Welcome to another instalment of “A Cabbie’s Guide to…”, if you have taken a ride in my minicab before, you will know that I’ve been a cabbie in the capital for many years. I know the sights, the sounds and the smells of this city so very well.
I’m here to take you on a journey around the city, giving you my top picks for things to do. Of course, London is a big old place though, so I can’t promise I will cover everything. I can promise what I do cover will be great though.
Right, there’s no need to get a taxi, as my cab engine is running and the conversation is in full flow. The meter isn’t running though, as this ones on me. Today, my minicab is taking you around two different boroughs...Hillingdon and Hounslow. Both located in West London, these are adjoining boroughs and prior to 1963, were both located in Middlesex.
A Little Bit of Background...
So let’s start with the London Borough of Hillingdon...the main reason most people across the UK will have spent time in Hillingdon is due to it being the home of Heathrow Airport. A fact for you about Hillingdon, it’s the second-largest of the 32 London boroughs by area but the least densely populated, this is because of Heathrow Airport, RAF Northolt Aerodrome, and a lot of rural land to the north of the borough.
Hillingdon is made up of the towns of Hayes, Ruislip, Northwood Hills, West Drayton and Uxbridge, and is divided into a total of 22 wards.
Because Heathrow is located in the borough, Hillingdon is home to the headquarters and UK offices of several airlines. These include British Airways, American Airlines, Hellenic Imperial Airways and China Airlines.
It’s also home to major offices for a number of other international companies including Coca-Cola, Cadbury plc, Xerox, General Mills, F. Hinds, Herbalife Europe, Heinz and Fujitsu.
Located within the Metropolitan Green Belt, it is home to some 200 different green spaces, which cover an area of around 1,800 acres.
Hounslow is another green borough with approximately one-quarter of the borough made up of parkland. The London Borough of Hounslow, to give it it’s full name, is made up of five major towns, these are Chiswick, Brentford, Isleworth, Hounslow and Feltham.
Community Stadium. Whilst the borough is also home to the UK headquarters and major offices of a number of global organisations. These include GlaxoSmithKline, Sky plc, DHL Air UK, Air France-KLM, Sega Europe and JCDecaux UK.
Right so now you know a bit about the places, it’s time to take the minicab to our first destination...
Intu Uxbridge (The Chimes)
The first stop on today’s journey will be for a bit of shopping. As I’ve said in previous guides, I’m not the biggest fan of shopping and would probably still be wearing the same clothes I was wearing back in the ‘80s, if it wasn’t for the wife stopping me! However, as your trusty cabbie/tour guide, I am here to accompany you to Intu Uxbridge (The Chimes)...though I might sneak off to the Odeon cinema to catch a film in IMAX if you take too long. Just kidding!
Anyway, Intu Uxbridge or The Chimes, as it has been known to locals for years, is a great retail destination. It’s not as big as other shopping centres we’ve been to in these guides, but this is what makes it great, I think. It’s a place where you can quickly pop in and out of, without having to spend hours in there and write off your entire schedule for the day.
There are 51 stores here in total. These include Accessorize, Aldo, Boots, Burton Menswear, Claire’s, Debenhams, Decathlon, Dorothy Perkins, Goldsmiths, H&M, JD, Lipsy, Next, Pandora, River Island, and Topshop/Topman...the list goes on. There are pretty much all of the typical British high street stores here, all with fair-sized outlets. I’d say you’re bound to be able to get what you need here.
When I am forced to go shopping, it often leaves me hungry! It’s a good job there are a range of food places to choose from here too. I try and walk past the Krispy Kreme outlet swiftly when I’m here but I have to admit, I do often indulge!
If you’re after food a little more substantial than a doughnut, other food outlets here include Bella Italia, Burrito Kitchen, McDonald’s, Nando’s, Pizza Express, Wagamama, Wrapchic and Zizzi.
On this visit to The Chimes, I pay a visit to Wrapchic. You’ll probably realise from previous guides that I love an independent family owned-restaurant but as a national chain, Wrapchic is an exception to that rule.
If you’ve not been before, it’s basically a fusion of Indian and Mexican food. You’ll find burritos, wraps and nachos on the menu but rather than being filled or topped with traditional Mexican ingredients, you’ll instead find Indian foods such as paneer, chicken tikka and mutton kheema.
London Museum of Water & Steam
A fun place for all of the family to learn, the London Museum of Water & Steam is based in the historic buildings of the former Kew Bridge Waterworks and tells the story of London’s water supply and how it shaped it to become the city it is today.
Within the museum are the world’s largest collection of stationary steam pumping engines, plus a narrow-gauge steam locomotive and the Waterworks Gallery which traces the development of London’s clean water supply.
At the heart of the museum is its collection of steam pumping engines.
These consist of the Cornish engines, which are in their original engine houses, and the rotative engines, which have been collected by the museum trust from pumping stations across the country.
Whether you’re a bit of a history buff, a steam enthusiast or you’re just looking to learn a bit more about this great city, you’ll enjoy this museum. It’s also a fantastic learning experience for schoolchildren.
With a focus on history and science, the museum allows school trips to learn about the industrial revolution, discover Victorian washday, find out about water filtration and hitch a
a ride on a steam train.
Dinosaur Escape Adventure Golf
If you’re looking for a fun activity to do whilst in the area, I can definitely recommend Dinosaur Escape Adventure Golf!
Now, I have to admit I’m not a massive fan of golf, in general. I’m definitely in the camp of it spoiling a great walk...but add near life-size dinosaurs that move and roar, and my opinion is changed!
With a full 18 holes, navigating the course will mean you have to contend with t-rex, spinosaurus, stegosaurus and triceratops, plus a waterfall and a lagoon. It’s great fun and definitely makes a game of golf a lot more interesting, I think!
Dinosaur Escape Adventure Golf is ideal for families and it’s even dog-friendly. We often find we get quite a few stag dos, hen dos and companies on team building days in our cabs wishing to come here.
Great value too, it’s open all-year-round and is open as late as 8 pm in the summer months.
Syon House and Park
If you’ve read any of my previous guides, you will know that I love stunning examples of architecture and a good walk, and that’s exactly what you will find at Syon House.
The London home of the Duke of Northumberland, Syon House is a Grade I listed building which gets its name from Syon Abbey, which was a medieval monastery of the Bridgettine Order and was founded nearby in 1415, before being moved to the present site in 1431.
As part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries which saw monasteries all over the country closed down, Syon Abbey was forced to shut its doors by royal agents in 1539 and the monks were expelled.
With its closure, the building became the property of the Crown and was then leased to the 1st Duke of Somerset, who had it rebuilt as Syon House in the Italian Renaissance style before he died in 1552.
In 1594, Syon House was acquired by Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland and it has remained in his family ever since.
As Syon House, the property has seen Henry VIII's fifth wife Catherine Howard imprisoned there, was a resting place for Henry VIII’s coffin, has been home to Queen Victoria and has been subject to many refurbishments and remodelling, it even survived a World War II doodlebug on one occasion.
Despite being in the vicinity of Heathrow and therefore very noisy, many things have been filmed in the house and the grounds.
Things that have been filmed at Syon House include Poirot, Bedazzled, Wives and Daughters, Gosford Park, The Madness of King George, Emma, The Avengers, Killing Eve, 24: Live Another Day, Silent Witness, Transformers: The Last Knight, and Alice Through the Looking Glass.
If you’re a fan of impressive buildings and stunning gardens you will love Syon House with its current interior which was designed by Robert Adam in 1762 and its landscapes which were designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown.
Along with the 200 acre Syon Park, Syon House makes for a great day out in the Hounslow borough.
Hilton Syon Park
If you’re looking for a hotel near to Syon Park, I thoroughly recommend Hilton Syon Park - as it sits right on the edge of the park. It’s a perfect location to stay with beautiful views from the rooms right over the park.
Each of the rooms in the hotel are stylish and contemporary with natural light offered from their floor-to-ceiling windows. Many of the rooms have private balconies and terraces, whilst they all are superbly decorated and furnished, making the hotel a wonderful place to stay.
If you’re hungry, the hotel has a number of dining options including the 100-seater MOOD in the Park restaurant which serves food made from locally-sourced produce and delicious cocktails in a vibrant setting.
Or if you’re looking for an impressive dining experience, the Syon Lounge may be more suited to your tastes. With a rooftop lounge, the restaurant serves Pan-Asian cuisine and sushi, all created by their world-renowned chef. This is then combined with a Shisha lounge with many different flavours, for a unique dining experience.
The Old Vinyl Factory
I like my music and I like my history, so our next destination is The Old Vinyl Factory - which although still under development is one to watch and is definitely on my radar!
Formerly owned by the record company EMI, The Old Vinyl Factory has now been reimagined as a mix of Art Deco office buildings, new homes, restaurants, shops, gym, cinema and a live music venue.
In its former life though, it was a record plant where vinyl from acts such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cliff Richard and Pink Floyd was pressed.
Starting out life as the buildings for The Gramophone and Typewriter Company, the precursor to EMI, after the site was purchased in the early 20th century, shellac-based compound records were made on the site as early as 1898. From 1952 onwards, vinyl records were then made at the site.
Production reached its peak in the 1960s at the Hayes site, which covered 150 acres and saw 14,000 people in work there!
However, in the 1970s with record sales dwindling in favour of cassettes, EMI moved its record-pressing operations to smaller premises elsewhere. With this, this site was then mainly used for defence electronics development and production.
The site was then later used by for record distribution in the early 2000s by Alpha Magic, one of the UK's leading distributors for underground hardcore dance music. They also had a number of music studios within the buildings.
After being purchased for redevelopment in 2011, the site was renamed with its present name of The Old Vinyl Factory, whilst the individual buildings were given names corresponding to their former functions, i.e. “The Shipping Building”.
Today, the site has been earmarked to become distinct neighbourhoods filled with offices, retail space, restaurants and luxury apartments. Given its history in Hayes, I think this is going to become a go-to place very quickly.
Sofitel London Heathrow
As a cabbie working in the area, I regularly find myself on airport runs to Heathrow and I’m often asked for hotel recommendations near to the airport. Well, Sofitel London Heathrow is what I usually recommend to those who need to be close to the airport and are looking for a little bit of luxury before they fly.
The Sofitel London Heathrow is inspired by modernist design elements drawn from across the globe. This means French art de vivre, the stress-soothing sounds of an Antarctica-inspired fountain, a tranquil tree-dotted zen garden and sleek interiors taking inspiration from Europe, Africa and the Americas.
It really is a place for some relaxation before you head off on business or it’s an ideal way to start your holiday before you fly.
The hotel has 605 rooms and they all combine high-end technology with elegant design - all featuring a plush bed, mini-fridge, workspace, free WIFI and soundproof windows.
Contact us to find out more
So sadly, that concludes my guide. I’ve been your cabbie and I’m here to take you in my car to anywhere you desire, whilst giving you a little bit of info about the local area. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read and would like to book one of our cars, you can do so by calling us on 020 8560 0000 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Goodbye and thank you. Until the next time!