Leeds is something of a hub for lovers of the outdoors. This should come as no surprise; it boasts the spectacular landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales on its doorstep and the wonders of the Peak District a moderately short drive to the south. But few will be aware of the splendour that can be found by simply circumnavigating the city through the beautiful countryside and rural communities that surround it.
When you embark on the Leeds Country Way, you’re in for a plethora of delights. You’ll discover waterside marinas, peaceful vibrant nature reserves, glorious woodland and even a pub that claims to be the oldest in Britain. It’s a pilgrimage that reveals hidden treasures past every kissing gate, over every stile and beyond every hedgerow.
The circuit is a magnificent 62-miles (100km) and explores the picturesque towns and villages that delineate the city. This is a journey to savour, imbibing the character found on the outskirts of one of the north’s great powerhouses. Being so close to the city, there’s plenty of accommodation, making a multi-day expedition an enticing possibility.
The idea was first conceived by Fred Andrews of the Ramblers Association, before it was brought to life by the West Yorkshire County Council in the early 1980s. The route was devised for you to either tackle it as a long distance, multi-day hike or for you to cherry-pick separate sections as pleasant ambles. Today, it is under the stewardship of Leeds City Council, who made alterations to the original route in 2006 with the help of local walking aficionado Rob Brewster.
Four days should be sufficient to enjoy the route to its full, though the wealth of accommodation on offer means you can always be creative and extend your time on the trails. There is no fixed start point and you can choose to head in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction. I have opted for the official suggestion of a clockwise loop, starting from the pleasant greenery of Golden Acre Park to the north.
Regardless of your fitness, age or experience, there’s a way for you to experience this gorgeous trail. Linking existing rights of way, the paths are easy to follow and the route is consistently signposted or waymarked, just look out for the green owl icon. Dogs should be kept under close control, as you’ll often find yourself walking alongside working farms.
You’ll be rambling in Northern England so, regardless of the season or forecast, waterproofs are essential. Despite never being more than seven miles (11 km) from the city centre, the route is mostly through rural pastures, so sturdy walking shoes or boots are also recommended. A hard frost amplifies the glory of a warm, cosy country pub, whilst the warmer months bring seas of bluebells to the woods and glorious, long days on the trails.
Local train services run to Garforth, Woodlesford, Outwood, Batley, Morley, New Pudsey, Apperley Bridge and Horsforth stations, all of which are within walking distance of the trails and a short journey from Leeds. The closest of these to the traditional start point of Golden Acre Park is Horsforth, though it’s a good hour’s walk away. A variety of local buses serve various points on the route, including Golden Acre Park. Check wymetro.com for more information.
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Last updated: November 30, 2021
A beautiful 14 miles (23km) of rural lanes, historic settlements and the grounds of a grand country house await you on this gorgeous ramble. Suitable for all ages, you’re never far from the next village, where cosy hostelries and cafes will welcome you – one pub even claims to be the oldest in the country…
The wonderful south eastern quarter of the Leeds Country Way takes you through yet more gorgeous little villages and to the town of Gosforth, an ideal place for a restock. There’s plenty of varied scenery on offer, with numerous farm tracks in the opening stages and much of the latter part of the route…
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Admittedly, this section doesn’t begin too promisingly, with the crossing of two major motorways. But once you get into your stride, the sights, smells and sounds will evolve into those more evocative of classic countryside. The crunch of leaves in autumn, the scent of wildflowers in spring and birdsong…
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