Andrew’s Pick - London’s Wapping Secret
travellers in 2015
years of rail travel experience
Anyone with plans to visit London will almost certainly include the Tower of London and Tower Bridge on their itineraries, and when you stay in Wapping you can walk there! Make sure to take the Beefeater tour of the Tower of London to absorb all the grisly details of what it represents. The crown jewels are a must see and are certain not to disappoint. But don’t go getting any crazy ideas. Remember, Sherlock and Moriarty are fictional characters and it’s a bad idea to do anything more than admire these glittering symbols of the monarchy. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies to explore, so make sure you get tips and read up on it beforehand to get the most out of visiting this historic castle, founded in 1066. Take the wall walk and befriend the tower’s storied ravens. Spend a day steeped in history. Maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of Anne Boleyn’s ghost, head tucked firmly under her arm.
After the Tower, stroll over to Tower Bridge. With a London Pass, you’ll be able to skip even the longest line. There is (thankfully) an elevator to take you to the upper deck and an extraordinary view. A portion of the bridge floor has a plexiglass cutout where you can lie down and take a selfie! It’s not for the faint of heart, nor those with acrophobia. For the more academic amongst us, there are films you can watch on site detailing the history of the bridge, from its construction to its role in the 2012 Olympic games.
London has one of the most convenient and navigable public transit systems in Europe, and since Wapping has a station, travelling to any sight you wish to see in the city is simple.
It’s only minutes on the tube to Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, or the Tate. You can have coffee and scones in Wapping at Cinnamon (get the clotted cream) and spend the afternoon sightseeing downtown before returning to dine at The Grapes, a wonderful storied pub owned by none other than Ian McKellen. You would be hard pressed to find a superior shepherd’s pie anywhere. Come on a Monday and participate in their trivia night. You may catch a glimpse of Gandalf himself, who has been known to drop ‘round for a drink! Call ahead for a reservation as this is a popular destination for locals.
Take the Thames Walk the length of the district, stop for fish and chips at the Captain Kidd pub, and then cap your night at the Prospect of Whitby, a public house close to the Pelican Stairs which claims to be the oldest Thames-side pub still in operation. The view of Tower Bridge from the Thames Walk at night is breathtaking. Be warned, some portions of it are closed past sundown.
There is no shortage of hidden gems in Greater London. Ask anyone, and chances are they will have a recommendation for an off-the-beaten-path experience. Ask me, and I will bend your ear about Wapping. And, as ever in Great Britain, take a brolly!