Richmond & Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle and Eton, Warwick Castle, etc. - take longer. The walks themselves aren't longer, but the whole outing is longer. It's a whole day.
The way an Explorer Day works is you meet the guide by the ticket office of the designated London railway station. So there's a difference straight off, i.e., our walks in London meet just outside the exit of the designated London tube stop, but our Explorer Days meet by the ticket office of the designated London railway station. Anyway, you meet the guide, settle up with him or her, and join the group. Then you all go on the train to Bath or Brighton or Canterbury or whatever that day's destination is. They do a walk as soon as they get there. Then they break for lunch. Then they do a completely different walk in the afternoon. Then there's some free time to browse or visit a museum or gallery or do some shopping or whatever. Then they meet up again and hop on the train and return to London. They're timed so you're back in London in time to go to the theatre (or do a London Walk!) that evening. So, e.g., the Oxford & The Cotswolds Explorer Day gets you back in central London at 6.15 pm. The Stonehenge & Salisbury Explorer Day gets you back in central London at 6.45 pm. The Royal Richmond & Hampton Court Palace Explorer Day gets you back in central London at 5.45 pm. And so on.
On average the walks cover about a mile. Maybe a mile and a half on some of the longer ones. I.E., about 2 kilometres if you're thinking metrically. It's not hard walking. We go at a very gentle pace. To put it into perspective for you, up until 2004 our hilliest walk - Old Hampstead Village - on Sunday mornings was guided by our oldest guide, "Super Senior" - and Octagenarian - Charles Chilton. None of the walks is a forced march; none of them is a yomp. And on some of them - the Old Kensington Village Walk, e.g., there's usually even a chance to sit down.
Donald guides nearly one in three of our Ripper Walks. He guides it five times a fortnight: every Sunday night, alternate Monday nights, alternate Tuesday nights, and alternate Friday nights. The only exception to the above is when he's on holiday - or, God forbid, ill.
Now if you're reading this and wondering, "Who's Donald Rumbelow?"...well, he is, as The Jack the Ripper A to Z puts it, "internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper". He's written the definitive book on the subject: The Complete Jack the Ripper. He's Britain's most distinguished crime historian, he's the former Chairman of the Crime Writers Association; he's the former Curator of the London Police Crime Museum. And he's not some dry-as-dust academic. He's a former City of London Police Sergeant who pursued a dual career as a crime historian. Which means you're taken over some of the most famous crime scenes in the world by a law enforcement professional. Can't be bad! Oh, I almost forgot...in addition to everything else, he's also a top flight professionally qualified London Blue Badge guide.
And if you'd like to see Don in action, you're right where you should be, because we've made a very special little video trailer of the walk - click here and you're there!
Just one tip...please make absolutely certain that it's Donald - or if it's another night, one of his London Walks colleagues - that you get hooked up with. Never set out with anyone - or part with your money - until you're certain it is the bona fide London Walks guide you're with. I stress that because occasionally there's some sharp practice going on there. Sometimes there's a character there shortly before our walk who says he's giving "the Jack the Ripper walk". He's very cagey. People have asked him, "Is this the 7.30 pm Jack the Ripper walk?" and he's replied, "Yes, this is the Jack the Ripper Walk, we're just leaving a little bit early tonight". Anyway, the way to make sure you're with the bona fide London Walks guide is that they will be holding up the distinctive white London Walks leaflet. The scammer has not gone that far...yet. (Oh, and the meeting point for the walk is just outside the exit of Tower Hill Tube.)
And there are other ways of sorting the sheep from the goats. For one thing, Donald and the other London Walks guides never ever start the Jack the Ripper Walk before 7.30 pm If anyone tries to get you to go before 7.30 pm and tells you that "this is the London Walks Jack the Ripper Walk"...well, someone's trying to pull a fast one on you. Donald also often holds up a copy of his book. And indeed he wears his Blue Badge...the copycat has no professional qualifications whatsoever, so he won't be sporting a Blue Badge.... And finally Donald bears a striking resemblance to the late American actor, Robert Mitchum. Sorry to belabour this, but we've had real problems with this on occasion...people turning up hoping to go on the Jack the Ripper walk with the world's leading expert on the subject and discovering later - to their bitter disappointment - that they've had the wool pulled over their eyes.
You don't need to get there wildly early. The guides never start the walk on the dot of the listed starting time. They will always allow at least a five minute "period of grace"...and sometimes it's more like 8-10 minutes.
Far from it. We think it's probably about 40 percent Brits going on the walks these days! Quite a few of whom are Londoners!! They wouldn't dream of going on a bus tour - but boy have they ever been on a learning curve - the mot juste! - about us these past few years. They've taken to London Walks like a d. to w. As one of them once said to me, "why should tourists have all the fun?"
And of course the great thing about that is it's a chance for visitors to meet the natives! There really aren't that many Brits working in London hotels these days - certainly not at "point of contact" positions. Ditto restaurant staff, etc. In the normal run of things it's almost easier these days in London to find out what's going at "home" in Poland - from your hotel receptionist - or Estonia - from the gal behind the counter at the local coffee bar - than it is to have a "so what's Cheltenham - or Rickmansworth or Sunderland or Sidcup or Easling - like?" conversation with a Brit.
A London Walk, though, is a different cup of tea. There are lots of Brits going on them. And, hey - they're friendly! And chatty! And helpful! The whole nine yards - though they might not put it that way.
Two other points worth mentioning here. The walks are wonderfully cosmopolitan these days. There's always at least six or seven nationalities represented on a London Walk. And sometimes a good few more than that. Everybody loves that about them. You meet the most interesting people - people from all over the world. And, the other thing is - it's a completely natural "social situation". It's not like going into - shudder - a singles bar.
You can calculate how long a tube journey in central London is going to take by using what Londoners call "the three minute rule". I.E., simply allow an average of three minutes between stations. So if, e.g., you're travelling to Tower Hill Tube Stop from, say, Gloucester Road Tube Stop...well, Gloucester Road is 12 stops away from Tower Hill...so 3 x 12 = 36. That journey is going to take 36 minutes give or take a minute or so. So anyone setting out from Gloucester Road to get to the 7:30 pm Jack the Ripper Walk would need to get going at about five to seven. Eeezy peezy as my ankle biters used to say!
Mais Oui! Do we ever! It'd be an abomination - an unnatural act - to go on a pub walk and not stop in any pubs. We normally stop in two pubs enroute and end at a third pub. Which is by way of saying, a pub walk is not a pub crawl...we're not going to 8, 10, 12 pubs or anything like that. It's a proper guided, literary-historical walk that's punctuated by brief stops - 15 minutes or so - at two interesting old pubs enroute, and then ends at a third pub. And incidentally you don't have to spend any money in the pubs. You don't have to drink. Or for that matter, if you want to have some refreshments, but don't want to drink beer or wine...well, all pubs have fruit juice and coca cola and perrier water and so on. And also you can normally get food at at least one of the pubs. Update: we've made a little video trailer of our Along the Thames Pub Walk; so if you want to see what a pub walk "looks like", well, sit back, put your feet up, grab for the popcorn with one hand, and click here with the other.
The best pub walk for kids is the Along the Thames Pub Walk. For several reasons. First of all, because there are things on that walk that are going to interest kids - e.g., the wonderful replica of Sir Francis Drake's 16th-century ship, The Golden Hinde; or the replica of the Globe Theatre; or the horribly shrivelled corpse in the rusting old gibbet (needless to say it's not real - the corpse I mean). But secondly because the pubs on that walk have great outdoor "spaces" – the first one has a handsome riverside terrace, the second one is also car-free because it's on the edge of an old market, and the final pub is that wonderful old 17th-century coaching inn with its own inn yard – so if the weather's good you don't have to take your child in the pub at all really!
Yes, sure, we do that all the time. Just ring up - or fax or e-mail or send us a letter - and tell us which walk you want and when and we'll set it up for you. For a group of, say, 15-20 people a private walk is fantastic value. Never truer words were cybered...because a private costs even less than what you'd have to pay to go on one of the public walks. And you have the convenience of having whichever walk whenever you want it. I.E., you can suit your convenience...you don't have to adhere to our public walks schedule. And we move heaven and earth to get a great "fit" between the guide and the group. And we can "tailor" the walks to your requirements...if you want, say, more pubs or fewer pubs on a pub walk...or if you want a walk that's a "hybrid" of two walks...or indeed if you want some recommendations about great places to get some nosh after the walk, etc....well that's all there for the asking. Just give us a bell!
The milestone is 65 for both milords and miladies! It's a win-win. Younger than 65 you're not old. 65 and over you're still not old, but you get the honorific "Super Adult" and you save yourself some money!
You have to be in a full-time course. Be sure to have your student card with you...the guides might well ask to see it.