Take a stroll and enjoy some of the stunning landscapes in God’s Own Country. Rolling hills, ancient woodland and mile upon mile of magnificent waterways, West Yorkshire has it all! The difficulty is where to begin…here are a few ideas of instagrammable outdoor spaces, scenic walking routes, and cycle trails to explore.


LEEDS

Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve

Hidden a 40-minute walk away from the city centre, Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve is the intersection of blossoming wildlife within an urban environment. The area was previously home to a power station before being levelled and seeded with local wildflowers in the 1990s, transforming it into the wonderful green space it has become today. Thanks to these efforts, and the upkeep provided by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the area is now an ideal place for bird spotting with Kingfishers, Sparrows and Goldfinches roaming the reserve all season. Spot the Grade II listed weir in the river Aire, built in the 1800s, that would have been used to power the mills of the industrial revolution. The area by the weir nowadays is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing in nicer weather. To explore these wonderful elements of the reserve you can walk along a circular path that takes you right around the reserve, roughly taking you 45 minutes. 

Image By Ali Turner

Otley Chevin Forest

This outstanding area of natural beauty is host to various walking and cycling trails that will suit everyone’s interests, such as: the Tree Spotters Trail that takes you past the most unusual trees in the forest, the Geology Trail, a more challenging 4km route featuring 8 marker stones that each have a geology themed carving on them, or the Heritage Time Trail that features sculptures by a local artist that represent the Forest at different periods in history. Make your way to the 282 metre Surprise View summit for stunning views of Wharfe Valley and Otley. They even offer other activities such as rock climbing, orienteering and geocaching that you could try your hand at.

Oakwell Hall and Country Park

Oakwell Hall is an incredible piece of history that resides on the edge of Leeds in Kirklees. This Grade I listed Elizabethan house was built by John Batt in 1583 and is now furnished as a 1690s family home. Visited by both Emily and Charlotte Bronte, it was immortalised in Charlotte Bronte’s 1849 novel ‘Shirley’ and has been the filming location of many period dramas. The ideal place to get away from the city and relax, Oakwell Hall is surrounded by rolling hills of cows, horses and sheep and tranquil streams that are cherished by locals and visitors alike. Explore the 110 acres of lush countryside that feature period gardens, nature trails, picnic areas, a mountain bike track and a playground. Afterwards, why not stop at the Oaktree Café for a coffee and a slice of cake.

Leeds to Bradford – Ilkley Moor

From Otley Chevin Forest you can take the Dales Way Link footpath to Bradford for the breath-taking Ilkley Moor that was the inspiration for the iconic county anthem ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at’. Hike to the tallest part of the moor that stands at 402 metres to see expansive views of the lush countryside and the quaint town of Ilkley below. On your way up make sure to notice the Cow and Calf, a rock formation that exemplifies the rich history of the land, and how it has eroded into the state we see today. The distance between Otley Chevin Forest and Ilkley Moor is 5.5 miles and takes roughly 2 hours to walk.

Leeds to Calderdale – Manor Heath Park

Despite being a lesser-known area compared to other parts of West Yorkshire, Calderdale still has an incredible amount to offer, especially in terms of picturesque parks and green spaces. Manor Heath Park, a Green Flag and Yorkshire in Bloom award-winner is definitely one of these parks. It features 19 acres of green space as well as flower gardens, a woodland walk and over 30 species of wildflowers and bulbs. Especially visit the walled garden, where you can see demonstrations of gardening techniques and plant trials. To get here from Leeds, take the train to Halifax and then either walk or catch the 563 bus to the park.

For more suggestions of beautiful parks and gardens you can explore in Leeds visit the website.


WAKEFIELD

Image ©Jonty Wilde

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Nestled amid the beautiful West Yorkshire countryside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s (YSP) inspiring artwork and landscapes bring visitors back, time and time again!  Spanning over 500 acres of parkland, YSP is one of the world’s leading outdoor galleries for modern and contemporary sculpture. With around 100 sculptures and installations to discover in the open air, exquisite 18th-century pleasure grounds to explore, and a changing programme of exhibitions in the indoor galleries, you’ll find an abundance of exciting things to see during your visit. This summer YSP is celebrating a Summer of Love, a new programme of events and activities which celebrate human relationships, understanding and love, inspired by the current exhibition Robert Indiana: Sculpture 1958-2018. If you’re looking for a lunch spot with a view, take your pick from one of the designated picnic spots around the parkland or treat yourself to something delicious from the terrace at the Weston Restaurant. 

National Trust Nostell

With over 300 acres of beautiful parkland and landscaped gardens to explore and set against the backdrop of a charming 18th Century Palladian Mansion, Nostell, is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and get a little closer to nature. For a gentle walk, follow the paths around the beautifully manicured pleasure grounds and sparkling lakes, or take in the tranquil seclusion of the gardens. Young adventurers can jump, swing and slide in the woodland playground and burn off any excess energy exploring the family bike trails through Bluebell woods. The wildflower meadows are an ideal spot for a picnic and provide picture-perfect views of the historic treasure house and surrounding countryside. The house is open to visit, Wednesday to Sunday through the summer and offers a full programme of events and activities throughout the year. 

Anglers Country Park 

Anglers Country Park is a beautiful haven for wildlife, including many migratory birds. The park has achieved Green Flag status and it is easy to see why, a central lake is surrounded by grassland, woodland and wetland, with accessible pathways great for both walking and cycling, which lead to a wider network of footpaths and trails to explore the surrounding countryside. Haw Park Woods is a short walk or ride away and links up with the disused Barnsley Canal and the Trans Pennine Trail. Young explorers will enjoy following the Room on the Broom story trail, based on the popular children’s book by Julia Donaldson or letting off steam in the adventure playground.

Wakefield to Bradford 

The Wakefield district has a superb off-road cycle network that connects to larger cycle routes such as the National Cycle Network, which you can find more information on here: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/national-cycle-network. If you’d like to combine your cycling with a little culture, try out the 20-mile route between Wakefield Cathedral and Bradford Cathedral.

Wakefield to Leeds

Another great route for walking or cycling is the Trans Pennine Trail, the entire trail totals 350 miles, although this can be broken down into different sections and easily manageable routes. Pick up the Central trail in Wakefield at one of the picturesque conservation areas of Anglers Country Park or Heath, head along to Stanley Ferry Marina and then on to the Aire and Calder Navigation along several peaceful miles before reaching the vibrant city of Leeds. This link provides more information about this route.


BRADFORD

East Riddlesden Hall

Visit the historic National Trust property East Riddlesden Hall in Keighley and its intimate gardens to relax and get in touch with nature. Whatever the season, there are a variety of sights to enjoy, from the fragrant herbs and spotting wildlife to family adventures in the Discovery Garden. Around the lawns, you will discover a selection of fruit trees, fragrant roses and borders of ever-changing colours. Children will love the natural play areas, including the mud pie kitchen and hobbit house. There’s also a play area too, where you can whizz down slides and balance on logs. Down on the lower fields, there’s lots of space for a family picnic, where you can relax while the little ones play. The property is open Saturday – Wednesday, with family Come Out and Play activities throughout the summer holidays.

St Ives Country Park

St Ives Country Park near Bingley offers something for all the family in all seasons. It is also Bradford districts largest park. As a Country Park with the focus on the great outdoors St Ives is the place for walks, adventure play, horse riding, cycling, golf, fishing and archery.  The main attraction for families with children under 14 is the large centrally situated Play Area.  For those feeling a little more adventurous the footpaths and bridleways explore the historic estate and provide challenges for all abilities. There are several self-contained circular walks within the estate as well as connecting with the wider Rights of Way network including the Calder Aire Valley Link. There are level surfaced walks that are accessible to all around Coppice Pond, and paths are well signed and waymarked.

Bradford Heritage Trail

Follow the self-guided Bradford Heritage Trail, a leisurely stroll that makes use of city centre footpaths, a relaxing way to see some of the most significant heritage locations in Bradford city centre, which are rich in history and architectural design.  The City Hall and Little Germany are noteworthy locations with attractive features. Enjoy your trip and give yourself plenty of extra time to soak up the sights at the National Science and Media Museum and Bradford Cathedral. To follow this self-guided trail download the map and guide.

Bradford to Calderdale – Haworth to Hebden Bridge

Explore the rugged Yorkshire Moor in the footsteps of the literary Brontë sisters to discover more about the place that captured their imagination. Take the 10-mile Pennine Way track starting at the Parsonage Museum car park. The well-trodden path crosses moorland and joins the Pennine Way at Top Withens, the remote ruin said to be the inspiration for Emily Brontës Wuthering Heights. Continue to Walshaw Dean Reservoir enjoying the spectacular views, and then on to Hardcastle Crags National Trust site. Stop for refreshments in the Hebden Bridge at the end of your walk. Download the route.

Bradford to Leeds – Canal Side Walk

Join the towpath opposite East Riddlesden Hall and travel to Leeds along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal on foot or by bicycle, admiring the beautiful scenery and discovering some fascinating history.  This popular route is made up of National Cycle Network Routes 66 and 696. The Five Rise Locks, the steepest lock stairway in Britain and one of the wonders of the waterways is located on this route, then continue to Saltaire, stop off to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the iconic Salts Mill. On your way to Leeds, take a break at Kirkstall Abbey, which is a perfect place for a picnic. In terms of distance, East Riddlesden Hall to Bingley is 2.8 miles, Bingley Five Rise Locks to Saltaire is 3 miles, and Saltaire to Leeds is 13.3 miles. 

CALDERDALE

Shibden Estate

Shibden Hall, home of the noted 19th century diarist Anne ‘Gentleman Jack’ Lister (1791 – 1840) is set in 32 hectares of award-winning rolling parkland and woodland, commissioned by Anne Lister and influenced by the picturesque landscape movement of the early 19th century. Discover the “Paisley Shawl” inspired Victorian bedding designs of Joshua Major, laid out on the front lawn of the Hall – a feast of colour as the spring and summer bedding erupts. The fruit garden boasts a collection of heritage fruit trees, recently planted to reflect the varieties that were grown at Shibden over 200 years ago. Experience the tranquillity of the Wilderness Garden, the cascade and pools and venture through the restored and re-opened tunnels within the stone terrace walls. These lead through to Cunnery Wood. This Local Nature Reserve is on the footprint of Anne Lister’s kitchen garden, fishpond, top up of the cascade and rabbit warren (hence the name Cunnery from Coney-rabbit). The area is rich in wildlife from stunning displays of bluebells under English oak, elm and birch to a multitude of songs from birds, healthy butterfly and moth populations and numerous small mammals. The Mere, designed to resemble a large river flowing through the Shibden valley, is home to an island and a population of birds. Hire a rowing boat and go boating on the Mere when you visit. There is also a permanent and unique exhibit that exemplifies all the skills of the Master Craftsman dry stone waller. Find out more.

Cromwell Bottom

Located just outside Brighouse, close to the Calder and Hebble Navigation, the River Calder runs through this Local Nature Reserve. The resulting wetlands and meadows provide a variety of habitats for many insects, including butterflies, moths, dragonflies and damselflies. Birds that can be seen or heard around the reserve include kingfishers, oystercatchers and curlew. Many mammals and amphibians have also made Cromwell Bottom their home. The reserve is wheelchair friendly, with many of the paths being suitable for wheelchair access. The paths are generally smooth, and there are no steep gradients. A RADAR key is required to open the gate fully to allow easier access. Find out more.

Image Courtesy of the National Trust

Hardcastle Crags & Gibson Mill

Hardcastle Crags encompasses over 400 acres of deep rocky ravines, tumbling streams, oak, beech and pine woods and some of the best examples of upland meadows in the country. The National Trust have put in some superb waymarked walking routes suitable for all abilities. You have over 15 miles of footpaths to explore! Cross the river on stepping-stones and spot birds, insects, amphibians and if you’re lucky, deer. You’ll find Hardcastle Crags offers a completely different experience throughout the year – from the icicles of midwinter to the carpet of bluebells in the spring. The early 19th century Gibson Mill is located within the Crags, alongside Hebden Water. A tour of the mill tells the history of the valley and the mill over the past 200 years. The mill also has changing exhibitions throughout the year, and you can recharge with refreshing drinks and yummy treats at the weaving Shed Café. Gibson Mill is completely off the grid – 100% self-sufficient in energy, water and waste treatment. It has a hydro-electric system, solar photovoltaic panels and a log-burning stove fuelled by wood from the estate. Find out more at the National Trust website.

Go to www.visitbradford.com for more inspiration. Use the hashtag #EnjoyWestYorkshire on social media to share your best photos and tell us about your experiences in West Yorkshire.

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