Start at Westminster Pier
Leave the bustle of central London behind and spend a day in Greenwich. The only way to go is by riverboat.
(Actually, there are other ways to go, but this is by far the best and the only one I would consider if I wanted to have a good day out.)
Choose a day when it’s not too cold or raining – much of your time will be spent outdoors.
Catch the riverboat from Westminster Pier with Thames River Services. That is the pier on the north bank near Big Ben and Westminster Bridge.
You can easily walk over the river from Waterloo station – it takes about 15 minutes. Buy a return ticket at the pier and make sure you get the time of the last boat back. On the boat, sit outside upstairs if you can and enjoy the London landmarks from the river. The journey takes about an hour.
What to do at Greenwich
As with most attractions, once at Greenwich you need to decide what interests you and pace yourself. I’ve been to the Cutty Sark before, so I didn’t go this time. If you haven’t, I think it’s worth a visit.
We headed to Greenwich Market. As well as food and drink stalls, there are antiques, vintage clothes and curiosities – and lots of tat.
Art for all
Best of all are the affordable art galleries.
We bought some hand made cards and posters and I really liked the unusual placemats and lampshades at a little place just outside the market.
Time for lunch
Lunch was booked for 2pm. The Sail Loft – a Fullers’ pub – opened a few years ago. If you stand behind the Cutty Sark, you can see it upstream from there. It’s just a few minutes’ walk away and benefits from being off the main tourist drag. (I’ve been in a couple of pubs in the High Street and they are a bit ropey). The Sail Loft is a breath of fresh air, beautifully designed, with a nautical theme but not in a naff way. There’s an upstairs bit with central bar, booths and views over the river. Downstairs, you can take a booth outside if the weather is fine. This is just what we did.
With uninterrupted views of the river, it’s a great spot.
All the food is made onsite so you won’t get any bought in frozen stuff. My guest chose the battered cod and I had the vegetarian option – pea and mint ravioli with ricotta. A large glass of wine and their house cocktail kept us occupied until the food arrived.
Portions are on the side of generous. I know I’m reviewing the meal and I like to say it like it is, but I really couldn’t find anything wrong with our two plates. The fish was fresh and flaked easily; the batter was crisp. My ravioli was lovely and I liked the pea shoots addition for a kick of pea flavour.
I’m not one for dessert but we’d been told they are all homemade. And if the executive chef has a pudding named after him, it must be good. So ‘Paul’s brownie with salted caramel ice cream’ it had to be. Again, a generous portion of two triangles of brownie with a big dollop of ice cream. It was squidgy, rich and satisfying.
They do Sunday roasts here (cauliflower roast for veggies) but do get booked up, so phone to reserve a table. I’d definitely return.
A walk up to the Observatory
We now needed to walk off our lunch, so climbed up through the park to the Observatory. There are wonderful views from the top. You feel like you are looking at a Turner painting.
If you find the ascent a bit steep, you can pause and pretend you are admiring the view.
The Meridian line is here. You can see it through the iron railings if you don’t want to pay to go in. There are also clocks upstairs if you want to find out more about the search for measuring longitude and a shop. I’d strongly recommend the film ‘Longitude’ if it piqued your interest.
National Maritime Museum
We walked down the hill and headed for the National Maritime Museum. (free entry) Again, there is a lot to see, including the large map upstairs – a huge floor map of the world that will keep children entertained as well as adults. I enjoyed finding out more about the tea trade (I wrote a tea story recently) and that Captain Robert Knox of the East India Company was marooned on Ceylon for 19 years (along with his father, also called Robert Knox) because the ruler didn’t want him to leave.
He wrote a book about his experiences when he eventually returned to London that influenced Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe.
Return to central London by boat
We packed a lot into our day and yet left plenty still to see for a return visit. The trip back by boat was the icing on the cake.
Return boat tickets supplied by Thames River Services. Booking online should get you a discount.
The Sail Loft supplied our complimentary lunch.
As always, views my own. All images copyright Olivia Greenway and may not be used without written permission prior.