Baby barristers, born during the pandemic, emerged into a world where online hearings were the norm. Of course, they have their advantages: no commute, furry slippers, constant moral support of the dog... Online is here to stay. However, as the pandemic recedes, many have been returning to in-person hearings.

New barristers, stepping out blinking into the light of day, can take comfort from the fact that attended hearings have advantages beyond their sheer utility to the legal process.

I asked members of my chambers, 3 Doctor Johnson’s Buildings, for recommendations of recreational pursuits within striking distance of court buildings.

Canterbury: A gentle 10-minute walk from Canterbury Magistrates’ Court will take you to Canterbury Cathedral. Our Head of Chambers, Ayesha Hasan, managed to join a tour of that magnificent place as she waited for a judgment.

Also, do frequent the café in the Combined Court Centre: they do a great omelette. Such facilities are a rarity – and very welcome.

Chester: Chester’s Roman amphitheatre is the largest in the UK (albeit sadly bisected by a road!)

Milton Keynes: Lisa Peacock points to the justifiably famous Debbie’s Café in Milton Keynes Magistrates’ Court. If hiding from a client/opponent, the Middle Eastern café at the far end of Upper Fifth Street, facing a small park, does delicious Chicken Shawarma wraps and baklava.

Victoria Teggin says the Milton Keynes Art Gallery contains fabulous exhibitions, including the 2020 Stubbs exhibition. ‘Whistlejacket’ is on display, together with many of his anatomical drawings and the actual skeleton of Eclipse – some say the greatest racehorse ever – whose hooves were made into inkstands. (Many a great career ends ignominiously: see below.)

Leicester: The King Richard Visitor Centre is well worth a look, and 45 West is the place to go for a cheeky cocktail. (A Poor Richard, anyone? Dry cider, cranberry cordial, Italian vermouth, lemon juice and freshly grated nutmeg.)

Northampton: 78 Derngate is a very rare domestic building by Charles Rennie Mackintosh; a must-see for connoisseurs of architecture/design.

Walsall: Near to the County Court is the Arboretum, a well-maintained park of 170 acres with boating lakes and a café. There is also the New Art Gallery, whose permanent collection contains over 1,500 sculptures, painting and prints.

Lewes: Near the Crown Court is Anne of Cleves’ House – a gift from Henry VIII to his unwanted bride. (She didn’t use it.)

Brighton: Brighton boasts a Fishing Museum and a Museum and Art Gallery near the Royal Pavilion. Stroll the Palace Pier or stretch your legs in Queen’s Park, Old Steine Gardens or Victoria Gardens: there’s plenty of greenery. The Lanes – a collection of narrow passages – are famous for their small shops, including antique shops.

Dartford: A wander by the side of the River Darent is a pleasant pastime in Dartford’s Central Park, where there is also a rose garden. Simon Birks recommends the six-minute walk to St Edmund’s Pleasance, a beautiful old graveyard with great views of the town and surrounding countryside.

Oldbury: If visiting the Black Country Coroner, be sure to visit the ‘Court of Requests’ on Church Street. It is now a Wetherspoon pub – but they allow you to visit the old cells below ground level.

Coventry: Coventry’s evocative bombed-out Cathedral, and its new annex, are a lovely place to reflect and relax.

Bath: The Holburne Museum houses works by Gainsborough, Guardi, Stubbs, Ramsay, Zoffany and more.

Oxford: If it is raining or cold there is a nice café at the Ashmolean Museum (shuts at 4.30pm). You can combine it with a visit to an exhibition too – as long as you don’t leave it too late. If you don’t have much time, or have forgotten to book, there are always some Raphael drawings on display. The Egyptian artefacts are incredible. Other highlights are the Alfred Jewel (allegedly made for Alfred the Great) and Guy Fawkes’ actual lantern for that fateful night – just imagine!

If the weather is clement, then just across the road to the left, you can take a picnic down on the Broadwalk (lovely planting down the borders for the keen gardener) and into Christchurch Meadows with the river beyond. If you plan in advance, you might even make a stop at Hinksey Heated Outdoor Pool (do register beforehand).

Norwich: has a well-preserved medieval centre and the Cathedral is huge, with surviving outer gate and a Georgian set of houses within. All just four minutes’ walk from all the courts. The Refectory Cafe is attractive and the food is OK; amazing cloisters and a monument to Edith Cavell, the WW1 nurse.

There’s a great café a short walk away – ‘Olives’ on Wensum Street – for breakfast, lunch and coffee. (Judith Mayhew notes that vegetarian options are a little limited, unless you like cheese on toast…)

Swindon: For lovers of shopping, Catherine Piskolti knows just the place for you – there is a brilliant outlet 15 minutes’ walk away from the Family Court, on Kemble Drive.

Central London: Near Central Criminal Court, check out Postman’s Park – a small, quiet park containing 54 plaques, dedicated to ordinary people who gave their lives in trying to save others.

City: Near to the Magistrates’ Court is the London Mithraeum in Wallbrook, an ancient Roman temple devoted to the god Mithras.

East London: The Museum of London in Docklands is a mere stone’s throw from East London Family Court, housed in Grade I listed early-19th century sugar warehouses.

West London: near Feltham station, on the crossroads by the shops, is the brilliant KTM ROX (TW13 4AB). From the outside, it looks like a terrible pub but the Nepalese food is delicious. (Plus you can park and pop to Aldi opposite afterwards.)

Croydon: Croydon Quality Fish, on Church St, is one of the best fishmongers around, with fresh catches on offer every day. Your purchase may not be welcome in the robing room, mind you!

Kingston Upon Thames: Fortunella Café, Apple Market: wonderful salads and cakes, good vegan options. Try Shuropody in Eden Walk Shopping Centre for really comfortable shoes, including workwear heels. There is architecture to admire in the Jack Wills building, an ornate façade celebrating the Saxon monarchs. Clattern Bridge over Hogsmill River is one of the oldest bridges in London (built 1175).

Watford County Court: if driving North-ish towards the M25/M1, the Rhubarb Café in the Cassiobury parade of shops (WD17 3AJ) is worth visiting for Eggs Benedict, a nice loo and coffee too. The farm shop on the same parade is also good.

© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

A bit further afield: Should your practice require the occasional appearance at the Departmental Court of Potosi, Bolivia, Philip Squire points to the Casa Nacional de la Moneda de Bolivia (pictured above). Formerly the richest treasury in the World, now one of the best museums in South America, featuring a freaky mask of Bacchus which is now an icon of the city.

Enjoy! 

The author wishes to thank members of chambers who contributed to this article: Judith Mayhew, Simon Birks, Victoria Teggin, Lisa Peacock, Ayesha Hasan (HOC), Catherine Piskolti  (DHOC) and Philip Squire.