THE TOP THINGS TO DO IN BRENTFORD, LONDON
For those who want to stay away from the noise and clamour of central London, or who want to avoid the typical tourist sites filled with crowds, a stay in the outskirts can provide both peace and green spaces as well as easy access to the centre of town if you want it, giving you the best of both worlds.
West London is surrounded by parkland, with Kew Gardens, Syon Park, Richmond Park and more all within range. For people looking to explore those more natural areas, Brentford Lock is an ideal and affordable central area to stay, as well as being right on the River Thames giving you riverside walks and activities.
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the tenth most popular tourist attraction in the whole of the UK with over 2 million visitors annually, are just over the river and less than a mile away from Brentford, but staying the same side of the river as the royal gardens can increase your hotel bills considerably. Instead, staying at Brentford Lock and taking that short walk across the river can give you doorstep access to Kew for half the price.
We spent a relaxing couple of days in Brentford, staying in IHG which is right on the banks of the Thames, and discovered that there is far more for the Slow Traveller to do in the west of London than just the famous Kew Gardens.
Read about my Slow Weekend in Brentford Lock >>
Want to know what else you can do within a few miles of Brentford Lock? Here we have compiled the best things to do in the area with absolutely no need to head into central London to join the crowds.
(All distances given are from the IHG, which is on Brentford High Street.)
PARKS AND GREEN SPACES
(40 mins walk/20 mins public transport/8 mins by car)
The Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew need no introduction - they are world famous for being the most biodiverse place on Earth, with over 50,000 living plants and 8 million plant specimens spread across 330 acres of gardens and glasshouses.
The grounds also contain four Grade I listed buildings and 36 Grade II listed structures. Once the pleasure gardens for a royal palace, they were opened up to the public in 1840 and are now one of the top London attractions. Highlights include the huge Palm House, a Japanese Pagoda with views over London, a Tree Top Walkway, a Waterlily House, Kew Palace and acres of woodlands and natural spaces. Kew Gardens are open daily. Find out more >>
(90 mins walk/20 mins by public transport/17 mins by car)
Images from Richmond Park Facebook Page
Richmond Park is the largest of the Royal Parks and was once a deer park established by Charles I, although its origins go back much further with both a long and round barrow on the site. The park has been open to the public since 1758 and is now open day and night for pedestrians and cyclists.
Deer are still resident here along with bats, foxes, voles and countless species of beetles and other insects. The park has children's playgrounds, bridle paths solely for horses, a golf course, cycle hire, fishing (only with a permit) and power kiting on offer. Overall though, it is the perfect place to go to find some peace and quiet away from the crowds and noise of the city. Find out more >>
WWT LONDON WETLANDS
(80 mins walk/39 mins public transport/26 mins by car)
The London Wetland Centre is a nature reserve of lakes, pools and gardens created from redundant reservoirs which is home to about 180 bird species and countless insects.
You can see kingfishers, dragonflies, lizards and water voles from several hides dotted around the site, including a three-storey one which even has its own lift. With a café and gift shop as well as regular events and activities, it is a peaceful place to spend some time right in the midst of London. The wetlands are open daily 9.30am - 5pm. Find out more >>
PARKS WITH HISTORIC HOUSES
SYON MANOR HOUSE
(12 mins walk/6 mins by car)
Syon House has a history which stretches back through the centuries with an abbey on the site from 1415. After the dissolution of the monasteries the house returned to royal control, and was famously the place where the bloated body of Henry VIII exploded on its way to his resting place in Windsor. The house soon passed to the Duke of Northumberland in 1594, whose family still own it.
The house and grounds have undergone many alterations over the centuries and today it is a house of lavish interiors and 40 acres of stunning gardens, including an incredible glass conservatory. The house is open to the public three days a week and the gardens for five. Find out more >>
BOSTON MANOR HOUSE
(20 mins walk/11 mins public transport/5 mins by car)
This Grade I listed Jacobean Manor House was built in 1623 and is set in Boston Manor Park which has a lake and ancient cedar trees. It is currently undergoing renovation and is due to reopen to the public in early 2022. Find out more >>
OSTERLEY PARK AND HOUSE
(48 mins walk/32 mins public transport/9 mins by car)
Photograph © Snowmanradio
A Neo-classical mansion dating from the 1570s and owned by the National Trust, the house has a Robert Adam interior of delicate friezes and decoration. With lavish state apartments filled with ornate decorations, gilt and tapestries, the sumptuous house is set in grounds with formal gardens, lakes and woodland where you can cycle and get out on the water on kayaks. The house and gardens are open on selected days all year round. Find out more >>
HAM HOUSE AND GARDEN
(72 mins walk/60 mins public transport/25 mins by car)
Photograph © Steve K
A great Stuart house with huge gardens on the banks of the Thames, Ham House is still much as it was in the 17th century. Owned by the National Trust, it is filled with artworks, antique books and some impressive architecture and furnishings. The extensive grounds include many formal gardens, kitchen gardens and woodland. Both house and gardens are open daily all year round. Find out more >>
GUNNERSBURY PARK AND MUSEUM
(28 mins walk/26 mins public transport/7 mins by car)
Gunnersbury Park was once a private estate built in 1663 which underwent many changes of owners, until it was gifted to a London borough council by the Rothschild family to ensure that no housing was built on the land.
Today the building is a museum which focuses on the archaeological and social history of the area. The park land around it is open daily for walking, pedalos on the lake, fishing and mini golf. There are regular events, exhibitions, walks, talks and workshops, making it a real community space with lots for locals and visitors to do. Find out more >>
THE LONDON MUSEUM OF WATER AND STEAM
(22 mins walk/8 mins public transport/5 mins by car)
On the site of the former Kew Bridge Waterworks, the Museum of Water and Steam tells the story of London's water supply, the pumps and engines that keep the city supplied with clean water.
It houses a huge collection of engines, not just from London but from across the country, as well as a narrow gauge railway. As well as many Grade I and II listed engine rooms and buildings, there is a 200ft Victorian standpipe tower which was built in 1867. Find out more >>
THE MUSICAL MUSEUM
(20mins walk/10 mins bus/4 min by car)
This museum and concert venue by Kew Bridge tells the story of how music has been captured and listened to over the past 400 years.
The collection has an array of instruments and inventions designed to record and reproduce music which includes reproducing pianos, orchestrions, self-playing violins, pipe organs and gramophones.
There are daily guided tours and live events on offer, as well as a café with river views. Find out more >>
BRENTFORD GAUGING LOCK AND MUSEUM
(2 mins walk)
Once one of the busiest places on the river, Brentwood was West London's gateway to the River Thames when goods would travel by canal between London and the Midlands. The River Brent was used to build the Grand Union Canal in 1793, to speed up the amount of time it took for the goods to travel.
In 1911 a toll house was built to house the men who worked on the gauging lock, where the weight of the canal barges was assessed for tolls to be paid on their cargoes. This Grade II listed toll house is now a small museum, one of the smallest in London, and is free to visit. It is staffed entirely by volunteers and is only open on Fridays.
(55 mins walk/34 mins public transport/11 mins by car)
The country home of William Hogarth, renowned painter, satirist and engraver of the 18th century is open to the public for five afternoons a week.
Located in Chiswick, which was once a large village well outside London, it is a Grade I listed house which was built in 1713. Hogarth stayed there with his family from 1749 until his death in 1764. Hogarth was a well known painter even in his lifetime, renowned for his series The Rake's Progress and The Harlot's Progress, moralistic and detailed works which show the downfall of individuals. The museum holds regular exhibitions and events, and is free to visit. Find out more >>
KEW TO RICHMOND WALK
The Kew to Richmond Walk is a circular 8 mile walk from Mortlake to Richmond which follows the Thames and forms part of the longer Thames Path. Countryfile Magazine calls it "one of the the very best routes in London, offering both city residents and tourist alike a chance to escape the bustle of the capital." It takes in the wildlife of the Thames as well as The Kew Riverside Path and the Deer Park of Richmond. Map and detailed walking instructions are available here >>
KEW RIVERSIDE PATH
A linear walk which edges the Thames on one side and Kew Gardens on the other, the Riverside Path has some lovely views of woodland and riverscape which make it hard to believe you are actually in London. It's a short walk of just a couple of miles each way, but with some lovely views and benches beside the path to take them all in, it is a relaxing place to stroll, listen to the birds and watch the river wildlife. The path follows the river from Kew Bridge to Richmond Lock.
The Thames Path is a long distance path of 184 miles which follows the river's source in the Cotswolds to the the Thames Barrier in Woolwich, just a few miles from the sea. An easy trail, part of it passes by Brentford and the canal, so you can walk sections of it in the area - there is both a north and south route either side of the Thames. Read more about the Thames Path >>
THE GRAND UNION CANAL WALK
Another long distance path, this one goes from Birmingham to the Thames in Paddington and covers 147 miles. Brentford was a key juncture on the Canal and the walk through the area is an interesting one, with plenty of houseboats moored up alongside the path as well as heritage connected to the canal's past, such as a tumbledown repair shed, the old Toll House and the Brentford Gauging Lock enroute. Find out more >>
Where to stay in Brentford
Looking for somewhere to stay while you visit Brentford? With very few independent hotels or B&Bs on offer, a place like Holiday Inn is a great choice as it is right on the water of Brentford Dock and within easy access of both a train station and bus stop as well as having on site parking.
They can also provide a pre-packed picnic for you to take with you as you explore the surrounding parks, walks and green spaces. Find out more >>