Richmond Park, London
Originally established as a deer park by Charles I in the 17th century, Richmond is the least central of the Royal Parks, but has quick and easy tube and train connections to central London. It is also the largest of the parks, covering an area of 2,500 acres, with a varied landscape of hills, meadows and ancient trees, still surrounded by the original walls (although reconstructed in places). The largest Site of Special Scientific Interest in the capital, the park is home to a rich variety of wildlife including owls, kestrels, and herds of roe deer and fallow deer that have grazed the land since 1637. King Henry’s Mound – a Bronze Age burial chamber – is the perfect location for views stretching out to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Fishing, golf, horseback riding and bicycle rentals are offered. Afternoon tea at Pembroke Lodge, an elegant Georgian mansion, is a great way to end a visit.
Jesmond Dene, Newcastle
A historic park in the heart of Newcastle’s suburbs, the Dene is a steep-sided valley, providing a tranquil place to walk that feels miles away from the city’s busy streets. Created in the 1850s by a successful businessman, a landscape of weirs, rocky islands and a waterfall was carved into the river valley that was previously dotted with watermills. The Pets Corner – home to goats, sheep, peacocks, and rabbits – is a big draw for young children, as well as a play area designed for those under eight. The Mill House Café offers light lunches and homemade cakes, or treat yourself to an upscale lunch at Peace and Loaf (peaceandloaf.co.uk), a restaurant run by finalist Dave Coulson on MasterChef: The Professionals.
Seven Lochs Wetland Park, Glasgow
A new nature park just a 15-minute drive from the city center, the park’s ‘kettle ponds’ are home to a wide variety of wetland birds, including the gray heron, great crested grebe and the majestic whooper swans, which fly. of Iceland to winter in the park. Kids will love the downloadable activity packs and the “Play Wild” area, while numerous trails offer the chance to spot rare deer and butterflies alongside the rich birdlife. The closest place to refuel is Glasgow Fort (glasgowfort.com) – an open-air shopping center with a host of restaurants with familiar names, which is a 10-minute drive away.
Ecclesall Wood, Sheffield
South Yorkshire’s largest old-growth and semi-natural forest, Ecclesall comprises three distinct woods, located in the southwest corner of Sheffield, near the border with the Peak District National Park. Covering nearly 140 hectares, there are 15 km of bridle paths and public trails, starting from the JG Graves Discovery Center (open daily 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) – named after the philanthropist who helped the Sheffield Corporation purchase the woods. in 1827. An architecturally remarkable timber construction, with a central glazed atrium overlooking a wildlife pond and bird feeding station, this is the place to start and end, with maps and more. information available, as well as hot drinks and homemade cakes in the Woodland Coffee Stop (open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am-4am). For something more filling, the Rising Sun (emberinns.co.uk) is a cozy hostel nearby, offering classic pub fare.
Manchester Green Trail
The first of its kind in the UK, the Green Trail is a walking tour of 14 routes that circle the city of Manchester, connecting parks, woods and open spaces. There are 14 separate hiking trails, with downloadable maps available; some are more urban, like the Whitworth Park road to Alexandra Park via Moss Side, while others are more remote and have a distinctly rural feel, like Heaton Park in Queens Park. The routes vary in length, with the shortest being around three kilometers, meaning that no matter what level of walker you are, there will be a route to suit you.
Lickey Hills National Park, Birmingham
Just 10 miles southwest of town, the Lickey Hills sprawl over 524 acres, offering biking, walking, horseback riding and a sculpture trail. It also has the best vantage point in the area – Beacon Hill, 275m high, with 13 different counties visible on a clear day. The park is famous for its trees – the arboretum has 70 different species – while the large evergreen plantations offer walks under the Scots pines and Norway spruces, and the geological trail traverses the five main types of rocks that are found under the hills. Lickey Hills Golf Course offers 18 challenging holes for adults and a ‘tri-golf’ course for kids, while the Visitor Center lends equipment for family tournaments and offers free ping-pong tables. and a playground nearby. After all the activity, the Duck Pond Café (duckpondcafe.co.uk), located on the golf course, offers restorative tea and cakes.
Water of Leith Walkway, Edinburgh
Stretching 13 miles from Leith in the northeast of the city to Balerno in the southwest, this riverside walking trail runs through the heart of Edinburgh, past the Gallery of Modern Art and the Royal Botanic Gardens . Designated as an urban wildlife site, the shores are home to more than 80 species of birds, including herons, zander and kingfishers, and dotted with patches of old-growth forests. The route can be traveled by bicycle or on foot, with maps available at the Visitor Center, located halfway. If the entire route is too long for a day, interrupt the walk with an overnight stay at Bonham (thebonham.com), located by the river in the city’s leafy West End.
Golden Acre Park, Leeds
Six miles north of central Leeds, Golden Acre Park began life in the 1930s as a private amusement park, complete with a swimming pool and miniature railway, before closing due to war. Now divided into several different areas, the park has Europe’s largest heather garden, wildflower meadows and sandstone rock gardens, as well as a tranquil lake that is home to herons, geese and swans. While there is no playground, there are flat, family-friendly bike paths, and the Golden Acre Café (open daily from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in winter) serves cakes and sandwiches. that will appeal to everyone, with an outdoor terrace if the weather permits. If not, the Lawnswood Arms (hungryhorse.co.uk) is a short drive away, offering hearty pub food and a cozy retreat.
The Taff Trail, Cardiff
The Taff Trail is a 93 km marked hiking route stretching from the Cardiff seafront to the town of Brecon in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The first 13 km stretch is a great way to explore the city through its green spaces and parks, along the banks of the Taff, once the city’s main commercial artery and today a haven for wildlife. Gray herons and kingfishers are regular visitors, with salmon hopping often seen in Blackweir, where the Blackweir Tavern (blackweirtavernpub.co.uk) makes a great stop for lunch or a refreshing beer. If you want to explore more on foot, the Bay Trail is a great way to see the attractions and activities along Cardiff Bay.
Garden and grounds of Speke Hall, Liverpool
Located next to Liverpool Airport and a short walk from the city center, this riverside estate has over 400 years of history. The picturesque timber-framed Tudor mansion is surrounded by lush gardens and woodlands that stretch down to the banks of the Mersey. A great choice for families, with a kid-friendly hedge maze, two play areas and an activity trail, the estate is also steeped in history – Stockton’s Wood was once used to hide planes from German spy planes during the Second World War. The Home Farm buildings are home to a café serving the Trust’s signature homemade soups and cakes, as well as Speke’s Volumes – a second-hand bookstore with all proceeds donated to the Trust’s conservation work. End the day with a trip to the village of Hale, home to two cozy pubs (visithalevillage.co.uk).