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Go Ape

18 places you had no idea existed in outer London

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

By Kate Solomon, Phoebe Trimingham and Katherine Lovage
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It's pretty easy to get caught up in the hubbub of central London but, legend has it, there's even more to get up to beyond Zone 2. Hop on a tube and broaden your knowledge of this bustling city with wildlife havens, regal estates and and golf courses where dinosaurs roam free. Before you set off on your Greater London jaunts, take a look at our London area guides for handy tips.

RECOMMENDED: Secret things to do in London

AT_Nattrust_NTPL Stephen Robson.jpg
AT_Nattrust_NTPL Stephen Robson.jpg
© NTPL/Stuart Cox

1. Trot along to Ham House

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Ham

There's certainly something a bit foreboding 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 seventeenth-century 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.

New_Eel Pie Island005.jpg
New_Eel Pie Island005.jpg
© Rob Greig

2. Get some peace and love on Eel Pie Island

Attractions Ships and boats Twickenham

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 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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3. Get twitchy at London Wetland Centre

Attractions Rivers, lakes and ponds Barnes

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: Take the train from Waterloo to Barnes Bridge station (Zone 3), then the 209 bus.

Venue says Award-winning nature reserve in the heart of the capital. Enjoy fantastic views, wildlife, lakes, gardens. Plus shop, café and playground

© Dave Art Gordon

4. Escape the suburbs at Hollow Pond

Things to do Snaresbrook

The lush Hollow Pond is in Snaresbrook, on the edge of Epping Forest. Take a wander around the pond, 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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5. Dress up at Angels

Shopping Hendon

Angels Fancy Dress 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. With attentive staff on hand to help you perfect your costume, you'll knock 'em dead with bespoke outfits you can buy and hire from the fancy dress shop. 

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

6. Dine a la mode at Petersham Nurseries

Restaurants Contemporary European Richmond

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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Eltham Palace's entrance Hall
Eltham Palace's entrance Hall
© Jonathan Bailey

7. Make like Jay Gatsby at Eltham Palace

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Eltham

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 was refurbed 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).

8. Sail down to Wimbledon Windmill

Museums Childhood Wimbledon Common

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 Wimbledon (Zone 3), then the 93 bus.

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Jurassic Encounter
Jurassic Encounter
© XCVI

9. Get putting at Jurassic Encounter

Things to do Games and hobbies New Malden

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...

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

10. Bask on the sands at Ruislip Lido

Attractions Rivers, lakes and ponds Ruislip

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. 

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

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Syon Park
Syon Park
© Simon Hadleigh-Sparks

11. See how the other half lived at Syon Park

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Brentford

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 (we're talking The Avengers and Killing Eve).

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Piccadilly line to Boston Manor (Zone 4), then the E8 bus.

12. Go Ape at Trent Park

Things to do Sport events Cockfosters

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 Enfield's Trent Park are elevated walkways, zip wires 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. 

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

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13. Flock to Walthamstow Wetlands

Attractions Lee Valley

Walthamstow Wetlands are a lush haven for wildlife. They’re London’s newest and biggest wetlands, after opening to the public for the first time in 150 years in autumn 2017. Eagle-eyed ornithologists can spot all kinds of wetland bird species, including rare sightings of garganey, kingfisher and green sandpiper. There are peaceful walking routes and the Engine House Cafe for refuelling. Since it’s a nature reserve, there’s also a focus on conservation - such as their programme to support the swift (the urban birds, not Taylor).

HOW TO GET THERE:
The Victoria line to Tottenham Hale (Zone 3), then a short walk.

14. Explore the depths at Chislehurst Caves

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Chislehurst

Didn’t realise London had caves? As you descend into the depths of this man-made wonder, the Chislehurst caverns aren’t as eerie as you might imagine. Originally chalk and flint mines, the tunnels stretch on (and on and on) for an astonishing 22 miles and are also home to some impressively ornate carvings. But what is creepy, are the slightly dilapidated mannequins that linger about the place, which you wouldn’t want to run into down a dark alley. Wait a minute...

HOW TO GET THERE:
National Rail to Chislehurst (Zone 5).

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Strawberry Hill House
Strawberry Hill House
© Lisa Payne

15. Live out a fairytale at Strawberry Hill House

Things to do Literary events Twickenham

Strawberry Hill House is proof that Gothic Georgian architecture is alive and well in London. The all-white castle, built by Horace Walpole in the 1700s, is in the heart of Twickenham. From exhibitions of ancient treasures to a garden with a sweeping ‘serpentine wood’ and a shell seat, it’s a dream for history buffs with a penchant for art and ol’ mother nature. Visit in the Summer to enjoy the Strawb’s full fairytale splendor.

HOW TO GET THERE:
The Victoria Line to Vauxhall, then National Rail to Strawberry Hill (Zone 5)

16. Feel regal at Osterley Park and House

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Osterley

Over the hills and far away (in Hounslow), this neoclassical Georgian country estate is a peaceful interlude from the hubbub of central London. Some of the historic vistas are still in restoration mode, but that doesn’t really detract from the striking scenes. The National Trust looks after the grand house, gardens and parkland, putting on exhibitions, tours, yoga classes, outdoor film screenings, after-hours tours and more. If you’re visiting in daylight, take a picnic and make a day of it.

HOW TO GET THERE:
The Piccadilly Line to Osterley (Zone 5), then a 15-minute walk.

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Golders Hill Park, Hampstead Heath
Golders Hill Park, Hampstead Heath
© Garry Knight

17. Find the wild things at Golders Hill Park Zoo

Attractions Golders Green

Golders Hill Park Zoo is one of the city’s lesser-known spots to get up close with cute critters. It’s actually nestled away in the far reaches of Hampstead Heath, the wild mane of north London. Visitors can see deer and rare and exotic birds and mammals like kookaburras and ring-tailed lemurs, all for free. Stick around and there’s also a butterfly house, bandstand, cafe and bunch of cool sculptures dotted around in the greenery.

HOW TO GET THERE:
The Northern Line to Golders Green (Zone 5), then a 10 minute walk. 

18. Get inspired at the William Morris Gallery

Art Public art Walthamstow

London is home to the only public museum created in homage to famed Arts and Crafts designer William Morris. You’ll find a load of internationally-renowned collections and a whole world of awe-inspiring tapestries in the craftsman’s former family home. Fun fact: some of Morris’s wallpaper has been found to contain arsenic, so it’s technically toxic. We don’t think you’ll encounter much of that here, but don’t lick anything, yeah? Check the website for talks and workshops ahead of your visit.

HOW TO GET THERE:
The Victoria Line or Overground to Blackhorse Road (Zone 3), then the BE bus.

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