An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

51.492222, -0.015647
Distance: 7 km
Difficulty: Easy
Method: Walking
Wow Factor: 10 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: London
  • Terrain: Urban paths
  • Access: Footpath and road 'bridge'
  • Height gain: 70 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer 162
  • Starting point: Canary Wharf River Bus Stop
  • Accommodation/food:

    There is absolutely everything accommodation and food-wise on this island including all the major brands as well as plenty of local flavour. Here’s some of our favourite places for a stop.

    • The Hubub –  bit of a hidden gem located upstairs in a former-Presbyterian church now home to The Space Theatre. Cosy neighbourhood vibe with shelves of books and serving all day. Great mushroom and truffle cheese toastie.
    • The Gun – one of the most historic pubs in London with a big fire in the winter and riverside terrace overlooking the O2 centre in the summer
    • The Ferry House Inn – traditional pub well off the tourist trail with an in-house Indian restaurant upstairs. What a perfect match!
  • Island Summary:

    The Isle of Dogs in east London is still technically an island. It’s bounded on three sides by a large meander in the River Thames and is delineated from the mainland in the north by the South Dock. Once the bogs of Stepney Marsh, then drained by the Dutch and connected to the rest of the world through its docks, it is now home to one of the most important financial districts in the world as well as the largest city farm in Europe and some of the best views in London.

    This circular London walk offers real breathing space within the City. Although the island is under rapid development, the clatter of haulage equipment raising cement through the multi-colour jungle of high rise skeletons is muted by the calm waters of the Thames that gracefully meander towards the sea. Grebes, gulls and people alike enjoy the escape it offers from the frenetic urban forest. There are two very different worlds here and both are very enjoyable.

    Along the walk the Isle of Dogs has plenty of green space on offer with the Sir John McDougal and Island Gardens and Mudchute farm a short deviation from the Thames Path. There’s lots of fascinating history to uncover too – all shaped by the presence of the mighty Thames. There’s the historic Docklands Sailing Centre; St Paul’s (not that one); old wharf buildings once the centre for chemicals, paints, drugs and oils; the Ferry House Inn, the oldest building on the island; historic pumping stations and more.

    The view from the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich is one of the best in London and the famous landmarks of the glass dome at the south entrance of the foot tunnel, the wooden masts of the Cutty Sark, the majestic buildings of Greenwich Hospital and the parkland with the Royal Observatory on the hill top can easily be picked out across the river. It is possible to walk through the Greenwich tunnel to experience a different side of life – and worth it just to walk through this incredible feat of engineering and Victorian architectural delight.

    Today the island is still making history. Canary Wharf’s towering, angular buildings with their colourful and reflective surfaces ooze financial success and the ultimate in urbanisation. You’ll still find fishermen on the dockside though as you walk the length of the South Dock. A nod to the joy of this water’s timeless presence.

  • Look out for:
    • The listed pagoda of Outrums pumping station
    • Take a picnic to enjoy in the peaceful riverside gardens
    • Burrel Wharf chimneys that used to belch out pink smoke
  • Route description:

    This is a straightforward waterside route following the Thames Path for most of the southern loop and then the easy paths through high-rise buildings of canary Wharf at South Dock. Please download the ‘Detailed route’ for further information.

  • Getting there:

    River Bus stop at Canary Wharf; Dockland Light Railway to Canary Wharf; Buses –  D3 Bethnal Green to Canary Wharf; D7 Mile End to Canary Wharf; D8 Stratford to Canary Wharf; 135 Moorfields to Canary Wharf; 277 Highbury and Islington to Canary Wharf; N550 Trafalgar Square to Canary Wharf (Night Bus).

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