Sherlock’s Grand Day Out is a self-guided tour of the famous fictional detective’s London haunts. But how can we claim it to be the most ‘elementary’ of Sherlock tours?
Well, first of all, not only is the Soul City Wanderer an old Holmes aficionado, he is also a top qualified London tour guide.
Secondly, while there are hundreds of sites that can be visited on a Sherlock Holmes London trail, this tour highlights the most pertinent and relevant from the stories and more importantly, the places that still actually exist (apart from 221b obviously).
Finally, the stops are within a reasonable walking distance over the course of a day, and are laid out in order along a logical route, so you also get to see most of central London into the bargain.
Wherever possible, some filming locations are pointed out, and there are plenty of them, as Holmes is the most played character EVER on screen, most notably portrayed by Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch.
It would be so much more romantic to take a ‘Hansom cab’ into the foggy London past, but also impractical. However, the whole walking route is only about 8km in distance (5 miles) and although it may take you a few hours to complete (with a good Watsonian lunch!), it is meant be a Grand Day Out.
By all means wear a deerstalker and cape if it’s a little chilly, but also remember to wear good walking shoes, as the game is afoot!
Start: at St Bart’s Hospital, Giltspur Street, Smithfield EC1. The nearest tube stations are Barbican (Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan Lines) or St Paul’s (Central Line). Nearest rail station is City-Thameslink (use the north exit).
Note: As an alternative route, you can start this tour at Baker Street (Stop No.10), then take a Circle, Hammersmith & City, or Metropolitan Line tube to Barbican, and follow the tour from Stop No.1 (St Bart’s) there, ending at Stop No.9 (Langham Hotel).
Stop No. 1: St Bart’s Hospital, Giltspur Street, Smithfield, EC1.
Where else to begin our Sherlock Holmes tour but at the place where Holmes and Dr Watson first met. The very first Sherlock Holmes mystery, A Study in Scarlet, was published in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. This is where Holmes and Watson encounter each other for the first time at St Bart’s hospital in Smithfield, and decide to be partners against crime working from a base at 221b Baker Street.
It was also the scene of actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘plunge’ as he played Sherlock in The Reichenbach Fall episode of the BBC series.
Route to Stop No.2: Follow Giltspur Street southbound and turn right onto Holborn Viaduct (A40); follow onto High Holborn, branch right onto New Oxford Street and turn right onto Museum Street. Follow to the end. British Museum is opposite.
Walking distance: 1.65km (about 1 mile). Alternatives: Tube (Central Line): St Paul’s to Holborn. Bus: No. 8. Or do like Holmes and Watson and yell ‘Cab!’
Stop No. 2: British Museum, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, WC1.
Holmes reveals in the Musgrave Ritual that before he moved into 221b Baker Street with Dr Watson, he had another London address: “When I first came up to London I had rooms in Montague Street, just around the corner from the British Museum…” And we learn from Watson that Holmes actually goes to the museum in the Adventure of Wisteria Lodge: “I learned from a casual reference that he had visited the British Museum.” The British Museum also features in the plot of the Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle where Homes and Watson visit a local pub.
In 1891, following the publication of The Sign of Four, Arthur Conan Doyle moved with his young family to lodgings at Montague Place. From here he walked the 1.5km journey every morning to his medical practice in Marylebone. To read more about Doyle’s residences see the Soul City Wanderer article ‘Sherlock’s’ Homes.
Route to Stop No.3: Follow Museum Street southbound onto Drury Lane. Turn right onto Martlett Court and follow this alleyway until you come out opposite Covent Garden Opera House. Walking distance: 600m.
Stop No. 3: Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, WC2.
One foggy November evening in Baker Street, Watson is determined to clear up the discrepancies in the Hound of the Baskervilles saga. After admitting that there still some mysterious aspects of the case that he is unable to solve, Holmes digresses, and his thoughts tune into a more pleasant channel for the evening: “Dinner and a concert. I have a box for ‘Les Huguenots’. Have you heard the De Reszkes?” Between 1888 and 1900, the Polish tenor Jean de Reszke made over 230 appearances at Covent Garden, including around 15 appearances as Raoul in Les Huguenots.
In the last line of The Adventure of the Red Circle, Holmes announces, “By the way, it is not eight o clock, and a Wagner night at Covent Garden! If we hurry, we might be in time for the second act.” The Wagner performance that Holmes is anxious to see is most probably Tristan and Isolde, based on the fact that the Red Circle was published in March 1911, and that particular opera was staged at Covent Garden a few months before.
Route to Stop No.4: Follow Bow Street southbound onto Wellington Street and stop outside the Lyceum Theatre. Walking distance: 250m.
Stop No. 4: Lyceum Theatre, Wellington Street, Covent Garden, WC2.
The Lyceum was one of the most fashionable theatres in 19th century London, and attracted the society elite. When the first Sherlock stories were being written, it was owned by Sir Henry Irving, the first actor ever knighted. He was a tall, dark, dominant figure, and Doyle’s favourite actor. The figure of Holmes is partially based on him. In 1894, Doyle’s own play Waterloo had its London premiere here, starring Irving.
The manager of the theatre at that time was a certain Bram Stoker. A few months after the Holmes first story was published, Stoker staged a new show Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde which opened in 1888. However, outcry over the Jack-the-Ripper murders in the autumn meant the show was withdrawn in the interests of public decency. A few years later, Stoker wrote another horror classic, Dracula. That tall, dark, dominant figure is also partially based on Irving.
In The Sign of Four, a mysterious note received by Holmes’ client, Mary Morstan, directs her to “Be at the third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum Theatre tonight…” She turns up with Holmes and Watson as chaperones, and all three are whisked off by carriage at a “furious pace through the foggy streets”.
The Lyceum Theatre columns were actually used as a location in the Sign of Four episode of the Sherlock Holmes Granada TV series starring Jeremy Brett.
Route to Stop No.5: Follow Wellington Street southbound and turn right onto the Strand. Cross to the other side and follow westbound to Simpsons in the Strand at No. 100. Walking distance: 120m.
Stop No. 5: Simpsons in the Strand, 100 Strand, WC2.
In the very last sentence of The Adventure of the Dying Detective, Holmes and Watson head for this famous traditional English eatery, which was built in 1848. As he has been without food for three days in the course of his investigations, Holmes tells Watson, “When we have finished at the police station, I think that something nutritious at Simpson’s would not be out of place.”
Opposite is the Strand Palace Hotel. The side street to the right is Burleigh Street This was where the Strand Magazine was published which printed the majority of Holmes adventures.
Route to Stop No.6: Follow Strand westbound towards Trafalgar Square. Turn left onto Northumberland Street and walk down to where it meets Northumberland Avenue. Walking distance: 600m.
Stop No. 6: Sherlock Holmes Pub, Northumberland Street, WC2.
The Sherlock Holmes Pub was previously called the Northumberland Arms and changed its name in 1957. It is claimed to be the former Northumberland Hotel.
This is where Henry Baskerville stayed in Hound of the Baskervilles. Holmes’ study is recreated in the licensed museum on the first floor. The collection was gathered for an exhibition in the 1950s, and brought here afterwards by the Sherlock Holmes Society. Doyle also revealed he had stayed at this hotel in his autobiography.
An unnamed Northumberland Avenue hotel is mentioned in The Noble Bachelor, and the hotels on the street are also mentioned collectively in The Greek Interpreter. Also, Holmes and Watson visit a Turkish bath on Northumberland Avenue in The Illustrious Client. A tiled Arabesque-style entrance can still be seen opposite the pub’s side door.
Just across the road, opposite the pub, is the entrance to Great Scotland Yard, where the famous police headquarters were once sited (and from where inspector Lestrade could be summoned!). New Scotland Yard is now just around the corner on the Embankment.
Route to Stop No.7: Return to Trafalgar Square. Follow westbound onto Pall Mall. Turn right onto Lower Regent Street and follow to Piccadilly Circus. Walking distance: 850m.
En route: The Pall Mall Gazette was a newspaper often gleaned by Watson for crime news. Before you turn right onto Lower Regent Street, the yellow stone building with the pale blue frieze on your left is the Athenaeum Club. Doyle was a member here. It was also a model for the Diogenes Club, Mycroft Holmes’s hang-out, which his brother and Watson visit in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter.
Stop No. 7: Criterion Restaurant/St James’s Concert Hall, Piccadilly Circus, W1.
On the south side of Piccadilly Circus is the Criterion Restaurant. In A Study in Scarlet, this was where Watson stood at the bar when his friend Stamford taps him on the shoulder, and first tells him about Holmes. A plaque in the restaurant bar commemorates the famous fictional moment.
On the western side of Piccadilly Circus, the block that separates Regent Street and Piccadilly was known as the Quadrant. St James’s Hall, the principal concert venue in London in the late 19th century was sited here before it was demolished in 1905. In The Red Headed League, Holmes is distracted from the matter in hand by the promise of a musical interlude: “Sarasate plays at the St James’s Hall this afternoon.” Later, Watson notes: “When I saw him that afternoon so enwrapped in the music at St James’s Hall, I felt that an evil time might be coming down upon those whom he had set himself to hunt down.”
Route to Stop No.8: Follow Regent Street from Piccadilly Circus. Turn left onto Hanover Street and follow to Claridge’s Hotel on Brook Street. Walking distance: 1.2km.
Stop No. 8: Claridge’s Hotel, Brook Street, Mayfair, W1.
In His Last Bow, Holmes says to the female confederate who has helped him thwart a national threat: “You can report to me tomorrow in London, Martha, at the Claridge’s Hotel.” Holmes had been staying there, posing as an American.
Route to Stop No.9: Return to Regent Street. Turn left and follow to the Langham Hotel. Walking distance: 1km.
Stop No. 9: Langham Hotel, Portland Place, Marylebone, W1.
This is where the ‘mysterious’ figure of European royalty stays in A Scandal in Bohemia, “You will find me at the Langham under the name of the Count von Kramm.”
It was also the address given for the Hon. Philip Green in The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax: “The Langham Hotel will find me.” Mary Morstan’s father also stays here in The Sign of Four. (He became, in effect Watson’s deceased father-in-law).
Doyle stayed at the hotel when discussing a publishing contract for his new literary creation.
Route to Stop No.10: Follow Portland Place from the Langham Hotel to Marylebone Road via Park Crescent. Turn left and follow Marylebone Road westbound. Then turn right onto Baker Street. Walking distance: 1.5km.
En route: on the left you will pass by Madame Tussaud’s. It was originally on Baker Street, and opened in 1835 (just down the road from where ‘221b’ would become famous). It moved to its current location in 1884. Holmes mentions the famous visitor attraction in The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone (see below).
Outside Baker Street station is a bronze Sherlock Holmes statue erected in 1999.
It was sculpted by John Doubleday. The statue was first suggested by the writer GK Chesterton in 1927. He loved Sherlock Holmes and himself lived in a flat off Baker Street. The Abbey National bank, whose head office was sited at 221b Baker Street, agreed to fund the statue. Doubleday also sculpted the Charlie Chaplin statue in Leicester Square. Chaplin’s first regular stage role was the newspaper boy Billy in the Sherlock Holmes play which ran from 1903-06.
Stop No. 10: (221b) Baker Street, Marylebone, NW1.
221B is the famous address where Sherlock Holmes shared a flat with Dr Watson. Except that it doesn’t exist. It never really has. When the books were begun, Baker Street only went up to No.80. When it was finally extended, the Abbey National bank’s head office took the address. For decades they received all the genuine mail from Sherlock fans all over the world, and employed a member of staff just to respond to letters addressed to 221B!
In The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone: the ‘consulting detective’ actually uses the apartment to trap his suspects. Holmes invites two suspected thieves to 221b to discuss the whereabouts of a stolen diamond, and the consequences that may befall them if it is not returned. During this little passage, Holmes proudly shows off a waxwork model of himself sitting in the armchair by the window. Holmes declares he will let them dwell on their hopeless situation for a while, while he goes to the bedroom to practice upon my violin. While Holmes leaves the room, and the strains of music are heard, the criminals discuss their options. But Holmes had cleverly snuck back into the room and swapped places with the waxwork figure. When one of the crooks pulls out the stolen diamond from his pocket, Holmes suddenly leaps from the armchair to grab it. The crooks are dumbfounded, and one sputters: “But what about that bloomin’ fiddle? I hear it yet.“ “Tut, tut!” replies Holmes, “These modern gramophones are a remarkable invention.”
At No.241 is the Sherlock Holmes Museum visitor attraction. There is a gift shop downstairs and a recreation of the famous apartment upstairs. However, be aware there is always a sizable queue to enter.
And that’s where we finish Sherlock’s Grand Day Out. Soul City Wanderer hopes you will enjoy it and go tell your friends, your enemies, even Moriarty!
Doyle, Arthur Conan. Complete Sherlock Holmes. Penguin. 1981.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. Memories and Adventures. Wordsworth. 2007.