Well, fancy that: a lovely hot weekend just gone by, and more warmth apparently on the way. The elusive sun decided to pop its head out for a few days, so here at So So Gay we decided it was time to top up our tans. In an attempt to look less like friendly ghosts, and to give the boys and girls over at The Only Way Is Essex a run for their money, we whipped off our tops and headed blinking into the dazzling rays. The usual haunts were like the proverbial battle ground; nearly every square inch of turf was occupied by some partially dressed, pasty bod who had the same idea as us. This led to a hunt for London’s best and quietest places to get a tan, without having to battle through the throngs of creamy skinned sun zombies. Ever helpful, we don’t want to keep our tanning havens a secret from you – so, here are So So Gay’s Top 5 Secret Sun Spots.
Surprisingly enough, this little idyll nestles right next to Embankment tube station. The smallest of our recommendations, it’s a great city-centre haven for those who want to catch a couple of rays without having to go too far, especially if it is during a shopping trip or drinks with friends. Plenty of space to drop down for five minutes – definitely well worth a visit next time the sun puts in an appearance. And if hunger takes hold while you enjoy the sunshine, there are plenty of places to eat nearby, including the wonderful RS Hispanola, a floating tapas palace on the Thames.
Eltham Palace in Greenwich
Not only can you take in the rays and relax by the moat, but this stunning 1930s property and grounds offers you an Art Deco delight. Featuring a sunken rose garden and dramatic views over London, this is a tranquil haven away from the noisy, often barren, offerings of central London and main Greenwich Park. When the sun gets too much, and you need a break, the exquisite interiors of the palace offer a cooling respite. As an English Heritage site it will cost you around £9.50 for the day, but it is worth every penny. A fix of sunshine and culture is what every city dweller needs once in a while. You can find more information on the Palace’s website.
New Square, near Chancery Lane
This is a picture-perfect hidden spot which lies just off the larger Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It’s open to the public in office hours and at the weekends so you can enjoy its manicured gardens and fountains – and, for the Charlie Dimmocks out there, the flowers are lovely too. It is smack in the middle of Chancery Lane and Holborn so if you need any sustenance there are a number of pubs, such as the Yorkshire Grey on High Holborn, to sate your desires.
Gray’s Inn Gardens
A mere stones throw from New Square gardens, the gardens of Gray’s Inn are known as the Walks. Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the former Lord Chancellor, who coincidentally lost his position through shame and corruption (what changes?) laid them out in 1606 when he was Treasurer at Gray’s Inn. The grassy sunbed is flanked by red oaks which offer shade for when the heat gets too much. Again, if the need arises a lovely tavern is not too far away; the Cittie of York has a fantastic ‘olde worlde’ feel to it and is a real gem for those who enjoy something a bit different.
Mudchute Park on the Isle of Dogs
A little way out of Central London, on the Isle of Dogs, is Mudchute Park. Take the DLR from Bank down to Mudchute to enjoy this little known expanse of green, which grew out of piles of stinking silt dredged from the Thames by the Victorians. Lovely. There is plenty of room to spread out andcatch the rays whilst you enjoy the skyline of Canary Wharf, while, if you’re not in to sedately soaking up the sunshine, this haven of greenery is also perfect for roller blading or running. And if you’re a country boy or girl and feel like reminiscing, then Mudchute Farm holds all you need. It’s a little different from the usual summery activities, but if it has been a while since you saw livestock then go visit the horses and pigs. There are plenty of eateries nearby in Canary Wharf, including our editor’s favourite, Brown’s Bar & Brasserie – a perfect spot for freezing cold beer on a blazing hot day.
Alternatively, just make friends with one of the lovely roof-dwelling boys in Soho. You don’t have to fight for an inch of grass in Soho Square and you can keep an eye on the crowds below. Whereever you choose, remember your sun cream and your sun bathing etiquette – don’t create a shadow. No one wants a patchy tan.