Take a rejuvenating break just a short boat ride away from the UK’s capital, at a place within easy reach of all the first-class amenities that the big smoke affords. In a posh suburb of London, right on the doorstep of Greenwich – the very place where time begins – discover a perfect place to claw back some ‘you time’. Recharge the batteries as you enjoy nature in ample outdoor space as you walk upon an ancient common where kings and soldiers once did battle. Spend your leisure time designer shopping and stop for a coffee as you soak up the village vibe right before a lunch at the exclusive Ivy Café, a cousin of the capital’s coveted exclusive address The Ivy. There is so much to discover in Blackheath.
Blackheath is a small village in the ward of Lewisham, and it is perched just above Greenwich, at the top of Greenwich Park, which boasts one of the most famous cityscapes in the country. Greenwich itself is a lively maritime village with plenty of amenities, so if you can’t find what you need in Blackheath, just head on down to the waterside. Greenwich, in turn, is just a boat ride away from all the major attractions of the capital. Yet here, in Blackheath, a real sense of community prevails. Head on down Montpellier Row and browse the scores of designer shops brimming with the latest fashions and gadgets. There are beautiful florists, village butchers, high-end stationers, wine bars and kerbside cafés to linger over a coffee. And no discerning visitor would want to miss the opportunity to have lunch at the sought-after Ivy Café, which is part of the iconic brand frequently booked by celebrities. As you sit watching the world go by with a coffee in your hand you can hear the clipped tones of the ladies that lunch chattering as they go about their day-to-day business and the businessmen and women on their phones as clinching their city deals as they work from home. Classical music lovers will love Blackheath Halls where many highbrow concerts and recitals have taken place down the years.
The history of the area and birthplace of English golf
Blackheath Common is a large open space in the middle of this upscale community and it has been the stage for many historical events and even the courting ground of a king and his future queen. It seems fitting for such a genteel place to be the location for England’s very first golf club. The Royal Blackheath Golf Club was established in 1608 and the 17th Century clubhouse pays homage to its rich history. It is clear this is a neighbourhood that has always had some influence over the centuries. Opulence is all around, reflected in the gracious Georgian mansions that line the common where ladies and gentlemen of high society once resided. Wat Tyler formed the peasant revolt right here in Blackheath to protest the rise in taxation and the removal of King Richard in 1381. This caused a major uprising across the whole of England that triggered the 100 Year War. This common itself is an elegant green space where lords and ladies held picnics and social occasions. Indeed in 1415 King Henry V returned from Agincourt victorious from his battles and was greeted by the residents of Blackheath cloaked in scarlet. Later King Henry VIII pitched fine perfumed pavilions spun from the gold cloth here to mark the first meeting of Anne of Cleves. And down the ages, this taste for the finer things seems to have prevailed when it comes to surveying the designer shops and restaurants in the area, it seems that the cobbles here really are paved with gold. Royal Greenwich also has a rich maritime history as the naval capital of England, where Napoleon’s clothes still hang, as well as the Royal Naval College and former military hospital that stand in all their splendour. You can take a tour of Greenwich with London Guided Walks and Ian McDiarmid will talk you through its rich tapestry of history.
Stay at the Clarendon
The Clarendon is a quirky three-star hotel built in the Victorian era, with over 100 rooms overlooking the Heath and the church. It is the focal point of the village, easily accessible from Greenwich Park just down Blackheath Avenue, which many might recognise as the start of the London Marathon, so it is a great place to stay if you are thinking of entering the race. Once guests have checked in at the beautifully floral reception, they are given their room key and they can begin their stay. Rooms here range from entry-level classic rooms which contain single, twin or double beds while Crown rooms are slightly larger. For those looking for a bit more space, the Crown Deluxe rooms have a king-size bed as well as a sofa area for relaxing. Meanwhile, deluxe rooms look out over the heath. Guests are welcomed with a mini bottle of wine and luxury chocolates. Executive and honeymoon suites, have a separate lounge area for relaxing and include a spacious bedroom with a king-size bed, and flat screen televisions in both the bed and lounge areas. The Clarendon also has a great choice of family rooms, with triple and quad rooms that accommodate up to five with adjoining two bedrooms. Most of the rooms have stunning views of Blackheath or the hotel gardens and all come complete with a work desk. All the rooms are elegantly furnished and have tea and coffee making facilities and flat-screen television and have lots of space so you can spread out. The ensuite bathroom has lovely amenities and a power shower. Room service is available 24 7 and if you want anything nothing is too much trouble for the staff who are all so friendly and welcoming.
Live music and entertainment
After a comfortable night’s sleep guests can enjoy a full English breakfast at the Meridian Restaurant. As well as bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes, beans and hash browns, there also a range of cereals and continental breakfasts. On a sunny day, step outside into the walled garden to enjoy your English breakfast tea in the sunshine. If you are staying in the evening, the restaurant serves excellent evening meals. The dining room has a piano, which guests are welcome to use. The room is very spacious and a great space to enjoy with friends and family. In the summer, diners may wish to eat their meal on the terrace or enjoy drinks in the walled garden. The Clarendon’s entertainment programme in the Chart Bar includes theme nights, DJs and comedy evenings. Many weddings take place here on weekends in the conference rooms as well as live jazz sessions and regular performances by soul legend Fil Straughan.
Lunch at The Ivy Café
The Ivy Café, just over the road, is an exclusive venue to book an evening meal with your beloved or even the whole family. It is also good if you are dining alone during a business trip. The restaurant takes bookings but also welcomes walk ins. Guests are guided to their table by experienced waiters and are given space to settle among vibrant luxury surroundings before their order is taken. From the moment guests arrived they are treated like VIP’s and offered the menu and wine list. An elegant ambiance envelops patrons who dine here from the tinkle of refined backing music to the clinking of the silver service as the tea is served. Green is the colour of money and happens to the same hue of the restaurant’s iconic logo that entwines the expensive linen napkins. It is wonderful in the day too, when the light streams in through the windows with wonderful heath views. The Afternoon Tea is divine, coming with full silver service tea pot, sugar bowl and milk as well as dainty finger sandwiches and delectable cakes. Silver cutlery is all laid out on the table and the walls are adorned in contemporary art with a tropical bird theme. In the ladies’ bathrooms find silk wallpaper with birds of paradise on and flowers across the ceiling.
Stargazing at the Royal Observatory
Blackheath is but a short walk away from The Greenwich Royal Observatory, which can be reached via Blackheath gate entrance to Greenwich Park. From time to time, stargazing events are held at the Peter Harrison Planetarium. Under a dome, the latest technology reveals the night sky. A world of wonder opens to you to as the heavens reveal their celestial wonders, and all the constellations and galaxies are explained by a resident astronomer. Greenwich is home to an impressive array of stargazing equipment which makes it a must-see place if you are a fan of all things astronomical and they can help you to map the constellations and even spot the milky way. Venture further down the hill for more entertainment in Royal Greenwich concert recitals in the grand buildings and some art appreciation in The Gilded Hall. Immerse yourself in history, learning all about Greenwich’s rich maritime heritage, or simply enjoy a drink in one of the many pubs in this vibrant area. There are many to choose from including the Gipsy Moth and The Trafalgar Tavern, a beautiful building covered in flowers right on the Thames which has many nautical-themed rooms full to the brim with trinkets and artifacts that celebrate the maritime heritage of the area as a masthead of Lord Nelson himself looks on from the main bar.
As you head back up the hill to Blackheath take an uber, taxi, or 386 bus – since the park closes at 6.30 pm, stop for a drink at The Greenwich Tavern on King William Walk and when you reach the top of the hill, you might want to have a nightcap in the Princess of Wales back in Blackheath. Night busses run frequently in every direction if you want to go further afield.
Blackheath seems to have it all and is independent yet connected. However, it remains largely undiscovered due to the fame of its maritime neighbour. If you are visiting the area, why not choose Blackheath as your base. It is the perfect place to stay on your next weekend trip close to all the action but with a village atmosphere that embraces all who visit.