5 town and country hikes around the world

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5 town and country hikes around the world

Hills, parks and coastlines in our cities often hide the most stunning and sporty walks. Enjoy a relaxing ramble that is out of the ordinary.

5 town and country hikes around the world

Barcelona – the gardens and museums of Montjuïc

The Catalan capital combines the delights of the sea with those of the mountains. Reach for the sky with a walk on Montjuïc Hill. This hill dominates the whole of Barcelona and offers enough attractions to fill a full day's excursion.

Start your hike in the historic Botanical Gardens where you can breathe in the fragrance of plants from Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the Pyrenees. It will take you about 50 minutes to walk around the 14 hectares of this spectacular park which has thousands of wonderful species.

An hour's walk, up hill and down dale and past the former Olympic stadium, will take you to a temple of culture. Sitting majestically atop of the hill is a modern building with strong Mediterranean influences: this is the famous Joan Miró Foundation with its bold white facades, so typical of 1970s architecture. The largest collection of works by this local artist is on display inside. It is now time to take a well-deserved break just a stone's throw away at La Font del Gat restaurant. Sit on the sunny terrace and enjoy Catalan cod with crunchy green beans. For dessert, you just have to try the delicious, ubiquitous Catalan Cream.

Resuming your hike above Barcelona, the next stop is the National Museum of Art of Catalonia. Built for the 1929 World Exposition, it houses one of the most complete collections of Romanesque art anywhere in the world. This is where your ramble comes to an end, leaving you to discover masterpieces from the Middle Ages, as frescoes, paintings and sculptures from ancient times unfold before your eyes.

Historic Botanical Gardens
Carrer Doctor i Font Quer, s/n
08038 Barcelona
Spain
+34 932 56 41 60
museuciencies.cat/en/the-nat/venues/botanical-garden-of-barcelona/

La Font del Gat
Passeig de Santa Madrona 28
08038 Barcelona
Spain
+34 932 89 04 04

National Museum of Art of Catalonia
Palau Nacional
Parc de Montjuïc
08038 Barcelona
Spain
+34 936 220 360
www.museunacional.cat/en

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5 town and country hikes around the world

Edinburgh – on top of Arthur's Seat

Get out your hiking boots and prepare yourself to climb Arthur's Seat. Your reward is waiting at the top of this extinct volcano which the residents of Edinburgh say looks like a sleeping lion. The rocky outcrop looms above huge Holyrood Park, the former hunting ground of Scottish monarchs. Raring to go, you set off for a wholesome walk along the uneven path that zigzags up for five kilometres.

As you climb up, take a breather and admire the ruins of Saint Anthony's Chapel. Local legends abound in this mysterious place. Some believe that the hill on which the chapel sits was the site of Camelot, the legendary castle of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. But no evidence has ever been found to prove it. However, what is certain is that the scenery at the end of this superb walk is simply spectacular.

At the top of the mount, you will be overwhelmed with the delight as your eyes feast on the panorama over the old town of Edinburgh and Castle Hill which stands out in the distance. Linger a while, your eyes scanning the horizon before they settle on the mythical Highlands rising up in the north-west. Reinvigorated by this intake of pure air, make your way back down, towards Holyrood Park. Once down, relax in the woody warmth of Sheep Heid Inn, the oldest pub in Scotland. Seared salmon filet served with broccoli and a bouillabaisse sauce are waiting to tempt you in the cosy setting of this inn with its carved woodwork and subdued lighting.

Arthur's Seat
Holyrood Park
Edinburgh
Scotland

Sheep Heid Inn
43–45 The Causeway
Edinburgh
EH15 3QA
Scotland
+44 131 661 7974
www.thesheepheidedinburgh.co.uk

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5 town and country hikes around the world

Hong Kong – scaling the Dragon's Back Trail

Beyond its forest of towering skyscrapers, Hong Kong is also home to dozens of kilometres of hiking trails meandering through the surrounding countryside. Leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and head for the hills to hike to your heart's content.

Hailed as Hong Kong's best hike, the 50-km-long Hong Kong Trail runs along the island's hills. Your challenge for the day is the Dragon's Back Trail, the final section of the walk and 8.5 km long. Before setting out for Shek O Country Park, where the departure point is, stock up on food and especially water. It can get extremely hot on this trail and shade is in short supply.

Venture into the mysterious tree tunnel which takes you up to a small hill. When you get to the top, you will be lost for words. To the east, the horizon opens over the Shek O peninsula, and to the north-west, over undulating ridges like a dragon's back. The trail leads up to the summit of Shek O Peak, 284 metres above sea level. Get your breath back and gaze at the wild south of Hong Kong island. Below you, the South China Sea laps the beach of Big Wave Bay.

After this moment of contemplation, you slowly start your descent down a small wooded path. A waterfall appears at just the right time for you to cool off. Continue to the left, heading to Pottinger Peak. The path leads all the way down to dazzling Big Wave Bay. Rent a sunbed and parasol and relax as you watch expert surfers ride the peaks and barrels of the waves.

Dragon's Back Trail
Hong Kong
China

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5 town and country hikes around the world

Vancouver – a coastal walk along the Seawall

Consistently voted one of the cities with the best quality of life, Vancouver also boasts the longest seafront promenade in the world. Make sure you allow half a day for this itinerary which is extremely popular with sporty types. Stretching for over 22 km, the Seawall skirts Stanley Park, the green heart of the Canadian city.

As you enter the park on the Coal Harbour side, you can watch as seaplanes take to the sky. Make sure you take the path marked out for pedestrians. Cyclists zip by at speed along the second lane.

You follow the coastline for several kilometres. Facing Burrard Inlet, which shelters the port, your eyes come to rest on the spectacular North Shore Mountains. In the glacial waters, mischievous seals and otters frolic about. Further on, Siwash Rock rises out of the waves. This imposing rock is sacred to the indigenous First Nations people in the Vancouver region.

A pleasant breeze blows by your side all the way to Lions Gate Bridge, a steel suspension bridge connecting Stanley Park with the North Shore. You pass in front of English Bay Beach, the closest beach to the city centre. Continue on to Ferguson Point, a pretty spot away from the noise of the city. On fine days, Vancouverites go there for a swim, a picnic or a game of frisbee. Lay your towel out on the sand and admire the view as you wait for the sunset. You will find it hard to believe that the bustling capital of British Colombia is only a few minutes away.

Seawall Park
Vancouver
Canada
vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/seawall.aspx

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5 town and country hikes around the world

New York – urban surroundings on the High Line

Since the High Line, an elevated park and walkway, opened in the heart of New York in 2009, over 10 million walkers have trod its boards. And now it is your turn to discover “the longest green roof in the world”.

If you are planning to walk the greenway in the afternoon, set off from the southern end at Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. With the sun at your back, enjoy a peaceful 2.3-km walk along this renovated former railway line. This urban walk boasts some original views over west Manhattan. Giant frescoes covering the sides of surrounding buildings add a splash of colour to your walk. When you get level with 25th Street, turn your head to look at its most famous mural, “The Kiss” created by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra.

Further on, a most unexpected show awaits you as the High Line crosses a bridge above 10th Avenue Square. Take a seat in the amphitheatre and watch as cars pass underneath, through large picture windows. It feels just like watching a film on the cinema screen. As you wander along, you will come across teams of gardeners hard at work, while birds dart between the plants and brick buildings. Beyond the profusion of vegetation, this walkway is an ecological showpiece with teams of volunteers and locals taking it in turns to look after the green spaces.

The High Line still has plenty of surprises in store. Keep your eyes peeled! In summer, you may come across an art exhibition, a dance show or a yoga class. Halfway along the walkway, a stairway beckons you to take a detour to Chelsea Market. You will find wonderful things to eat in this food hall which is housed in a former biscuit factory. A mecca of fine food, the place creates innovative new flavours which catch the imagination of New York's greatest chefs.

High Line
New York
United States of America
+1 212 500 6035
www.thehighline.org

Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue
New York NY 10011
United States of America
+1 212 652 2110
www.chelseamarket.com