Leake Street Arches – The Graffiti Tunnel in London

I was looking for somewhere different to visit during our recent trip to London and heard about Leake Street Arches which was conveniently located near our hotel.

I was slightly hesitant about entering a dimly-lit tunnel in South London frequented by spray-painting hooligans in hoodies but this is a well-established venue on the street art scene where graffiti is not only legal but encouraged, even to the extent of holding graffiti tutorials and classes.

This tunnel runs underneath the railway tracks at Waterloo Station and the landlord, London & Continental Railways, describes Leake Street Arches as ‘a celebration of urban art, dining and entertainment’. Some of the arches leading off the main tunnel have been converted into restaurants and music venues but only a couple of them seemed to be open, perhaps due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Draughts London, a board game café. Presumably you can play Monopoly here. Pity Waterloo is not one of the stations on the Monopoly board.

This is London’s largest legal graffiti wall but there are rules. One of them reads ‘You don’t have to be a gangster to paint so please don’t behave like one.’

I’m not a great fan of most graffiti. Those scruffy ‘tags’ with little or no artistic merit defacing private or public property are the bane of most cities but sometimes you come across a work of street art which shows real talent or humour or has a meaningful message.

It must be a bit annoying for the artist of this puffin mural to have it scribbled over by someone of lesser abilities.

I suppose an ever-changing graffiti wall symbolises the transient nature of life which sometimes changes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

How to Get to Leake Street Arches

Leake Street is just a short walk from more conventional tourist attractions like London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.

You can find a map and more details on the official website.

It’s open 24/7 and there is no entrance fee.

Fatlips Castle

My main reason for visiting Minto (see last post) was to see Fatlips Castle, a picturesque pele tower perched on top of the Minto Crags which can be seen from miles away.

The original pele tower was built as a stronghold for the Turnbull Border Reiver clan of Bedrule (a village about a mile from Minto) in the early 16th century before being burnt to the ground by the Earl of Hertford during a raid on the Scottish Borders in 1545.

The castle was rebuilt in 1857 by the Elliots of Minto and modified into its current form in 1897 by Sir Robert Lorimer for the 4th Earl of Minto. It was used as a shooting lodge and a private museum until the late 1960s, following which it fell into disrepair and was heavily vandalised. The exterior was refurbished in 2013 with funding from Historic Scotland, Scottish Borders Council, the Minto Estate and private donations.

Why Was It called Fatlips?

The origin of the curious name is uncertain but a plaque at the site puts forward three possible theories:

  1. One of the Turnbulls had thick lips.
  2. There was a goat nicknamed Fatlips which warned of the approaching English by bleating loudly.
  3. Gentlemen were traditionally allowed to kiss one of the ladies on entering.

How to Get to Fatlips Castle

The location is marked on this map:

You can park on the roadside or at the start of the wooded track shown on the map, then start walking.

Minto Crags are of volcanic origin and they rise abruptly above the surrounding countryside so the path to the top, which is clearly signposted, is steep. It takes half an hour or so to reach the castle. It’s an easy enough walk but you are sure to be puffing a bit by the time you get there.

The path is likely to be muddy so suitable footwear is required. There is a patch of stinging nettles near the top so long trousers are recommended.

You will be rewarded with excellent views of the Teviot valley and the scenic Borders landscape.

The metal grille door to the castle was firmly bolted when I visited the other day but I believe it is possible, during normal non-Covid days, to obtain a key from the Thos. B. Oliver Garage in Denholm for £10, of which £5 is refunded on return of the key.