4 Best Walks in York

York offers some of the best walks out of any city in the UK. Being relatively small, it’s easy to get around without the need for a car or public transport.

Being situated on a flood plain, there are also very few hills so these walks are perfect if you only want a casual stroll.

In most cases, you can start out in the city centre and quickly get away from the hustle and bustle after just a short walk.

From trails along the river to exploring nature reserves and disused railways, read on for more details about our top four recommended walks in York.

1. North along the River Ouse

One of the best things to do in York for couples is taking a stroll along the river, and it’s easy to customise this route depending on if you want a relaxed wander or a longer hike.

Starting at the Scarborough Rail Bridge, follow the path along the River Ouse as it sweeps west then north, heading away from the city centre.

Head under Clifton Bridge as you continue along the footpath as it follows the curve of the river. Stay on the embankment, keeping the river to your left and Clifton Ings on your right.

Note: during rainy periods this area gets heavily flooded and can become impassable, so make sure to plan ahead.

Follow this route all the way to the A1237 – the upper boundary of the city. Walk under the underpass and head a little bit further until you reach a sluice gate. As the apex of the circuit, this is a good place for a short break.

The Ouse flowing under the A1237

Back towards the city

When you head back, follow the paved footpath back under the ringroad, past Rawcliffe Park, and all the way back to Clifton Bridge. 

This route part of the route is considerably busier on weekends with dog walkers and cyclists, so watch your back. Alternatively, you can go back the way you came along the embankment.

Finding a different path back

Once at Clifton Bridge, you can either keep following the path along the Ouse or take a different route back to the city centre. For this alternative path, head north-east along Water End and quickly take a right down Westminster Road.

The road comes to a dead end, but you can continue through a footpath that bisects St Peters School. Once you’re through at the other end, take either North Parade or Queen Annes Road north until you’re on Bootham (A19).

From here, simply follow the main road all the way to Bootham Bar and you’re back inside the city walls.

2. South along the River Ouse

If you’ve already walked north up the River Ouse, heading south offers a nicely different walk. You can again start from anywhere in the city centre.

Note: much of the path along the river can be flooded after heavy rainfall, so consider an alternative route if you see sections have been blocked off.

Heavy flooding in York regularly leaves much of the riverside submerged.

South from Skeldergate Bridge

Skeldergate Bridge is a good starting point for this walk. If you’ve driven into the city, St George’s Field and Castle Car Park are both nearby options to park up.

The majority of the walk will be following the east bank of the river south. Cross Blue Bridge, which takes you over the River Foss, and then continue along the Ouse all the way to Millenium Bridge.

Millenium Bridge in York
York’s Millenium Bridge

Heading past Millenium Bridge

After passing this footbridge, continue along the footpath that takes you past Danesmead Wood on your left. If it’s a dry day, you can instead trek across Millenium Fields for part of the way.

The path will take you onto Love Lane, which crosses St Oswalds Road and then curves back towards the river, leading you past the sheds used by the University of York Boat Club.

From here, continue along the path as it continues to follow the River Ouse south. The footpath isn’t paved from this point, so it can get quite muddy.

With the river on your right and Fulford Ings on your left, simply follow the curve of the river as it bends westward until you reach the A64.

The Ouse under the A64

The return route

After heading under the ring road, take the footpath that leads away from the river and then follow Naburn Lane (B1222) east. It will take you over the A64 and then to Selby Road.

From there, just continue north up the road. It will take you through Fulford and all the way back up towards the city.

3. Around the city walls

No guide to York is complete without recommending a walk around the city walls, and for good reason. They provide a perfect circuit that avoids much of the busy roads while meaning that you never stray too far from a nice cafe or bar. Walking along the walls is also one of the best things to do in York with kids.

Finding a starting point

The best aspect of this walk is that you can start out at any section of the city walls, and even cut it short if you don’t want to do the whole circuit.

Many people will be coming from the railway station, and that’s a good place to begin.

Follow the road from York Railway Station towards the city centre (there’s usually a big crowd of people so it’s impossible to get lost!)

Head under the city walls and, instead of continuing over towards the bridge, take the stairs up to the walls.

The cities walls with York Minster visible in the distance

Micklegate Bar and Baile Hill

Before heading along the walls, this is a popular photograph spot with York Minster in the background – so don’t miss the opportunity!

For the walk, simply follow the walls with York Minster now behind you. They will take you past one of the main gates – Micklegate Bar – and then curve around all the way to Baile Hill, where you’ll have to temporarily leave the walls to cross Skeldergate Bridge.

The other side of the river

Once you’ve crossed the River Ouse, follow Tower Street as it heads passed Clifford’s Tower and York Castle Museum on your left. It will take you over the River Foss, and if you take a quick left and then right you can get back onto the walls from the access on Lead Mill Lane.

Now you’re back on the walls, it’s a simple matter of following them again as you head over the next main gate – Walmgate Bar – and then round to Red Tower, where you’ll have to leave the walls once again.

The final section

Head up Foss Islands Road as it follows the River Foss. After crossing a major traffic junction, the city walls restart and you can get off the roads once again.

From here, follow the path on the walls again as they take you over Monk Bar, round a corner, and finally to Bootham Bar, where you’ll have to leave the walls as they come to an end.

If you want to complete the circuit, follow the A1036 south and onto Museum Street which takes you back over the Ouse to where you started. Alternatively, from Bootham Bar you can head into the city centre.

4. St Nicks and the disused railway

For those looking to start a walk further out from the city centre, St Nicks Nature Reserve provides a great place to begin.

The nature reserve

Starting at the southern entrance of St Nicks Nature Reserve, at the end of Bull Lane, head north. There are a few paths to choose from, depending on how quick a route you want to take. 

For one major point of interest make sure to head past the Dragon Stones before leaving the nature reserve.

On the old railway line

The disused railway line you’ll find yourself on is a great route for pedestrians and cyclists that bisects much of the city east of the Ouse. For a different walk, you can follow it east, but for a more interesting circuit you can instead head west.

The path is an easy one to follow until it takes you temporarily onto a road – James Street. Take a right up the road and it will quickly get you back onto the old railway line. There will be signs to help you find the way.

Following the main route

The next section of this walk is the easiest. Simply follow the pedestrian and cycle route as it leads you north, eventually crossing the River Foss and curving west.

This route will then end at Wigginton Road (B1363), and you’ll then need to follow the road south.

Past the hospital and along the railway line

Keep heading down Wigginton Road as it takes you past The York Hospital. It will converge with another road – Haxby Road – but just before this point you should make sure you’re on the hospital side of the road so you can cut west through the car park.

There’s a pedestrian path that leads along the perimeter of the hospital and takes you to a bridge over one of the current railway lines to Scarborough. Head over the bridge onto Grosvenor Terrace then follow it south with the train tracks on your left.

Cross the main road then continue down Bootham Terrace. You’ll reach a point where you can cross back over the tracks then keep heading south through Marygate Car Park.

The railway line from York to Scarborough

At the Ouse and back

You’ll find yourself at the River Ouse, where you have two options to continue your walk. 

Either head east along the river and through the Museums Gardens, back towards the city centre. Or cross Scarborough Rail Bridge and instead walk east on the southern bank of the river. Depending on how long you want to walk for or where you want to end up, you can cross back over using any of the three main bridges.

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