London walks: Bayswater saunter
A Middle Eastern adventure, via coaching taverns and Peter Pan from Edgware Road to Notting Hill Gate
By Hannah Nepil
Duration: 3 hours
Start at Edgware Road tube (S). The streets around Edgware Road and Queensway may appear to be in London, but in fact, they are two far-flung suburbs of Beirut and Cairo respectively. Off to the left of the junction with George Street is the Abu Ali Café (1); to the right are Cafe du Liban, Al-Dar and Al Shishaw. They are as authentically and unexpectedly Middle Eastern as it gets. A zebra-crossing allows you to ford the traffic of Bayswater Road and enter the park.
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Cross through the park, leaving by Marlborough Gate (2), and visit one of the area’s oldest buildings, The Swan (3), originally an eighteenth-century coaching tavern that stood beside a bridge over the now-buried Westbourne river. A short distance west is the Lancaster Gate (4). On the corner with Leinster Terrace, No 100 is where Sir James Barrie wrote ‘Peter Pan’.
Carry on up Leinster Gardens, take a left at Leinster Place, cross Porchester and Queensborough Terraces, then take the second left into Inverness Terrace. This brings you out on to Queensway. It’s vibrantly cosmopolitan with a heavy Arab presence. You’ll see Queensway’s finest landmark, Whiteleys shopping centre (5), founded as a department store in 1851 by William Whiteley. In ‘Pygmalion’, Eliza Doolittle is sent to Whiteleys ‘to be attired’.
The northern end of Whiteleys backs on to Westbourne Grove. A country lane flanked by trees and fields before the 1850s, then a shopping area to rival Oxford Street through until the 1930s, Westbourne Grove is again in the process of transformation. At No 26 is the bookshop Al Saqi Books (E), Middle Eastern specialists.
You could carry on along the Grove to W11 proper with its ultra-chic fashion outlets. Otherwise swing left down Pembridge Villas for the tube station at Notting Hill Gate.