The Bath Two Tunnels
In this edition of the My Favourite Run series, Advnture editor Cat Ellis takes us on a picturesque journey that follows the path of an old railway line that has been converted into a shared-use cycling and footpath by sustainable transport charity Sustrans.
“This is a great route for particularly hot, cold, or wet days,” says Cat. “As the name suggests, it passes through a pair of renovated railway tunnels, one of which is over a mile long and is a consistently cool, pleasant place to run regardless of the weather. Just make sure you come with some kind of lights to make sure you can be seen by cyclists and fellow pedestrians – ideally on your front and back. The tunnels are lit, but only dimly to avoid disturbing wildlife.”
- Start/finish: Brickfields Park
- Distance: 12.7 miles / 20.4km
- Elevation gain: 426ft / 130m
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Duration: ~2 hours
The route starts at Brickfields Park, which is just a couple of minutes’ walk from Oldfield Park railway station (with good links to both Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads). It runs through both converted railway tunnels, then takes a leisurely trek through the village of Monkton Combe before leading you along a lovely long canal path.
The Bath Two Tunnels: why I love it
The tunnels themselves make this a very unusual route that’s great in all weathers, and gives you an opportunity to really push yourself and pick up some speed. If you don’t like the idea of running it alone, you can always book a place on one of the regular races held by local organiser Relish Running, which offer every distance you could wish for, from a 5k out-and-back to an ultra marathon.
Starting from Brickfields Park, you’ll head down onto a well maintained dual-purpose bike and cycle path. You’ll need to watch out for cyclists, dog walkers, children, and other pedestrians at all times. Stick to the left-hand side unless you’re overtaking, and always look over your shoulder before doing so.
After about 1.5km of undulating path (more up than down), you’ll come to the entrance to the Devonshire Tunnel. It’ll take a moment for your eyes to adjust to the light inside, but it’s smooth, straight, fun running. This tunnel is only about 500m long, but it gives you a taste of what’s to come.
Emerge into the light and continue along the leafy path until you see the entrance to the Combe Down Tunnel. This is a real experience, stretching for 1.6km, giving you a chance to really stretch your legs and enjoy yourself. As you approach the halfway mark you’ll notice extra lights in recesses along the wall. These are connected to motion sensors, which trigger snippets of abstract orchestral music as you run past. Creepy or cool? You’ll have to decide for yourself! You can hear a snippet in this YouTube video:
Eventually you’ll see daylight, and continue along the cycle path. You’ll see Tucking Mill Reservoir and Viaduct, then reach a turning on your left that takes you to Tucking Mill Lane. Turn left again and head along the leafy single-track road. It’s usually quiet, but keep an ear out for cars. Continue along past the cottages and enjoy the quiet of the countryside.
At about 6.8km the road curves left, past a small churchyard. You can either continue to the end of Tucking Mill Lane and turn right onto Church Lane, or take the footpath on the right and cut a small corner off the route. Either way, you’ll end up continuing along Church Lane, which is lined with buildings made from honey-coloured Bath stone. Keep going until you’re just past Monkton Combe School, then take the right turn with a cycle path sign for Bath and Chippenham. Head into the copse of trees, and follow the path along the edge of Longmead Sports Ground.
Pass under Warminster Road and you’ll find yourself by the canal. This is a great place to hire a boat for a lazy day cruising out and back on another occasion. Just remember to keep the boat speed no faster than walking pace, and overtake on the left.
It’s the mixture of beautiful scenery, fantastic all-action running and the legends and history associated with it that make Henbury Gorge such a wonderful place to run in. While only a short run, the nature of the rough terrain and its undulating course always makes it feel like a challenge.
Now just stick with the canal path. There’s the occasional drinking water tap where you can fill your water bottle, or you can ask at a pub. You won’t be able to see it much due to the trees, but you’re running alongside the railway line. If you’re lucky, you might even hear a steam engine (there are some chartered services from Bath Spa Station).
It’s plain sailing along the canal path until about 16km into the run, when you’ll need to leave the canal path and take a right onto Beckford Road. Suddenly you’re in the middle of town, which might be a shock after all that countryside! The route I’ve plotted here goes around Sydney Gardens, but going through is always a pleasure, so if you’ve still got some energy in the legs, take a jog inside and explore.
Go around the Holburne Museum, then charge along Great Pulteney Street feeling like a champion. This is where the Bath Half Marathon traditionally began and ended before the 2022 edition, and although you can’t run right down the road to the fountain, the extremely wide pavement still makes it feel dramatic. From here, you just need to potter through town, then drop onto the Bristol-Bath cycle path for a last stretch of waterside running before you’re back at Brickfields.
Highlight: Combe Down Tunnel
This is the longest cycling tunnel in the UK, and fantastic for runners. The sound and light installation in the middle is called Passage, and the coloured lights are set into refuges, which were places for railway workers to take shelter when a train came through the tunnel.The music was composed by artist MIra Calix, and breaks up what might be a somewhat samey stretch if you’re running alone.
Highlight: Great Pulteney Street
This magnificent thoroughfare is the widest road in the city, and lined with homes and hotels made from honey-coloured Bath stone. The central fountain, Laura Place, wasn’t part of the original plan, but residents argued that the enormous road just wasn’t grand enough by itself and needed some extra pizazz.
My Favourite Run Collection
To view the other runs in the My Favourite Run series on komoot, click on the Collection below...
You can also check out our My Favourite Hike series.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.