Most visitors experience West London en route to or from Heathrow Airport, either from the confines of the train or tube (which runs overground at this point), or the motorway. The city and its satellites seem to continue unabated, with only fleeting glimpses of the countryside. However, in the five-mile stretch from Chiswick to Osterley there are several former country retreats, now surrounded by suburbia.
The Palladian villa of Chiswick House is perhaps the best known. However, it draws nothing like as many visitors as Syon House, most of whom come for the gardening centre rather than for the house itself, a showcase for the talents of Robert Adam, who also worked at Osterley House, another Elizabethan conversion.
Running through much of the area is the River Thames, once the “Great Highway of London” and still the most pleasant way to travel in these parts during summer. Boats plough up the Thames all the way from central London via the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the picturesque riverside at Richmond, as far as Hampton Court.