Whether you’re a thrill-seeker with a need for speed or a lover of more leisurely pursuits, adventures await on the capital’s waterways that are bound to float your boat, as Kathryn Conway discovers
Josh MacRae, the Scottish folk singer, had it right when he sang, ‘When the weather is fine, you know it’s a sign for messing about on the river.’ The River Thames is a wonderful waterway for a summer splash about. Meandering some 215 miles across the country, the Thames snakes through London and becomes a hotbed for waterside fun.
Water you waiting for
Take The View from the River cruise. New this year, the collaboration between The View from The Shard and Uber Boat by Thames Clippers offers the opportunity to survey a 360-degree panorama of the city from atop London’s tallest building before taking to the water on a circular cruise. Opt for a glass of bubbles while enjoying the sights and expert commentary. (theviewfromtheshard.com).
For high-octane fun, jump aboard the Thamesjet speedboat at Westminster Pier. You’ll pass major landmarks en route to Tower Bridge before the driver ramps up the thrill factor and whizzes you along to Canary Wharf in this 50-minute ride. (cityexperiences.com).
You may need those spy senses on this next adventure, as the Horrible Histories: Terrible Thames tour shines a light on the River’s dark past. Perfect for the young and young at heart, expect sea shanties and stories of the history of characters such as Captain Kidd in this oar-inspiring cruise. (terriblethames.com).
As the night falls
Fancy being even closer to the water? The London Kayak Company has been paddling the Thames since 1996, and its evening tour is rather special. Starting at Battersea and finishing at Greenwich, you’ll take in the sights as the sun sets, all from the vantage point of your sturdy double kayak. (londonkayakcompany.com).
While in Greenwich, make sure you snap a pic of the famous tea clipper, the Cutty Sark. Have a head for heights? Return during the day and give the exhilarating Rig Climb Experience a go, before heading to the Georgian pub that bears the same name in Ballast Quay for tasty fish and chips. (rmg.co.uk; cuttysarkse10.co.uk).
Jump on the RB1 Uber Boat next, heading westbound from Greenwich to take in the kaleidoscope of colours reflected in the rippling water from the Illuminated River installation from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge. The nine bridges can also be enjoyed on foot until 2am. Grab the self-guided map and audio tour online. (illuminatedriver.london).
That shore looks like fun
As is always the case when the sun pays London a visit, the city comes alive with festivals galore. A firm favourite is the Floating Film Festival at St Katharine Docks near the Tower of London, which offers two weeks of top-notch films screened on a floating pontoon (12-24 Jul). Lounge on sofas and deckchairs right by the water’s edge as you watch films including Mamma Mia!, Spider-Man and Moana.
Nearby, The Glass Rooms – which offers a menu inspired by British growers and farmers as well as awesome views – makes for a perfect pitstop, as does the floral terrace at Coppa Club, just a short stroll away. (skdocks.co.uk; theglassrooms.co.uk; coppaclub.co.uk).
If al fresco terraces are your thing, make a beeline for the Miami vibes of The Riverside Terrace at The Scoop and the to-die-for
tacos at Taqueria Garcia at London Bridge City Pier. Both have popped up as part of the Summer by the River festival, which brings a number of free events such as film screenings, yoga, live music, a silent disco and bingo! Dabbers at the ready! (londonbridgecity.co.uk).
Ahoy there, landlubbers
While the River Thames might dominate your agenda, it isn’t the only body of water on which you can have fun this summer. The capital’s network of docks and canals is perfectly suited for mini meanders. Perhaps you want to be the captain of your own motorised GoBoat in either Paddington or Canary Wharf? Jump in a Hot Tub Boat with your besties or see how a hamster feels in your own giant Zorb? You can also work up a sweat on a paddleboard along the Regent’s Canal before quenching your thirst with a well-earned pint thanks to Paddleboarding London’s Paddle to the Pub tour. (goboat.co.uk; skunaboats.com; merchantsquare.co.uk; paddleboardinglondon.co.uk).
If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on dry land, however, the guided walks organised by the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) Towpath Walks Society and the myriad options available through London Walks will be right up your street. London Walks offers a jaunt around delightful Little Venice and a wander around the environs of London’s oldest riverside pub, The Mayflower, for example. After exploring the surrounding cobbled streets, take a seat on the decked jetty outside and sip a pint while taking in the river views. See if you can spot the original 1620 mooring point used by Captain Christopher Jones and the Pilgrim Father’s Mayflower ship.(waterways.org.uk; walks.com; mayflowerpub.co.uk).
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