Our Top Ten | Child-Friendly Walks in the North
With the school holiday’s approaching, we have rounded up our top ten favourite child-friendly walks. From wild woodland to peaceful reservoirs and UNESCO World Heritage sites, we’ve got loads of great rambles that are short enough for children and pushchair-friendly too!
Girl About Yorkshire’s Favourite:
The Grounds of Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal – North Yorkshire
Why I love it: Well, firstly it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site so expect to be totally in awe of the vistas, which range from beautifully manicured gardens, follies, and water features to ancient ruins and parkland with free-roaming deer. The kids might not fully appreciate the breathtaking beauty of Studley Royal and the history of the 12th-century Cistercian abbey but they’ll love the huge timber play area, nature-spotting, tunnels and follies and climbing all over the abbey ruins. Nowhere is off limits, so the kids can explore to their little hearts’ content. The grounds make for one helluva perfect picnic spot.
Distance: 4.5 miles
Route: Park in the Visitor’s Centre and towards the Abbey. If you take the anti-clockwise route around the grounds, the timber playground is right at the end of your walk.
Head through the Abbey ruins, across the bridge and take the path along the river. It will eventually lead you to Moon Pond and the lake, and there is are a couple of options – the higher path takes you through a wooded area where the follies are located and the views across the gardens are incredible. The lower path navigates the beautiful gardens – both eventually bring you to the huge lake. There’s a great tea shop serving hot and cold food and drinks and ice creams with a fab outdoor area overlooking the lake – the half-way point of the walk. With toilets of course.
The path continues along the big lake and up through Studley Royal Deer park, and then back along a woodland path up to the park area. There is a large restaurant and shop near the park, and toilets too. Finish back at the Visitor Centre Car Park.
Terrain: Winding woodland trails and flat lakeside paths. Manicured gardens perfect for picnics, and rugged parkland.
Pram friendly? Pushchair/wheelchair friendly paths lead all round the Abbey and the Water Garden
What to look out for: Follies, roaming deer, the Abbey Ruins, the adventure playground.
Facilities along the way: A restaurant, a cafe, visitors centre, toilets, parking.
Car parking and cost: There is an entrance cost to get into Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal – It’s £40 for a standard family of 4 ticket. This gives you access to everywhere and includes parking.
Girl About Harrogate’s Favourite:
Fewston and Swinsty Reservoirs – North Yorkshire
Why I love it: I love taking the kids up for a walk or a run around the reservoirs. The scenery is stunning and if you go early enough you can find baby deer on the pathways and the reservoir so still it looks like a perfect mirror reflecting the skyline. We love taking a picnic and sitting on one of the many benches around the pathways and then the kids love to spend hours skimming pebbles on one of the small beaches around Swinsty.
Distance: Swinsty alone is 3.1 miles. Fewston alone is 3.7 miles. You can also do both, which is a healthy and hearty 6.8 miles.
Route: The two reservoirs sit next to each other just off the A59 between Harrogate and Skipton. There are three main car parks. One at either end of Swinsty and one at the far end (Skipton end) of Fewston. Personally, I love the main one, which is right in the middle of both reservoirs. Not only does it have a handy and (usually) clean toilet block, but it also means you can make up your mind when you’re there about which reservoir to tackle or which way to head round both.
It also usually also has an ice cream van on lovely Summer days, so a good bribe for the kids!
Terrain: Both reservoir walks take you through woodland as well as on paths near the water’s edge. The pathways are well kept, though there are plenty of muddy puddles through the winter to delight welly-clad toddlers. Fewston is a slightly hillier walk than Swinsty, but the hills are short and easy for all ages and abilities.
Pram friendly? Both walks are pram friendly. The pathways are slightly muddy or bumpy in places, but in general it’s all pretty even. There are signs stating no bicycles, but I have seen plenty of tiny tots on push along bikes or those balance bikes – just be careful as some of the paths are quite steep and near the water!
What to look out for: It’s a fabulous place for wildlife. I have seen a deer and her fawn whilst out running early in the mornings. There are also geese, ducks and plenty of birds to spot along the way. Gareth Southgate’s massive spooky mansion is also a good spot if you walk around Swinsty, as is the great man himself who can be regularly spotted out walking with his family and their dogs.
The amazing Brownlee brothers are known to do some of their training around the reservoirs and have been spotted by yours truly. Very friendly they were too.
Facilities along the way: Toilets and ice cream van at the main car park between Swinsty and Fewston. There are plenty of benches to sit on and admire the gorgeous views along the way and at the main car park, there are several picnic tables in the central grassy area. Many people bring picnics and set up camp here for the day.
Car parking and cost: Car parking is FREE!
Girl About Sheffield’s Favourite:
Endcliffe Park to Forge Dam – Sheffield
Why I love it: It starts in the much loved Endcliffe Park, so a great meeting point if doing the walk with others. It’s really straight forward path and you end up on the cusp of the Peak District, so feel a long way from the city.
Kids will be entertained throughout the walk with a river, ponds, woodland paths, stepping stones and bridges, and will enjoy a play in the Forge Dam park at the midway pit–stop. The café at Forge Dam does a mean bacon butty (all their food is good) and the ice cream keeps the kids happy, but there is loads of space to picnic too.
You can choose to go beyond Forge Dam café into the Peaks, if three miles is too short for zap the energy of your beloved kids, or you can park at Forge Dam on Brookhouse Hill and do a smaller woodland walk if you don’t think the little legs will make the full three miles. Very versatile and easy with kids.
Distance: 3 miles
Route: You can pick up the walk anywhere within Endcliffe or Bingham Park, and follow the main park path away from Ecclesall Road. If driving, parking on Rustlings Road or Oakbrook Road is your best bet, but you can easily get to the park via a bus, or like me, walk from home.
Walk throughout Endcliffe, past the café, play parks and numerous ponds into Bingham Park. Bingham has a brilliant stretch of double pathway, perfect for kids practising their scooter skills or getting their balance on their bike, but after that the concrete disappears into woodland paths. Lots of bikers still use the path, but it’s not for kids lacking confidence on their wheels.
Follow the path throughout Bingham along the riverside, past the Shepherd Wheel, and when you cross over Hangingwater Road the path forks. Right takes you across stepping stones, left on a path. There are two paths from this point to Forge Dam, and they join every so often by a bridge, so if you are walking in a larger group it can add a little adventure to split up. The woodland paths are absolutely fine for buggies, wide with a few roots and bumps but nothing too off-road.
A little further along you cross Whitely Wood Road and continue on the woodland path which brings you to Forge Dam. Forge Dam is a great place to take a picnic or eat at the popular café. There are toilets, baby changing facilities and the play park caters for a variety of ages, with the slide built into the hill being the most popular feature. A great midway point to refresh and let the kids have an ice cream and play in the park.
From this point you can choose to walk further, beyond the Dam or return back along one of the paths. Even though it’s not a loop, it’s still an enjoyable and peaceful walk back towards Endcliffe where you can finish your walk with a cuppa at the cafe.
Terrain: Fairly flat and wide woodland paths, with a river running alongside the whole walk.
Pram friendly? A buggy will be absolutely fine. Tried and tested with a double and single buggy.
What to look out for: The resident crane in Endcliffe Park, and the Shepherd Wheel in Bingham, a Grade II water-powered knife grinding workshop.
Facilities along the way: Both the start at Endcliffe Park and mid-way point at Forge Dam have a café, toilets, play park and parking.
Car parking and cost: Free street parking, best places to park are either Rustlings Road or Oakbrook Road if starting from Endcliffe Park.
Girl About Derbyshire’s Favourite:
Carsington Water – Derbyshire
Why I love it: Being somewhat incompetent with maps myself, what appeals to me most about this big, circular walk is that you don’t need to worry about directions – you just follow the path and signposts!
Distance: If you’re feeling energetic you can walk around the whole reservoir. This circular walk is about eight miles long and takes roughly two to three hours (not including time at the pub en route!) so might be a bit much for little legs nor is it entirely pram/pushchair friendly. However, there are plenty of other walks that can be done from the same starting point, which would be suitable for buggies and little legs.
Route: For either route, I would recommend starting at the main visitor centre (postcode DE6 1ST). There’s plenty of toilets and baby changing facilities. It’s dog-friendly and there’s a playground and often visiting attractions such as bouncy castles etc. With a pushchair/toddler on reins, I tend to just walk as far as the mood takes us and then double back to the car park.
Terrain: Either side of the visitor centre the paths are fairly flat and smooth. The bigger circular walk has some gentle inclines.
Pram-friendly? The short works are buggy-friendly, but I wouldn’t attempt the 8-mile route with a pram.
What to look out for: Lovely views of the reservoir and lots of nature.
Facilities along the way: The visitor centre has a good range of light refreshments. If you’d rather take your own picnic there’s loads of space, including areas to barbecue. For a slightly more formal option, the café upstairs has lovely views of the reservoir. If you’re not totally shattered after all that, head to nearby Ashbourne or Belper for a potter around. Both have lots of lovely independent shops, cafés, restaurants etc.
Car parking and cost: You can park at the main visitor centre where there is ample parking. It costs £3 for up to two hours or £5 for the day.
Girl About North Yorkshire’s Favourite:
Cod Beck Reservoir, Osmotherley – North York Moors
Why I love it: Cod Beck is a renowned beauty spot; the view from the dam at the bottom of the reservoir is amazing, one of my favourite places. On a peaceful day you can feel like you are somewhere else entirely. It’s an easy path walk through woodland around the reservoir and could probably be done in 45 minutes, equally if you want a tougher, longer walk you have access to a huge part of the North Yorkshire Moors from here. It’s very dog-friendly and you can have your pooch of the lead if they are well behaved. It is also the perfect spot for my children’s fave activity; throwing stones in the water. There is a shallow beck which is just below the second car park which is a dream for toddlers; paddling, fishing nets, watering cans, you name It Cod Beck will have seen it.
Distance: Depends how long you want to walk for! You can follow the circular walking trail around the reservoir which is roughly 1.5 miles, perfect distance for little legs, I usually double back making it a bit longer. You can also, at the bottom of the reservoir, head up the steep bank which will take you up onto the North Yorkshire Moors and from here you can do a longer loop back to the main road, or the Cleveland Way also passes by.
Route: There are two car parks and you can access the reservoir path from either, although if you have any mobility issues or a pram (see below) I would always try and park in the first car park (on your right if coming from Osmotherley, past Cote Ghyll Caravan site). If you do have to park in the second car park the path is still easily accessible but you can take the more adventurous route over the stepping stones across the beck.
Terrain: The path around the reservoir is woodland path and is well maintained, some very slight inclines but easy going. If you venture off the main path up onto the moors it can be rocky in places.
Pram Friendly? Yes, the main path round the reservoir is fine for prams if you access the path via the gate from the first car back (the first car park you come to after driving through Osmotherley village). The gate is wide enough for a pram and you can walk around the reservoir easily although you will have to return this way also as the opposite exit is via steps and a small stream so not ideal for a pram.
Facilities along the way: The one downfall is that there are absolutely no facilities here, other than plenty of bushes so make sure all children visit the loo before you go. There are two pubs and a village shop in Osmotherley itself. If you head to the next village, Swainby you’ll find The Rusty Bike Café which we love and has amazing views of the North Yorkshire Moors which you can enjoy from a deck chair outside or if it’s a cold day from a squishy couch in front of a log burner.
Car Parking and cost: Two free car parks, although they can get busy on weekends and hot sunny days!
Girl About West Yorkshire’s Favourite:
Bingley St Ives Estate – West Yorkshire
Why I love it: Since becoming dog owners we’ve tried to find places that keep children and four-legged friends equally happy and Bingley St Ives Estate does just that. What we’ve found is that the promise of a playground helps to keep the walking momentum going! The adventure play area here is a massive hit for Lyla – it’s really well thought-out and keeps her entertained for ages with its high towers, tyre swings, rope bridges and zip wire. There are smaller and more steady play areas for younger children too which include sand, wooden dens and musical toys. The walks are great as they are very accessible yet varied enough to keep the dog interested. We love the gentle walk around the Coppice Pond to warm up before heading into the woods and always finish off in The Ivy Café which has delicious cakes and is dog-friendly – another box ticked for us. It’s completely free to enter and park which is almost unheard of these days so we like to make the most of that while it lasts!
Distance: A 550 acre country park with lots of walks that you can make as long or short as you want depending on what you fancy.
Route: We usually park in the bottom car park near the entrance off Harden Road and make our way on a leisurely walk around Coppice Pond. After feeding the ducks and looking at the wildlife (usually couple by falling into the pond) we continue our way round to the adventure playground which is only about 10 minutes away. Then we move on to the walks around the woodland area looking out for the carved sculptures. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many as there used to be so don’t be disappointed if you can’t track them all down. You can, however, try your luck at searching for the geocaches which are hidden around the estate. Lyla loves doing this – it’s basically a treasure hunt using a free app on your phone which buzzes to tell you that you’re close by. Some of the ones we’ve found are so well camouflaged you could quite easily miss them so keep your eyes peeled.
Terrain: Woodland paths and tracks set among a whole host of wildlife. The country park extends to moorland and meadows for the more keen ramblers out there but for those who just want a gentle walk stick to the many paths which weave across the estate.
Pram Friendly? Pushchair and wheelchair-friendly paths which are all mostly flat and easy going.
Facilities along the way: Picnic areas, dog-friendly café, visitors centre, toilets, parking.
Car Parking and cost: There are three car parks on the estate so plenty of space and all completely free meaning a very low-cost day out can be enjoyed here!
If you just want to get the kids outdoors then check out these Blog Squad recommendations….
Also check out:
Bolton Abbey – Yorkshire Dales
Read Kirsty’s full recommendation HERE
Harlow Carr Gardens – North Yorkshire
Read Sarah’s full recommendation HERE
Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens – Manchester
Read Sarah’s full recommendation HERE
Or, if you’re children are a bit more grown-up then why not try a longer walk?
Malham Cove – Yorkshire Dales
Read Amy’s 8-mile walk HERE
Let us know your favourite child-friendly walks!
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
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