A stately home with parkland by 'Capability' Brown, a few miles from Leeds.
Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)
Minimum time 3hrs
Ascent/gradient 164ft (50m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Good paths and parkland tracks all the way, 2 stiles
Landscape Arable and parkland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 289 Leeds
Start/finish SE 332450
Dog friendliness Keep under control through estate and on A658
Parking Limited in Harewood village. From traffic lights, take A658, and park in first lay-by on left
Public toilets None on route; in Harewood House if you pay to go in
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1 From the lay-by walk 50yds (46m) away from the village of Harewood, cross the road and walk right, down the access track to New Laithe Farm. Keep to the left of the farm buildings, on a grassy track heading into the valley bottom. Go through two gates and bear half left up a field, towards Hollin Hall. Keep left of the buildings to pass Hollin Hall Pond.
2 Beyond the pond take a gate and follow a track to the left, uphill, skirting woodland. Continue uphill on a field-edge path with a hedgerow to your left. Pass through two gates, the path now being enclosed between hedges.
3 Bear right at the top of the hill to have easy, level walking on an enclosed sandy track (you are now joining the Leeds Country Way). Keep straight ahead when the track forks, through a gate. Skirt woodland to emerge at a road; bear right here to arrive at the main A61.
4 Cross the road to enter the Harewood Estate (via the right-hand gate, between imposing gate-posts). Follow the broad track ahead, through landscaped parkland, soon getting views of Harewood House to the right. Enter woodland through a gate, bearing immediately left after a stone bridge.
5 Bear right after 100yds (91m), as the track forks. At a crossing of tracks, bear right, downhill, still through woodland. At the next two forks keep first right, then left, to pass a farm. Follow a good track down towards the lake. Go through a gate, keep left of a high brick wall and walk uphill to join a metalled access road to the left.
Walk down past a house and keep straight ahead at crossroads. Cross a bridge and follow the lane up to a gate, soon passing Home Farm (now converted to business units).
6 Follow the road through pastureland, keeping right, uphill, at a choice of routes. Continue through woodland until you come to the few houses that comprise the estate village of Harewood.
The grand old houses of West Yorkshire tend to be in the form of 'Halifax' houses. Self-made yeomen and merchant clothiers built their mansions, to show the world that they'd made their 'brass'. But Harewood House, on the edge of Leeds, is more ambitious, and is still one of the great treasure houses of England.
The Harewood Estate passed through a number of wealthy hands during the 16th and 17th centuries, eventually being bought by the Lascelles family who still own the house today. Edwin Lascelles left the 12th-century castle in its ruinous state, to overlook the broad valley of the River Wharfe, but demolished the old hall. He wanted to create something very special in its place and hired the best architects and designers to turn his vision into reality.
John Carr of York created a veritable palace of a house, in an imposing neo-classical style and laid out the estate village of Harewood too. The interior of the building was designed by Robert Adam, now best remembered for his fireplaces. Thomas Chippendale, born in nearby Otley, made furniture for every room, as part of the house's original plans. The foundations were laid in 1759; 12 years later the house was finished. Inside the house are paintings by JMW Turner and Thomas Girtin, who both stayed and painted at the house. Turner was particularly taken with the area, producing pictures of many local landmarks. The sumptuous interior, full of family portraits, ornate plasterwork and silk hangings, is in sharp contrast to life below stairs, in the kitchen and scullery.
The house sits in extensive grounds, which were preened and groomed to be every bit as magnificent as the house. They were shaped by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the most renowned designer of the English landscape. In addition to the formal gardens, he created the lake and the woodland paths you will take on this walk. Like so many of England's stateliest homes, Harewood House has had to earn its keep in recent years. The bird garden was the first commercial venture, but now the house hosts events such as art exhibitions, vintage car rallys and even open-air concerts. This would make a good morning walk, with lunch at the Harewood Arms - perhaps followed by a tour of the house itself.
While the walk described here uses rights of way through the grounds of Harewood House, you need to pay if you want to investigate the house itself, or the bird gardens, or the many other attractions. Make a day of it: do the walk in the morning, have lunch at the Harewood Arms and investigate the unrivalled splendour of Harewood House in the afternoon.
Apart from designing the house itself, John Carr was also responsible for the estate village of Harewood. The neat terraced houses, though modest by comparison, have architectural echoes of the big house. Almost opposite the main gates of Harewood House is the Harewood Arms, a former coaching inn that offers the chance of a drink or meal towards the end of the walk. If the weather is kind, you can rest your legs in the beer garden.
The red kite, a beautiful fork-tailed bird of prey, used to be a familiar sight. But the numbers had dwindled to just a few pairs, mostly in Wales, due to centuries of persecution. There is now a new initiative to reintroduce the red kite to Yorkshire, and a number of birds have been released at Harewood House. You may be lucky enough to spot one.