The United Kingdom boasts some of the most breathtakingly spectacular scenic landscapes in Europe. Home to vast expansive forests, tranquil and placid lakes and stark coastlines, the UK has done an impressive job protecting its landscape by creating Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and fifteen National Parks. The UK’s aims for their National Parks are two-fold, firstly to preserve and conserve natural heritage and cultural sites and secondly to spark greater understanding and enjoyment of the UK’s natural beauty within the general public.
The National Parks in the UK range from moorland to mountains, from coastline to forest and each have a set of unique and interesting geological features than warrant their National Park status. Unlike in National Parks in Africa and the Sub Continent you won’t find the Big 5 roaming the Yorkshire Dales, but each of the UK’s National Parks are home to flora and fauna that deserve to be conserved and marveled at by respectful visitors.
From the Peak District to Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons to Dartmoor, in all four corners of the UK you will find hidden gems just waiting to be discovered and explored. Lace up your hiking boots and check out the top best national parks in the UK here:
The Lake District in Cumbria, Northern England welcomes in excess of 23.1 million visitors every year! Lake Windermere has become a household name for many and is the largest lake in England. Popular activities for guests include water sports and hiking and there are a range of reputable companies offering luxury boating experiences on the lakes. Fun activities for all the family include rafting and canoeing taster sessions on Lake Windermere and can be booked through the Visitors Centre at Brockhole.
From the high ridges to the sloping shore lines, there is a walk to suit every ability in the Lake District. The Lake District has a team of dedicated volunteers who guide walks through the National Park on a daily basis and have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. Some routes even involve planned picnic stops, so remember to pack your sandwiches!
Ten Lakes in One Day Tour
Address: Lake Windermere, Lake District, Cumbria, England
The Peak District National Park offers awe-inspiring vistas and the perfect backdrop for a range of pastimes and leisure activities. With four Visitors Centres based a Bakewell, Castleton, Derwent and Dale, visitors are spoilt for choice as to where to start exploring the Peak District. Although famed for its natural qualities, the Peak District is home to a great variety of cultural heritage too.
As one of the best loved National Parks in the UK the Peak District is popular for cyclists with both professional and leisure riding agendas. The Peak District offers a great range of traffic free cycling routes through quaint rural villages and impressive countryside. Whether you’re a road cyclist seeking a smooth and lengthy route or a keen mountain biker who is looking for mud, bumps and puddles along a wildlife abundant track, you will certainly find a memorable cycle route to suit the adventure you seek.
Narrowboat Adventure Tour Peak District
Address: Bakewell Visitors Centre, Peak District, Derbyshire, England
3. Yorkshire Dales
Established in 1965 the Yorkshire Dales National Park showcases rolling, green countryside. The famous Dent Viaduct is a crucial feature of the Settle to Carlisle railway line used by the infamous Flying Scottsman steam engine. Nestled between the rolling hills the Dent Viaduct is an authentically English manmade feature that is picture perfect in every way.
The Yorkshire Dales are best visited during the spring months (March, April and May) as the farmland comes to life with baby lambs jumping around left, right and centre. If driving through the Dales, take a moment to pull in at a lay-by and watch the spritely young sheep embrace the fresh and crisp country air, bar-ing with jovial contentment.
Address: Dent Viaduct, Cumbria, England
Website: Dent Viaduct
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Although the north of England has a higher concentration of National Parks that is not to say that the south, more specifically the south-west of England, doesn’t bring anything to the table. Home to fast flowing rivers and rough, rugged rolling hills, Dartmoor offers stunning views and wonderful hiking trails through woodland valleys and granite stone. Potter’s Walk is the most popular hiking route in Dartmoor and is well signposted and easy to follow.
The iconic wild ponies of Dartmoor are hardy and ragged and roam freely across the moors, weaving their way through the wild vibrant heather. Many visitors chose to explore Dartmoor on horse back and there are many reputable horse riding stables to choose from who care for their ponies with the utmost attention. Horse riding is a great way to discover Dartmoor if traveling with children who are not keen on hiking for hours on end.
Pony Trekking Dartmoor
Address: Dartmoor, South Devonshire, England
Wales is home to three National Parks and the Brecon Beacons can be found in the south of the country and offers visitors six main peaks to explore. The most popular peak in the Brecon Beacons is Pen y Fan which is also the highest of this mountain range at 886 m (2,864 ft). During the winter months the Brecon Beacon peaks become snow capped and hiking trails become limited for safety reasons.
Abseiling and rock climbing are activities synonymously linked with the Brecon Beacons and is a popular pastime for locals and visitors alike. With outdoor and indoor centers throughout the park there are plenty of options to keep you occupied during your stay. For beginners or those who want a taster session there are a qualified instructors available for lessons and for more experienced independent climbers, the Brecon Beacons National Park has protected and bolted routes for you to explore.
Private Tour of Brecon Beacons
Address: Brecon Beacons, Powys, Wales
The Pembrokeshire Coast has been a popular destination for domestic tourists for decades. Small towns like Tenby, Newport snd St Davids have accommodation in abundance and ample campsites to pitch a tent or park a caravan. With ragged limestone cliffs, sandy secret coves and ancient castles, the Pembrokeshire Coast Line is deserved of its National Park status and makes for a perfect weekend getaway.
Along the Pembrokeshire Coast Line lies Britain’s smallest city, St Davids. Rich in cultural heritage St Davids is a wonderful day trip from the Welsh capital of Cardiff. Visit St David’s Cathedral or the Chapel of St Non to experience classic Welsh culture at its finest. The Pembrokeshire Coast Line offers visitors over 180 miles (289 km) of coastal walks across cliff top fields and through hidden coves and bays. St Dogmaels makes a great starting point for a coastal hike and sees you trail through volcanic headlands and vast untouched beaches.
Read our article on the best walks in Pembrokeshire.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Line
Exmoor is one of the south-west’s most redeeming geographical features. Often forgotten by visitors heading to the Devonshire coast, Exmoor has plenty on offer; walking, fishing, wild swimming and more. Home to a myriad of wildlife, Exmoor is a must-visit National Park for nature lovers.
Named after the River Exe, Exmoor’s vast landscape meets the coast at the Valley of the Rocks. Boasting views of the English Channel and the rolling moorland the Valley of the Rocks is a hikers paradise. Just as in Dartmoor, Exmoor is home to many wild ponies too who just add to the photogenic nature of England’s most southerly National Park.
Address: Exmoor, Devonshire, England
Home to Wales’s highest mountain, Mt Snowdon, Snowdonia in North Wales is home to over 26,000 people. Snowdonia National Park shows off Welsh countryside at its best and offers visitors a great variety of walks and hikes to participate in. Many visitors choose to challenge themselves to climb Mt Snowdon and at 1,085 m (3,560 ft) the hike is strenuous but achievable. Those with a moderate to good fitness level need not spend weeks training in advance! By climbing Mt Snowdon you are following in the footsteps of the great mountaineers of our era; Sir Edmund Hillary trained for his Mt Everest expedition on humble Mt Snowdon.
Duration: 8 hours
For many, thinking of the UK brings to mind major cities like London and Edinburgh, but away from the industrious hubs the UK has a wealth of nature to explore. From rolling moors to limestone cliffs, from rugged coastline to tranquil lakes, the National Parks of the United Kingdom are crying out to be explored!
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