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Historical trail within the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence

Historical Trails in Hong Kong: a Non-Committal Alternative to Hikes

 

 

 

History buffs who want to get outdoors, but aren’t looking for a hike, this one’s for you. Chatteris Tutor Emma Smale has some historical trail suggestions in Hong Kong that avoid any huffing and puffing!

 

 

 

Are you an introvert tired of Netflix? Do you like the odd solo adventure? Does your motivation to exercise last half an hour before regret sets in? No? Then check out tutor Zoe Watson’s blog post about the top 5 hikes in Hong Kong!

 

If you are still here, hello. I offer to you a nifty alternative to the ‘hike’: historical trails. There are two key benefits to the historical trail. One: trails are often paved. There are controversies over paved trails in Hong Kong and their negative impact on the environment. With historical trails, however, the paving was mostly done at least over a hundred years ago, making them slightly more environmentally friendly. These trails work around existing historical monuments, artifacts, and buildings, thus making them easier to walk and more accessible. Therefore, you can get equally breathtaking views in half the time and fewer aches the following day compared to a strenuous hike, allowing you to gaze upon bursts of greenery with the background score of traffic light crossings and honking taxis in Hong Kong. Secondly, as a history grad, I have to big up the history that Hong Kong has in spades and is easy to see and explore. 

 

A good pairing of historical trails are those overlooking the Lei Yue Mun pass, the narrowest stretch of water along the harbour: the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (Hong Kong Island) and Devil’s Peak (Kowloon). 

 

 

 

The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence

 

 

The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence Sculpture

I take great liberties trying to dress this trail up as akin to a hike because it is all situated on museum grounds. A ten to fifteen minute walk from Shau Kei Wan MTR station (Exit B2), the museum was converted from the old Lyemun Fort centred around the redoubt. I won’t regale you with the history – that’s why the museum is there – but the gist of it is that it was a key military point of defence from 1887 onwards. 

 

You can see the end of the trail when you first enter the lower gates, with a proof yard and tanks displayed outside the reception. From inside the reception, be sure to pick up a map of the trail and take the elevator all the way up to the eighth floor.

 

 

A tank at the Hong Kong Coastal Defence Museum

 

 

 

 

The trail itself has twenty-four checkpoints with various diverting paths you can selectively take if you do not want to see everything. There are batteries and caponiers aplenty, as well as barrack ruins, torpedo installations, a nice little anchor, and viewing platforms to get those Instagram shots in (or just to send to your mum for her viewing pleasure). If you’re not a massive history buff, you can ignore the main exhibits within the buildings (though I recommend them), and just take in the views of the trail. In particular, once you get to the redoubt, you can gaze down on Kowloon and the harbour. That is one of the beauties of Hong Kong. You do not have to go to the highest point, or traverse the most unruly wilderness to take in that quintessential mix of green and skyscraper. 

 

 

 

Bonuses: Admission is free! There is also a cafe with panoramic views. I recommend the pineapple pineapple bun (it actually contains pineapple, unlike the traditional version!) and blue orange soda.

 

A pineapple bun containing pineapple and cream

 

 

 

Devil’s Peak

 

 

A View from Devil's Peak

It is a peak, but the ‘Devil’ of it is quiet. A key strategic point throughout history, including the local haunt of pirates during the Ming Dynasty, this is closer to the expectations of a hike. The peak is along Section 3 of the Wilson Trail, so you can combine the two if you choose. With plenty of shade and a paved route, however, there is little danger beyond the butterflies that border on avian. 

 

Devil’s Peak is particularly convenient for those of us at Chatteris. It is a short walk to the start of the trail from Exit A of Yau Tong MTR, which is just two stops away from HQ in Kwun Tong. I squeezed this in before an event at the office in the evening. Once you’re heading up towards Junk Bay Chinese Permanent Cemetery, you have a decision to make. Whether to carry on for a detour to Pottinger battery veering right along a path of ribbons, or cross the road, up the steps, and left towards Gough battery and Devil’s Peak redoubt. 

 

 

I chose to head straight on up, which led to revealing breaks in the trees, giving preliminary views of the harbour. At Gough battery on the way, there are benches if you want to rehydrate, eat lunch, or rest your weary old legs. You can also explore the military fortifications and look through the trees to the tapered white roof of the Museum of Coastal Defence.

 

Flat inclines become winding steps. The final stretch brings the first breathtaking moment of understanding why pirates and armies took up post here: you can see the vastness of the sea where enemies would have sailed in. The trees fall away on one side and the blue opens up. On a sunny day with a gentle breeze, this moment feels like you’re suspended in fantasy. How can this landscape exist in the same reality of the flatness of my landlocked English town? And how is it within walking distance of an MTR station? Hong Kong, my friend.

 

 

 

Peaking through the trees on Devil's Peak

 

 

 

 

Devil's Peak trail lined by a wall

Once you reach Devil’s Peak, overlooking Junk Bay, take time to explore this area, too. There are some narrow paths along the lookouts, so if other people block your path try to circle around. I actually missed going to the peak of the peak when I first went because I didn’t know there was more!

 

There are many historical trails within Hong Kong to try when a hike feels a bit too much, or you’re just in the mood for some history. These are a couple of military based trails facing each other along the Lei Yue Mun pass. Easy to get to, easy to do, and not far from a 7-Eleven.

 

 

 

 

Happy mini-adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong has attractions for hikers and history buffs alike! Does it sound up your alley? At Chatteris, we provide opportunities to work in this beautiful, historical, city while benefiting the community through English teaching support, volunteer programmes, and more! Sign up now on our website.

 

 

 

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