Whilst Leeds has plenty to offer in terms of a modern, vibrant and lively city one of its attractions is that within a short distance there is plenty on offer to help in this regard. Although running continues to be a popular activity, both cycling and walking are gaining in terms of numbers as people look to escape the hectic pace of the city and explore some of the outdoors at a pace they can appreciate.
Various walking routes on the canal
On our doorstep here in Leeds is the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which has a number of different routes that provide a different glimpse of the City than you may have come across before. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal spans a distance of 127 miles (204km) and crosses the Pennines to link the cities of Leeds and Liverpool. It includes 91 locks on the main line in addition to several small branches. It was initially built to help facilitate trade between the growing towns of Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford with the port of Liverpool.
Family friendly bicycle routes
In recent times Leeds has undergone regeneration around its part of the canal. The eastern end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in particular has some great walks and is often the starting point for different walking and cycling routes.
A particularly impressive and well-known trail is the Aire Valley Towpath route. The route links the 26km length of towpath on the Canal between Leeds and Bingley and is suitable for all both walkers and cyclists and forms part of the National Cycle Network – Route 66. It provides a fantastic opportunity to explore part of the canal and encompasses urban areas, beautiful countryside and the peace and quiet of a canal side location with interesting and historical places to visit.
City centre to Kirkstall Abbey route
Starting from Granary Wharf on the edge of the City centre, the towpath takes you on a peaceful route through the bustling city of Leeds. You will pass a number of historic buildings including Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, Kirkstall Brewery (now Leeds University student accommodation) and medieval Kirkstall Abbey on the banks of the River Aire. You can find more information on this and other museums in the things to do in Leeds guide.
Walks to Apperley Bridge
From here, the canal winds through the attractive rural areas and towns including Bramley Falls, Rodley, including the Nature Reserve adjacent to the waterway, Calverley Woods, Apperley Bridge, Buck Woods at Thackley, the junction of the old Bradford Canal and the town of Shipley before reaching its destination at the World Heritage Site village of Saltaire. A popular variation of this route is taking it from Leeds to Apperley Bridge, a distance of around 9 miles in total.
West Leeds trail along the canal
For those with a little more time on their hands and keen for a greater distance there is the West Leeds Country Park & Green Gateways trail. The 32km circular trail runs from the City Centre, through the green corridor of the Aire Valley and into the countryside around Calverley. From there the trail follows the green corridor between Leeds and Bradford, making its way through the countryside south of Pudsey before finally entering the urban areas of Armley and Wortley.
Here the interest is maintained by using the parks and ginnels as stepping stones to effect the full circle back to the Leeds Liverpool Canal and the City Centre. Although quite lengthy in total, there are a number of points along the way where the route can be picked up and tailored to your own wishes.
River Aire and Calverley and Rodley route
Initially developed as part of the Calverley Project 2000 enterprise and now an official annual event is a seven mile walking route around the area of greenery separating Leeds and Bradford. The officially-suggested starting point is at Calverley Bridge over the River Aire, just north of Rodley roundabout although it can also be joined further down at Apperley Bridge.
The particular stretch of towpath from here through to Rodley is known to be popular particularly in the spring and summer months when the weather brings the best out of the wild flowers and dense woods either side of the canal and proof that venturing beyond the city streets is most definitely an enjoyable way to spend a morning and afternoon – and keep fit in the process.
If you would like additional ideas for things to do in Leeds, why not take a look at more of the attractions and events in our other Leeds guides.