These boots were made for walking… and drinking
Sunshine is a contradictory beast. I find myself wanting to be outside, absorbing vitamin D, eating fresh fruit and vegetables and going for long mountain walks in the fresh air, while smugly flaunting my radiant, sunburnt health for all to see.
It also makes me want to drink eleven beers in direct sunlight and then spend three days being sick into a bin.
Fortunately, I’ve found a way to do both at once – the perfect compromise. Here are six of the best leisurely walks you can do in Leeds and the surrounding areas, and some of the great pubs along the way.
The Leeds Liverpool Canal
Originally completed in 1816 with the purpose of improving textile trade links with Liverpool, the whole 127 miles of the Leeds-Liverpool canal can still be walked. But you’d need a lot of beer to recover from that, so I suggest a slightly more modest 3.5-mile jaunt from the city centre.
Start at Northern Monk and drop down on the canal path by the Candle building. From here, you’ll pass the Leeds Industrial museum and Gott’s Park, before conveniently resurfacing at Kirkstall Bridge Inn for a pint of aptly-named Virtuous.
Start: Northern Monk, Marshall St, Leeds LS11 9YJ End: Kirkstall Bridge, 12 Bridge Road, LS5 3BW Estimated Walking Time: 45-60 minutes Rating: Easy
Otley Chevin Surprise View
High up above the historic market town of Otley lies one of the finest views in the country. Surprise View gets its name from the sudden, striking panorama of Yorkshire, which only becomes visible as you step on to the rocks themselves. It has its own car park, but that’s not the best way to get to it.
Instead, start at the car park nearest Otley on East Chevin Road, and do a little circular of the forest park to the East, pausing to look over Otley from the rocks at the bottom of the park, before returning to the higher of the two car parks, crossing on to Miller Lane and making your way up to the viewpoint.
Once you’ve taken a few view-blocking selfies, walk down to the Royalty pub (header image) and enjoy a refreshing pint, before walking back over Surprise View to Ritchie’s Plantation and back to your car.
Start / Finish: Car Park at the Top of the Chevin, East Chevin Road, LS21 3DD The Royalty: York Gate, LS21 3DG Estimated Walking Time: 60-90 minutes Rating: Easy-Medium
Rodley Nature Reserve
The Rodley Barge is in a beautiful spot on the canal, deserving a visit for the balcony to the rear and the damned fine selection of real ales that it offers. And while you’re there, it’d be rude not to wander along the canal and cross Moss Bridge to the Nature Reserve.
Opened in 1999 after Yorkshire Water decommissioned the old water treatment works, the wetland now acts as a migratory flyway and natural habitat for an array of birds, fish and dormice. There’s a visitor centre and plenty to enjoy for the kids, but it’s only open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Start / Finish: The Rodley Barge, 184 Town Street, LS13 1HP Rodley Nature Reserve: Moss Bridge Road, LS13 1HP Walk Length: 3 miles Rating: Easy
Ilkley to Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey is one of the most visited attractions in Yorkshire, and therefore a total nightmare to park at during the summer. Fortunately, this is totally unnecessary, as the walk from Ilkley is both leisurely and stunning.
The 6.5-mile route follows the start of the Dalesway walk to Bowness in the Lake District, following the River Wharfe through Addingham and up past Bolton Bridge. The stunning riverside ruins of the twelfth-century monastery are enough of a reward for your endeavours, but the Devonshire Arms has to come a close second.
Known for its restaurant and spa, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a beer and a bite to eat (if you’ve booked) before either taking the bus back to Ilkley or staggering back on a full stomach.
Start / Finish: Ilkley Park, Bridge Lane, LS29 9EU The Devonshire Arms: Bolton Bridge, BD23 6AJ Estimated Walking Time (One Way): 2 hours Rating: Easy-Medium
Tong to Fulneck
Overlooking the valley to Pudsey, Tong village is practically equidistant from Leeds and Bradford. The village dates back to Roman times and its centrepiece is the Greyhound pub; a wonderful sixteenth century inn next to the cricket club, which also conveniently happens to be the start of this circular walk.
From Keeper Lane, walk down the hill and cross Pudsey beck before exploring Fulneck Moravian settlement and the atmospheric Black Carr Woods, before coming back up using the Leeds country way and crossing to the other side of Tong for a walk along the beck that joins with a track down into Tong and the Greyhound once more.
Start / Finish: The Greyhound, Tong Lane, BD4 0RR Walk Length: 6.5 miles Estimated Walking Time: 2.5 hours Rating: Medium
One of Europe’s largest urban parks, Roundhay spans over 700 acres and contains a forest, two lakes, four gardens, a folly, a mansion, Tropical World and a WW1 meeting point for soldiers.
Starting from the Roundhay Fox, walk down Mansion Lane and then round the back of Upper Lake. From here, walk through the forest and follow Great Heads Beck up towards the northernmost point of the park. When you find a place to cross, the beck, come back down and do a circuit around the east of Waterloo Lake, before making your way back up towards Tropical World and the Canal Gardens for a stroll and an ice cream.
Start / Finish: The Roundhay Fox, Princes Avenue, LS8 2EP Walk Length: 3.5 miles Estimated Walking Time: 1.5 hours Rating: Easy