8 of Our Most Excellent National Parks

Every summer we celebrate our 15 gorgeous green ‘breathing spaces’ with National Parks Week.

But our parks – stunning, accessible and perfect for picnicking – are worthy of celebrating at any time of the year.

So lace up your boots, top up the Thermos and join us for a tour of the very best countryside heritage and wildlife the UK has to offer…

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

The incredible limestone pavement of Malham Cove was some 12,000 years in the making.

Formed by melting ice and rainwater, the ‘pavement’ of Malham Cove is so otherworldly that Harry Potter himself chose it for a magical holiday in The Deathly Hallows.

Cross the stepping stones at Bolton Abbey before stopping for ice-cream at nearby Billy-Bob’s 1950s style ice-cream parlour – perfect for rounding off your tour of ancient Yorkshire with a twist.

Did you know? A whopping 9.5 million visitors flock to the Dales each year.

The Cairngorms                     

Cairngorms

Home to our highest mountain range and a huge Caledonian forest filled with Scots pines, the Cairngorms is the perfect place to challenge yourself.

Hike, climb or search for an elusive pine martin or reindeer in winter. And don’t forget the Scottish hospitality – a wee dram of whisky goes down well after a day in the mountains.

Did you know? At nearly 1,500 square miles this is the UK’s biggest National Park – you could fit over 10 Norfolk Broads inside!

Brecon Beacons

Brecon Beacons

Dark Sky Reserve status makes the Beacons almost as beautiful by night as by day. Wild Welsh mountain ponies can be spotted by day while a clear night offers an amazing display of stars and constellations.

Equally out of this world is the opportunity to get close to Wales’ unofficial national bird at the Red Kite Feeding Centre. Once used to keep the land free of carrion it’s now championed for more savoury reasons (but best keep those sandwiches wrapped up just in case!).

Did you know? Pen-y Fan is South Wales’ highest point at 2,907 feet above sea level. That’s over 5 Blackpool towers! 

Northumberland

Northumberland

The remains of Emperor Hadrian’s mighty wall snake along the park’s southern boundary.

With rampaging Picts beyond the wall no longer a threat, those seeking wilder experiences should try the Hethpool Wild Goat Walk – it gives you the best chance to spot the elusive Cheviot goats.

Did you know? Perfectly peaceful, Northumberland has a smaller population than any other National Park with just over 2,000 residents.

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs

 Loch Lomond

Within striking distance of Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs is one of Scotland’s most accessible playgrounds.

Explore part of the 96 mile West Highland Way or, if you’re feeling hardy, paddle along the bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond itself.

Did you know? Loch Lomond contains 92,805 million cubic feet of water and maybe one monster: the lesser-known Loch Lomond beastie has been spotted several times over the years.

Norfolk Broads

Norfolk Broads

A watery wonderland in one of Britain’s driest places, the 60 broads – wide, shallow lakes created by flooded medieval peat pits – and 7 rivers are visited by 8 million people every year.

The swallowtail butterfly lives only here, bitterns and marsh harriers are on the increase and water shrews may be glimpsed by the eagle-eyed.

Boating is the Broads’ other major draw. Enjoy comfortable cruisers, relaxing waterside eateries and messing about on the rivers!

Did you know? The Broads were only discovered to be human made in the 1960s. Before that they were considered a natural attraction. 

Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Britain’s only coastal National Park, make sure you beat a path to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail.

Here you will find a fairy-tale seascape with ancient castles and Iron Age forts overlooking the water.  Look skywards for choughs and skylarks and out to sea for basking sharks and even orcas if you’re lucky.

They return annually to this wonderful bit of Wales. And who could blame them?

Did you know? Pembrokeshire has been voted one of the best coastal destinations in the world by National Geographic magazine (and anyone who’s ever visited).

Exmoor

Exmoor

Exmoor is known for its moorland, yet one of the park’s most celebrated features are the highest sea cliffs in England.

Kayak, walk or wind sail for the best views – and the best tales to tell afterwards! Inland you’ll find orchards, cider farms and ancient woodland.

This quiet park is a perfect place to enjoy not seeing another soul.  Apart from the famous ponies, of course – you’ll always be pleased to see them.

Did you know? Continental drift means that in 100 million years’ time Exmoor will be north of the Arctic Circle.   

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