After a year of lockdowns and restrictions, one positive for many people grew from getting out for our daily exercise. Some went running; some went cycling; but almost all of us went for a walk. And perhaps unexpectedly, found a new love for walking.
For a large urban city, it turns out Leeds has an abundance of scenic places to walk in. Parks and woodlands, reservoirs and canals, there is natural greenery and waters to explore on all sides of the city. Here’s a walking tour of Leeds to keep you stepping for a good long time.
In suburbs all over Leeds there are wonderful parks of varying sizes and uses. The largest and most famous is Roundhay Park, where a walk around its 700 acres takes in lakes, gardens, mansions, wildlife and plenty of Leeds history.
Other north Leeds favourites include Golden Acre Park, a popular yet peaceful setting to amble around; Meanwood Park, a green calm nestled between vibrant areas; Horsforth Hall Park, with its unique and immersive Japanese Gardens; and Bramley Fall Park, offering lovely views over surrounding countryside.
The south of Leeds has its own selection of parks that each provide a lovely walk. Two of the best are Middleton Park, a sprawling open space of which a third is ancient woodland; and Rothwell Country Park, a stunning getaway with a circular track to loop around.
More rugged rambles are easily accessed too, only a short distance from the city centre. Through becks and woods and arches, the Meanwood Valley Trail is several miles of nature which feels a world away from its urban surroundings. It also runs besides a magically evocative walk in The Hollies.
Nearby Woodhouse Ridge is another significant slice of mature woodland cutting through an otherwise developed area, and Gledhow Valley Trail similarly provides a glorious grassland ramble to get some fresh air in those lungs.
Further out in the other direction, Water Haigh Woodland Park in Woodlesford is a beautiful walk in connected pockets of grassland, woodland and wetland.
Within the expanses of natural Leeds there is a plethora of wildlife to see. A hike through any one of these nature reserves meets with some wondrous birds, fish and animals.
To the north you can watch birds at Kirkstall Valley and Rodley Nature Reserves and see wet habitat at Breary Marsh and Adel Dam.
Equally amazing wildlife also live in beauty spots south of the city, which can be enjoyed on walks at St. Aiden’s Nature Reserve and Farnley Hill Fishpond.
Reservoirs & Canals
There may be no seaside strolls in this inland city, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of water walks. From the city centre, the Leeds-Liverpool Canal veers out in all directions for many miles and is a wonderful walk whichever way you go.
Elsewhere, Yorkshire reservoirs give a beautiful backdrop to some lovely walks. Eccup Reservoir is the largest area of water in West Yorkshire and a joyful experience that is so simple to get to.
Ardsley Reservoir is a little further out but an equally lovely spot for an easy stroll. And Swinsty & Fewston Reservoirs join up on a marvellous loop near Harrogate.
Moors & Countryside
Whilst some might be surprised at the amount of green space to walk in Leeds, it is well known that outside of the city Yorkshire has miles of countryside to explore. The grand country estates Temple Newsam and Harewood House both lead to delightful circular walks, and traditional towns within the Leeds postcode have the most famous places to hike around here.
Otley Chevin is a sprawling ridge of breathtaking beauty for several miles on which you can veer off any number of tracks to always awesome views. And Ilkley Moor is immortalised in song for good reason, rising dramatically out of the market town and inviting you to venture into its rolling moorlands. And if that’s not incentive enough, at the end, like with all good walks, is the pub.
Images: Meanwood Valley Trail, Ilkley Moor, Roundhay Park