Roundhay Park: A Peaceful Retreat A Stone’s Throw From Leeds City Centre

24 January 2022

Buzzing with students, young professionals, and families, Leeds is famed for its museums, fantastic shopping, gorgeous restaurants, and vibrant nightlife.

But when you’re in need of open space and fresh air, it’s welcome news that you won’t need to travel far to find it in the West Yorkshire capital.

With 700 acres of parkland, woodland, and formal gardens in the northeast suburbs, Roundhay Park is a local treasure worth adding to your radar.

Where is Roundhay Park?

It’s just four miles north of the city centre, with free parking across the five car parks, while the number two and twelve buses stop right outside nearby Tropical World on Princes Avenue.

And rest assured: both Roundhay Park and Tropical World are accessible to wheelchair users and prams.

Want to bring the dog along for the ride? They’re welcome and permitted to be off their lead in some parts of the park.     

What’s all the fuss?

One of the largest urban parks in Europe, Roundhay Park comprises two lakes, picture-perfect flower displays, and children’s play areas.

You can also pop into Tropical World, a greenhouse complex with an exotic collection of tropical flora and fauna that rivals London’s iconic Kew Gardens.

Roundhay Park dates back to the 13th-century when the land was used as a hunting ground by the De Lacy family.

Nowadays, it’s a destination for everyone and offers something for local residents and tourists alike. But no matter the season, Roundhay Park will cast its spell and inspire you to keep coming back.

During autumn, observe the leaves turning gold, wrap up warm for a bracing winter stroll, prowl for budding daffodils in spring, and look forward to long languid picnics during the summer months.

A walk around Roundhay Park

Start your day in the main body of the parkland where you’ll complete a lap around Waterloo Lake, the star attraction.

The 1.7-mile track that hugs the lakeside is flat and paved for the most part, making it suitable for walkers of all ages and abilities.

It’s over to you whether you’re in the mood for a heart-pumping 30 minutes circuit, or whether you’d prefer a leisurely couple of hours venturing off the path to explore the wooded areas.

As you approach the northern part of the lake, cut your way across the grass to the ruined folly that you’ll spot peeking out from the woodland.

Although it appears a castle from a distance, you’ll see that it’s merely a gatehouse that in its heyday was used partly for ornamentation and partly for its benefits as a vantage point. 

Time for a tea break

In case you need some refreshments before or after your walk, you’ll find a lakeside café right next to the car park offering steamy coffees and fuel-boosting snacks.

Ice cream vans serving Mr Whippy ice cream cones stud the car park during the warmer months.

Meander back along the trails towards Princes Avenue and you can pay a visit to the landscaped Alhambra, Chelsea, and Monet gardens that tinkle with fountains and award-winning flower exhibits.

These plots border onto the Upper Lake, a smaller body of water that is used as a nature reserve for the resident woodpeckers, kingfishers, wagtails, and beyond.

Travel across the globe at Tropical World

Extend your day out at Roundhay Park by hopping across Princes Avenue to Tropical World, which brings the humidity, colours, and soundtrack of the Amazon to this patch of North Leeds.

Not only for the little ones, Tropical World appeals to everyone. The garden and wildlife centre is comprised of a series of greenhouses that reproduce environments and climates from all corners of the globe.

Run your fingers through the waterfalls that tumble throughout the Rainforest Zone, stop to watch the golden hair monkeys picking at their fruit, and weave your way through the Nocturnal Zone where you will encounter bug-eyed bush babies and flocks of bats.

Witness the birdlife of the rainforest peeking out from the rainforest canopy and keep your eyes peeled in the Butterfly House where the resident owl butterflies have been known to surpass a wingspan of 20cm.

Keep a spare coin to hand and you can drop it into the mouth of ‘Olly the Octopus’ who will gurgle his appreciation for your donation!

Tropical World backs onto the Canal, Coronation, and Friends gardens which provide a home to swans and turtles.

Settle in for a pub lunch or afternoon tea

Stick around for the rest of the afternoon and make yourself at home in one of the cosy traditional pubs.

The Roundhay Fox is a firm favourite, with a hearty menu of English pub staples such as beer-battered cod served with triple-cut chips or chicken and mushroom puff pastry pie.

If you’re hankering for a roast dinner, plan your visit for a Sunday and consider booking a table in advance.

Once the weather cools, you can expect a warm welcome with roaring log fires and mulled wine.

For something grander, make a reservation for traditional Afternoon Tea at The Mansion. Originally used as a private abode, this 19th-century Greek Revival manor is now the setting for a café, and education and visitor centre.

It’s also a popular venue for weddings and special events – something to think about for a special date in the diary.

With views across the park, The Garden Room provides the perfect setting for an indulgent afternoon nibbling on finger sandwiches, cream scones, and dainty cakes washed down with tea or a glass of bubbly.

How to end the day

When you’re finished exploring Roundhay Park and Tropical World, follow Street Lane northbound to potter around second-hand shops and independent boutiques.

You might want to settle with a drink or catch a performance at Seven Arts Centre in the bohemian suburb of Chapel Allerton before heading back to central Leeds.

But the memories you’ve made at Roundhay Park will never be far from the forefront of your mind – it’s just waiting for you to explore it all again.