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12 places you had no idea existed in outer London

Explore the outer limits of London and discover a whole new world beyond Zone 2

Yep, we know there's loads of things to do in central London, but it's time to get out of your comfort zone. Jump on a tube, venture past Zone 2 and discover another side to the city - one of historic palaces, outdoor London pursuits and golf courses stalked by dinosaurs. Check out our handy London area guides if you're heading into unknown territory and go get exploring. The world beyond Zone 2 is your oyster (card).

1
Trot along to Ham House
© NTPL/Stuart Cox
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Trot along to Ham House

There's certainly something a bit forbidding about Ham House in Richmond, and the more spiritually attuned might pick up on the ghosts said to roam the halls of this stately home. Don't let that put you off, or you'll be missing out on one of Europe's finest houses and best collections of seventeenthcentury art, textiles and furniture, not to mention one of the capital's prettiest picnic spots. 

HOW TO GET THERE: Get the District line to Richmond (Zone 4), then the 371 bus.

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Ham
2
Get some peace and love on Eel Pie Island
© Rob Greig
2/12

Get some peace and love on Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island is a crumb of land in the middle of the Thames just outside Twickenham. In the 1970s, it was the UK's biggest hippie commune and it has a rich musical history. These days the island is home to over 20 working artists (and a lot of boats).

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the train from Waterloo to Twickenham (Zone 5), then it's a short walk.

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Twickenham
3
Get twitchy at London Wetland Centre
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Get twitchy at London Wetland Centre

The vast wetlands of Barnes are an ornithologist's wonderland: these flooded plains of west London play host to a variety of birds and other wildlife for those times when you tire of urban foxes, tube mice and pesky pigeons. Probably no alligators to contend with, although we can't guarantee it... 

HOW TO GET THERE: Hammersmith station (Zone 2), then the 283 bus.

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Barnes
4
Escape the suburbs at Hollow Pond
© Dave Art Gordon
4/12

Escape the suburbs at Hollow Pond

The lush Hollow Pond is in Snaresbrook, on the edge of Epping Forest. Hire a five-seater rowing boat for around a tenner and breathe in some decent air for a change, while composing an ode or two.

HOW TO GET THERE:  Take the Central line to Leytonstone or the Victoria line to Walthamstow Central (both Zone 3), then the 257 bus.

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Upper Walthamstow
5
Dress up at Angels the Costumiers
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Dress up at Angels the Costumiers

Angels the Costumiers isn't in Hollywood, it's in the significantly less glamorous Hendon, but having provided outfits for blockbusters like 'Hugo' and 'Robin Hood Prince of Thieves', its costume stock is no less impressive for that. Its behind-the-scenes tours give you a glimpse into the inner workings of the business, with the two-hour excursion taking in famous film and stage creations and the everyday fancy dress you can buy and hire from the company's shop on Shaftesbury Avenue. 

HOW TO GET THERE: The Northern line to Hendon Central (Zone 3), then a quick jaunt on the number 83.

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West Hendon
6
Dine a la mode at Petersham Nurseries
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Dine a la mode at Petersham Nurseries

If you're feeling flush and peckish and fancy pretending you're in the Dordogne for an afternoon, take a turn around Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. It's a garden centre whose upmarket restaurant inspires cries of 'rustic!' and 'shabby chic!' as well as 'how much?!'. 

HOW TO GET THERE: Train from Waterloo to Richmond (Zone 4) then the 65 bus.

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Petersham
7
Make like Jay Gatsby at Eltham Palace
© Jonathan Bailey
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Make like Jay Gatsby at Eltham Palace

Once the boyhood home of Henry VIII, Eltham Palace got a shot of Jazz Age glam when the Courtauld family built an art deco mansion on the site in the 1920s. These days, English Heritage is probably less keen on wild parties than Gatsby was, but it has just refurbed the house to the tune of £1.7m, with some nifty new additions like replica '30s frocks that you can try on and touchscreen guides.

HOW TO GET THERE: Train from Charing Cross to Eltham (Zone 4).

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Eltham
8
Sail down to Wimbledon Windmill
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Sail down to Wimbledon Windmill

Did you know Wimbledon has its own windmill? It may not have ground anything since 1864, but its sails are in working order and it's host to a museum about windmills of all types. Sited on Wimbledon Common, it's worth factoring into a stroll.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the District line or train to Putney Bridge (Zone 2), then the 93 bus.

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Wimbledon Village
9
Go crazy at Jurassic Encounter
© XCVI
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Go crazy at Jurassic Encounter

You know what they say: life finds a way. In this case, it found a way to New Malden, where someone decided that what mini-golf courses lacked were near-life-size sculptures of dinosaurs. Prehistoric animatronic beasts watch over golfers as they putt their way around a fiendish, floodlit 18-hole course. And people say the suburbs are just boring...

www.jurassicencounter.com

HOW TO GET THERE: Train from Waterloo to Raynes Park (Zone 4), then the 152 bus.

10
Bask on the sands at Ruislip Lido
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Bask on the sands at Ruislip Lido

Out in the Mediterranean climate of Zone 6, Ruislip is home to a picturesque sandy beach, the likes of which you wouldn't have dreamed existed within the reach of your Oyster. At its peak in the '70s, the 60-acre reservoir rivalled Margate as a sunny-day destination for Londoners, before it fell into neglect. Now it's the subject of a renewal programme to get the boaters and swimmers back. You can take a trip on the narrow-gauge railway that runs around the reservoir, or just laze on the sand as the resident geese honk at you from the water.

www.hillingdon.gov.uk/ruisliplido

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Metropolitan or Piccadilly line to Ruislip (Zone 6), then the H13 or 331 bus.

11
See how the other half lived at Syon Park
© Simon Hadleigh-Sparks
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See how the other half lived at Syon Park

The Great Conservatory at Syon House brings neoclassical splendour to Brentford. Your mum's greenhouse it ain't. It used to be filled with exotic plants from far-flung locations, but today you're more likely to find a film shoot here (it was used in scenes in 2013's 'Belleí).

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Central line to Ealing Broadway (Zone 3), then the E2 bus.

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Brentford End
12
Go Ape at Trent Park
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Go Ape at Trent Park

Kids and adults alike can swap monkey-barring it down the tube carriage for monkeying about through the treetops of north London. Amid the beautiful woods and lakes of Enfieldís Trent Park are elevated walkways, zipwires and Tarzan swings. Don't worry, you get a full safety briefing before you're let loose on the course, and if you're bad with heights, spectators are welcome to watch from the forest floor. Just don't be surprised if you end up with a crick in your neck.

http://goape.co.uk/

HOW TO GET THERE:
The Piccadilly line to Cockfosters (Zone 5).

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