Things to do in Hemel Hempstead

Found in East England, Hemel Hemsptead is a town in Hertfordshire that might interest walkers, historians, and those wanting to visit London and the Warner Brothers Studios in Leavesden.

Hemel itself dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, but the majority of the town evolved for post-war housing. It has access to some of the county’s best walks along the Grand Union Canal, in Hertfordshire Way, and in the Chilterns’ countryside. Nearby Apsley houses a 19th century Paper Mill, and it boasts London’s nearest indoor snow centre, which hosted Channel Four’s The Jump contestants for training. However, Hemel is perhaps most famous for the Plough Roundabout, nicknamed the ‘Magic Roundabout,’ where traffic flows in both directions. The Plough Roundabout is actually composed of a series of mini-roundabouts – but the idea of free-flowing traffic will forever remain a fear for new drivers undertaking their tests.


Things to Do

Climbing and High Ropes

The XC in Jarman Park has a large indoor climbing area together with a high-ropes facility, caving, and a Skatepark. In the same retail park there are restaurants, cafes, a cinema, and Tescos, so you might be able to use the XC to entertain the kids while you do some shopping!

Frithsden Vineyard

This is a small vineyard, which won’t take longer than half an hour to explore. Enjoy the wine-tasting at what is perhaps an unexpected find in an otherwise industrial town.

Grand Union Canal

The canal route stretches for 137 miles from London to Birmingham, and it passes through Hemel Hempstead. You can walk, cycle, kayak – the options are practically unlimited. Along the way, you’ll find farm shops, cafes, parks, restaurants and towns.

Hertfordshire Way

From Hemel Hempstead you can access part of the Hertfordshire Way walk, consisting of over 200 miles of public rights of way, mostly countryside. This route crosses through nearby Kings Langley, and several local walks join the route. Download the OS Maps app or purchase hard copies to discover the key places where you can extend your adventures, such as by joining the London Loop via Elstree from Hertfordshire Way.

Sunday Market

On Sundays, head to the Old Town for the Sunday Market on the first Sunday of every month. Enjoy tasting homemade food and browsing the selection of handmade items.

Snow Centre

For snow sports enthusiasts, this 160m indoor slope is the nearest you’ll find to London. Be sure to book in advance online though, as it can get busy and pricey at this hugely popular site.

The Paper Mill

Apsley is half an hour’s walk along the canal from the centre of Hemel Hempstead. There, you’ll find the Frogmore Paper Mill, a working paper mill that first began operation in 1803 and led to the development of Apsley as an industrial-era town. You can still visit the Paper Mill.

Where to Eat

The Paper Mill, Apsley is served by Apsley train station. This canal side pub run by Fullers has a 3.5 rating on Trip Advisor but don’t let this mediocre rating put you off. You’ll find it hard not to hear about The Paper Mill – and yes, it’s within walking distance of the Frogmore Paper Mill.

Bull Rodizio

This Brazilian restaurant offers all-you-can-eat buffets for reasonable prices. The meat is carved at the table, but be careful not to fill up at the generous salad bar. The attached bar and lounge area are open until late, and the restaurant has received a 4.5 rating on Trip Advisor.

The Cochin

For an authentic Southern Indian restaurant in Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town, visit The Cochin. Open every day except Monday, it received ‘best restaurant’ status from Restaurant Guru in 2019. The menu offers a great variety, including a delicious range of fresh breads and highly recommended masala dosas.

Where to Stay

Where to stay in Hemel really depends on what you would like to have around you.

The Holiday Inn Express

The Holiday Inn, in Apsley, puts you in walking distance to The Paper Mill and the canal. You will be driving distance to the Snow Centre and the XC, and with Apsley station opposite, you’ll have easy access to London Euston. Prices start from £90 a night. Facilities are as expected for a Holiday Inn, and there is limited on site parking.

The Olde Kings Arms

The Olde Kings Arms places you in the Old Town, within walking distance to The Cochin and many other restaurants. You’ll find good Indian and Italian eateries. This location is great for those who want access to historical locations, but being in the centre of town means a noisier location and more limited parking. There’s no pool or spa here. Prices start from £83 a night. If you do have a car, you’ll have easy access to the nearby shopping centres.

The Holiday Inn M1

For somewhere with more facilities, the Holiday Inn M1 has a fitness centre, including an indoor pool and spa. It’s also slightly cheaper, at £65 a night. There is paid private parking on site. However, its location makes it ideal only for those planning on driving. The site is just off the dual carriageway leading to the M1. From there, it’s just fifteen minutes by car to Leavesden (traffic depending) if you want to visit the Studios.

Touring Suggestions

In Hemel, it’s worth a walk or drive into the beautiful countryside of the Chilterns, but many of the sites recommended here are accessible from the canal. Starting in the town centre, and after shopping, I recommend you walk half an hour into Apsley. Once there, take the ten minute overground train to Watford Junction and visit Warner Brothers Studios. On your return, visit the Water Mill, then hop in a taxi to the Snow Centre. Return to your chosen hotel. If it’s the first Sunday of the month, don’t forget to pick up souvenirs from the Old Town market.

The famous Harry Potter tour is a 15-20 minute drive from Hemel, and London Euston can be accessed within half an hour from £14 on an overground train. The historical towns of Berkhampstead and St Albans are both within 15 minutes by car, each with great eateries, one with a Castle to explore, and one with Roman ruins.

Apsley Lock

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