With its sprawling commons, cultivated parks and peaceful waterways, Lincoln is full of nature to discover. Wherever you are in the city, you are never more than a few minutes’ walk away from scenic countryside. So, at a time when exploring the outdoors is more popular than ever, our city and its surroundings make a compelling choice for a reinvigorating getaway! From canalside trails to nature reserves, and disused quarries to serene woodland, in this collection we pick out the best walks in Lincoln to try this summer.
Walks in Lincoln: waterside trails
1. Fossdyke canal trail
The Fossdyke Navigation is the oldest in the UK that is still in use, connecting the River Witham in Lincoln with the River Trent at Torksey. A tranquil walking trail hugs the canal for the ten-kilometre stretch between Lincoln and the charming village of Saxilby.
Lincoln is connected to Saxilby by a ten-minute train journey, which makes the trail easy to do one-way in either direction. The return walk is doable in a day too, as the path is flat and well kept all the way.
The Fossdyke canal trail begins in Lincoln at the Brayford Waterfront. Cross under the Brayford Way bridge by the Horse & Groom pub, keep following the path by the waterside, and you will soon reach the beginning of the canal path. Then, just keep following it along the water! Simple. The path emerges onto the A57 just before Saxilby, and then it’s just a short walk into the village.
There are a few good options for stopping off along the walk. In summer, we love to walk the 2.5–kilometre section from Lincoln to the Pyewipe Inn, a classic British waterside pub, which does brilliant Sunday roasts. Check out our separate article on the Pyewipe Inn walk from Lincoln.
Another 1.5 kilometres or so past the Pyewipe you will reach Burton Waters. This is a picturesque inland marina where you can browse gift shops or have some food by the waterside. Harbour Lights is a lovely spot for a sit-down meal.
If you continue all the way to Saxilby, you can stop off at a local pub such as the Anglers or the Sun Inn before taking the train or walking back to Lincoln on the return trail.
2. Lincoln to Washingborough on the Water Rail Way
The River Witham is the main river dissecting Lincoln. Rising near Grantham, it winds its way around Lincolnshire and out towards the Wash. You can walk along it from Lincoln to Boston on a walking and cycling route known as the Water Rail Way, which follows the path of the old Lincolnshire Loop railway.
If you’re just looking for a gentle walk from Lincoln and 53 kilometres sounds a bit of a stretch, then you can try the first section of the Water Rail Way to the village of Washingborough. This section is a much more manageable five kilometres each way (ten kilometres return). What’s more, it’s another route that you can conveniently culminate with lunch at a village pub!
You can begin the route pretty much anywhere on the River Witham in Lincoln city centre and head eastwards, keeping to the south bank. The official trail begins around Stamp End and Waterside South, where you will join a tarmacked path.
Keep following the path on the south side of the river. A smaller waterway, Sincil Dyke, flows alongside to the right. Watch out for artworks and information signs about the area’s history as you continue along the trail.
When you pass under the Lincoln Eastern Bypass you are about halfway to Washingborough. Look back towards Lincoln here for a lovely distant view of the cathedral on the hill. Eventually you will reach the old Station House, which is the point to turn right off the path if you want to head into Washingborough, where the Ferry Boat pub is a great option for lunch.
Read our quick guide to the Lincoln to Washingborough walk for more details about this trail. We are also planning to walk more sections of the Water Rail Way in 2021, so keep an eye on the blog for more guides to the full route.
3. River Witham route to Bracebridge
The River Witham also provides some pleasant walking opportunities on the south side of Lincoln. We like to walk the dog along the section from Lincoln to Bracebridge, which is often quiet and has some nice green scenery once you get into the open countryside.
Beginning at the Brayford Waterfront, head south onto the Witham, past the spiky footbridge that crosses the railway. Keep walking along the river on the right-hand side of the bank, passing through residential neighbourhoods. Boultham Park is a short walk off to the right, where you could take a picnic before walking back.
If you continue along the river beyond Boultham Park, you will eventually reach the Plough Inn where it passes under Newark Road. Here, you can cross the road and then switch over to the left side of the river bank to keep following the trail.
Very soon the river opens out into rural surroundings, with few walkers about typically, and more wildlife to be seen around the river bank. This stretch is great for getting some peace and quiet. When the sunset is good there’s a beautiful stretch where the river bends towards the west. You can just keep going and going as long as you like – but remember you need to walk back!
4. Catchwater Drain
This is the walk I do every day at sunrise before starting work. And it’s one that not many people seem to know about – a real hidden gem. The Catchwater Drain trail follows a flood drainage channel (indistinguishable from a miniature river) between the south of Lincoln and Skellingthorpe village.
‘Catchwater Drain’ is actually a generic name given to many similar waterways built as part of a flood drainage system in Lincolnshire. To make sure you find the correct route, read our guide to the Catchwater Drain trail in Lincoln.
Along this trail you will pass through farmland and woodland, enjoy a glorious view of Lincoln Cathedral across the plains, and encounter an array of wildlife. In particular, if you turn right (away from the water’s edge) after crossing the railway line from Tritton Road, the pathway loops around some fields. There are always deer grazing in these fields – I probably see them 95% of the time on this walk.
The full trail from Altham Terrace in Lincoln to Skellingthorpe is around five or six kilometres each way, which you can break up nicely with a pub stop in the village. (Can you tell yet that we like pubs?)
There are also many options to mix up this trail, as it crosses over the N64 national cycle route. You can cut across this (or a choice of other small paths through the backfields) to link up with other sections of Catchwater Drain. Continue north on the N64 and can eventually link up with the Fossdyke trail too.
Walks in Lincoln: parks and reserves
5. Greetwell Hollow Nature Reserve and Old Quarry
On the north side of Lincoln is another little-known walking area, where a nature reserve is positioned next to a disused old quarry. The entrance to Greetwell Hollow Nature Reserve is on Carlton Boulevard, opposite the Carlton Centre. Inside the reserve, a maze of pathways meander through limestone grassland, woodlands and a gurgling stream.
Wear some decent walking footwear if there has been any rainfall. A few sections of the path are steep and it gets muddy, so it’s easy to lose your footing! Especially in the woodland area, where the path follows around a steep edge (you will find this from the entrance by following the path to the right).
The limestone in this area has been quarried for over 2,000 years, until as recently as 2003. The stone for Lincoln Cathedral was sourced from here for centuries. So you’re walking on a site that once provided the materials for the world’s tallest building!
If you follow the path to the left from the entrance, and keep heading in that general direction (to the east of the reserve), you will reach the face of the old quarry over a section of scrubland. The striking golden layers of sediment are still an impressive sight to behold, especially on a nice clear day.
Greetwell Hollow Nature Reserve is not only a nice off-the-beaten-path walking area, but also a site of special scientific interest due to its diversity of wildlife and interesting geology. You will encounter a wide variety of birdlife around the area, as well as orchids, wildflowers and other flora.
One thing to note is that dogs are allowed on the reserve, despite what you might read on the internet! Dogs did used to be banned, but the rule was changed to allow them, with the caveat that they must be kept on a short lead during the main bird nesting season from March to July.
6. Hartsholme Country Park
Hartsholme Country Park is the prettiest of Lincoln’s parks, located about five kilometres to the south-west of the city. It is set around a large reservoir that was part of a private landscaped residence until it opened to the public midway through the 20th century. Today it is beautifully maintained, and offers plentiful walking opportunities to explore its waters, woodland and wildlife.
The main path traces all the way around the reservoir and is one of the most popular walks in Lincoln. For an easy short loop you can cut across the white bridge, or alternatively you can make it a two-mile-long circuit by continuing around the long ‘tail’ of the reservoir.
With the park spanning over 200 acres in total, you can also explore away from the main reservoir trail, with paths leading off around the woodlands, grasslands and landscaped gardens. Look out for all sorts of wildlife. There is a greater abundance here than anywhere else nearby, from deer, rabbits and squirrels to the occasional snakes and lizards, plus a range of birdlife.
There’s also a campsite inside the grounds, so you can come here for a relaxing unplugged weekend with plenty of walking.
7. Whisby Nature Park
Further to the south-west outskirts of Lincoln, Whisby Nature Park is a 200-acre open space where marked pathways weave among a cluster of lakes, grassland and grazing marsh. The lakes and ponds at the park are old gravel pits that were flooded, and have been reclaimed by flora and fauna. The site is now a natural habitat for many bird species.
The are six different colour-coded waymarked trails you can take around the park, ranging up to about four kilometres. They connect together easily to make longer walks if you want to make a day of it – there are about ten kilometres of trail in total.
Whisby Nature Park is easy to reach via Moor Lane just off the A46. The car park is £2 for the day from March to October and £1 through the winter months. There are various facilities on site. Dogs are allowed, but can only be let off lead around Thorpe Lake (the main lake by the car park).
So, what about a nearby pub recommendation? After walks at Whisby we like to grab a meal and a pint at the Game Keeper, a Hungry Horse chain pub on the Hykeham roundabout just down the road. The Railway Inn at Thorpe on the Hill has good reviews too, but we haven’t tried it yet – as always, we’ll report back when we have!
Walks in Lincoln: forests and woodland
8. Skellingthorpe Old Wood
Forest and woodland walks are just the tonic when you want to disconnect among nature. Skellingthorpe Old Wood is our favourite within the vicinity of Lincoln. This enchanting, ancient woodland was once used by Vikings as a ritual site.
The wood is criss-crossed by a network of all-weather tracks and smaller pathways weaving among the trees. It’s quite easy to get lost if you’re not careful – take a few turns and everything looks the same!
You can walk a seven-kilometre loop trail around the wood beginning at Skellingthorpe Community Centre, where you can park. Listen out for the natural sounds of the forest, and keep an eye out for wood carvings along the way. There are also some picnic benches where you can stop for some lunch.
We’re planning to combine this into an epic 19-kilometre day hike from our home in south Lincoln, taking the Catchwater Drain route to Skellingthorpe before connecting the loop trail, and then returning. An alternative from Lincoln city centre would be to follow the Fossdyke trail to the Pyewipe Inn and then take the N64 cycle path to Skellingthorpe.
This is what we love about the nature around Lincoln – it’s all interconnected. There are always new places to explore and different routes to try.
Have you tried any walks in Lincoln that aren’t featured here? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out main article on things to do in Lincoln for more activity ideas around the city.
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