Part three and we're off to leafy Kirkstall to drink beer, nature walk and not go shopping
Unlike my write-ups of Armley and Morley, I’ve never actually lived in Kirkstall. But it isn’t one of those suburbs that you might permanently miss if you don’t live there, it’s too spread-out, too close to the city centre and too full of interesting stuff.
Historically, it contains some of Leeds’ most interesting sites. Of course, Kirkstall Abbey is a major tourist attraction. Dating back to the twelfth century, the Cistercian monastery is surrounded by woodland and the River Aire and hosts regular events such as the farmer’s market, open-air Shakespeare and various themed evenings throughout the year.
Elsewhere, the viaduct on Kirkstall Road dates back to 1846, and Kirkstall Forge – now the site of a new train station, homes and offices - is the oldest in the country.
What I’ve always loved about Kirkstall is how the whole area is tied to the history of the city. “Kirkstall” itself means “place of a church”, then there’s Cardigan Fields, the afore-mentioned forge, the Abbey brew shop, or Kirkstall brewery, who have remained so faithful to their nineteenth-century predecessors.
Anyway, enough of the preamble, let's get into it.
Where to eat
If you like your food, there’s something for everyone in Kirkstall and it mostly centres around the Cardigan Fields area. There, you’ll find pierogi to die for at Smak! Polish deli, Sheesh Mahal and Bengal Brasserie for curry, or the Leeds institution that is Viva Cuba.
A bit further down the road though, and there’s also tapas from Dos Amigos near the abbey, Gallery Forty-One Italian near Kirkstall Bridge or even Five Guys opposite the cinema.
There’s also a Nando’s at the back of the Cardigan Fields complex, but you should really check out the chicken at Poco! instead – their arancini is superb too.
Where to drink
The dominant force in Kirkstall has long been the superb Kirkstall Bridge Inn, home to one of Leeds’ best beer gardens and some awesome pub grub. The Kirkstall Brewery itself has moved to the city centre end of Kirkstall Road now, but there are plans to open a tap room as their offering continues to expand.
For me though, their best work is their most recent. The care and attention with which the brewery has taken over and restored the phenomenally beautiful Cardigan Arms is enough on its own to deserve endless respect. The beer ain’t too shabby either.
Of course, if you like your liquid less alcoholic, you could check out Temple Coffee & Donuts, tucked away under the viaduct (yes they do vegan donuts). And if you count the extreme end of Kirkstall Road as still being Kirkstall, then you should really look out for Archive; this new coffeehouse and bar has a massive events space out back where they will be running gigs, exhibitions and more.
Where to shop
If Cardigan Fields is one end of Kirkstall, then the shopping area is at the other. And with the recent addition of Kirkstall Bridge Shopping Park to the Halfords/Matalan/Morrison’s axis, it’s like the powers that be have actively tried to make an already awkward traffic bottleneck completely intolerable for absolutely everyone. But if you like JD Sports, Specsavers and two hour traffic jams, have at it. I’ll be in the pub.
Other stuff to do
Away from the life staples of boozing and stuffing your face, there are plenty of other things to do in Kirkstall. The jewel in the crown for film lovers is the IMAX at Cardigan fields, but if you like your fun more active, there are two trampolining places – Oxygen Freejumping and JumpArena, The Climbing Lab for your bouldering needs, or 5-a-side football and par three golf at Goals. There are also several gyms and Kirkstall leisure centre, which offers swimming, squash, badminton and indoor football.
One of my favourite things to do though, is walk around Kirkstall Nature Reserve for a bit, then head down the canal to the Kirkstall Bridge, before wandering through the woodland to the abbey. And if you get a tennis membership, you can finish the day off with a quick game at the tennis club in the shadow of the abbey as the sun sets. Brilliant.
As always, a short write-up can never cover everything. So, what have I missed this time? Are you mortally offended that I didn’t mention your favourite chippy? Let us know...
Oh, and next month, I’ll be heading east to Chapeltown.
Kirkstall Abbey – Abbey Road, LS5 3EH, open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am
Smak! – 372 Kirkstall Road, LS4 2QH, open Tuesday-Sunday 11am-9pm
Sheesh Mahal – 346-348 Kirkstall Road, LS4 2DS, open 7 days 5pm-11pm
Bengal Brasserie – 65 Haddon Road, LS4 2JE, open Mon-Sat 5:30pm-11:30pm / 4pm-11pm Sundays
Viva Cuba – 342 Kirkstall Road, LS4 2DS, open 7 days
Dos Amigos – 68-70 Abbey Road, LS5 3JG, open Tuesday-Sunday
Gallery Forty-One – 41 Commercial Road, LS5 3AW, open Tuesday-Saturday 5pm-10pm / 12:30pm-9:00pm Sundays
Five Guys – Cardigan Fields LS4 2DG, open 11am-11pm Wednesday-Saturday (10pm Sunday-Tuesday)
Poco! – 360 Kirkstall Road, LS4 2HQ, open 11am-9pm Monday-Thursday (11pm Friday, Saturday, 10pm Sunday)
Kirkstall Bridge Inn – 12 Bridge Road, LS5 3 BW, open 12pm-11:30pm 7 days (00:30am Friday-Saturday)
Cardigan Arms – 364 Kirkstall Road, LS4 2HQ, open from 12pm 7 days
Kirkstall Bridge Shopping Park – Bridge Road, LS5 3BL, open 7 days
Temple 3 Burley Pl, Leeds LS4 2AR - closed Mondays
Archive, 94 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS3 1HD - Opening hours: Mon-Fri 07:30-18:00 & Weekends 10:00-16:00.
Vue / IMAX – Cardigan Fields, LS4 2DG, open 7 days
Oxygen Freejumping - Cardigan Fields, LS4 2DG, open 10am-8pm 7 days (9pm Saturday-Sunday)
JumpArena – Redcote Lane, LS4 2AL, open 12pm-8pm Monday-Friday (10am-9pm Saturday, 10am-8pm Sunday)
The Climbing Lab - Kirkstall industrial Park, 14 & 15, Leeds LS4 2AZ, open from 10am 7 days
City Golf – Redcote Lane, LS4 2AW, open 6:30am-9:30pm 7 days
Goals - Redcote Lane, LS4 2AW, open 8:30am-10:30pm Monday-Friday (9am-11pm Saturday-Sunday)
Kirkstall Leisure Centre – Kirkstall Lane, LS5 3BE, open 7 days
Kirkstall Nature Reserve, Redcote Lane, LS4 2AL – unrestricted access
Kirkstall Abbey Tennis Club – Kirkstall Abbey, Abbey Road, LS5 3 EH