Planning a London LOOP walk

Last updated 22 June 2016

Harrow Weald Common

The enchanting Harrow Weald Common

At 150 miles/240km long, the London Outer Orbital Path – or LOOP – is the walking equivalent of the M25: a route that circles the Greater London area and takes you on a tour of the edges of the capital city.

Although a walk that goes through many London suburbs, the LOOP offers an incredibly varied journey, passing through parkland, ancient woods, farmland, canals, rivers, and – because it goes through London – some roads and streets. As you walk along it, you’ll see a side to London you may never even knew existed.

As London never really gets particularly hilly, the LOOP is an easy walk to do, and generally straightforward to follow, although the quality of signposting can vary. It can be broken up in lots of different ways, allowing you to walk sections in lengths that suit your own needs and abilities.

By its nature, the LOOP is going to appeal most to residents of Greater London and parts of the South East who are seeking to walk it in day long hikes.

In this guide

  1. What is the walk like?
  2. The route
  3. Planning your walk
  4. Accommodation
  5. Guide books and maps
  6. And finally, and any questions

What is the walk like?

Mayfield Lavender field

It's an explosion of purple!

Let’s get the elephant in the room tackled straight away. The LOOP is a walk that goes around the largest urban conurbation in the country. You need to expect that at least part of your day will be spent near busy roads or strolling down a housing estate. It’s just the way it is.

So don’t expect that this is a walk that has the tranquillity of the Yorkshire Dales, or the peacefulness of the South Downs. It won’t.

But go to the LOOP with an open mind and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There is far more to the LOOP than roads and houses. You’ll find yourself walking through ancient woodlands, marvelling at the fact that there is so much farmland within the Greater London boundary, being stunned as you arrive at the edge of a field of lavender or standing next to an oak tree where the intention to abolish slavery was made.

And that is where the LOOP excels. It challenges your preconceptions of London; makes you realise it has so much more to it than the bustle of the tube or the flocks of foreign tourists standing outside Buckingham Palace. This is a walk that will allow you to discover a different side to the city.

Yes you have to endure walking past homes, or spend part of your day negotiating dual carriageways, but the rest makes up for it.

The route

Want to have a look at the LOOP in more detail? Well this is a rough – and we mean rough – map for the whole walk.

Using the controls you can scroll around, zoom in and explore the route. Note that this map is a guide only, and should not be used for navigation.

Planning your walk

A group of deer in Bushy Park

Deer in Bushy Park

The LOOP is a walk round London, and London has exceptionally good public transport. You’re never that far from a railway or tube station, and you’ll probably find yourself near a bus stop when you’re not.

The result is that there is an incredibly large number of ways you can split the LOOP up. The Transport for London website lists 24 short ‘sections’, usually between 5 and 8 miles long, which can be combined in various ways depending on your walking abilities and how much time you have. Even then, those sections can sometimes be broken up even further.

Because there are so many options, we’ve listed in the table below the distances between turn offs for the station. Using the table below, you can pick which stations to walk between.

The table is not an exhaustive list – in a handful of cases where two stations are located close by, we have only included the one that is closest to the LOOP. All stations are within half a mile of the LOOP, however the distance off route in order to get to the station is not shown.

Station Operator/Service Distance from previous station Notes
Miles Km
Erith Souteastern
to London Bridge and Cannon Street
Slade Green Souteastern
to London Bridge and Cannon Street
4
Crayford Souteastern
to London Bridge and Cannon Street
2
Bexley Souteastern
to London Bridge and Cannon Street
4
Petts Wood Southeastern
to Victoria, or London Bridge and Cannon Street/Charing Cross
11½
Hayes Southeastern
to Cannon Street or Charing Cross
9 14½
Coombe Lane London Trams
to East Croydon
5 8
Whyteleafe Southeastern
to Victoria or London Bridge
[1]
Coulsdon South Southern and Thameslink
to London Bridge, Victoria, or Blackfriars and St Pancras
6
Banstead Southern
to London Victoria
4 [2]
Ewell West South West Trains
to Waterloo
6
Malden Manor South West Trains
to Waterloo
Berrylands South West Trains
to Waterloo
Kingston South West Trains
to Waterloo
Fulwell South West Trains
to Waterloo
4
Hatton Cross London Underground
Piccadilly Line (Heathrow branch)
5 8
Hayes and Harlington Great Western
to Paddington
4
West Drayton Great Western
to Paddington
3 5
Uxbridge London Underground
Metropolitan Line (Uxbridge branch)
Piccadilly Line (Rayners Lane branch)
Moor Park London Underground
Metropolitan Line (Amersham and Watford branches)
15
Hatch End London Overground
to Euston
4
Stanmore London Underground
Jubilee Line
Elstree and Borehamwood Thameslink to St Pancras and Blackfriars 2¾-
High Barnet London Underground
Northern Line (High Barnet branch)
7 11½
Cockfosters London Underground
Piccadilly Line
Gordon Hill Great Northern
to Moorgate
8
Turkey Street London Overground
to Liverpool Street
2
Enfield Lock Abelio Greater Anglia
to Liverpool Street or Stratford
1
Chingford London Overground
to Liverpool Street
Chigwell London Underground
Central Line (Hainault loop)
Harold Wood TfL Rail
to Liverpool Street
10¾ 16
Upminster Bridge London Underground
District Line
4
Rainham c2c
to Fenchurch Street
4
Purfleet c2c
to Fenchurch Street
5 8 [3]
  1. Upper Warlingham is also a very short walk away, also running with services to London Victoria. However services do not operate as frequently as those from Whyteleafe.
  2. No Sunday services
  3. Whilst the LOOP is an orbital route, it is not a continuous circle as there is no way to cross the Thames between Purfleet and Erith.

Accommodation

Hand drawn directional sign saying ‘Rambers’

Which way for the ramblers?

Chances are, if you’re interested in walking the LOOP, you will be reasonably local and wanting (and able) to return home in the evening. Which is handy as there isn’t an accommodation guide for the LOOP. However there’s plenty of accommodation providers in the capital so if you do want to stay over, you’ll find something. The official London tourist website, Visit London, has an accommodation search facility, and you may want to stay in the same place for several nights and travel by public transport for each days walk.

Guide books and maps

A pint of Guinness in the Royal Hotel, Purfleet

Celebrating at the bar, even if I wasn't quite at the end of the LOOP yet.

For the most part there are plenty of signposts on the London LOOP to tell you which way to go. But – and it’s a big but – the quality of the signposts can vary depending on which part of London you are in. For the most part the signs are plentiful and useful, but in a handful of places I found them to be in poor condition, and in one part of London, completely inadequate.

That means you really do need some information with you to guide you on your walk.

The most obvious thing to take with you is the The London LOOP: Recreational Path Guide written by David Sharp, and published by Aurum Press. It includes extracts of Ordnance Survey Maps for the whole of the route, at the 1:25,000 (Explorer) scale, along with details of pubs and refreshment stops. The last version was published in 2012. Generally if you’ve got this book, you’ll be held in good stead.

Another option is to visit Transport for London’s LOOP web pages. Here you will find detailed walking instructions for the whole walk, split into 24 sections and downloadable for free. There are some maps included, however not for the entire walk, so you will need to make your way around the trail by following the text based instructions. Each one also includes historical information and details about refreshments.

Also on the site, you’ll find a certificate you can print out when you’ve walked the whole of the LOOP.

If you would like Ordnance Survey maps for the trail, you need nine Ordnance Survey Explorer (1:25,000 scale) maps, namely: 146, 147, 160, 161, 162, 172, 173, 174, 175.

The LOOP is marked on the Ordnance Survey Landranger maps, however the 1:50,000 scale mapping is, to be honest, rather inadequate for urban walking that a walk like the LOOP entails. Even the 1:25,000 scale can be pushing it at times, and we simply wouldn’t recommend you try it with the Landranger map.

And finally, and any questions

The Grand Union canal near Hayes

Joining the Grand Union at Hayes

Hopefully reading this will see you chomping at the bit to explore London, and give you all the information you need. So good luck on your walk! And if you do have any questions that aren’t answered above, please feel free to ask them below.

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