Strand Palace is just steps away from piers offering riverside trips which glide past and offer the chance to stop off and explore some of London’s most regal and historic properties. It’s as easy as jumping onto one of the regular Thames Clipper services a short stroll away from Strand Palace.
Step off the boat at Westminster Pier into the past and this glorious building. This is where all the cultural and royal action that really matters has always taken place. Almost every coronation for every English monarch since 1066 has taken place in the Abbey, and many of the country’s most notable and majestic marriages have been held under its vaulting ceilings. The Queen married the Duke of Edinburgh here, and more recently, this is where the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took place. It is also where some of our most venerated artists were laid to rest or have memorials. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, the Bronte sisters… Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes – Poet’s Corner honours them all. There are also daily services echoing with choirs faithful to the sounds from centuries ago to delight in. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, a new museum above the Abbey floor, is another draw, with views and hundreds of ancient treasures to enjoy.
Back on the boat and a short ride away is Traitors’ Gate, through which many notables were taken to the Tower of London to be executed on majestic orders. Stop off to take it all in – it’s an extraordinary World Heritage Site, a splendid fortress that was once the tallest structure in London, and still strongly redolent of Royal stories played out over the centuries. It used to be a palace, then a prison. Polar bears were kept there, and allowed to swim in the Thames, attached to a rope. Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were beheaded here, and even now, there is an atmosphere of horror mingled with historical importance that lingers. The legendary ravens are always present – it is said that the Kingdom will fall if they leave, so they are well looked after by the Yeomen Warders. By way of contrast to the gristly past, the Crown Jewels glisten blindingly and are worth a visit in their own rare right.
Keep floating east along the Thames on to Greenwich, and you’ll get to Queen’s House, a once royal residence and now a resplendent repository for superb art. It’s often possible to view the extraordinary and renowned paintings for free while soaking in the architectural delights of the very first classical building in the country. The clean and thrilling lines of the Cutty Sark, one of the fastest and last tea clippers to be built can be seen just a stroll away. After the delights of the numerous food stalls and festival-vibe surrounding this famous ship, it seems fitting to take a river journey back to Strand Palace, historical views all the way.