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Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best heritage trails in Hong Kong

Take a walk through history with these historical trails

By Time Out Hong Kong
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It's easy to learn about history in museums or through textbooks. But, if you want to take a step into the past, Hong Kong's heritage trails offer an altogether different experience. Our city is home to several such trails that offer plenty of fascinating relics from the past, which includes historical buildings, ruins of the gruelling battlefields of World War II, and an ancient pagoda that's the last of its kind in Hong Kong. Transport yourself back in time, into history and nature, and get a bit of exercise at the same time. By Amanda Sheppard and Hoi Man Yau

RECOMMENDED: Take a few more dose of history and learn about the city's most precious lost architectural gems or see what life was like in Hong Kong in the 1960s

The best heritage trails in Hong Kong

Shing Mun War Relics Trail
Photograph: Courtesy CC/WikiCommons/Thomas.Lu

Shing Mun War Relics Trail

The Shing Mun War Relics Trail, situated on the northern part of Smugglers' Ridge, is packed with tunnels and trenches from World War II. The highlights of this trail are the tunnels dug by the British named after the streets of London. Who would have thought you could find Regent Street buried in Hong Kong? The war relics trail is part of the Gin Drinkers Line, a British military defensive line built as a defence against the Japanese invasion.  

Those looking for a longer excursion could consider extending their journey by travelling to the sixth section of the MacLehose trail, where one can spot numerous wild macaques roaming.

Getting there: Take the green minibus route 82 at Tsuen Wan Shiu Wo Street to Shing Mun Reservoir. Alight at Ho Fung College bus stop and walk uphill along Shing Mun Road passing the Pineapple Dam minibus terminus to the Memorial Arch of MacLehose trail section six.

Ping Shan Heritage
Photograph: Shutterstock

Ping Shan Heritage Trail

Inaugurated in 1993, the Ping Shan Heritage Trail stretches just 1.6 kilometres in length. Brief though it may be, this quiet stretch in Yuen Long district is home to a rich cultural history that's well worth exploring. The trail takes visitors through ancestral villages belonging to the Tang Clan – one of the five main clans of the New Territories – which first settled in the area in the 12th century. 

Most visitors start at the end of the trail closest to Tin Shui Wai MTR station, a short walk from Tsui Shing Lau Pagoda. The only ancient pagoda still standing in Hong Kong today, it stands 13 metres tall and is said to have been completed as early as 1486. Nearby, the walled village of Sheung Cheung Wai still boasts the remnants of its original gatehouse, and a shrine dedicated to the god She Kung, the protector of the village.

While modern developments do make up parts of the trail, several of the original ancestral halls and study halls remain, providing a glimpse into the lives of the New Territories' earliest settlers. The former police station now houses the Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery and visitors centre, which offer ample information and maps to help navigate the heritage trail.

Getting there: Start at Tsui Shing Lau Pagoda by taking the MTR to Tin Shui Wai Station, exit E3. For those who wish to visit all of the heritage sites the trail has to offer, be sure to start your trip early, and not on a Tuesday, as most sites close by 5pm, and some areas, including the pagoda, are closed on Tuesdays.

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Lung Yeuk Tau - Tsung Kyam Church
Photograph: Calvin Sit

Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail

In the eastern part of the New Territories, near Fan Ling, the Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail spans 2.6 kilometres and was established in 1999. The name of the trail is said to derive from local lore that details the journey of a dragon leaping across the nearby mountain range. Lung Yeuk Tau is another stronghold of the Tang Clan, whose ancestors arrived from China's Jiangxi province.

Connecting the Five Wais (walled villages) and Six Tsuens (villages), Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail is surrounded by many traditional Chinese buildings which enable a glimpse at the life of early inhabitants in New Territories. The Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall built during the early 16th century still stands today. Make sure to pay attention to the roofs of temples and study halls decorated with ornate carvings.

Getting there: Start at Tsung Kyam Church by taking the MTR to Fan Ling Station, exit C. Take minibus 54K and alight at the first stop after the river crossing. Finish at Siu Hang Tsuen and take minibus 56K to Fan Ling Station. Visit early, and on any day other than Tuesday, as both the Ancestral Hall and Tin Hau Temple are closed by 5pm, and completely closed on Tuesdays.

Devil's Peak
Photograph: Shutterstock

Devil's Peak

Devil's Peak earned its name from the pirates who once occupied the hill during the Ming Dynasty. It has been used as a strategic military station with fortifications and two gun batteries – Gough and Pottinger. Although the Pottinger Battery is mostly covered by vegetation, the other military station is still visible today. Many take this easy hike near sunset to immerse themselves in the enchanting scenery of the Victoria Harbor bathing in sunlight.

Getting there: From Yau Tong MTR Station exit A, proceed to Domain Mall's ground floor, and take the rear exit which leads to Ko Chiu Road.

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Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail
Photograph: Shutterstock

Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail 

There are 41 historic waterworks among Hong Kong's many declared monuments which vary from aqueducts to dams and masonry bridges. More than half of these are located within Tai Tam and make up this heritage trail.

The trail begins at the Tai Tam Country Park entrance near Parkview and ends in Tai Tam Bay. The trail takes place mostly along paved walkways that are well-signposted, making it easily accessible for people of all ages and fitness levels. There are 10 information stations located along the trail, shedding light on the historical and present value of the sites. There are also several barbecue pits and a seating area located near Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir, making it the perfect spot to end the day.

Getting there: Start at Tai Tam Country Park by taking the MTR to Sai Wan Ho, exit A, and changing to bus 14.

Wong Nai Chung Gap
Photograph: Shutterstock

Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail

The Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail is challenging, but the thrilling exploration of abandoned World War II bunkers and pillboxes, and a picturesque view of Stanley is well worth the trip. The battlefield trail is littered with fascinating remnants from the Second World War. Nature and history intertwine on the route, which stretches from Tai Tam Reservoir Road to Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, where the West Brigade Headquarters stand.

Along the trail, expect sites of historical interest relating to the brutal struggle that led British troops to surrender to the Japanese on Christmas Day of 1941. For example, you'll find anti-aircraft gun platforms situated by the first and second station posts. Lying in ruins, these notable sites are where allied personnel shot down a Japanese aircraft during the height of the battle. Further exploration along the trail reveals several machine-gun posts (aka pillboxes), many of which are now further concealed by overgrown vegetation.

Getting there: Take bus 6 or 66 from Exchange Square and alight at Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park. From there, walk uphill to Parkview and the Tai Tam Country Park entrance. Be sure to bring plenty of water, the multiple steep climbs and descents make this a very physically demanding hike.

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Tung Chung to Tai O
Photograph: Shutterstock

Tung Chung to Tai O

The Tung Chung to Tai O hike features many historical sites, most of which have stories which can be traced back to the Song Dynasty. Tung Chung Bay is where the last emperor of the Song Dynasty took refuge when fleeing the Mongol army in 1278. Here you will also find the Hau Wong Temple, built in 1765, commemorating the prince marquis Yeung Leung-jit who protected the emperor. Along the trail, expect scenic seascapes before descending to the end of the trail at Tai O, a unique village of stilt houses which generations of fisherman have lived in. Here you will have an array of street food to choose from after your long journey. 

Getting there: Take bus 3M, 11, 23 or 34 by the Tung Chung MTR Station exit B (Tung Chung Bus Terminus). Alight at Ha Ling Pei and follow the signage to Tung Chung Fort. The trail is quite long with uphill and downhill pathways. Make sure to load up at Tung Chung before the hike and bring water. 

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