Fantastic Parks and Gardens in Leeds
Leeds, nestling in the heart of Yorkshire, is famed for it’s industrial heritage. A city that grew thanks to the industrial revolution, the textiles industry, canals and the railway aren’t somewhere that an outdoor enthusiast might think to visit. But they would be wrong. From sublime country houses and their estates, to nature reserves and parks, Leeds and the surrounding areas are a great choice for a getaway.
Locals are rightly proud of two historic houses and their spectacular gardens, Temple Newsam and Harewood House. Temple Newsam is set within 1500 acres of stunning parkland. As well as the historic mansion house, nestled within the parkland is the walled garden which is renowned for its Rhododendron and Azalea walk and features the National Plant Collections of Delphinium, Phlox and Aster novi–belgii. Temple Newsam also houses Europe’s largest working Rare Breeds Farm, with over 400 animals, a great day out no matter how old you are.
Across the other side of the city is Harewood House, which again is set in fantastic grounds, which were largely the creation of England’s most famous landscape gardener, Lancelot “Capability” Brown and currently overseen by the Professional Gardener of the Year. The grounds themselves are home to a number of fantastic themed gardens, including the Himalayan Garden and the popular Lakeside Garden. Many people find the best way to take in as much of the scenery as possible is to enjoy one of the ‘Garden Walks’. Harewood is also home to Harewood Bird Garden which is one of England’s most important avian collections, with over 90 species of birds housed in sympathetic surroundings. You might want to bring your bird watching binoculars with you. These birds include Red Kites, Flamingos and a flock of Humboldt Penguins. Usually found at home off the coast of Peru, I bet you didn’t expect to see them in Leeds.
Leeds boasts a number of fantastic parks, with the most popular being Roundhay Park which is visited by nearly one million visitors a year. With over 700 acres of parkland, lakes, woodland and gardens, it is one of the biggest city parks in Europe. With two picturesque lakes, Upper Lake and Waterloo Lake, Roundhay Park is a wonderful location for an afternoon stroll in the sunshine. But don’t panic. If the weather does turn you could always pop into Tropical World, which holds the largest collection of tropical plants in the UK outside Kew Gardens. Tropical World is also home to a number of small animals, with the most popular attraction being the Meerkats. As well as all this Roundhay Park is also home to several beautiful gardens which have won awards at the world famous Chelsea Flower Show.
One of the most celebrated attractions for outdoor purists around Leeds is the famous Leeds Country Way, a circular footpath 62 miles (99km) long around Leeds. Despite the fact that the path is never more than 7 miles away from the city centre, the route is predominately rural. Taking in bridle ways, footpaths and nature reserves, it offers fantastic views of the countryside. Handily, there are a number of train stations and bus stops around the route as well as car parks, and the route conveniently can be divided into shorter sections. Included on the route is the fantastic Golden Acre Park, which is worth a visit in its own right. It boasts a lake, wildfowl, informal gardens, demonstration gardens, a special collection of heathers, and woodland and open spaces and the National Plant Collections of Lilac, Deutzia, Hosta and Hemerocallis. Golden Acre Park is also featured on the route of the popular Meanwood Valley Trail, a popular walk of 7 miles (11 km).
For those who want to enjoy something a little bit different, then why not check out nearby The Forbidden Corner, which has recently been named the UK’s top family day out by restaurant chain Little Chef and Best Trip by The Guardian. The Forbidden Corner is a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises created in a four acre garden in the heart of Tupgill Park. The temple of the underworld, the eye of the needle, a huge pyramid made of translucent glass, paths and passages that lead nowhere, extraordinary statues – at every turn there are decisions to make and tricks to avoid. This is a day out with a difference which will challenge and delight adults and children of all ages.
As you can see, Leeds has lots to offer for the outdoor enthusiast, and we haven’t even covered the outdoor playground that is The Yorkshire Dales, the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, The Hollies and many other wonderful places. So if you’re planning an escape to the country, why not head to the city.