11 Mar St Patrick’s Day Travel Guide to London
Looking to go further afield for our national holiday but prone to a bit of jetlag? Then a quick trip across the Irish Sea might be just the cure for you. With a large number of Irish people living and working in the UK, the festive celebrations are set to be almost as good as our own.
With Dublin/ London being one of the busiest passenger air routes in Europe, there should be no issue with getting across the Irish Sea! There are flights daily from Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock airports to London Heathrow, Luton, Stanstead and London City. Although booking in advance is great for peace of mind, it is often worth holding out for last minute deals which can be as low as €15 return.
If you want the comfort of your own car while you’re there, then getting the ferry might be a better option. Both Irish Ferries and Stena Line run regular sailings between Dublin Port and Holyhead. Remember though, when you land at Holyhead it takes over five hours to get as far as London.
For help planning your journey around the UK, you can use AA Routeplanner.
Making your way around London is very doable on foot but another handy option is to use the various methods of public transport options available. The city has quite an extensive network in place, whether that be via the bus, tube, train, Overground or on the bike.
If you’re staying in the city for a long weekend, it’s worth purchasing an Oyster card. Like the Leap card here in Ireland, it’s a touch on/ touch off card that you can use across the bus and tube network with different travel zones resulting in different fares.
It’s a good idea to order your Visitor Oyster card before you travel. It costs £3 (plus postage) and is pre-loaded with pay as you go credit for you to spend on travel. If you don’t want to get an Oyster card you can also pay as you go and purchase tickets at a given station before boarding. You could also purchase a Day Travelcard which can be used for a whole day’s travel. More details can be found here.
There are discounts available for under 11s, 11-15 year olds and also 16-18 years. This is all explained on the official Transport for London website.
Your best option for travel throughout St Patrick’s weekend in London is the Underground Tube as it’s unlikely to be impacted by road closures or heavy traffic. You can download Tube maps here but you can also pick them up at any station. There are also some very good apps on Android and iPhone which are handy to have so you can always glance at your phone to check when your next stop is, or what route to take.
Trains run from 5:30am to approx. 1am. Keep in mind that the trains are very busy during rush hour so give yourself plenty of time if travelling from 7am to 10am and again between around 4pm and 7pm.
Generally speaking, most visitors to London probably won’t end up using the services, you may still find using a mixture of the train and the tube results in a quicker journey time. Most services don’t actually run through London City Centre with the Thameslink being the exception, running from north to south. Most stations are on the periphery of the city centre but the Tube’s Circle Line connects with most of National Rail services around London. You will be able to use your Oyster card on National Rail services as long as it’s within travel zones 1-6. Keep in mind it is a little more expensive using the train than the tube or bus.
There are also Airport Express Rail services which run to Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted.
With over 700 bus routes around London, there won’t be many areas you can’t get to on the bus. Services run between 5:30am and 12:30am. After this, there are over 100 routes which run overnight. They usually run at a minimum of every 30 minutes but some run every five minutes. If you have a Day Travelcard, it is still valid on these buses up until 4am.
The public cycling scheme in London is “Santander Cycles”, although most people refer to them as “Borris Bikes”. Like in Ireland, you rent the bikes from one bike station and return them to another.
Like Ireland, there are cycling lanes but they can be patchy and, again, like here, there is a little angst between cyclists and motorists. You can find all the info you need for cycling around London here.
St Patrick's Day Parade
Like many capital cities worldwide, the St Patrick’s Day parade in London features spectacular pageantry, wonderful floats, marching bands, sports clubs and Irish dancing schools. The Parade makes its way down Piccadilly on a 1.5 mile route, passing some of London’s most iconic landmarks, including The Ritz, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and onto Whitehall. This year the parade takes place on Sunday 13th March, starting at midday in Piccadilly.
Festival in Trafalgar Square
One of the best Irish events in London is the St Patrick’s Day festival in Trafalgar Square. There are a number of activities to partake in including an artisan Irish food market, comedy and film festivals, ceilidhs, music and dance. The festival is very much family friendly with activities to give the little ones a great all-round St Patrick’s Day experience. This year the festival takes place on 13th March from midday at Trafalgar Square.
The Gallery in West Hampstead hosts an Irish-themed Whisky 101. Spend an evening sampling Dublin-based whiskey blends under the guidance of experts. Next up, sample beers from Northern Irish brewer McGrath’s, and round the evening off with canapé courses paired with each of the whiskies. Tickets can be prebooked for £15.