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Guided by Alison

Short read: "An England in miniature, an essence of England..."a

Medium read: Looking for an outing that's fun, fascinating, festive, historic, different, lively, seasonal, timed perfectly and special? Come to St. Albans with us on Sunday, November 18. Why this day in particular? Why November 18? This article will tell you why. It's Christmas Lights Switch-on Day in St. Albans. Whole lot of goodness going on up there – all of fifteen minutes away from London. No way we weren't going to run our St. Albans Day Trip on the Day of Days in the St. Albans calendar. 

Here's some of the preview fireworks guide Alison – who's local, she lives in St. Albans – set off in a brief chat I recently had with her about the day: "there will be a German-themed Christmas market in the Vintry Gardens next to the Abbey. So, the regular market, the Christmas market, Christmas advent windows and of course the Christmas lights – all very jolly and festive!"

Long read: The most fascinating small city in this sceptred isle is just 20 minutes from London. You can stand on the bank of its little river, the Ver, and suddenly feel moved, saddened by the great passage of time – Romans, and Saxons, and Normans, and Lancastrians rode across this stream, galloped up that hill, and disappeared into the centuries. And the same goes for the little town itself (little town, hell, long, long ago this was the most important city in Roman Britain). Here you see it all, from the Legions of Julius Caesar to the dynasty of the Churchills. These streets are corridors in the vale of time. Here's the only Roman theatre in Britain; here's the oldest street market in the country – it dates back to the Saxons; round this corner there's a 600-year-old Moot hall; round that one a clutch of mediaeval and Tudor coaching inns; hard by, a rare curfew clock tower; up these lanes a sprinkling of half-timbered Elizabethan houses; over there, streets and buildings that are essays in Georgian England; here, a Victorian prison. Let alone all sorts of hidden, curious places and things – and a skein of enthralling history. And that's not to mention CAMRA! 

Not to put too fine a point on it, St. Albans is London's best-kept secret!


In the Winter 2018-19 London Walks programme we go to St. Albans on Saturday, April 13. Meet Alison at 10.45 am. Meet her just outside the exit of West HampsteadTube Stop.

On the Easter Season trip – Saturday, April 13 – you'll want to treat yourself to a St. Albans Bun – the original hot cross bun!

N.B. to put a figure on it, you'll be back in central London at 5 pm. But a slightly earlier return is possible – i.e., if you need to be back earlier 4.30 pm is do-able. And, very conveniently, the return terminus doesn't have to be West Hampstead Tube. If it's better for you, you can carry on from West Hampstead – you don't have to change trains or anything – to St. Pancras/King's Cross or Blackfriars or London Bridge (in that order). Last but not least, Alison's local. Local knowledge – you can't beat it!


"Best Tourism Experience in England"   Gold Medal Winner, Visit England

"London Walks was acknowledged as the premier walking tour company in the entire world"   American Tour Guides Convention


"St Albans Cathedral is the oldest place of continuous Christian worship in the UK – and has the longest nave of any Cathedral, including St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. St Albans has the only medieval clock tower in the country. St Albans has the oldest public school in Britain where Pope Adrian IV, the only Englishman to occupy the papal chair, and scientist Stephen Hawking were educated. The Roman city of Verulamium (now the site of St Albans’ Verulamium park) was the second-largest town in Roman Britain after Londinium and was burned and destroyed by Queen Boudicca and her army (St Albans) in AD60. St Albans’ pub Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest pub in the country. St Albans Abbey (now Cathedral) was at one time the principal Abbey in England and was the location of the first meeting (in 1213) which ultimately led to the sealing of the Magna Carta (in 1215). World-famous heavy rock group Enter Shakari are from St Albans, and still play the odd gig in the city. St Albans has more pubs per square mile than any other town in the country. Legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick lived and worked in the area and produced The Shining in St. Albans."


St Albans has the only medieval clock tower in the country. 

Drum roll! Wait for it... It's the Alban bun, the forerunner of the hot cross bun. Still made and served up at St Albans Abbey using the original 14th-century recipe. Go on, treat yourself.


If you can't make the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, public St. Albans tours do think about booking one as a private tour. Though it goes without saying that it's significantly more expensive* than going on one of the public tours. But if money's no object...  If you go private you can have the St. Albans Tour – or any other London Walk or Day Trip – on a day and at a time that suits your convenience. We'll tailor it to your requirements. And – always with private tours and walks – we go to great lengths to make sure the guide-walker(s) "fit" is well-nigh perfect. Ring Fiona or Noel on 020 7624 3978 or email us at london@walks.com and we'll set it up and make it happen for you.


A private London Walk makes a fabulous wedding present or birthday gift or anniversary outing. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that's special. Memories make us rich.  *Well, it is for an individual or couple or a very small group. It isn't more expensive – indeed, a private tour is less expensive for a group of, say, 18+ people.


"If this were a golf tournament every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide"


Don't just take it from us.


"Nah, don't need it, got it all here," you say. Er, roaming charges? Er, dead battery? Er, reading your phone in the bathtub and you drop it? [Smelling salts interval: sick as a parrot. ashen-faced.] Er, read the famous white leaflet in the bathtub and you drop it what do you do? Er, you dry it out. Anyway, maybe worth making a mental note that you can always pick up the famous white London Walks leaflet at the Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the old church in Trafalgar Square. They're on the Information Table there, right at the box office. And indeed they also display them on the shop counter, right by the cash register. And it's win-win because the Cafe in the Crypt is one of the town's delights. Should be on everybody's London itinerary.