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Hidden Hong Kong: 10 heritage trails to explore in Hong Kong

By Catharina Cheung 10 July 2020 | Last Updated 17 February 2021

Header image courtesy of @vanvan.siu (Instagram)

It doesn’t matter if you’re local or an expat, all Hongkongers love hiking. There’s something incredibly freeing about being in the boundless nature and away from the narrow streets of urban city living. But how many people know that the Antiquities and Monuments Office of the LCSD has actually designed several heritage trails all over the territories, intended for people to discover more about the past and stories behind the environment around them? Here are 10 of Hong Kong’s most interesting heritage trails for you to explore and get your hiking fix at the same time!

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Pinewood Battery Heritage Trail

Most people who go up to the Peak for a walk get enticed by The Peak Circle trail, and—with the fantastic views on offer—for good reason. However, a historic alternative is hiking the Pinewood Battery Heritage Trail up on Mount High West.

From the Peak Circle circuit, where Lugard Road intersects with Harlech Road, turn onto Hatton Road. Further along this road, you can choose to take the Lung Fu Shan Fitness Trail, or continue on the road—both options will lead you up Mount High West to the Pinewood Battery.

Pinewood Battery used to be Hong Kong’s highest coastal defence battery. The old fort was built in the early twentieth century and later also used as an air defence battery before being destroyed by Japanese artillery fire in the 1940s. These ruins lie roughly two and a half kilometres away from Victoria Peak.

The trail will bring hikers past several military ruins, including a command post, bunkers, and gun platforms. At the top of Mount High West, you’ll be treated to views of Hong Kong’s southside, including Pok Fu Lam Reservoir, and Lamma Island on a clear day.

From here, you can choose to return the way you came, back to the Peak, or continue along Hatton Road and the Lung Fu Shan Fitness Trail. You’ll pass another historical relic, the Victoria City Boundary Stone, and the road eventually leads down into the Sai Ying Pun and HKU area.

Click here for our full guide to the Pinewood Battery Heritage Trail.

Shing Mun War Relics Trail

Before the Second World War, the British military had many defence lines built in Hong Kong, and many of them are still relatively intact within our country parks. Situated on the northern part of Smuggler’s Ridge, the Shing Mun War Relics Trail is one such place where you can see these old fortifications.

Before starting on the hike, it’s worth visiting the Shing Mun Country Park Visitor Centre, located at the Pineapple Dam Nature Trail. They’ve got an exhibition that has the redoubt in the Gin Drinkers Line rendered in 3D holographic detail. After you get a clearer idea of what the historic site looks like, head on up to the trail itself.

The redoubt consists of an artillery observation post and four sets of armed pillboxes with machine guns. These are all interconnected by tunnels, and the passageways and locations have all been assigned names of places in London, such as Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly, Shaftesbury Avenue, and Charing Cross.

Minibus 82 will take you to the stop near the Shing Mun Country Park Visitor Centre. From the Pineapple Dam, make your way to Barbecue Site No. 5, which should take approximately 15 minutes. The start of the Shing Mun War Relics Trail is through the memorial arch that leads onto MacLehose Trail Section 6.

Because visitors are technically not supposed to enter the tunnels and war relics, the whole hike should only take just over half an hour, ending at the observation post. From there, it’s a simple matter of retracing your steps back to Shing Mun, or continuing along the MacLehose trail to Kam Shan for an extended hike.

Ping Shan Heritage Trail

Opened in 1993, this trail was the first of its kind in Hong Kong, and is located in the North West New Territories near Tin Shui Wai. Many of the historic structures along the trail were built by the Tang clan, who have inhabited the area since the twelfth century and are one of the Five Great Clans of the New Territories.

From Tin Shui Wai MTR station, take the Light Rail 701P one stop to Hang Mei Tsuen, then change to the 761P service and alight at Ping Shan Light Rail station. Follow signs to the Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery cum Heritage Trail Visitors Centre. This is the start of the trail and is the Old Ping Shan Police Station. The building itself was constructed in 1899 and had also served as the headquarters of the Police Dog Unit before being restored into a centre for the trail.

Points of interest along the trail include the Shut Hing and Kun Ting study halls, and the Tang and Yu Kiu ancestral halls, both traditional three-hall structures with two courtyards. The Hang Tat Tsuen old well lies between Yeung Hau Temple and Sheung Cheung Wai, and is supposedly two centuries old and once served as the main source of drinking water for the area. Don’t miss Sheung Cheung Wai, the only walled village on the trail; much of it has been replaced, but the old gatehouse, shrine, sections of the wall, and a few old houses inside still remain.

The ending point of the trail is the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, the only ancient pagoda in Hong Kong. This hexagon-shaped three-storey structure was built for feng shui reasons to ward off evil spirits and also houses a statue of Fui Shing, the deity who bestows success in examinations. Tin Shui Wai MTR station is then only a minute’s walk away.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail

Similar to the Ping Shan Heritage Trail, Lung Yeuk Tau is traditionally another Tang Clan-dominated area. This trail is located closer to Fanling, and bears a name derived from the nearby Lung Yeuk Long mountain range. In Cantonese, this translates to the Mountain of the Leaping Dragon, so named due to a legend about a dragon once seen leaping in the vicinity.

From Fanling MTR station, come out of Exit C and go to the minibus terminus (not to be confused with the other minibus terminus near Exit A!). Take minibus 54K, and after about a 10-minute ride, alight at the first stop after crossing the Ma Wat River. The start of the trail is Tsung Kyan Church on Lok Tung Street. Built in 1926, this is a church of the Basel Mission and was the central landmark around which a village gradually developed. This is now private property and not open to the public, so head east to reach Shek Lo.

This old private residence was built by the founder of the Wah Yan College in 1936, and is interesting for its mix of Chinese and Western colonial styles of architecture. The trail then continues on to a few walled villages. Ma Tat Wai was built during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong (1736 to 1795), but it is Lo Wai which holds the title of the first walled village built by the Tang clan. The raised platform on the north wall serves as a watchtower, and the village well stands just outside the entrance gate.

Other locations to look out for along the trail include the Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall, the exquisitely decorated main ancestral hall of the Lung Yeuk Tau Tangs, and Tung Kok Wai, a walled village constructed on a raised platform by a thirteenth-generation Tang and originally surrounded by a moat. Further on, past Wing Ning Tsuen, the trail crosses a major road—Shau Tau Kok Road—so just keep forging ahead until you reach the Sin Shut Study Hall, built in 1840 for ancestral worship and a study hall.

Admire the exterior of San Wai, also known as Kun Lung Wai, a walled village built in 1744 with watchtowers on each of the four corners of its walls. Finally, northwest of San Wai lies Siu Hang Tsuen. Its distinctive semi-circular archway was built to attract better feng shui for more male offspring. From this village, you can hop on minibus 56K back to Fanling MTR station.

Devil’s Peak

Aside from being a scenic hike, Devil’s Peak is also an area of historical interest in Hong Kong. Some pirates during the Ming dynasty, including the famous Cheng Lin-cheong, exhibited some practical tactical brilliance in occupying the area, which commanded a favourable view over the Lei Yue Mun straits, then classified as one of the 16 major sea passages.

For the same strategic reasons, the British later commandeered the area and built military stations, including two gun batteries named Gough and Pottinger. Devil’s Peak became part of the Gin Drinkers’ Line, a defensive line across Hong Kong’s natural geological ridges against the Japanese invasion. The ruins of Pottinger Battery have mostly been reclaimed by vegetation, but Gough Battery, a smaller outpost, and a redoubt on the summit of Devil’s Peak are still visible today.

The terrain on Devil’s Peak is very easy, so this is also a family-friendly trail. At Yau Tong MTR station, head towards the Lei Yue Mun Estate, then go uphill towards the Tseung Kwan O Chinese Permanent Cemetery. The entrance to the Wilson Trail will be to your left, and from there it’s a simple matter of following signs up to Devil’s Peak.

About 350 metres in, you’ll want to go off-trail to the right and follow the signs for Devil’s Peak Fortifications, which will bring you up to the ruins of Gough Battery. When you’re done pretending to be Indiana Jones, head back down the same way and rejoin the Wilson Trail, heading right to continue on to the peak.

The redoubt at the top offers great views of Junk Bay, Lohas Park, and across Victoria Harbour to the Hong Kong skyline. To end the hike, you can return the way you came, or head across the fortification to a little ladder that will lead you to a muddy dirt path downhill. When you get to a platform level, simply follow directions back to Yau Tong.

Click here for our full guide on how to hike to Devil’s Peak and Gough Battery.

Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail

Of the 41 historic waterworks structures declared by the Hong Kong Antiques Authority as monuments, 21 are located within the Tai Tam group of reservoirs. This group includes Tai Tam Upper, Byewash, Intermediate, and Tai Tam Tuk Reservoirs, along with various dams, pumping stations, valve houses, aqueducts, and bridges.

From Exchange Square in Central, get bus 6, 63, or 66 towards Stanley, and alight at the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park stop. Walk a little ways along the road, past the Hong Kong Cricket Club, until you reach the Sinopec petrol station, where there will be a little flight of stairs taking you up to Tai Tam Reservoir Road.

This is the toughest part of the walk as you’ll be making your way consistently uphill until you reach Parkview. If you choose to drive, know that there is metered parking towards the end of Tai Tam Reservoir Road, but spaces are very limited. Failing that, you’ll need to park in Parkview itself, which is expensive to say the least. The start of the trail is straight up the road past Parkview’s main entrance.

The Upper Reservoir Masonry Bridge and Aqueduct are both built between 1883 and 1888, with moulded corbels and columns. Eventually, you’ll reach the Upper Reservoir Dam, an imposing structure with granite walls 100 feet high, 400 feet long, and 60 feet wide. From the dam, water travels through a 2.2-metre-long tunnel through the surrounding mountains and down to Central.

After making your way past the Byewash and Intermediate Reservoirs, you’ll soon come across the Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir Masonry Bridge, one of four masonry bridges along the reservoir’s western shore. The most famous landmark along the trail is likely the Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir Dam, with its ornamental parapets. Built above the spillways is a road supported by 12 arches and granite columns, part of the busy road running from Stanley to Chai Wan.

Finally, the last landmark is the Tai Tam Tuk Raw Water Pumping Station, constructed to pump water from this catchment to the tunnel inlet in the middle of the hill. The warehouse has a red-brick exterior and Chinese tiled pitched roofs. The trail ends on the scenic shore of Tai Tam Bay. This country park has quite a few barbecue spots along the way, so do consider packing some food.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail

This is Hong Kong’s first battlefield trail and marks the terrain of one of the most important battles in our territories during World War II, where Japanese forces overran Hong Kong’s defences. There are still ruins of old bunkers, pillboxes, and batteries on the hill, and they’re worth a visit in remembrance.

Same with the Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail, make your way to the Parkview residences. Instead of continuing up the road to the reservoirs, the trailhead for this journey is right opposite the main entrance of Parkview.

Follow the path along as it loops down the hill to an anti-aircraft battery, which once held two guns. At the junction facing Happy Valley, you’ll find a pillbox, with another further up a flight of steps by a side trail, in a slightly better-preserved condition.

The trail then runs downhill and joins Sir Cecil’s Ride. After passing the cricket ground, you could walk up the road to Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park, otherwise, follow the trail as it runs parallel to, and then across the main road.

Look out for a petrol station, because beside it is the last landmark on this trail: part of a former bunker complex. This was buried under soil and vegetation until it was excavated around the early 2000s. Though only one bunker of the complex has been uncovered, this marks the spot of the West Brigade’s headquarters. There’s a bus stop right next to the petrol station that will take you back into town.

Tung O Ancient Trail

The name of this trail signals the hike from Tung Chung to Tai O, an interesting one because of the contrasting sides of Hong Kong’s urban and rural that you’ll get to experience in the four hours it’ll take you to make the journey.

From Tung Chung MTR, come out of Exit A, then make your way to the Yat Tung Shopping Centre. On the far side of the buildings, look out for the stairs that lead down to Hau Wong Temple. This temple marks the start of the trail, which is easy to follow as it hugs the coast of Tung Chung Bay, Hau Hok Wan, Sha Lo Wan, San Shek Wan, and Sham Wat Wan, before arriving at the destination.

Along the way, you’ll be able to see the land reclamation along the coast of the Tung Chung development. There will also be some shanty town settlements, creating an interesting juxtaposition with the expansive residential complexes also in the area.

Eventually, you’ll pass by the tiny village of San Shek Wan, with village houses, shrines, and small farm allotments nestled among the greenery, and the Ngong Ping 360 cable car running along the mountain range in the distance.

Past Sham Tat Wan, the surrounding foliage clears to reveal views of the coast, and soon you’ll arrive at the fishing village of Tai O. With its waterways, small vessels, and houses on stilts, it’s all too easy to forget that you’re still within the boundaries of Hong Kong. Make sure you check out the salted fish, shrimp paste, fishballs, and doughnuts that are famed in the area before calling it a day.

The bus terminus is right near the waterfront, and bus 11 will take you back to Tung Chung MTR station. Though it’s a long hike, the going is easy and paved majority of the way, with a few public toilets dotted along the way, so just make sure you’ve brought along enough water and you should be all good.

Click here for our full guide to the Tung O Ancient Trail.

Central and Western Heritage Trail

While most of the trails on this list are out in Hong Kong’s natural landscape, city-loving folk might be interested to know that there are also a couple of heritage trails right in the heart of the urban jungle. The Central and Western Heritage Trail is a long series of trails split into sections that will bring you past some of Hong Kong’s most historic buildings and landmarks.

We reckon Section C of the Central route is the most interesting among them. The trail starts at Government House on Upper Albert Road, the official residence of the Chief Executive. Head towards the direction of Central instead of Admiralty, and stop by the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Caine Road. This Grade I historic building is hidden from plain view behind a row of uninspiring looking windows of Caritas House, but once you turn the corner on Glenealy onto St Joseph’s Terrace, you’ll be greeted with the late nineteenth-century Gothic revival church.

Victoria Prison, the Former Central Magistracy, and the Central Police Station—now all part of the Tai Kwun cultural destination—are interesting looks into our penal system, and the complex also has regular art and entertainment events. The Old Dairy Farm Building on Lower Albert Road is a striking brick and stucco building that was used by Dairy Farm as a cold storage warehouse, a dairy shop, a meat smoking venue, as well as the residence for the general manager. It now houses the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and the Fringe Club. On the same road, Bishop’s House—as the name might suggest—is the residence and office of the Archbishop of Hong Kong.

Nearby on the end of Duddell Street are the famous Duddell Street steps and gas lamps, These are the city’s last remaining gas lamps and are declared monuments. Three of the four sustained extensive damage in 2018 during Typhoon Mangkhut, but were thankfully repaired and reinstalled 15 months after they were destroyed. The old site of the Pedder Street Clock Tower was on the junction of Queen’s Road Central and Pedder Street and was demolished in 1913. Pedder Building itself is also of interest as a Grade II historic building done in the Beaux-Arts style.

Head towards the waterfront to reach the ending point of the trail, which is the old site of the General Post Office. Sitting between Connaught Road Central, Pedder Street, and Des Voeux Road Central, the old post office used to sit on the waterfront before land reclamation, and was demolished in the 1970s. World Wide House now sits on the premises, and the General Post Office has shifted to the nearby Connaught Place.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Wan Chai Heritage Trail

As one of Hong Kong’s earliest settlements, Wan Chai has several historic buildings from different periods of history. Formed by the Old Wan Chai Revitalisation Initiatives Special Committee, this trail features 15 sites of interest, categorised into architectural and cultural heritage.

Begin the trail at Mallory Street, where what used to be called the Green House is located. Now known as 7 Mallory Street, these four-storey tenements from the early twentieth century interestingly combine both Chinese and Western architectural influences, such as pitched Chinese tiled roofs with French windows and iron balustrades. This building has also once housed the famous Yau Chai Kee Restaurant and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.

Another famously colourful building sits on Stone Nullah Lane. The Blue House was the original site of the Hua Tuo Temple and Hospital, and when it was renovated in the 1920s, the government painted it over using some surplus blue paint. The Hong Kong House of Stories is now located there, a community project where craftsmen, artists, farmers and more instruct willing learners so disappearing cultures and crafts can be preserved. The Pak Tai Temple is nearby, built in 1862 in a Chinese courtyard style. Look out for the Shiwan pottery on its roof depicting scenes from Cantonese opera.

On the main road of Queen’s Road East, you’ll find the Former Wan Chai Post Office; though it is now an environmental resource centre, they’ve preserved the letter pigeon holes in the original building. The small Hung Shing Temple sits conspicuously on the same road, and is particularly interesting as far as temples go because it was built against a boulder that they decided not to (or could not) move; the stone now protrudes into the building and is used as an altar table.

Nam Koo Terrace is located on the upper section of Ship Street, reached by a long flight of stairs. This mansion was built by the tycoon To Chun-man and has been vacant since his death. There are several local stories about how it is haunted and has driven mad people who dared to illegally venture inside! Down on Johnston Road, the most prominent landmark is definitely the Guangzhou verandah shophouse which now houses The Pawn restaurant.

Head back up the hill and towards the direction of Admiralty as you near the end of this urban trail. Because of the presence of the St Francis Church in the Star Street precinct, the area near the steep slope of St Francis Yard used to be a gathering place for Catholics. In 1890, Hong Kong’s first power plant was built above St Francis Lane. Before you veer off into one of the many trendy eateries in the precinct, keep an eye out for 31 Wing Fung Street, which is a residential building built in the Art Deco style.

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Catharina Cheung

Senior editor

Catharina has recently returned to her hometown of Hong Kong after spending her formative years in Singapore and the UK. She enjoys scouring the city for under-the-radar things to do, see, and eat, and is committed to finding the perfect foundation that will withstand Hong Kong’s heat. She is also an aspiring polyglot, a firm advocate for feminist and LGBTQIA+ issues, and a huge lover of animals. You can find her belting out show-tunes in karaoke, or in bookstores adding new tomes to her ever-growing collection.