Get Out Of Zone 1: South East London

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 85 months ago
Get Out Of Zone 1: South East London
Severndroog Castle. Photo: Londonist

Done all the usual tourist attractions? Want to escape the centre of London and leave zone 1 for a few hours? Don't shoot us down just yet — take a look at what south east London has to offer (or browse south west London's offerings here, north east London's gems here or north west London's attractions here).

Chislehurst Caves

The biggest bomb shelter in London lies beneath the homes and streets of Chislehurst in the borough of Bromley. Fortunately it's not needed for those purposes these days, so the public is invited in to explore the 22 subterranean miles.

As well as sheltering 15,000 people in the second world war and storing ammunition in the first world war, they've hosted Doctor Who television shoots and concerts by the likes of Jimi Hendrix.

Take a guided tour of the caves to hear about the history and urban legends, and see the bar left over from the launch party of Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Record Label in 1974.

For anyone who's not keen on the dark, small spaces or loud noises, we'd advise giving this one a miss, but otherwise, it's a cheap and interesting day out without venturing out of London.

Chislehurst Caves are open Wednesdays to Sunday (plus Bank Holidays), with tours every hour on the hour 10am-4pm. Adult £6/child £4.

Eltham Palace

For a day of decadence, the Eltham Palace and Gardens is the place.

The 1930s mansion was owned and inhabited by the Courtaulds, a family whose pet lemur had his very own lemur deckchair on their sail boat.

Eltham Palace. Photo: English Heritage

Intrigued? Other nods to the Courtauld's decadent lifestyle include Lady Courtauld's walk-in wardrobe, one of the first showers to be installed in a residential house in England, and the Map Room where the family planned their foreign excursions (the faded grandeur of these recently rediscovered maps is charming).

Head outdoors to let off steam and explore the beautiful rose garden, moat and rock garden, with impressive views back towards the city skyline.

Eltham Palace and Gardens are open 10am-6pm Sunday to Thursdays, from 25 March until 30 September, when opening hours will scale back for winter. Admission: adult £13.60/concession £12.20/child £8.10/family £35.30.

Severndroog Castle

Lies, it's all lies. Severndroog Castle isn't really a castle at all, it's a folly. But it's a jolly good folly, and well worth a visit (we went), not least for the spectacular views over London.

Photo: Londonist

Situated close to Eltham Common, the tower reopened to the public in the last few years. Today, a ground floor tearoom welcomes visitors, giving way to the spiral staircase which leads up to the first and second floors, a single, treasure-filled room on each floor.

Finally, the piece de resistance, the roof. From here, it is claimed, that you can see seven counties — including as far as Windsor Castle — on a particularly clear day. Even on a hazy day, the location offers an unusual perspective of London.

Severndroog Castle is open Thursday, Friday and Sunday, 12.30pm-4.30pm. Adult £2.50/child £2.

Hall Place & Gardens

Bexley's Hall Place is a Tudor house surrounded by formal gardens which can be explored by the public. It's set on the banks of the River Cray.

Hall Place & Gardens

Inside is a museum which showcases the history of the house. The visitor centre, separate from the house, is home to a cafe, and the Stables Gallery, which showcases work by local artists.

There's plenty to see in the gardens — the topiary (above) is particularly worth a mention.

Hall Place is open every day, 10am-5pm. The gardens are open every day, 9am-dusk. Admission: adult £10/concession £8/under 5s free. Gardens, visitor centre and cafe are free to visit.

Down House

Down House, where Charles Darwin lived from 1838 until 1887, is close to Biggin Hill Airport in the borough of Bromley.

It's where he did much of his research, wrote On The Origin Of The Species, and dealt with much of the criticism his work earned him at the time.

Down House. Photo: English Heritage

Today Down House is owned by English Heritage, meaning you can spend a day poking around in Darwin's study, walking in the garden that inspired him, or taking a tour around other rooms in the house, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

Down House is open every day 10am-6pm, from 25 March until 30 September, when opening hours will scale back for winter. Admission:  adult £11.10/concession £10/child £6.70/family £28.90.

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Last Updated 24 October 2016