Romancing the stones

Anthea Masey goes on a search to find London’s most romantic streets and squares
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Take an unashamedly romantic look at London – but where do we go to find the heart-stopping areas?

Where are the cobbled lanes, the majestic views of the Thames, the narrow roads with quaint cottages, secret alleyways and Regency houses in quiet squares? Dutch barges with permanent moorings and even fisherman’s cottages dating from the 17th century.

* Shepherd Market: this romantic enclave of tiny streets in Mayfair, with its pubs, restaurants and boutiques, was built between 1735 and 1746 by Edward Shepherd on the site of a former market (closed after neighbours complained it “lowered the tone”).

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* Hampstead: Behind the hustle and bustle of the high street, Hampstead still feels like an 18th century village. A walk up Holly Hill takes you back 200 years to when Hampstead was a remote country village set apart from London by countryside.

Strand on the Green, W4
Strand on the Green, W4, is a lovely stretch of houses and towpath between Chiswick and Kew Bridge
The roads leading down to the heath still have the feel of country lanes and it was here, between 1815 and 1820, that poet Keats lived next door to his fiancée Fanny Brawne.

* Riverside: Stretched out along the Thames west of London are other reminders of once-remote rural communities. Riverside homes in Mortlake, Hampton, even Hammersmith, offer sweeping river views, quaint pubs and stretches of pedestrian-only promenades.

The pretty little riverside hamlet of Hampton, just down the road from Hampton Court and sandwiched between the green spaces of royal Bushy Park and the river, has many attractive Georgian houses.

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* Chiswick and Kew: Strand on the Green is a picturesque stretch of houses with the narrowest of towpaths between Chiswick and Kew Bridge on the north side of the Thames.

Avondale Park, Walmer Road, Notting Hill, W11
Enjoy summer in the gardens of Avondale Park, Walmer Road, Notting Hill, W11
* Primrose Hill: London is surrounded by hills offering inspiring views. One of the best is Primrose Hill, a starry quarter favoured by the likes of Jude Law and his former wife, Sadie Frost, which is found tucked away north of the zoo and Regent’s Park.

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* Notting Hill: Who can forget a love-sick Hugh Grant’s romantic progress down the Portobello Road as the seasons change in the film Notting Hill.

One of Notting Hill’s prettiest corners is around the long-standing Julie’s Wine Bar in Portland Road, where you can also shop for a floaty dress in The Cross boutique, or stock up on French kitchenware at Summerill & Bishop.

* Peckham: Not many people associate SE15 with romance but pretty Bellenden conservation area has roads of early Victorian flat-fronted cottages and larger houses.

Choumert Square, although more an alleyway than a square, is unique in London. Here, small front gardens overflow with plants, which the owners open up to the public every year under the National Gardens Scheme.

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