Keen for something different from your usual weekend walking trail? LAILA BOUNDY took a part stroll, part-scramble up Mount Davis. Here’s what she discovered hiking on Hong Kong Island.
About the Hike
Location: Mount Davis, HK Island
Length: 5 to 7km – we started from Kennedy Town MTR; it’s a shorter walk if you start at Victoria Road and the Mt Davis Path
Level: Easy to moderate, with a path on the way up, and shrubbery and some scrambling on the way down
What is it?
Mount Davis is the western most hill on Hong Kong Island; it’s sandwiched in between Kennedy Town and Sandy Bay. Named after Sir John Francis Davis, who was the 2nd Governor of Hong Kong (1844 to 1848), the hill is 269m high. It’s scattered with remains of the gun positions of the Mount Davis Batteries, which protected the Western districts of Hong Kong Island during the Second World War. It takes around 30 minutes to reach the old military buildings from the bottom of the hill.
The mount’s military past Mount Davis was proposed as a strategic military location for British forces in 1900, and was developed for that purpose in 1911. Five 9.2-inch guns were installed at the site, though two of these were later relocated to Stanley to strengthen defences on the south of the island.
The site was heavily bombed by Japanese planes during the Battle of Hong Kong (8-25 December), which started just a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Towards the end of the battle, the remaining armaments and equipment were destroyed by British soldiers themselves.
Today, Mount Davis has a Grade 2 heritage listing (“Building of special merit; efforts should be made to selectively preserve”).
What’s good about it?
My partner and I took to the walking trail on a Sunday morning; we didn’t want anything that would involve exerting too much energy. It was the perfect combination of being historically endearing and an easy-ish hike. The walk up Mount Davis Path is gentle, and at the top there is a hostel (the YHA Jockey Club Mt Davis Youth Hostel) that has an ice cooler full of soft drinks to quench your thirst.
We loved seeing the remnants of the Mount Davis Batteries while hiking on Hong Kong Island. The artillery has all been removed but you can freely wander inside the bomb shelters and emplacements and see the remains of where the guns were stored.
Who’s doing it?
Interestingly, I don’t think this hiking trail is particularly well known – even on a Sunday we barely passed any people on the way up the hill. There is a campsite at the top, along with the hostel, so we did see lots of families (and dogs!) roaming around the battery itself.
Full disclosure: there are two routes back down, and one of them is a bit of a scramble; that’s the one we took and, despite not being too steep, it was a bit rubbly – so be sure to wear sturdy shoes!
What’s at the end of it?
Luckily hiking on Hong Kong Island means you can find some cool neighbourhoods at the end and easy public transport. For this walking trail, it depends on which way you go down. One way takes you down to Kennedy Town, which has a raft of restaurants and bars, including a few along the seafront. It’s a great place to watch the sunset. Kennedy Town is the western end of the Island Line MTR, and takes roughly 15 minutes to get to from Central.
How do you get there?
If you’re coming from Central, take the number 54 bus from Pottinger Street to the Queen Mary Hospital; after 20 minutes, you can get off at the start of Mount Davis Path.
If you want a longer walk, take Exit B from Kennedy Town MTR and walk along Victoria Road along the coast. This takes around 25 minutes. You can also pop down to the Sai Wan Swimming Shed if you wanted a detour along the way and a swim in the sea!
Stay Safe: Remember to download the government app Enjoy Hiking and to activate the tracking service before hitting the trails.
Like this? See more in our Living in Hong Kong section.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. You can purchase a copy or subscribe now so you never miss an issue.