Hidden East London & Canals

Limehouse Loop

6.5 miles /10.5km

HIGHLIGHTS

Limehouse Basin | River Lea | Three Mills | Hertford Union Canal | Regent’s Canal

Limehouse basin

Introduction

You can learn more about the history of London’s canals on this easy London walk which also takes you through less-known, quiet and often very pretty towpaths in the middle of the urban East End. Along with narrow boats, canals and working locks, you’ll also see one of London’s oldest extant industrial centres on Three Mills Island and walk by the London Stadium, with access to the Olympic Park if you want to make a detour. Along the way, look out for flapping cormorants and moorhens nesting in the unlikeliest places.

Directions overview

This route is almost entirely flat and follows Limehouse Cut, the River Lea, the Hertford Union Canal and the Regent’s Canal, meaning that it’s almost entirely on towpaths and quite hard to go wrong. At the beginning of the route, you need to find the right way out of Limehouse Basin (following signs to Limehouse Cut) and then, just past the Olympic Park at the River Lea, you cross over the river and come back along the opposite bank for a short way before veering off down the Hertford Union Canal.

Route details

Start/End Limehouse DLR station Docklands Light Railway
OS Route  WALKING POST Limehouse Loop
Difficulty Easy
Length 6.45 miles (10.4km)
Average time 2-3 hours
Total ascent 210ft

Three Mills Island

Barge East, Hertford Union Canal

Regents Canal

Olympic Stadium & River Lea

River Lea, Bottom Lock

Old Ford Locks, River Lea

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WHY NOT TRY

  • Coming off the towpath at Stratford and exploring the Olympic Park.
  • Taking a detour away from the Hereford Union Canal and going through Victoria Park instead.
  • Dipping into Mile End Park on the way back down the Regent’s Canal.

Capital Ring
Limehouse loop joins the 78 mile circular London route briefly near the Olympic Stadium.  It’s possible to continue in either direction North towards Stoke Newington or East towards Beckton.

Thames Path
This National Trail runs along the South and North banks through London. You can join the path at Limehouse and walk west towards London Bridge or east to Greenwich via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

TRANSPORT

The route starts and finishes at Limehouse DLR station, with regular services from Bank or Lewisham/ Greenwich.

You can also get the train from Limehouse National Rail station to Fenchurch Street or stations to Southend and Shoeburyness in the other direction.

TOILET OPPORTUNITIES

There are public toilets in the Olympic Park and a few options in Victoria Park. There’s also a toilet for customers in the Tesco Superstore visible up the road opposite Three Mills.

Otherwise, you may need to stop for a drink in one of the cafes and pubs along the route.

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ALONG THE WAY

Three Mills island

This stunning set of mills is one of the oldest extant industrial centres in the city, though it looks more like a Loire Valley chateau. House Mill is the world’s largest surviving tidal midal and you can take guided tours here on Sundays (or by appointment on other days). Tracy Emin’s only outdoor London (at time of writing) sculpture blends into the scenery.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Created for the 2012 Olympics, the Olympic Park is still very much in use. The stadium is now the home of West Ham Football Club. You can take in the views from the ArceorMittal Orbit and then slide down the world’s longest tunnel slide back to the ground. There’s also a new Blossom Garden commemorating the city’s shared experience of the Coronavirus pandemic with 33 blossom trees representing each of the London boroughs.

Victoria Park

Though the route of the walk goes along the canal, there are a number of gates from the towpath into Victoria Park, where there are opportunities for tea, ice creams or a picnic. There are also plenty of public toilets here.

FOOD AND DRINK

Yurt Cafe
St. Katharine’s Precinct, 2 Butcher Row, London E14 8DS
Across the road from the Bekesbourne Street exit of Limehouse DLR station, this is cafe in a Mongolian ger tent, offering hot drinks and cakes along with sandwiches, snacks and breakfasts

Barge East
River Lea, Sweetwater Mooring, White Post Ln, London E9 5EN
A restaurant and bar, housed aboard a 118 year old Dutch Barge, with a separate outdoor area on dry land. If you eat here (rather than onboard), you can enjoy casual dining and a ‘street food menu’ with great burgers. This is in a buzzing area of the river, close to Hackney Wick – with lots of food and drink options.

White Post
Building 4, 92 Schwartz Wharf, White Post Ln, London E9 5EN
Trendy bar and cafe at the start of the Hereford Union Canal, serving good coffee and pastries – along with a fully stocked bar.