By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
Get your outdoor fix among Leeds’ most enticing landscapes. Of course there’s rugged Yorkshire scenery for all you adventure-nuts, but many al fresco highlights promise a more tranquil day out in nature.
Parks and nature
Leeds is rightly proud of Roundhay Park, one of the biggest outdoor city parks in all of Europe. There’s a mammoth 700 outdoor acres of green space to dive into, spanning woodland, parkland, playgrounds and lakes. The well-known phrase ‘there’s something for everyone’ has never rung truer than here. Pubs pepper its perimeter, so you’re guaranteed a decent slap-up lunch too – The Roundhay Fox is a favourite for food.
Charming by name and nature, the 137-acre Golden Acre Park is a pretty spot with lots of aces up its sleeve, from botanical gardens to a lake ideal for duck-spotting. There are plenty of walking trails and picnic benches too. Nearby, Adel Dam and Breary Marsh nature reserves present the perfect opportunity to add some extra bird-watching to your day out.
Walk or cycle around the 990-acre St Aidan’s Nature Reserve, just southeast of Leeds. These RSPB-owned meadows and wetlands are a haven of birdlife and you’re likely to spy bitterns, skylarks and, if you’re very lucky, short-eared owls on a visit here. Entry is free but there is a car parking charge for non-RSPB members.
History and culture
Famed English gardener, Capability Brown, landscaped the grounds of Temple Newsam – a beautiful estate to the east of Leeds. There are over 40 rooms to explore inside the Tudor-Jacobean house. However, you’d be forgiven for spending most of your time roaming the flower-festooned nature trails, 17th-century formal gardens and historic Home Farm. Yes, a farm complete with farmyard animals!
Kirkstall Abbey is a stunner of a ruin. Founded in 1152, the Grade 1-listed monument remains one of the most complete Cistercian monasteries in all of Britain and provides a dramatic backdrop as you stretch your legs along the River Aire. Harewood House, built in the 18th century, is a masterclass of grandeur. A few surprises await within the 100-acre gardens. There are flamingos and penguins in the exotic Bird Garden, boat trips out on the lake and, inside the house, contemporary art displays.
More history can be found at one of Britain’s last remaining water-powered mills, Thwaite Watermill, which lies sandwiched on its own minuscule island between the River Aire and Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Alternatively, feel the breeze in your hair on a Water Taxi trip from Granary Wharf to Leeds Dock. Once you’re on dry land at Leeds Dock, the excellent Royal Armouries Museum is ready to welcome you.
Stretch those legs
When the weather’s pleasant, why not head for the water? The River Aire intersects the city and makes for a marvellous stroll. It’s your chance to admire a riverside slice of Leeds many never get to see. Leeds also has a long-standing love affair with owls and walking the Owl Trail is a great way to get to know the city. Big, small, golden, glass – pick up a map from Leeds Visitor Centre (below Leeds Art Gallery) and see how many of the 25 owls you can spot!
If you’d prefer to spend your time in the Yorkshire countryside, there are a few outdoor doozies worth keeping on your radar. Less than an hour’s drive from Leeds rests Haworth, also known as Brontë Country, where undulating moors and waterfalls inspired the setting for books like Wuthering Heights. Or, hop on the train to Ilkley for more ambles. Ilkley Moor is a walking wonderland with endless trails, crags and heather-smothered clifftops. Plus, unbeatable panoramic views across the Wharfe Valley.
Ilkley Moor is a walking wonderland over in West Yorkshire with endless trails, crags and heather-smothered clifftops
For all the countryside charm but with city centre convenience, hike along the Meanwood Valley Trail. Known as the ‘green artery’ of Leeds, this seven-mile route begins at Woodhouse Moor and stretches past aqueducts, streams and woodland reserves until its finishing point at Golden Acre Park. If you’re not up for the full shebang, it can be easily split into three smaller sections.
Enjoy a perfect weekend getaway in Leeds
Getting to and around Leeds
Top 10 reasons to visit Leeds