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9 best woods to go for a run

It’s late summer and with a slight smell of autumn in the air, it’s a great time to lace up and go for a run in your nearest wood. Spending time in nature is not only refreshing, it’s excellent for our mental health and running through woods is wonderful for de-stressing, breathing in fresh air and splashing through the odd puddle!

Here are some great places to visit for woodland runs – or walks if you prefer.

Running in woods is great for physical and mental health (Photo: George Turnbull)
Running in woods is great for physical and mental health (Photo: George Turnbull)

Hackfall, Ripon, North Yorkshire

This ancient woodland has been restored to its former glory and boasts original features such as grottos and glades, rustic temples and waterfalls, as well as carpets of bluebells in spring and an impressive number of woodland birds. Hackfall lies at the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales, within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Plan your run: a four mile run shows off the best of this amazing site.

Hackfall is packed with fascinating features (Photo: David Rodway/WTML)
Hackfall is packed with fascinating features (Photo: David Rodway/WTML)

Kings Wood, Cornwall

Kings Wood is ancient and atmospheric. In spring, it's carpeted in bluebells - though it's beautiful at any time of the year. It’s a stunning setting, hanging steeply along the Pentewan Valley between St Austell and the sea.

Plan your run: the Pentewan Leisure Trail follows the western boundary between the wood edge and the St Austell River, forming part of the Cornish Way and linking the wood to local towns and villages. Around two miles of surfaced tracks loop through the wood, plus some smaller paths lower down. There are lots of steep and undulating trails to choose from too.

Carnmoney Hill, County Antrim

Stalked by the ghosts of Vikings, witches and highwaymen, Carnmoney Hill is an amazing oasis close to the city. It’s a steep climb but when you reach the ridge you’ll be rewarded by open views across the city, Belfast Lough and all along the coast.

Plan your run: start your run of about 8.5 miles from the Valley Leisure Centre. Prepare to be awestruck by the view at the top!

The view from Carnmoney Hill is worth the effort (Photo: Press Eye Ltd/WTML)
The view from Carnmoney Hill is worth the effort (Photo: Press Eye Ltd/WTML)

Pepper Wood, Worcestershire

Just over a mile from the M5 lies a fragment of medieval England: Pepper Wood. With its abundance of wildlife all year round it’s a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. It’s historic too – in medieval times it was part of the Forest of Feckenham.

Plan your run: a delightful 6.5 mile route takes in Chaddesley Woods Nature Reserve. It starts from Pepper Wood car park, which is free, on Dondale Road near Bournemouth.

Glen Finglas, Stirling

Sitting at the heart of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Glen Finglas is a great expanse of ancient woodland, lochs and open heathland. It's also home to one of the best examples of upland wood pasture in Scotland.

Plan your run: the 15 mile circular route around Meall Cala (Mell trail) is a real physical challenge of undulation. Starting at the Lendrick Hill car park, this run takes in waterfalls, mountains and woodland. You’ll be sure to arrive back at your car ready for a big piece of flapjack! This route is also popular with walkers and mountain bikers.

Glen Finglas has a wealth of wildlife and intriguing history as well as stunning views (Photo: Niall Benvie/WTML)
Glen Finglas has a wealth of wildlife and intriguing history as well as stunning views (Photo: Niall Benvie/WTML)

Joyden’s Wood, London

Sat on a hilltop just 19 miles from London, Joyden’s Wood is a hidden secret. An Anglo-Saxon bank and ditch runs through the ancient woodland, some eight metres wide and almost two metres deep. It was constructed 1,500 years ago to keep Roman Londoners out of Saxon Kent.

Plan your run: the 5.5 mile run picks up the London loop long distance footpath through Foots Cray Meadows. In spring there are dragonflies, damselflies and kingfishers flying along the banks of the River Cray and bats can be spotted at dusk.

Bovey Valley Woods, Devon

Bovey Valley Woods, in the south east corner of Dartmoor National Park, features an enchanting cluster of three woods. This contrasts starkly with the surrounding Dartmoor landscape that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. There is some wonderful scenery and brilliant fell running to be had here too.

Plan your run: each year the Woodland Trust holds the Bovey Beauty fell race, a challenging 10 mile race across hilly terrain. It starts at Drakeford Bridge, climbing up to Hunters Tor in a circular route back to the start. This year’s race is on Sunday 23 September – have a go! For more information visit our events page.

Running routes don't come much more picturesque than Bovey Valley Woods (Photo: Alind Srivastava/WTML)
Running routes don't come much more picturesque than Bovey Valley Woods (Photo: Alind Srivastava/WTML)

Old Wood, Lincolnshire

This 230 acre woodland haven is close to the village of Skellingthorpe and only three miles from the outskirts of Lincoln. More than 30 ancient woodland species of particular conservation importance have been seen in Old Wood, including large leaved and small leaved lime, wild pear, wood barley and greater butterfly orchid.

Plan your run: the wood has a two mile network of sandy surfaced tracks suitable for all-weather use, as well as more natural unmodified pathways and permissive bridle routes. It also has links with SUSTRANS National Cycle Network Route 64.

Great Knott Wood, Cumbria  

For centuries, Great Knott Wood has been a working wood, providing oak bark for the tanning trade and charcoal for iron and gunpowder production. The ancient woodland covers more than 40 hectares of sloping ground on the south west shore of Lake Windermere in the Lake District.

Plan your run: take in the sights on a 5.5 mile run which includes the beautiful village of Finsthwaite and a circuit around High Dam.

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