The Palace of Westminster is perhaps one of London’s most iconic buildings. It’s where all the UK’s politicians meet and it’s where all laws are made, but do you know how it came to be? In today’s blog post, we’ll be taking an informative look at the seat of our government and its storied history. From its beginnings over a millennium ago to surviving the Blitz, this is the history of the Palace of Westminster.

Royal origins

The original site of the Palace of Westminster was built on an eyot in the River Thames known as Thorney Island, which no longer exists. This site was of strategic importance to King Canute from as early as 1016, when he used the island as his royal residence. It was Edward the Confessor who first built a royal palace at the location — around the same time he built Westminster Abbey — in the middle of the 11th century.

The oldest part of the palace that still exists today is known as Westminster Hall, which was built by King William II in the late 1090s. For much of the medieval period, it became tradition that the ruling monarch would take up their principal residence at the Palace.

The rise of parliament

The King’s council, which was a precursor to parliament, would meet in Westminster Hall to discuss their plans for the country and laying the foundations of what was to come. The first official parliament met in the Hall in 1295, and almost every single following parliament for the next 400 years took place there. Because the building was constructed as a royal residence, there were no purpose-built chambers for parliament as there are today. State ceremonies were held in what had been King Henry III’s bedchamber, while the House of Lords would meet in the Queen’s chamber.

The burning of the commons

By the 18th century, parliamentarians had their own building, but the whole site was showing signs of ageing, and its limited space had become a problem for the growing size of parliamentary business. There were calls to build a new palace, but instead yet more buildings were constructed to improve the existing site. It wouldn’t last for long however, as a fire in 1834 burned down both houses and many of the other buildings at the palace. King William IV offered up the nearly finished Buckingham Palace to parliament, but it was considered unsuitable and was rejected.

A new home

Following the fire, some chambers were repaired for temporary use, and parliament set about building a new home. Designs were submitted by some of the foremost architects of the day, but the ultimate winner, Augustus W. N. Pugin, was forced to submit his Gothic design through another architect, Charles Barry. Due to his conversion to Roman Catholicism, it was likely that his ideas would have been rejected. The first brick was laid on 27 April 1840, with the Lords Chamber and Commons Chamber completed in 1847 and 1852 respectively, and the whole project was completed by 1870.

Surviving war

During the Blitz of WWII, the Palace was hit by bombs on fourteen different raids, destroying some parts of the building and killing several people. One bomb set the roof of the House of Commons on fire, while another did the same to Westminster Hall. Only one of them could be saved, and the Hall was chosen. The Commons Chamber was destroyed by the fire, but it was rebuilt in the years after the war. Today, the Palace is in urgent need of repairs costing upwards of £7 billion, which will begin in 2022 and last for six years.

As you can see, the seat of power in the United Kingdom has a long and storied history. If you want a chance to see this and many other fantastic London landmarks, then the Foxtrail scavenger hunt is the ideal activity for you. Whether with your family, friends, or work colleagues, you’ll have to work together to beat the cunning fox. Find out more about our exciting trails and book your trip today!

Londoners have always loved exploring the city on foot, and have been doing so for thousands of years. As the novelist and historian Walter Besant wrote in 1897, “I’ve been walking about London for the last 30 years, and I find something fresh in it every day”. In this post, we’ll take you through the history of walking in London, from famous literary ramblers like Virginia Woolf, right up to the urban adventurers of the present day.

The Romans arrive on foot

Romans didn’t waste any time when it came to walking — or, to be specific, when it came to marching. When they first arrived in the city they christened ‘Londinium’ all the way back in AD 43, one of the first things they began to do was build a network of roads to allow them to march from one place to another as quickly as possible. The Romans built their roads straight— levelling anything which got in their way in the process — as this allowed them to take the most direct route and reduced travel times.

Of the fifteen major road routes the Romans built during their conquest of Britain, seven ran through London, showing the importance of the city. You can still walk along the remains of one today: Oxford Street runs directly over the route of the old Roman Road.

Promenading in the park

Thomas Gainsborough, The Mall in St. James's Park (1783)
Thomas Gainsborough, The Mall in St. James’s Park (1783)

Although the working people of London had always gotten around on foot, the idea of walking for leisure didn’t really become fashionable for members of the upper classes until late 18th century. But by the Georgian period, it had become very popular for the elite to stroll through London’s well-heeled streets and parks during the late afternoon, an activity that came to be known as ‘promenading’.

For the aristocracy, promenading was more about status than exploring the city. During the Regency era, a walk in the park or through the streets wasn’t just a chance to get some fresh air: it was also a fashion show and social event, where people would show off their finery and stop to chat with other members of high society. Hyde Park was the place to see and be seen, and on a fine day during the spring and summer you could expect to see hoards of aristocratic men and women — and social climbers hoping to fit in — promenading in the park.

The figure of the flaneur

Towards the end of the 19 century, a new type of urban rambler emerged: the flâneur. Meaning ‘stroller’ or ‘saunterer’ in French, the word is thought to originate from old Norse, meaning ‘to wander without purpose’. But it wasn’t just about aimless wandering. For the flâneur, walking through the city streets was very much an intellectual pursuit.

While promenading was all about being seen, the flâneur preferred to observe the city around him, taking in the sights and sounds and indulging in a bit of people watching. The idea was to mingle among crowds of people from all walks of life, while remaining a detached observer with no real purpose or destination.

The typical London flâneur would have been wealthy and well-educated, with plenty of time to kill. It was a turning point for the upper classes: before this figure emerged, the elite preferred to keep away from urban crowds, but it was now fashionable to blend in with the lower classes on the street.

Creative walkers in the 20th century

During the early years of the 20th century, the idea of the flâneur continued to develop, and walking through the city became connected to creativity. The artistic bohemian set would take to the streets in search of ideas, using the swarms of people around them as inspiration.

One of London’s most famous creative ramblers was the novelist and essayist Virginia Woolf, who frequently explored the streets on foot in the 1920s and 30s, an activity she called ‘street-haunting’. In a 1927 essay on the subject of walking, she would write that “to escape is the greatest of pleasures; street haunting in winter the greatest of adventures.” Strolling the city’s streets and parks also provided solace during low or stressful periods: as she wrote in her diary in 1930, “to walk alone in London is the greatest rest.”

Modern urban explorers

ParkourAs the 20th century gave way to the 21st, urban thrill seekers began to practice a new type of exploration known as parkour, or free running. No longer content to stick to the city’s pavements and walkways, free runners sought to make the city their playground, climbing, vaulting, and leaping across London to put their agility and courage to the test. By taking flight, free runners were able to see the city from a different angle.

While parkour was originally invented in Paris, the release of a documentary called Jump London in 2003 brought free running out of the shadows and helped to popularise the sport. Before long, training groups and gyms were springing up across the capital, and London is now home to Parkour UK, the official governing body for free running.

If you’re looking for something a little less high-octane, then our Foxtrail London trail is the ideal activity for you. Along with your friends, family, or workmates, you’ll be put to the test as you try to follow our cunning Fox’s clues across the capital on foot in a thrilling race against the clock! Plus, you’ll get to see some of London’s most famous areas and landmarks in a whole new light. Learn more about Foxtrail here, or get in touch to make your booking today.

So, you’ve just arrived in London, but you’ve only got 24 hours to get the most out of the city. Where should you go to eat? What are the best sights to see? And what’s going to make this trip unforgettable?

In today’s blog post, we’re going to share with you our perfect itinerary for a day trip to London, so you’ll know exactly where to go to get great food, see amazing sites, and make great memories in such a short space of time.

Where to eat breakfast

There’s a big day of exploring up ahead, so you’ll want to start the day off in the right way with some great tasting food and freshly brewed coffee.

We start things off right in the heart of London, over Waterloo Bridge on the South bank of the Thames, where you will find Le Pain Quotidien — a modest Belgian-inspired eatery that is known for its amazing breakfast. From avocado on toast and scrambled eggs to baked omelette and a ‘full Belgian’, this light breakfast will easily keep you happy until lunch time.

Attraction #1: The London Eye

You’ll have likely already seen our first destination on this whistle-stop tour of London as it’s just a stone’s throw away from where we had breakfast. You can’t really miss it! The London Eye is magnificent, and it’s a must-see if you’ve never done it before. Ascend to the skies above London and experience the city in a in a completely new way. At 135m high you’ll be able to see up to 40km is every direction — they say you can even see Windsor Castle on sunny, clear days!

Attraction #2: Covent Garden

Once you’ve come back down to earth, it’s time for a little walk. Travel north and cross Waterloo Bridge and you’ll be in Covent Garden, one of the most popular shopping and tourist sites in London. There’s so much to do here, so it really depends on what you fancy. There are plenty of attractions, including the London Transport Museum, the Royal Opera House, Leicester Square, and the National Gallery. Or just follow your feet and see what delights you uncover.

Where to eat lunch

While you’re in Covent Garden, you might as well grab some lunch. You’re spoilt for choice, so there’s bound to be something you love. You may have already found somewhere you like on your travels, but if you want our recommendation, we’d say you have to try Chick ‘n’ sours. You can get the best fried chicken in London, with a sour cocktail to boot — what’s not to love? Add in the cool atmosphere and the great tunes and this will be the most fun you’ve had at lunch in ages.

Attraction #3: Solve clues with Foxtrail

Next up, it’s time to experience London the Foxtrail way. With your partner, friends, or family, you’ll have to solve clues, crack codes, and uncover the mysteries of the cunning fox. You’ll get to see loads of famous landmarks along the way, as well as a few hidden gems for good measure. Our standard trail takes between 2.5–4 hours to complete, depending on how good you are at working together and beating the game. You can find out more about exactly what to expect on our info page.

Where to eat dinner

Now that you’ve built up an appetite, it’s time for dinner. We’re heading to Soho to experience one of the West End’s top restaurants: PolpoIf Venetian sharing platters and sumptuous Italian wines are your thing, you won’t be disappointed. Get as much or as little as you like while soaking up the atmosphere. And don’t worry about booking a table in advance, tables are allocated on a first-come first-serve basis.

Attraction #4: See a show on the West End

After eating dinner in the West End, there’s really no other choice but to go and see one of the many brilliant stage shows on offer. There are approximately 40 theatres in this area of London alone, and you can see anything from musicals and classics to modern plays and comedies. There are too many shows to choose from, and there are new ones added all the time, so the hardest part is picking your favourite. It depends what mood you’re in, but we love The Lion King, Matilda, and Wicked. It’s best to book in advance if you want to see one of the more popular shows, but you can sometimes pick up last minute tickets for a bargain.

Once the show is over you can find a nice local bar or head back to your hotel and get some well-deserved rest — you’ve just had a jam-packed day in London. If you’ve got even less than 24 hours but want to see as much as you can, the Foxtrail London treasure trail will help you make the most out of it.

If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands and are looking for more things to do in London, or simply want to find out more information about the history of the capital, why not take a look at the Foxtrail blog?

Kids learn best when they are actively engaged in what they’re doing. That’s why rich experiences such as scavenger trails are a great way to help them acquire knowledge and develop new skills. In this blog post, we’re going to discuss five things that Foxtrail London’s scavenger hunts will teach your kids, from navigational skills and problem solving to teamwork and independent thinking.

Problem solving

Our trails are designed to get your mental cogs turning, and they can be tough to solve. The kids will have to put their heads together and think long and hard if they are to solve our clues and break our codes. They’ll have a chance to learn each step of the problem-solving process, from identifying the problem and analysing what must be done to taking in their environment and using their detective skills to find the answer. This kind of task is incredibly engaging for children and a great way for them to feel accomplished.

Working as a team

Of course, problem solving alone can only get you so far, and many heads are often better than one. To have the best chance of beating the trail, they’ll need to work together. That way they’ll be able to solve each riddle and crack each code quicker and find their way to the next clue. Getting the kids working together will not only help them to improve their communication skills, it will also show them the importance of listening to each person’s unique perspective to achieve a shared goal.

Independent thinking

An integral part of working as a group is being able to think independently and then relay that information to others to help solve the clue. By allowing the kids to do this, and by encouraging them to speak up and take the lead when they think they have an idea is a great way, will be a massive boost to their confidence. Certain children will be better at understanding and completing certain tasks then others, so it’s a fantastic chance to get them to listen to the ideas of others and relate that back to their own understanding.

Navigational skills

London is one of the world’s biggest cities, so getting out and about in the capital is one of the best ways to help improve the kids’ navigational skills. To beat the dastardly Fox, you’ll have to follow the clues all over London, learning the basics of navigation, such as the cardinal directions, along the way. For added learning, you could even take a compass with you! Not only that, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to teach them about pedestrian safety, including understanding traffic lights and being safe on the pavement.

The history of London

Aside from all of the useful skills that the kids will develop over the course of their trail, they’ll also be immersed in the history and culture of London. They may not even know it, but they will be learning all about the incredible past of our capital city and many of its most iconic buildings and monuments. Reading a book on the history of London is one way to do it, but being out on the streets and experiencing this history first hand will help that knowledge stay with them for a lifetime.

Whether you want to treat the kids to a great day out with friends and family or think it would be the ideal choice for your next school trip, Foxtrail London has got you covered. Get the kids solving a whole range of fun clues and riddles as they follow our trail across the city, and improve many of their skills in the process.

If you’d like to learn more about our London trails, or want to find out more information about the experience, you can get in touch with the Foxtrail team today. You might also be interested in checking out the rest of our blog where we have loads of great ideas for things to do and sights to see in London.

From an 18th century slum to a bustling complex of luxury homes and shops, the St. Katharine Docks in Wapping have a fascinating history. In this post, we’ll share the story of the London landmark that now features as part of our Foxtrail London scavenger hunt — read on to discover the hidden secrets of the St. Katharine Docks.

A medieval hospital and place of liberty

Although you’d never be able to tell by looking at the luxurious housing, glamourous bars, and millionaires’ yachts currently lining the quayside, the St. Katharine Docks actually had rather humble — and holy — beginnings. Before the docks were built, the site was once home to a medieval hospital and chapel called St. Katharine’s by the Tower, thanks to its proximity to the Tower of London. It all began in 1147 when Queen Matilda, wife of King Stephen, provided the funds to build a hospital for the townspeople, staffed by six monks and nuns and some ‘poor clerks’.

Back in those days, it was still very much a quiet part of the young city. As the area had a non-parochial ‘liberty’ status — meaning it wasn’t owned by the church — and was protected by the Queen, the hospital was able to survive the tumultuous years following the dissolution of the monasteries during Henry VIII’s reign. By the 1600s, the area had become a busy part of the city centre.

A 19th century slum

However, as the population of London increased, the area around St. Katharine’s by the Tower gradually became a tangle of crooked narrow streets brimming with crime and poverty. As the area was outside official church jurisdiction, the slum was home to those looking for somewhere to ply their often less than honest trades away from the restrictions of the City Guilds. With street names like Dark Entry, Cat’s Hole, Shovel Alley, Rookery, and Pillory Lane, it’s not difficult to imagine what life was like for the people who lived in the slum of St. Katharine’s by the Tower during the 18th and 19th century.

The creation of the docks

By the 1820s, public demand was building for another dock along the north bank of the river Thames to help make room for the ever-increasing number of cargo ships arriving from overseas. In 1825, permission was granted for the demolition of 1250 crowded slum houses to make way for the creation of the St. Katharine Docks, featuring two large basins and a complex of warehouses. Work began in 1827 with the demolition of the old medieval hospital of St. Katharine’s by the Tower and what one contemporary chronicler called “some of the most insanitary and unsalutary dwellings in London”. But that wasn’t such a welcome change for over 11,000 former tenants of the slum, who were forced out without a penny of compensation.

It cost over £2 million to build the St. Katharine Docks. The development had an East and West dock, with spacious warehouses built close the quayside so goods could be transported and stored as quickly as possible. The docks were opened without much fanfare on 28th October 1828.

The docks in decline

For a number of years after opening, the docks were a bustling port. A huge selection of luxury items would have passed through the docks every day, including wine, tea, ivory, sugar, marble, rare jewels, perfume, and spices. While the docks and warehouses were well-used, their limited size became a problem, as they couldn’t accommodate the increasingly large cargo ships. By the turn of the 20th century, the docks had fallen into decline.

During the Second World War, docks and warehouses were a major strategical target for German bombers. The St. Katharine Docks were very badly damaged in the Blitz, and all warehousing around the East dock was destroyed. The West basin was still sometimes used, but it wasn’t large enough to harbour large modern ships, and the docks were eventually closed for good and sold off to the Greater London Council in 1968.

Regeneration: the docks today

While a few buildings popped up on the West dock during the 1970s and 80s, the site of the East dock was left derelict until the 90s, when interest began to grow in redeveloping the area. Work was completed in the late 1990s, and the dock was reopened as a glamourous marina. Nowadays, the area that once bustled with clippers, cargo ships, and dock workers is lined with the gleaming yachts and luxurious flats, offices, shops, bars, and restaurants.

There are still a few traces of the old docks left for those who know where to look, though. The Dickens Inn was once an 18th century warehouse that — somewhat miraculously — has managed to survive years of redevelopment and even the Blitz to become an inviting historical pub.

History is everywhere you look in London and, no matter how long you’ve lived in the city, there are always new things to discover. If you’re keen to explore the hidden secrets of the St. Katharine Docks, why not tackle our Foxtrail London trail, which takes you right into the heart of this historic area? Not only will you get to see the docks up close, but you’ll also get to uncover the secrets of lots more famous landmarks and sites. To learn more about what happens on the trail, get in touch with our team.

 

Spring is here, the weather is warming up, and the long weekend is fast approaching. If you’re still wondering how you’re going to spend that extra day off work, university, or school, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Here are five fun family-friendly things to do in London on the late May bank holiday. From flamenco dancing to baby discos, read on to find the perfect activity for all the family.

Feria de Londres

Wish you could jet off to Spain for the bank holiday weekend? Don’t book those plane tickets just yet — you might be able to get your fix of Spanish culture, cuisine, and entertainment right here in London at the Feria de Londres, a celebration of all things Andalusian. We can’t promise you’ll get authentic Spanish sunshine on the day, but there will be a range of activities for all the family, complete with flamenco dancing and a huge choice of food and drink.

Kids will love the face-painting, hair styling, and arts and crafts, while grown-ups can sample a selection of Spanish wines, sherries, and beers, as well as delicious street food. Live bands will play traditional music throughout the day and, after dark, a DJ will be on duty to keep you dancing all night long.

When: Friday 24th–Sunday 26th May
Where: South Bank, London, SE1 9PH
How much? Free

Tire the kids out with an indoor climbing session

We’re all praying for sunshine this bank holiday but, given that it’s London, the chances of grey skies and drizzle are still pretty high. If the kids are bouncing off the walls and the weather forecast is looking dismal, why not let them burn off some of that energy with an indoor climbing session at Clip ‘n Climb in Chelsea? Kids can tackle 21 colourful climbing walls, as well as a Leap of Faith and vertical drop slide that will put the courage of even the most adventurous child to the test!

No climbing experience is needed, and training and equipment are provided. Clip ‘n Climb is suitable for children aged four and over, and we recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.

When: Sessions run from 9am–6.30pm during the bank holiday weekend.
Where: 19 Michael Road, Chelsea, London, SW6 2ER.
How much? £17.50 per child.

Solve clues as a family with Foxtrail London

Looking for something that will encourage your kids to get their thinking caps on this bank holiday? Our Foxtrail London trails will get the whole family working together to solve tricky clues, break codes, and work out riddles left by our fiendish Fox.

You’ll have to be quick on your feet, as our trail will lead you all over the city, and allow you to take in all sorts of sights along the way. It’s an interactive, city-wide adventure that will help even the most seasoned Londoners see familiar landmarks in a new light, so it’s great if you’ve done all the big attractions and tourist traps before! To learn more, take a look at our info page.

When: Flexible start times. Book in advance.
Where: The Visitor Information Centre, St. Paul’s Cathedral. Contact us for more information.
How much? £30.00 per person, or £80.00 for a family ticket.

Go for a stroll in the sunshine

If the weather is fine on Bank Holiday Monday, then it’s time to dust off your walking boots and set out exploring the city on foot. We’re blessed with some of the finest parks and walking routes in the world right here on our doorstep, so there’s really no excuse not to get out and about. You can find the best routes through the city in our round-up of the best walks in London, so take a look to start planning your day out.

When: Whenever the sun’s shining!
Where: Across London.
How much? Free.

Take the kids clubbing – no, really

Clubbing with toddlers? It might sound crazy but, thanks to Monski Mouse’s Baby Disco, the whole family can dance like nobody’s watching this bank holiday. Hosted by DJ and producer Monski and her team of talented dancers, this smash-hit party will let children under the age of five (and their parents) dance along to a selection of retro hits and child-friendly pop. There’s even a soft play area where babies who are a little too young for dancing can roll around to the music.

The disco is taking place on the South Bank as part of the Underbelly Festival. The festival is running all summer long, are there are absolutely loads of free events, live shows, and performance workshops for kids and grown-ups alike taking place. So, if you’re still looking for more inspiration, take a look to find more fun things to do.

When: 1.15pm, Sunday 26th and Monday 27th May. Sessions last around 50 minutes.
Where: South Bank, Belvedere Road Coach Park, London, SE1 8XX.
How much? From £8.50.

Here at Foxtrail, we know London inside out, so take a look at our blog to find even more fun things to do. Looking for something a little more off the beaten track? Check out our post on London’s hidden gems you have to visit!

London is a fantastic city — you don’t need us to tell you that! With hundreds of tourist attractions to see and thousands of eateries to discover, you could spend a lifetime here and still never see them all. To make the most of your time in the capital, we recommend taking on one of the many walking routes and soaking up the sights along the way. Read on to find out about our five favourite walks through this great city.

Thames Path

One of the most iconic walking trails, the Thames Path stretches 184 miles along the River Thames, from its source in Gloucestershire all the way to the Thames Barrier in south east London. The beauty of this walk is that you can choose to start and finish wherever you like, and choose which sites you want to see. From incredible Tudor architecture to the beautiful Hampton Court Palace, and the natural wonders of Kew Gardens to the lush plains of Marble Hill House and Petersham Meadow, there’s something for everyone.

As this is a fairly central path through London, you’ll easily be able to link up with many other walks. To help ensure you get to see everything you want to, we suggest getting a map, choosing your top sites, and making your own path.

The Jubilee Walkway

Originally opened in 1977 as the Silver Jubilee Walkway in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne 25 years earlier, the goal of this route was to connect many of the capital’s top attractions. The whole route is about 15 miles long but is easily split up in to five main routes: the Western loop, the Eastern loop, the City loop, the Camden loop, and the Jubilee loop. If you want to pack as many major tourist spots as possible into a single day, you can’t go wrong with one of these walks.

There are simply too many attractions to list them all, but some of the sites you can see include, the National Gallery, St Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Tower of London, the British Library, and Buckingham Palace.

Hampstead Heath Walk

In contrast to the other fantastic urban walks on this list, Hampstead Heath is a chance to explore nature, with wild, untamed fields and amazing views of the city. Covering an area of 320 hectares, you’ll find all sorts of fantastic sights in the Heath, from strings of ponds and ancient woodlands to huge bushes of flowers and a vast array of wildlife — including the largest pipistrelle bat roost in London. As one of the capital’s largest green areas, it offers a great chance to find some wilderness within the hustle and bustle of the big city.

There are plenty of self-guided walking opportunities through some of the prettiest areas of Hampstead, with plenty of great pubs and cafés along the way. For the best views, climb Parliament Hill and take in the iconic skyline.

Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk

This seven-mile circular walk is dedicated to the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, with 90 plaques in the ground (pictured above) marking the route. This walk will take you through four of the eight Royal Parks: St James’s Park, Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens. You’ll also stroll past three palaces and two mansions, and be given the chance to see a selection of locations that were meaningful to the Princess. If you’ve got little ones with you, make a stop at the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, which has plenty of play equipment inspired by the adventures of Peter Pan.

What’s great about this walk is that it runs in almost circular loops, so it’s easy to join at any point and get back to where you began. Many walkers begin their journey at Hyde Park Corner, which acts as a kind of midpoint, allowing you to walk in a number of directions.

The Outer Orbital Path

Not quite as long as the full Thames Path, the London Outer Orbital Path — known as the London LOOP — stretches to a length of 150 miles. The route is the walking equivalent of the M25, circling the entire Greater London area and going through many of the city’s suburbs. There’s a lot of variety on this route, as you might imagine, with a mix of parkland, woodland, and farmland, as well as plenty of canals and rivers to take in. That said, you are in London, and parts of the trail will take you close to busy roads and urban areas.

The London LOOP is a fairly easy walk to follow, and it can be broken up in a variety of interesting ways, meaning you can create a walk to your own specifications and abilities, whichever part of London you are in.

There are so many great ways to explore the city of London. If you’re looking to spice up your walking tours of the city, you might be interested in the Foxtrail London treasure trail. Our unique take on sightseeing will allow you to explore the city on foot while taking on the cunning fox by cracking clues and deciphering codes.

For more great sightseeing ideas, as well as an in-depth look at some of London’s best locations, check out the Foxtrail blog. We’re constantly adding new and exciting ideas, so check back regularly and start planning your next adventure.

Whether you’re visiting London for the first time or have lived in the capital your whole life, you should definitely visit the historic Southwark Cathedral. With a mix of historic and modern architecture, coupled with a long and storied history — including the residence of William Shakespeare — there’s plenty to see and learn. In this blog post, we’re taking a look at the history of Southwark Cathedral and learning about some of the famous faces that have graced its halls, as well as how it has developed over the last millennium.

Unknown origins

Southwark Cathedral or, more formally, the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, has a long and storied past, though its true origins remain unknown to this day.

The site is located at the River Thames’ oldest crossing point, which was once the only entrance to the city of London from the south. Stories passed through generations claimed that the site was originally established by a community of nuns as far back as the 7th century, but there is no historical record of a religious site until the Domesday Book of 1086 listed it as a holy site.

Rebuilding history

In 1106, the church was officially founded as a priory by two Norman knights under the Diocese of Winchester. The church suffered extensive damage during the Great Fire of Southwark in 1212 and was rebuilt over the following years under the oversight of a succession of bishops. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, when Henry VIII took control of the country’s religious buildings and wealth to fund his war campaigns in France, the church was taken under the King’s control and rented back to the congregation.

Going it alone

Eventually, the worshippers grew tired of this arrangement and, in 1611, several merchants decided to purchase the church back from King James I for £800. For the next few hundred years, the congregation was able to attend the church unhindered but, by the 19th century, the building had fallen into disrepair. Plans for a new London bridge meant that some Londoners felt the church should be demolished and rebuilt on another site. Ultimately, it was decided that the church should be restored, and many parts of the cathedral you see today are still standing because of this decision.

Becoming a cathedral

Though it has been a place for Christian worshippers for over a millennium, the Southwark holy site only became a cathedral in 1905, with a diocese covering the area from Kingston-upon-Thames to Thamesmead. At the turn of the 21st century, new extensions were added to the north of the Cathedral, providing meeting and conference rooms, a library, an education centre, a museum, a shop, and a refectory. This new cloister was opened by Nelson Mandela in 2001.

Famous congregants

The holy site has played host to many famous individuals over the last 1000 years. Its first and only Royal Wedding took place in 1423 when King James I of Scotland married Joan Beaufort on the site. Famous court poet and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower was a resident of the church at the beginning of the 15th century until his death in 1408. William Shakespeare was also a resident of the site for a time, and celebrations are still held on his birthday each year. To add to the list of famous writers who graced the church’s halls, Charles Dickens attended meetings and bellringing practice there before his death in 1870.

As you can see, Southwark Cathedral is absolutely bursting with history. If you’re looking for an interesting way to explore this site, and many others around London, then the Foxtrail London treasure trail could be the adventure for you. Our unique take on sightseeing will have you take on the cunning fox by cracking clues and deciphering codes across London.

If you’re looking for other things to do in London or want to find out more about this great city, why not take a look at the Foxtrail blog? Whether you’re new to the area or are London born, there’s a whole host of exciting history to discover.

Visitor information: Entrance to the Southwark Cathedral is free, although a voluntary donation is welcomed. The cathedral also offers various services and tours throughout the week, and photographs can be taken for a small fee. Visit the cathedral’s website for full visitor information.

If you’re looking for a corporate teambuilding retreat that will promote cooperation, boost morale, and get your staff socialising outside the workplace, then one of our London scavenger trails is the ideal activity. In this blog post, we’ll tell you more about what happens during the trail, and why it makes such an effective — and fun — corporate day out.

What happens during Foxtrail’s corporate teambuilding trail?

During our London corporate teambuilding trail, your employees will be split into groups of up to 7 people and tasked with following an urban treasure trail across the city. To complete the trail, they’ll need to crack codes, solve tricky clues, and decipher the hidden messages left behind by our cunning Fox. Plus, your team will get to see all sorts of famous London landmarks along the way, as well as a few hidden gems, too.

Once they’ve beaten the trail, you can even take your team for some celebratory refreshments in a private room at one of our partner hotels — just ask our team for more info when making your booking. Our classic trail takes around 2.5–4 hours to finish, depending on how well your staff can work as a team! You can learn more about what happens on our trails on our info page.

It helps staff to bond outside the office

Firstly, our Foxtrail London route is a fantastic way for employees to get to know one each other outside the workplace. While traditional work mixers like socialising over a meal or a few drinks can get staff chatting, bonding is often much more effective when everyone is collaborating on a joint task. Foxtrail London’s teambuilding trail is completely engaging, meaning your staff will really feel closer to one another once they’ve beaten the trail by working together.

It promotes problem solving

Your employees will need to put their heads together and think on their feet to solve the clues and break the codes. They’ll be using all their observational, analytical, and detective skills in a way that is fun, fast-paced and exciting. Many of the clues can be quite challenging, so they’ll really need to be fully engaged if they want to solve the trail.

There’s no need to worry about getting stuck, though: if a fiendishly difficult problem starts to get in the way of the fun, your team can always contact the Foxtrail helpline for a push in the right direction!

It’ll get staff actively exploring the city

London over the Thames

Foxtrail London will get your employees out of the office and exploring the city together on foot, which can be a great way to shake up their everyday routine. Taking your employees out of a corporate environment encourages them to get to know each other outside of a work context, and it’s certainly much better than spending all day cooped up indoors. Our trails involve a mix of walking and public transport, so you get to be active without being too strenuous, meaning it’s ideal for all ages and fitness levels.

It encourages teamwork

Foxtrail London can be challenging, so teamwork is a must. Our trails are designed to test their wits, meaning your staff will need to communicate with one another to solve the clues and navigate their way through the trail. So, if you’re looking for way to get your staff working together, or maybe shake up the dynamic and encourage a culture change in your workplace, Foxtrail London is a great way to do this.

…and most importantly, it’s great fun

Most importantly, Foxtrail London is a complete blast! All too often, traditional corporate retreats are indoor events involving lots of tedious, forgettable teambuilding exercises that do little to really help your employees connect with one another. Our treasure trail is a fast-paced, active outdoor adventure that will take your staff right into the heart of London, one of the most exciting cities in the world. It’s four miles of fun that we’re confident your employees will still be talking about for weeks to come — what could be better?

Our exciting Foxtrail London scavenger hunts will get your team solving all sorts of clues and riddles as they follow the trail across the city, which will promote teamwork, improve communication, and help employees to bond. If you’d like to learn more about booking a teambuilding scavenger hunt with us, or want to learn more about how we can make your trip a bespoke experience, get in touch with the Foxtrail team today.

London is filled to the brim with some of the most famous sights, landmarks and tourist attractions in the world, but sometimes, you just want to get away from the crowds. Luckily, we’ve shared four hidden gems in London that are still very much off the beaten track, so they’ll be much less crowded. Whether you’re a seasoned Londoner looking for something a little different to do this weekend, or you’re just passing through and want to avoid the usual tourist hotspots, any of these secret spots is well worth your time. Plus, they’re all completely free!

Little Venice

Little Venice, London

You may not be able to jet off to Venice this weekend, but you can pay a visit to London’s very own version of the famous Italian city. Located just north of Paddington along the Regent’s Canal, this tranquil neighbourhood is the perfect location for a lazy afternoon stroll. Complete with flower-filled canal boats, quaint bridges, and inviting waterside cafes and bars, Little Venice is so much like its Italian counterpart that it’s easy to forget you’re still in the middle of London. We recommend starting at the Rembrandt Gardens and following the canal upstream towards Camden to really see the best the area has to offer.

A buried Victorian street

Charing Cross Road in one the busiest roads in London, with commuters and tourists jostling for space as they rush across the city. But while most people pass over the ordinary-looking traffic island on the junction between Charing Cross and Old Compton Street, it harbours a secret: it’s built right on top of an old Victorian street, the remains of which can still be glimpsed through a metal grate. In fact, if you take a moment to stop and look down, you can still see two well preserved street signs beneath your feet — a reminder of London’s past.

St. Dunstan in the East

St Dunstan’s church

Featuring arching gothic windows and a tower by famed architect Christopher Wren, this bombed-out church is one of the few remaining places you can still see the damage left by the Blitz. But, while it may be a ruin, St. Dunstan in the East still has plenty to offer: in recent years the shell of the church has been landscaped and turned into a beautiful urban garden, giving it a poignant serenity and haunting beauty quite unlike any other park in the city. If you want to visit when it’s quiet, we recommend visiting St. Dunstan’s on a weekend, when the City workers have headed home.

Find the London Noses dotted around Soho

Carnaby Street, Soho

If you’ve got keen eyes and a few hours to spare, why not go on a hunt for the London Noses? These small plaster casts can be found dotted all over Soho, each poking out of a different wall or building in the area. The noses were originally — and illegally — installed by artist Rick Buckley in the late nineties as an act of protest against CCTV cameras, and curious Londoners have been trying to sniff them out ever since.

The noses have been the subject of several famous urban legends over the years, including one rumour that anyone who can find all seven will be rewarded with great fortune — but we’d take that one with a pinch of salt! At any rate, hunting for the noses is certainly a quirky way to explore the lively streets of Soho.

If you’re looking for a new way to explore some of our capital’s best kept secrets, a Foxtrail London treasure trail will be right up your street. You’ll need to think on your feet to solve the tricky clues our cunning Fox has left all over the city, discovering all sorts of secrets along the way, many of which are hiding in plain sight. Best of all, you can bring your friends and family or workmates along for the ride!

Looking for more hidden gems in London? Don’t forget to check out the Foxtrail blog, where you’ll find all sorts of fun things to do for both tourists and city-dwellers alike.