If you’re visiting the U.K and plan on spending time discovering the great outdoors, you should make a beeline to one of the nation’s 15 National Parks. There are ten in England, two in Scotland and three in Wales, all of which are dedicated to conserving the area’s natural and cultural heritage. If you’re struggling to decide which to visit first, here is our list of the ten very best U.K National Parks.
Brecon Beacons, Wales
Located in south Wales, the Brecon Beacons isn’t just a National Park, it’s also an International Dark Sky Reserve, making it the best place in the country to sit out under the stars and watch for meteors. During the day, visitors can hike in one of the park’s four mountain ranges, swim beneath cascading waterfalls or admire one of the many lakes. The landscapes change throughout the years; the mountains are covered in snow in winter and heather in late summer.
Yorkshire Dales, England
Known for its rolling green valleys, abundance of waterfalls and quaint countryside, the Yorkshire Dales are a delight to visit. Spreading across the Pennines in the centre of the country, there are many hills to walk including the iconic Three Peaks. Anyone searching for a traditional English mountain town will delight in wandering around villages such as Kirkby Lonsdale and Ingleton.
Lake District, England
Although the Lake District neighbours the Yorkshire Dales, its landscape is dramatically different. Here you’ll find craggy peaks ringing vast glacial lakes, surrounded by pretty villages and traditional English pubs. If you’re a keen walker, you’ll delight in the fell walking here, and could even take on some of the iconic Wainwright trails. Anyone looking for a more relaxing time can take to the water on a boat to admire the scenery.
The U.K’s highest mountain range can be found in the Cairngorms, a National Park that feels like a completely different country. Ancient pine forests and snow-covered mountains are surrounded by acres of true wilderness where you can go days without seeing another person. Wildlife is plentiful here, with highlights including golden eagles, pine martens and even reindeer.
Wild and untamed, Dartmoor is a complete contrast to the hill-covered regions of the north of England. Here, ancient forests and wild moorland meet, providing walking opportunities for all levels. Medieval villages, mysterious monuments and the chance of stumbling upon a herd of wild ponies all beckon visitors to this area.
Snowdonia in north Wales is one of the most diverse National Parks in the U.K. The tallest mountain in Wales, Snowden, is easily accessible to all, with the option of either hiking or taking the train to its summit. There’s also a coastline of pristine sandy beaches, wooded valleys, picturesque villages and historic castles to discover.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Scotland
The gateway to the Highlands, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs is one of the country’s most enchanting National Parks. Here, visitors will find the largest lake in the U.K, along many other large lochs. Surrounded by mountains and forests, this is the perfect location for anyone with a love of adventure sports. Spend your time hiking, climbing or kayaking.
Peak District, England
If you’re a keen walker, you’ll love the Peak District. The region may be classed as one National Park, but there are two dramatically different sides to it. The Dark Peak in the north is wild and untamed with large granite rocks and high hills, whereas the southerly White Peak boasts limestone caves and green valleys. Whichever area you visit, you’ll find abundant walking trails, cute villages and historical buildings.
The Broads, England
This corner of England is unlike anywhere else in the country. Flat for miles, the Broads is known as the ‘Waterland’ National Park with over 200km of waterways to discover. The best way to see the area is by canal barge, gently tugging down the canals while you relax and enjoy the views. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, as you’ll find a quarter of England’s most rare species here.
This region in the northeast of England is steeped in history, with many ancient monuments to admire, including Hadrian’s Wall. It’s also the largest area of protected night sky in the whole of Europe, and you can even spot the Northern Lights here during periods of high activity. The open moors and rolling fields offer many trails for interesting walks, especially the beautiful Cheviot Hills.
Emma Lavelle is a UK based writer and photographer and has her own blog Field and Nest.