10 best urban walks in green spaces

Some of our favourite city walks across England, Scotland and Wales

1. Kensington Gardens, London - Best for… peace and a palace  

England’s capital is famously leafy. Londoners can enjoy ambling through some 3,000 parks and green spaces, making it Europe’s greenest city. Some spots offer better walking than others, of course. And the twin gems of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, separated by the Serpentine lake, hit the sweet spot. They’re easy to access, only gently undulating, laced with well-made paths and offer lots to see. From Lancaster Gate underground station, trace a 3.5-mile meander around both. Admire the Italian Gardens, contemporary art in the Serpentine Gallery, the gilded Albert Memorial and Queen Victoria’s birthplace, Kensington Palace. And enjoy the serenity of this little pocket of peace in central London. 

Kensington Gardens route


2. Leigh Woods, Bristol - Best for… gorgeous greenery 

The bustling creative hub of Bristol is renowned for its music, food and street art, plus the Clifton suspension bridge. But just west of the centre, across Brunel’s magnificent span over the Avon Gorge, spreads a swathe of green. In the south lies the rolling downs of the Ashton Court Estate. Even more tempting is the forested expanse of Leigh Woods, criss-crossed with paths offering almost endless walking possibilities. One easy 2.5-mile loop visits the Iron Age hillfort known as Stoneleigh Camp, and provides spectacular views to the bridge and along the gorge. Keep an eye out for mushrooms and toadstools – this National Nature Reserve is home to some 300 species of fungi.    

Leigh Woods route


3. Water of Leith, Edinburgh - Best for… waterside wandering 

The 13-mile Water of Leith Walkway is a surprisingly green ribbon snaking through the heart of the Scottish capital, studded with points of interest. It’s delightfully quiet, and easy to access at several convenient points. Follow a 3-mile stretch of the loveliest section, starting from Bell’s Mills at the western end of Wester Coates. You’ll pass the moving Life Tribute in the AIDS Memorial Park, and a series of Antony Gormley’s 6 Times statues in the river. Beyond the old Dean Village mill community and St Bernard’s Well in Bank Gardens, detour to the Royal Botanic Garden. Finish amid the tree-lined circuses of New Town. 

Water of Leith route

Water of leith route


4. Parkwood Springs, Sheffield - Best for… heather-clad hills  

Perhaps because the crags and moors of the Peak District are on its western doorstep, Sheffield isn’t awash with parks. But across the River Don from the city centre lies Parkwood Springs, an amazingly wild expanses of woodland and heath. Rising to 175m above sea level, there are fine views across the city, not to mention intriguing sculptures. And in its 144 hectares you might spy kestrels hovering above the purple-blooming heather. A 3-mile loop from the southern section skirts the bare middle to explore leafy Wardsend Cemetery in the north. 

Parkwood springs route


5. Taff Trail & Pontcanna, Cardiff - Best for… natural history and heritage 

Cardiff Castle is the starting point for a rewarding 6-mile wander along rivers and through the city’s past. From this Norman bastion, stroll past the curious creatures draped over the Animal Wall to Bute Park. The Taff Trail leads north along the wooded riverbank and through Blackweir Arboretum. Keep an eye out for herons, buzzards, butterflies, salmon and even otters, occasionally spotted at dawn or dusk. Carefully cross Llandaff Bridge and return along the opposite bank. Pause to admire the 13th-century facade of the cathedral, perhaps detouring to see the remains of the medieval Bishop’s Palace. Cross Pontcanna Fields to return to the city centre. 

Cardiff central route


6. Wollaton Park & University, Nottingham - Best for… screen stars and academic ambling 

A short bus ride west of the city centre, admire varied architecture on a 5.5-mile figure-of-eight route through adjacent parks. Start at the carpark on Wollaton’s northern flank. Skirt around Wollaton Hall, the striking Elizabethan “prodigy house” that played Wayne Manor in recent Batman films. Stroll through the park and around the lake, watching for fallow deer and sparrowhawks. Carefully cross Derby Road to reach University Park, the rolling campus that boasts another fine landscaped lake. Overlooking that romantic watercourse stands the Trent Building, opened in 1928 by George V, which hosted Einstein and Gandhi. Return to Wollaton, perhaps visiting its award-winning museums.  

Wollaton Park & University route 


7. Mount Edgcumbe & Maker, Plymouth - Best for… military history and magnificent coastal walking 

Plymouth Sound has been a vital strategic harbour for centuries. No wonder it’s guarded by so many military defences, even in the rolling green retreat of Mount Edgcumbe Country Park. Board the short ferry ride from Stonehouse to enjoy a 6.5-mile ramble among its historic fortifications. From Cremyll landing point, follow the north shore before climbing to 15th-century Maker Church. Continue downhill past the 18th-century barracks dominating the heights. Pause for a drink or ice cream in the pretty twin seaside villages of Kingsand and Cawsand, once infamous for smuggling. The return route along the South West Coast Path takes you above curiously round Picklecombe Fort.  

Mount Edgumbe & Maker route 


8. Pollock Country Park, Glasgow - Best for… art and animals 

Green jewel in Glasgow’s crown is the 146-hectare expanse voted Europe’s Best Park, a short bus ride from the centre. A leisurely 3-mile circuit provides a taster of its treats. Amble through hundreds of rhododendron species blooming gloriously in summer, and alongside White Cart Water. Meet the big-horned Highland cattle, immerse yourself in the wildlife garden and encounter ancient beech trees. Make time for art, too, at the Burrell Collection and 18th-century Pollok House, home to impressive Spanish paintings. With public toilets, cafés, bike trails and a Children’s Fairy Village, it’s a wonderful place for family strolls.  

Find favourite Glasgow routes


9. Sandwell Valley, Birmingham - Best for… an urban tramp by train 

Make the most of excellent transport links to plot a winding 7-mile route linking two well-served railway stations. In between, you’ll encounter historic ruins, urban farms and animals galore. From The Hawthorns, pass the football ground to Handworth Cemetery, a vast, fascinating resting place with an imposing central chapel. Exit at the far end to enter Sandwell Valley Country Park, where you’ll soon find the ruins of the medieval Sandwell Priory. Round the lakes to reach the farm and the ancient woodlands of Sot’s Hole Nature Reserve. Wave at the windsurfers on Swan Pool, then follow the River Tame alongside the RSPB Nature Reserve to reach Hamstead Station. 

Sandwell Valley route


10. Roundhay Park, Leeds - Best for… a bit of everything 

Cafés, flower gardens, lakes, woods, sports facilities, children’s playgrounds, bandstands: this huge green expanse has everything an urban park should offer. Stretch your legs on a winding 3.5-mile stroll around the south-west section to discover some hidden stories of the past. Gifted to a Norman knight by William the Conqueror, Roundhay was eventually bought in 1803 by William Nicholson. He built his Mansion, overlooking the Upper Lake, which now houses a café-restaurant and art venue. Seek out the Castle folly and round Waterloo Lake, created from a disused quarry by veterans from the Napoleonic Wars.   

Roundhay Park route

Round Hay Park route


Explore more 

We’ve got ideas for hundreds more wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website.  Or join a guided walk with a local Ramblers group. Find your nearest Ramblers group and choose a walk that suits your pace, fitness and interests.  

All images © Getty

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