The walk is circular, or perhaps more figure of eight, but either way it means you can actually start the walk at any point convenient to you. We plumped for St. James’ Park, starting just beyond our favourite waffle and hot chocolate stand (does anyone else navigate by food?) and heading towards Buckingham Palace through the park. The brilliant thing about the Diana Memorial Walk is the large round, raised markers which point you in the right direction constantly, keeping you on course. We also had a PDF map of the walk on our phones to make sure we were heading roughly in the right direction!
When exploring London it is easy to become overwhelmed by buildings and traffic, but the Diana Walk is heavily focused on the beautiful Royal Parks and gives you a great sense of space as well as teaching you a little about the sights and how they related to Diana during her life. If you stop and read each raised marker along the walk it will tell you what to look out for at that location. London being London, there are also some newer landmarks and memorials to take a peek at along the way. We loved starting in St James’ Park, meeting squirrels, pelicans and ducks of all shapes and sizes. It brought us down to the ever magnificent Buckingham Palace, which never fails to impress me. The huge front gates, and the imposing facade make it really clear this is the home of royalty. We then skirted along the edge of the palace into Green Park and over to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
I have an enormous soft spot for Kensington Gardens. They’re such a tranquil and beautiful part of London, and Kensington Palace is obviously grand and palatial but feels that touch more homey than some of the other palaces and stately homes you can see around the city. Plus, Kensington Palace boasts a tea room tucked into the walls of the palace itself. Therefore even those not exploring the inside of the palace can enjoy a cup of tea in the realm of royalty. Naturally, we affected strong Etonian accents and raised our pinkies whilst enjoying a cuppa.
Passing Kensington Palace we kept our eyes peeled for the glimpse of the latest generation of the royal family, but sadly with no such luck. We did however pause for a moment in front of the flower adorned gates of the building, and read messages of love and memoriam for Princess Diana on the 20th Anniversary of her death. It was, as any instance like that is, moving, and a reminder that there are people in the world who stretch far beyond her immediate friends and family who still feel the impact of her passing away which really goes to show what kind of a Princess she was.
The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk takes you past sights enjoyed by the Princess during her life, and also sights and memorials set up since her death in 1997. The Memorial Playground is a noisy hubbub of children enjoying themselves, as is the Memorial Fountain which when we passed on a warm late summers afternoon was teeming with excitable children, splashing and shouting. The moments of childhood delight are then immediately contrasted by the comparative silence of the trees in Hyde Park. You can enjoy each delicate flower, every bossy squirrel and if the mood takes you, every tea room or ice cream van that you see. At around seven miles long, and taking a slow, sightseers pace, we did the entire walk in around 4 hours, including a relaxing sit down at Kensington Palace. Whether you’re doing the walk as a Royalist, or just someone wanting to explore the greener parts of central London, I would absolutely recommend it, on a dry day anyway!