Leeds-List: The Best & Most Insightful Guide to Leeds

The Best Family-friendly Walks Within an Hour of Leeds

· Emma Cooke · Culture

Explore the great outdoors with the whole brood.

St Aidan's Nature Park Days Out

Grab your wellies and pack a picnic – it’s time to go on a fun-filled, family-friendly walk the kids will love.

Traffic permitting, these family-friendly walks are all less than an hour away from Leeds and they’re perfect for tiring out adventurous youngsters. You can go on an epic expedition into the jungles of the Meanwood Valley Trail, follow the tracks of ancient railways through The Lines Way and scale the bizarrely-shaped geology at Brimham Rocks. With plenty to keep the kids entertain and oodles of options for buggies, you’re sure to find something that suits.

St Aidan’s Nature Reserve

Bower Lake St Aidan's

Credit: David Botham

An RSPB site with plenty of lakes and wetland birds, St Aidan’s Nature Reserve is a hidden gem that may have passed you by. There are five flat and pushchair-friendly routes that weave around the lakes and lots of picnic spots. From skylarks to marsh harriers, you can spot loads of feathered friends on your way round, which makes it one of the best walks for kids.

With views over the lakes, the visitor centre is an equally impressive spot. Here, you can pick up a bug-hunting backpack with wildlife charts, a quiz and a specimen jar that has a magnifying lid, so the kids can set off on the ultimate hunt for minibeasts. Their friendly expert staff are also on-hand if you have any questions about the creatures in the reserve.

St Aidan’s Nature Reserve, Allerton Bywater, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS26 8AL.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Credit: Jim Varney

An open-air gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park has 80 different sculptures that will bring your walk to life. Set across 500 acres of parkland, you’ll find a series of family-friendly walks, including the Wild Explorer Trail around the Upper Lake. It’s relatively flat but can get muddy at times, so confident little walkers will feel more at home here. To make the most of the experience, you can download a guide filled with counting and collecting tasks.

On the five-kilometre route, you’ll wander through ancient woodland and pass vast lakes – why not see if the kids can spot any newts or frogs? There are five towering sculptures too, with everything from an abstract piece by Henry Moore to a colourful octopus by Marialuisa Tadei. You’ll find a cafe right by the car park, but there are plenty of picnic spots along the route.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF4 4LG.

Rodley Nature Reserve

Rodley Nature Reserve

Not far from Leeds city centre on the banks of the River Aire, Rodley Nature Reserve is a tranquil escape right on your doorstep. It has a mix of woodland and grassland, but what makes this reserve stand out is its medley of water habitats. From dipping ponds to marshes, the area is packed with creatures of all shapes of sizes, including dragonflies and toads.

The visitor centre has tools to help you spot animals as you go. You can borrow a pair of binoculars, pick up a quiz trail guide and even borrow pond-dipping nets, so if you’re a bunch of animal-lovers, it’s one of the best family walks you can do. They also have pushchair-friendly paths circling the reserve, so even parents with the tiniest of tots can get in on the action.

Rodley Nature Reserve, Moss Bridge Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS13 1HP.

Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve

Kirkstall Valley, Caroline Thorogood

Credit: Caroline Thorogood

Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve is a flourishing oasis right by Leeds city centre. It’s an undisturbed 2.5-acre patch of wildflower meadows, ponds, reedbeds and bogs. Designed to let biodiversity thrive, it’s a little wild with uneven pathways, so a pushchair isn’t advised, but it’s a great family walk if you want to see nature at its best.

It’s home to 130 different types of plants and all kinds of wildlife, including 65 species of bird. Keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers, sparrowhawks and herons – if you’re really lucky, you might even see an otter. Combine this rich biodiversity with an abundance of foliage and water habitats for the perfect exploring ground. Remember to bring nets or a jar if you want to go pond dipping!

Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve, 110 Commercial Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3AB.

Roundhay Park

Roundhay Park

© Copyright Leeds-List 2019 by Ali Turner

The largest municipal park in Europe, Roundhay Park boasts over 700-acres of outdoor space for you and the kids to explore, with ample car parking to go with it. You’ll find two adventure playgrounds set amongst the rolling parkland, woodland, lakes and formal gardens, so you’re already off to a good start.

There are five official walking routes that range between 1-kilometre and 3-kilometres. The tarmac surface on the Formal Garden walk is perfect for buggies, but if you have little adventurers on your hands, the Secret Gorge Walk weaves through thick woodland and passes fairytale castle ruins. The park has cafes in Canal Gardens and beside Waterloo Lake, so you can stop off for a scenic cuppa and a bite to eat.

Roundhay Park, Mansion Lane, Princes Avenue, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 2HH.

St Ives Estate

St Ives Estate, Bradford

Set above the Aire Valley, St Ives Estate is home to a country park that promises spectacular views. They’ve added oodles of family-friendly features over the years, from hand-carved fairytale creatures in the woods to a huge adventure playground with tyre swings and rope bridges.

It’s best to wear wellies in the woodland area, but there are plenty of options if you have a pram on your hands. You can park right next to the playground before continuing on a smooth pathway to the Coppice Pond, passing horses, a dog-friendly cafe and a bird watching station as you go. If you’re up for a bigger adventure, you can take on the 5-mile circular walk around the entire estate, which takes you through thick woodland and across open moorland.

St Ives Estate, Bingley, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD16 1AT.

Temple Newsam

Temple Newsam

Credit: Temple Newsam

You can circle the beautifully landscaped grounds of a Tudor-Jacobean house at Temple Newsam Estate. There’s a whopping 1,500-acres to explore and you’ll find plenty of free parking onsite, including a sizeable spot right by the playground. Add a child-friendly petting farm into the equation and you’re already onto a winner.

You can do a 6-mile circular walk around the estate, which will pass three very different lakes – one is set in parkland, one is surrounded by plants and the last is in their grass and bamboo garden. Another highlight is the Rhododendron Walk. It’s a colourful feast for the eyes when the flowers are in full bloom. Although the full route isn’t recommended for buggies, there are plenty of flat paths in and around the house, which you can follow up with a visit to the cafe in the Stable Courtyard.

Temple Newsam, Temple Newsam Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS15 0AE.

Meanwood Valley Trail

Meanwood Valley Trail

© Copyright Leeds-List 2019 by Max Wailes

A slice of countryside that connects Woodhouse Moor to Golden Acre Park, the Meanwood Valley Trail is a hugely popular walking trail in Leeds. It has a customisable route, which makes it one of the best kid-friendly walks in the area. The full trail is 7-miles long, but it’s split into three segments, with two 2-mile routes and a longer 3-mile stretch. The pathways can be a little steep, so it’s more of a hike than a walk at times.

Highlights includes passing over the historic Seven Arches Aqueduct and wandering through The Hollies, an enchanted patch of flora-filled woodland. To make the experience more interactive, you can print off a guide with local history and wildlife to spot on your way round. From endangered white-clawed crayfish in Meanwood Beck to common lizards near the aqueduct, there’s loads to spot on this trail.

Woodhouse Moor Car Park, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS6 1BJ or Golden Acre Park, Off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, LS16 8BQ.

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey

The 12th-century Bolton Abbey ruins are surrounded by open countryside and woodland for you to explore. You can set off on one of six different Strid Wood Nature Trails. They cover a mix of terrains, some of which are suited to pushchairs. The longest is around 2-miles, so you won’t have to worry about little legs getting tired.

To keep the kids on their toes, you can grab a free ‘I Spy’ card from the Cavendish shop. It’s filled with nature-themed games like bingo to encourage them to take in their surroundings. The grassy area round the ruins is great for picnics and the sandy banks of the River Nidd form the perfect sandcastle-building spot.

Bolton Abbey, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 6AL.

Chevin Forest Park

Otley Chevin

© Copyright Leeds-List 2019 by Ali Turner

Chevin Forest Park offers some of the best views in Leeds, as it overlooks the dramatic Wharf Valley. Before you set off, you can pick up a free map and wildlife-spotting guide from Otley Library or The White House Cafe. The 2-kilometre Heritage Trail starts from Lower Shawfield car park and is ideal for smaller kids as you uncover eight wooden sculptures by local artist Shane Green, one-by-one.

If you have older kids, the 4-kilometre Geology Trail from East Chevin Quarry car park is a great shout. The circular walk covers woodland and the outskirts of the forest, stopping at The Surprise View along the way. Here you can settle down for a picnic as you soak up panoramic views of Otley. If the kids have been good, you can even take a trip to the ice-cream van. Buggies aren’t ideal for the rougher tracks, but there’s plenty of free parking around the site to make life easier.

Lower Shawfield car park (opposite the Cheerful Chilli), East Chevin Road, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 3DD. East Chevin Quarry Car Park, East Chevin Road, Otley West Yorkshire, LS21 3DE. Surprise View Car Park, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 3DD.

Yeadon Tarn

Yeadon Tarn

Credit: Tim Green licensed for commercial use under creative commons.

Set in the outskirts of Leeds, Yeadon Tarn is a peaceful spot for a leisurely stroll, with a scenic backdrop of yachts, water fountains and woodland. There are picnic-perfect grassy patches right next to the lake and a great little playground for the kids to let off steam. It also has a BMX park that will go down a treat with older children so you can even bring the bikes.

The 1.5-kilometre path that circles the tarn is pram-friendly and completely flat, which makes it one of the most easygoing walks for families with young children. It even has free onsite parking. The lake is home to hungry swans and ducks, so make sure you pack plenty of feed. It’s a walk that can be enjoyed all-year round, but if you head down on a summer Sunday, you can enjoy live music in the bandstand.

Yeadon Tarn, 3-5 Cemetery Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS19 7UR.

Adel Dam

Adel Dam, Joanna Richards

Credit: Joanna Richards

A medley of woodland and wetland, Adel Dam has a lot to offer when it comes to walks. It’s been a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve for almost fifty years, so you can rest assured that you’ll see creepy crawlies and feathered friends aplenty. It has a circular route that’s suitable for buggies up until Marsh Hide, where the paths become uneven, so wellies are your best bet if you want to venture further.

It’s also home to lots of lesser-spotted birds, including woodpeckers in the woodland and kingfishers by the lake. To see it at its best, head down in the spring, where it blooms with colourful bluebells and yellow marsh marigolds. It’s a mighty spot if you want to get back to nature, but if you’re in need of refreshments or toilets, you only need to pop next door to Golden Acre Park.

Adel Dam, Off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 8BG.

Farnley Hall Park

Farnley Hall Park, 10 Leeds Parks You Might Not Even Know Existed

Credit: Tommy Knott

Farnley Hall Park is a landscaped space that surrounds a Grade-II listed hall. A former deer park, it has large open grassland, perfect for picnicking, as well as woodland and formal gardens to explore, so it’s one of the more varied family walks in the area. Most of it is flat and suitable for buggies, with onsite parking to help you get close to the start.

Opposite the main entrance is Farnley Pond, which is framed by beech and sycamore trees and looks spectacular during autumn. See if you can spy any moorhens or coots darting along the water. Once you’ve explored the grounds, you can finish off your visit with a treat and take the kids to the children’s play area.

Farnley Hall, Hall Lane, Farnley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 5HA.

Golden Acre Park

Golden Acre Park

© Copyright Leeds-List 2019 by Suzy Rodden

A mix of mature woodland and formal gardens set around a large boating lake, Golden Acre Park is one of the most popular parks in Leeds. You can leave your car just across the road and enter through the underpass, then it’s time to let loose in the 179-acres of mature woodland and gardens. It has everything from a playground to a miniature monorail, which makes it a top destination for family walks.

There are lots of flat pathways around the park, but the most popular route is the circular lakeside walk. Along the way, you can pop into the duck hut and bird-feeding shelter, before you make your way to the cafe, which is right next to the Demonstration Garden. This ever-changing garden is a colourful showcase of horticultural trends, so there’s something new to see all year round.

Golden Acre Park, Off Arthington Road, Bramhope, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 8BQ.

Oakwell Hall Country Park

Oakwell Hall Country Park

Credit: chrisjredman21 licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.

With over 110-acres of countryside that surrounds a 16th-century manor house, the award-winning Oakwell Hall Country Park is a fine choice for a family walk. It has two car parks, one of which is right next to a play area designed for less able-bodied children. By the Hall, you’ll find a Grade II-listed barn to explore and a cafe that serves locally-sourced goodies.

The park has a Nature Trail that will take you on a figure of eight loop through open meadows and woodland filled with beautiful old oak trees. You can do the whole route in around 90 minutes or you can shorten it down to a 45-minute stroll. The site also has six colourful gardens inspired by the intricately-designed gardens of the 17th-century. Once you’re done exploring, you can stop at one of their picnic sites for a well-earned break.

Oakwell Hall Country Park, Nutter Lane, Birstall, West Yorkshire, WF17 9LG.

Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks

Credit: David Locke licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.

If you have a little explorer on your hands, head to Brimham Rocks for an adventure-filled day out. Perfect for slightly older kids, it’s full of bizarrely-shaped rocks that date back over 320 million years. It’s a walking boot-type terrain, so buggies aren’t recommended here. Before you set off, take a trip to the visitor centre, just 10 minutes from the car park. Here, you can pick up a backpack with a compass and a guide that points out cool bits of geology and wildlife around the area.

The most popular family walk is the Spot The Rocks trail, which connects ten of the most unusual boulders. From the Dancing Bear to the Smartie Tube, you can discover how they got their names. It’s a leisurely trail that takes you to all the must-see landmarks, so you can take your time clambering over the rocks and stopping for a picnic with a view on your way round.

Brimham Rocks, North Moor Road, Summerbridge, North Yorkshire, HG3 4DW.

The Lines Way

The Lines Way

Credit: Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

A green corridor that runs along a disused railway, The Lines Way is a 3.5-mile stretch that passes four different wildlife reserves, making it one of the best nature walks in Leeds. The rails have been taken off to form a footpath suitable for buggies, so it’s a great family-friendly option too.

Woodland, wetland and hedgerows line the track, which means you’ll come across a variety of different species. From great-crested newts in freshwater ponds to cuckoos in the woodland, see how many animals you can spot. It’s a great place to let the little ones’ imaginations go wild – they can charge through old arches once used by the trains and play hide and seek in the woods.

The Lines Way, 1 Blands Crescent, Allerton Bywater, West Yorkshire, WF10 2AF.