Let’s start with a pub. Opposite the House of Commons and the famous clock tower that houses Big Ben, the 14 tonne bell that sounds on the hour, is St. Stephen’s Tavern. This busy corner pub was closed for a decade until it re-opened 2004, awoken from its slumbers and lovingly restored by Dorset brewer Hall & Woodhouse. Note the amazing carved ceiling, which can be viewed from the mezzanine floor (a modern addition). Relax a while and enjoy the Badger Ales.
Exit the tavern by the main road door and turn right. Across the busy road in parliament Square you can see Sir Winston Churchill on his plinth, across the square is Westminster Abbey peaking above the trees.
Turn right again into Parliament Street, most people think this is Whitehall but that starts about 100 metres further up the road.
On the right is the Red Lion on the corner of Derby Gate. The Red lion is the most popular of pub names and most derive from the heraldic emblem of James I. This Red Lion was built in the late 19th century and has some nice mahogany joinery and decorated mirrors. Parliamentary TV and a ‘Division Bell’ are a give-away that many of its customers work at the Houses of Parliament. The Division Bell signifies when the House adjourns for a vote. If a member of parliament (MP) misses a vote he or she is whipped. Ouch!
Having had time to digest the workings of a parliamentary pub, leave turning right up towards the large monument in the middle of Whitehall. This plain monument is the Cenotaph, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to commemorate the dead of the First World War.
Further on up Whitehall on the left hand side is Downing Street, now fortified by large gates and railings, Number 10 is the official residence of the Prime Minister.
Carrying on up Whitehall toward Trafalgar Square, pass the Banqueting House on your right (corner of Horseguards Avenue). It was built in 1622 and is the only surviving building from Whitehall Palace, destroyed by fire in 1698. This non-descript entrance leads to one of London’s finest buildings, its ceiling painted by Rubens. Above the door is a blanked off window. Charles I walked from this window on a scaffold to the middle of Whitehall, where he was executed on January 30th 1649.
Opposite is Horse Guards Parade, the original entrance to Whitehall Palace. Here the mounted Household Cavalry stand guard. Continue towards Trafalgar Square and look for a small pub entrance.
The Old Shades is a small Victorian pub built in the Flemish-Gothic style. It has dark panelling and is traditionally furnished. It’s certainly worth a wander into for a swift half or even a bite to eat.
Across the road is the Moon on the Mall. This is a J.D. Wetherspoons pub which has good ales at prices you won’t find in many Westminster pubs. It has been converted from a bank and makes a fine public house. Behind the classic pale pink sandstone façade, this splendid venue has an impressive main hall, with its heavy, dark woodwork, elegant arched windows and complementary arched ceiling high above.
Leave the Moon on the Mall and head towards Trafalgar Square bearing left all the time and enter Admniralty Arch with a view to Buckingham palace at the end of The Mall. Turn left into Horse Guards Road; pass the ivy clad bunker used as an operations room by the Roayl Navy during World War Two.
Pass Horse Guards Parade on the left, then the rear of Downing Street and the Foreign Office and the Cabinet War Rooms which served as a secure shelter for the War Cabinet, lead by Churchill, and their military advisers.
At the end of the road cross and enter Storey’s Gate opposite. A couple of hundred metres on you will find our final pub.
The Westminster Arms is an attractive pub with a friendly atmosphere. It gets very busy at lunch times and early evening but is usually a quiet place at other times. Owned by Kent brewer Shepherd Neame it offers some great real ales and good value food. From here you can see Westminster Abbey.
Walk to the end of Storey’s Gate, turn left and you will arrive at the corner of Parliament Square. On the opposite corner is the St. Stephen’s Tavern and Westminster Tube Station, where it all began!