Limehouse Cut Walk: Stratford to Limehouse Circular Route

In the east end of London, walkers have a good selection of routes to explore this part of the city. With large green spaces like Victoria Park and Hackney Marshes, as well as trails all the way up and down the River Lea, there are many locations for a pleasant hike.

It’s also home to amazing waterways that make for some of the best canal walks in London, with pedestrians able to navigate all the way to the Thames without straying away from one of the canals.

A great route that sticks to these waterways is heading from Stratford to Limehouse Basin following the River Lea and then the Limehouse cut. You can also make this a circular walk by following the Regent’s Canal north and then the Hertford Union Canal which takes you back towards Stratford.

We completed this circular Stratford and Limehouse Cut walk on a cold but dry January and would recommend it to anyone looking to explore this part of London.

The route takes approximately 3 hours (not including an hour-long break for lunch at the halfway point in Limehouse Basin).

Arriving at Stratford

Stratford station is the starting point of the walk, with many lines in and out of London making it easy to get to, including the DLR, Elizabeth Line, Overground, Jubilee, Central, and National Rail,

The large Westfield Shopping Centre right by the station makes this area very much a hub of activity, so you’ll also have a lot of options if you’re after somewhere to eat or drink at the start or end of the walk.

Heading out from Stratford

If you arrive by train, there will be signs directing you to the Olympic Park which you can follow.

Head through the covered area of the shopping centre then you’ll soon be out the other side where you’ll need to cross Westfield Avenue.

Keep following the large pedestrianised boulevard forward with bars and restaurants on either side and you’ll see the London Stadium ahead of you.

The covered pedestrianised street outside the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, London
Walking through the shopping centre at Stratford

Exploring the Olympic Park

Passing by the London Olympic Aquatic Centre on your left, you’ll enter the Olympic Park and be met with the impressive sight of the former Olympic Stadium and the iconic ArcelorMittal Orbit before you.

The Olympic Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Park, London
The Aquatic Centre

Now known as the London Stadium and home of premier league team West Ham, the stadium is one of the biggest sports venues in east London.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit in the London Olympic Park reflected in the waters of the River Lea
The ArcelorMittal Orbit

Feel free to explore this area of the Olympic Park and see more of the stadium before heading over to the canal.

The approach to the London Stadium
London Stadium

South down the River Lea

A few different branches of the river weave through this part of the park and there are multiple ways to access the footpaths that head south.

We recommend walking a short way north and getting down to the River Lea near the Carpenter’s Road Lock. This way you’ll get a great view of the London Stadium as you pass below it.

A view of the London Stadium from the footpath beside the River Lea
Heading down the river past London Stadium

From here, it’s a simple matter of following the river south.

A lock and canal boats on the Lee River Navigation
Canal boats on the River Lea

One of the most interesting sights on this stretch of the river is the House Mill and Clock Mill on Three Mill Island, which date back to the 18th century.

One of the mills on Three Mill Island along the River Lea
An old mill on Three Mill Island

Off along the Limehouse Cut

A short distance further south, cross a footbridge over Bow Locks and you’ll head away from the River Lea over to the Limehouse Cut which forks off from the river southwest.

Looking south where the Limehouse Cut forks away from the River Lea, with Canary Wharf in the distance
Canary Wharf in the distance before heading down the Limehouse Cut

The oldest canal in London, the Limehouse Cut connects the River Lea with the Limehouse Basin by the Thames, and it has a towpath you can follow all the way.

Spotting a train as it crosses over a bridge on the Limehouse Cut walk
A train crossing over the canal

The canal is almost completely straight, so you can stroll along it without fear of getting lost.

Walking down the Limehouse Cut with buildings towering over either side
Continuing down Limehouse Cut

Keep an eye out to your left and you may catch a glimpse of Canary Wharf when there’s a break in the buildings.

A glimpse of Canary Wharf from the Limehouse Cut
A quick look at Canary Wharf

Resting by Limehouse Basin

At the end of the Limehouse Cut you’ll emerge into Limehouse Basin, which is the rough halfway point in this walk.

It could, alternatively, be the end point of a shorter hike from Stratford, and the nearby Limehouse station allows you an easy route back into central London on the DLR.

Buildings reflecting on the water in Limehouse Basin
Limehouse Basin

Or, as we did on our King’s Cross to Limehouse walk, you could head over to Canary Wharf.

However, as part of a circular walk back to Stratford, Limehouse Basin makes for a great place to rest and maybe get a refreshment.

We went for a drink and lunch at The Grapes, a pub dating back nearly 500 years and now owned by Sir Ian McKellen. It also has great views over the Thames from its small balcony.

The view from The Grapes in Limehouse, with an Anthony Gormley statue and Canary Wharf in the distance
The view from The Grapes

Up the Regent’s Canal

Once you’ve had a chance to explore Limehouse Basin, get a look at the Thames, and feel rejuvenated, it’s time to head back along the canals for the second half of the walk.

The locks separating Limehouse Basin from the Regent's Canal
The lock leading to the Regent’s Canal

Follow the Regent’s Canal north. Again, it’s a straightforward route along the towpath by the canal, and you’ll pass multiple locks on the way.

Part of the canal runs adjacent to Mile End Park, so for a slight change of scenery you can take one of the meandering routes through the park instead.

One of the locks along the Regent's Canal in London
A lock on the Regent’s Canal

Through Victoria Park

After Mile End Park, you’ll soon cross a bridge over the Hertford Union Canal where it forks off from the Regent’s Canal.

Looking down the Hertford Union Canal from the Regent's Canal
Hertford Union Canal

You can either head straight up the Hertford Union Canal, which is the most direct route back towards Stratford and the Olympic Park, or you can take a detour through the park, which is what we did.

There are many great things to do in Victoria Park, including seeing the impressive pagoda and stopping by one of the cafes for refreshments.

The pagoda in Victoria Park, London
The pagoda in Victoria Park

As Victoria Park isn’t far from the end of the walk so we weren’t in a rush to get back, we had another break at the Hub Cafe in the centre of the park and had coffee and cake.

From Victoria Park, head onto the Hertford Union Canal for the final stretch of the walk. You can either join the towpath at Gunmaker’s Gate, halfway up the border of the park, or further along at the easterly corner of the park.

The Hertford Union Canal near to Victoria Park
Onto the Hertford Union Canal

Up along the Hertford Union Canal

The Hertford Union Canal connects the Regent’s Canal with the River Lee Navigation and, like the Limehouse Cut, it’s almost perfectly straight so it’s easy to follow along the towpath.

Looking down the Hertford Union Canal near where it joins the River Lea, with a lock on the right and graffiti on a wall to the left
Passing by a lock on the canal

Keep heading northeast along the canal, passing a couple of locks on the way, and soon you’ll join the River Lee Navigation and you’ll have a great view over to the London Stadium, signalling the end of the walk.

A canal boat passing near the London Stadium where the Hertford Union Canal meets the River Lea
Nearly back at the Olympic Park

Follow the towpath left then cross the bridge over the waterway back in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Back through the Olympic Park

From here, it’s just a short distance back to Stratford and you can choose your route through the park.

A view next of the London Stadium on the right with the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the distance
Walking around the stadium

We headed back south along the towpath then over to towards the stadium, following it around clockwise before walking up the concourse to the shopping centre at Stratford where we began the walk.

Looking down the concourse towards Stratford Shopping Centre from the London Stadium
Returning to Stratford

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