Saturday, 22 August 2015

Leeds Canal Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 13.2 km (8.2 miles, but you can shorten/lengthen it as you please), terrain: flat

Leeds running routes:
Leeds Canal route
Leeds Center/Woodhouse Moor route
For more running routes, see Route List.

This is one of those really easy routes: simple, flat, scenic, you can't get lost, and you can turn around any time you please. If you're in central Leeds, make sure you try out this run along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which begins just south of the Leeds train station.
Along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal
Work on the 127-mile-long canal began in 1770, and continued for 50 years. The biggest cargoes were coal and limestone, connecting Leeds and Bradford with the port of Liverpool in the west. Cargoes were still carried until the 1980s, but since then only a few sport boats ply the waters.
Every mile there is a marker: still a long way to go!
But that makes it all the quieter and nicer for us runners. The towpath directly next to the canal is a great place to unwind and enjoy the green scenery. There are quite a few old stone bridges and a lot of wooden boat locks.

So, if you're ready, let's head south down Neville Street at the Leeds train station. Neville Street goes through a loud, dark tunnel under the train tracks, and comes out at the River Aire, where you cross the bridge.
Start of the run, from bridge over the River Aire
Crossing the bridge, look to the right and you'll see where the canal links into the river, with some old wharves and black cranes.

Turn right at the first street past the bridge, Water Lane, running westwards, then turn right again at the first chance, onto Canal Wharf.

Run past the stone warehouse on your right, and now follow the water the 100 meters to the first stone bridge. We need to cross that bridge back to the north side of the canal, where you turn left and now follow the asphalted towpath westwards along the north shore of the canal.
Switching to the north side: just follow that towpath on the right!
So now comes the simple part: just run westwards as far as you please, then turn around and come back.

This route, to make it interesting, has a scenic end-point picked out that's a bit off the canal: Kirkstall Abbey. The extensive abbey ruins are in a nice park just a couple of blocks north of the canal at about the 6-kilometer mark, so they're a really nice highlight to the run.

Back in Leeds, heading east, you'll likely see a lot of other runners, walkers and bikers along the first few kilometers. The south side of the canal is still fairly industrial, but pleasant green shrubbery grows along both sides of the water.

There are also quite a few new apartment buildings along the north side of the canal in the city center.
Sunken barge along the way
You'll go by various old boat locks, including one double lock, raising the canal quite a ways above the River Aire, which flows to the right of the canal.

At the 3-kilometer mark, you'll run under a metal railroad bridge, and then a barge basin connects to the canal along the right, full of narrowboats.
Narrowboats in the basin
Just after the boat basin, the asphalt ends and the trail is now hard-packed, rough gravel. After a rain, there are big puddles. A little parallel road now follows the canal along the right, so some runners and virtually all bikers follow that road rather than the rougher towpath. You can decide which you prefer (hey, I like the waterside, myself).

You'll then pass the Leeds Golf Course across the canal, as the canal curves northwards.

Maybe you've noticed that each canal bridge is numbered. At about the 5-km mark, when you get to bridge 222, just before the stone buildings of the Kirksdall Brewery, turn right onto Bridge Lane and run east over the bridge crossing the River Aire. This is our detour to the abbey.

Along the left side of the street, just past the WWI memorial cross, you'll see a gate into a little green park. That's the Kirkstall Abbey park.

Turn in there. You'll follow a beautiful, flower-lined little stream, cross the bridge over that stream, running northwards parallel to Abbey Road.
Kirkstall Abbey ruins
The park opens up into a big lawn and you'll see the abbey ruins before you.
Abbey windows
The path loops the abbey, so you can circle it and head back home the same way you came again. If I were you, I'd forget my running tempo for a bit and just walk past the impressive ruins, and take a look into a few of the windows and doors that you'll pass. Have fun!

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