Join GayCities, the fun way to discover the worldSee where your friends and people like you are going and what they say about places and events worldwide.
A Midsummer Night's Dream all year long
Not a bar really as there are no drinks for sale and no indoors either, but the West Heath section of north London's Hampstead Heath ('the lung of London') must rank as one of the world's most impressive outdoor cruising grounds. Sometimes dead quiet and/or dull, other times swarming with men (casual, leather, rubber etc), the West Heath is a sloping dense, bushy and woodsy universe which, especially on a balmy summer's evening, can approach something magical. Once the eyes adjust to the dark there's a delicious challenge to be had in negotiating the ups and downs of the uneven terrain while pursuing someone to see if they look as good close-up as their moonlit silhouette. Occasionally a whack or a slap or muted giggles or the trees blowing in the wind will break the trippy, near-eerie silence. Busiest in the evenings, often after midnight. Police raids are a thing of the past, and the famous have been known (and caught) up here. Tube station: Hampstead, then walk up the hill to Whitestone Pond, adjacent to Jack Straw's Castle; the descent to the cruising area starts there. Across the road is the entrance to the main (and sprawling) section of Hampstead Heath, which provides winding walks, super views of London, Kenwood House [see entry] and a gay-appeal men's pond with swimming and social options (including an enclosed naked zone), all before the sun goes down. And historic, beautiful and once-arty/literary Hampstead Village is well worth investigation. Either as a warm-up to the Heath or to salvage a dispiritingly dreary evening on one of the Heath's off nights you might consider a local pint at the King William IV [see entry], which " turned discreetly gay in the late 1930s, specifically to cater for men visiting the Heath".