Best National Parks in the UK
This week marks the annual National Parks Week in the UK. The week-long event celebrates everything unique and wonderful about our country’s 15 National Parks with events across the lot of them. To celebrate the occasion, we thought we’d give a run-down of our favourite ones and how best to see them.
Peak District, Derbyshire
Located at the southern end of the Pennines, the Peak District is the oldest national park in the UK having been granted status in 1951. With its close proximity to Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby and Sheffield and easy access by road and rail, it’s also one of the most visited.
The Peak District packs everything you’d want from a UK National Park, from amazing countryside walks and scenic cycling trails, to spectacular rock climbing opportunities to quaint country villages. There are endless things to do in the Peak District as well with the likes of Chatsworth and its historic ground ones of our biggest tips.
Towns to Stay In: Bakewell, Tideswell, Edale.
The Broads, Norfolk
The Broads is probably the most unique National Park on a list. Defined by its network of waterways and abundance of wildlife, there are 7 rivers and 63 broads in total, most of which are less than 4 metres deep. Thirteen of the broads are generally open to navigation which makes the area a perfect place for a family getaway.
The main attraction of The Broads is the opportunity it gives for boating and sailing. Meander down the canals, stopping along the way for a picnic, an ice-cream, or a beer at one of the many riverside pubs – Horning is a particular favourite. But Broadland isn’t just about the waterways – there are also plenty of market towns and villages to visit too. We’d recommend Woodbastwick. Having twice won the Best Kept Village Award, the beautiful village is defined by its medieval flint church finished with Norfolk thatching, as well as being the home of Woodforde’s Brewery and their brewery tap, The Fur & Feathers pub.
Towns to Stay In: Norwich, Horning, Acle.
Snowdonia, North Wales
Located in North-West Wales, Snowdonia became the third National Park in Britain in 1951, after the Lake District and Peak District. It covers 827 square miles and is home to an extensive network of trails, as well as over 100 lakes and craggy peaks like Cader Idris and Tryfan.
Snowdonia is a haven for walkers. And if you’re an ambitious one, the seven mile hike up Crib Goch to Snowdon is one of the most demanding in the area. One of six different paths up the famed mountain, this rugged route travels along the ridge and does require a bit of experience. We’d also recommend a walk from Dolwyddelan through the Cwm Penamnen valley, which offers up some of the best panoramic views of the Snowdonia mountains.
Towns to Stay In: Caernarfon, Betws y Coed, Beddgelert.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, Scotland
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park was the first of the two national parks established by the Scottish Parliament in 2002, alongside the Cairngorms National Park. It’s also the fourth largest in the British Isles.
The park consists of a plethora of Scottish mountains and lochs, with the main attractions being its scenery and wildlife which makes it perfect for hiking or leisurely strolls. If you’re a more experienced walker, the West Highland Way offers a challenge, while most in the area take on the mountains of Ben Lomond and The Cobbler in the Arrochar Alps on the Cowal Peninsula.
Towns to Stay In: Balloch, Helensburgh, Ross Priory.
New Forest, Hampshire
Situated in the south of England, the New Forest National Park is an adventurer’s playground with woodland, wildlife, coastal routes, and gardens. Not to mention gorgeous towns and village which usually pack a fair bit of history.
For amateur hikers who like a stop or three along the way, the Lyndhurst Hill and Swan Green pub walk is a great option. Alternatively, the Solent Way takes a coastal route from Milford-on-sea to Emsworth Harbor with a third of the 60 mile route running through the National Park. If you need a day off the trekking, however, the beautiful town of Beaulieu has plenty to do with its Palace House and Abbey, as well as the awesome National Motor Museum. Also, keep an eye out for the area’s numerous wild horses and ponies.
Towns to Stay In: Beaulieu, Lymington, Brockenhurst.
Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Covering 519 square miles of the stunning South Welsh landscape, the Brecon Beacons stretch all the way from Llandeilo in the west to Abergavenny in the east. Really, they’re all about the hill walkers and mountain bikers.
Our main highlight in the Brecon Beacons if you’re after a trek is the 100-mile Beacons Way which crosses the park and includes the summits of Pen y Fan and Corn du. Beginning near Abergavenny, the route passes some must-see historical landmarks including the Llanthony Abbey ruins, the Iron Age hill fort at Crug Hywel and the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, with the route finishing in Bethlehem near Llandeilo.
Towns to Stay In: Brynaman, Abergavenny, Merthyr Tydfil.
Lake District, Cumbria
Formally given National Park status in 1951, the Lake District is the largest national park in England, covering a huge 885 square miles of Cumbria.
Put simply, you could go pretty much anywhere in the Lake District and get spectacular views and beautiful villages. We’d recommend a walk around Lake Windermere and the streets of Bowness-on-Windermere for the more leisurely of walkers out there. But if you’re after something more challenging, the Alfred Wainwright Memorial Walk is a 102 mile-long circular route that starts and ends at Windermere and promises views of every lake, valley and mountain in the area in just six days. If that’s just too hardcore, the 6 mile route up Latrigg offers amazing panoramic views of Keswick and Derwentwater.
Towns to Stay In: Keswick, Windermere, Coniston.
For more info on National Parks Week or any of the areas we’ve featured, head over to the National Parks Website.