Spend a day in a Riverside Village without leaving London

1 March 2022

Beautiful Barnes. A riverside village in Southwest London only a mere six miles from central London and located in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.

Named Berne (meaning barn) in the 1087 Domesday book, Barnes occupies 902 acres and only really found itself on the map in 1827 when Hammersmith Bridge was built. 

Where to start

There is no underground route to Barnes, so trains take you to Barnes or Barnes Bridge stations from central London, and there are various bus routes to Barnes.

The main High Street is about equal distance from both stations and is home to both chain and independent shops, restaurants and services.

In the village centre, just off the High Street, is the pond, a stunning area that hosts the annual Barnes Fair and the Barnes Children's Literature Festival, London's largest children's book event.

If you continue past the pond along Church Road, you’ll come across more shops and cafes until you come to a junction. Castelnau will take you on a lovely walk past some beautiful houses to the river. Or you can walk down Rocks Lane to visit the ample open space of Barnes Common.

On the edge of the common on Queen’s Ride is Marc Bolan’s rock shrine, which marks the scene of his death in 1977 at the age of twenty-nine.

Or walk the other way

If you choose to walk down the High Street away from the pond, you’ll reach the River Thames.

If you do nothing else in Barnes, take in the view of the river from The Terrace. While at The Terrace, you can also stare at some old Georgian mansions and look for the blue plaques which show where composer Gustav Holst and founder of the Royal Ballet, Ninette de Valois, once lived.

Walking along the road under Barnes Bridge takes you into a charming area with the White Hart pub on the river, while cafes and shops are scattered along the residential area of White Hart Lane.

Mortlake High Street will take you on a short walk to Mortlake, and White Hart Lane offers shops, restaurants, antique shops and the hidden away Brown Dog pub.

Leisurely or adventurous walking routes

There are many mini-trips you can take from Barnes on foot or bike. The 2.3-mile Barnes Trail offers different routes starting in Barnes to highlight the best of the village.

It’s a circular route, and you can follow it once you locate a silver Barnes Trail disc in the ground. If you’re feeling fit, you can extend the route by 3 miles (where you’ll find wooden posts showing the route rather than discs), or simply take the short route easy and stop along the way at one of Barnes’ many eateries.

Alternatively, if you start at the White Hart pub (any excuse!) and turn left, you can follow the Thames Path to Mortlake and beyond to Kew Gardens or Richmond.

Or you can head to Barnes Bridge and climb up the stairs from Barnes Bridge station. The bridge is Grade II listed and was constructed in 1849 by Joseph Locke.

If you turn right at the end, you can take a relaxed riverside walk to Hammersmith and over Hammersmith Bridge and back onto the towpath to Barnes. Or keep walking as far as Putney!

Get comfy in the historical Olympic Studios

The Olympic Studios, located on Church Road, was once a legendary recording studio and is now a cinema.

And many of the great recordings there included the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Beatles (where they were inspired to write ‘All you need is love’), Coldplay, Madonna and many more music icons. U2 were the final artists to record there.

Before its recording studio fame, the venue was a cinema called the Barnes Picture House, then a theatre, then a cinema again and then the studio! It seems it was destined to be a cinema as now the venue is an independent cinema showing new releases.

It hosts a café and restaurant if you want to stick around long after the film has finished. It’s a ten-minute walk from either Barnes Bridge or Barnes stations, and the owners went all the way to Norway to bring the comfy seats back for the ultimate cinema experience.

Don’t miss the Boat Race

Once a year (usually in April), the famous boat race between Oxford and Cambridge universities takes place on the River Thames, and Barnes forms part of the world-famous route.

It began in 1829 and is one of the most well-known sporting events for amateur participants. The Championship Course kicks off in Putney and travels just over four miles through Barnes, finishing in neighbouring Mortlake.

If you can make it to Barnes to watch this annual event, you’ll need to get there early for a prime viewing spot along the Thames, as it’s a hugely popular event for live spectators. Barnes pubs like the White Hart or Bull Inn will be bursting with excited spectators, and the atmosphere is remarkable.

But the festivities don’t stop as the race finishes. If you’re in Barnes on the boat race day, you’re guaranteed celebrations, commiserations and general partying in the pubs, including the Sun Inn, late into the night.

Get back to nature at the London Wetland Centre

A short walk from both Barnes stations is the magnificent London Wetland Centre, a nature reserve of 105 acres.

Where else in London can you enjoy 180 species of bird and escape in a tranquil oasis of wildlife and countryside? The centre was built on four old reservoirs, and the paths are flat and easily accessible.

There are six hides where you can wait and watch nature, whether it’s a rare bird, butterfly, duck, water vole or lizard! And it doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, as you’ll see different wildlife depending on the season.

If you’re fed up with the hustle and bustle of central London, head to Barnes for a refreshing hit of open spaces, village life, riverside walks and excellent food and drink.

It’s easy to visit for the day or make it a regular trip and do something different each time. And don’t miss a visit in the summer when the river is active, the picnic opportunities are ample, and the pub gardens are a must.