People visiting the United Kingdom may be drawn to the bright lights of London and its iconic sights. They may be drawn to the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford upon Avon, or to learn about the influence of the Romans on the UK at the Roman Baths in Bath. But the true beauty of this amazing country lies in the 15 UK National Parks.
Whilst they are dwarfed by some of the largest national parks in the world, they make up almost 10% of the total landmass of the United Kingdom. They encompass rolling green hills, dales, historic forests, peaks and coastline and include 2 natural Unesco World Heritage Sites; The Lake District and the Dorset and East Devon Coast.
No visit to the United Kingdom would be complete without experiencing these natural areas of beauty.
The 2 National Parks in Scotland
Cairngorms National Park
4,528 km² in the Eastern Highlands
The UK’s largest national park is a dramatic Scottish wilderness dotted with ancient pine forests, and home to the highest mountain range in the UK. The breath-taking landscapes that are perfect for walking, climbing, cycling, and even skiing in the winter season. The weather can be very changeable here, so it’s worth making sure you have the appropriate hiking attire if you plan on spending much time outdoors.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
1,865 km² in
Loch Lomond itself the UK’s largest lake, and this national park also contains a further nineteen large lochs, along with rugged hills and mountains, and plenty of unique villages. Activities in the park include walking, boating, climbing… and, of course, searching for the elusive Nessie!
The 3 National Parks in Wales
Brecon Beacons National Parks
1344 km² in Pembrokeshire
Discover heather-clad mountains, incredible stargazing and endless walking and cycling trails. See here for a lovely Brecon Beacons Waterfall Walk.
The Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales contains four impressive mountain ranges and heather-clad rolling hills, offering wonderful cycling and walking options for all levels. The region is also an International Dark Sky Reserve, making it one of the best places in the world for stargazing.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
621 km² in Pembrokeshire
The UK’s only fully coastal national park, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is made up of picture-perfect beaches backed by towering limestone cliffs, which help explain why this is considered one of the finest hikes in Europe. Aside from the jaw-dropping views, a walk along some of the 300 km coastal path gives a great chance to spot incredible wildlife such as seals, dolphins and basking sharks.
Snowdonia National Park
2,176 km² in Snowdonia
Central to the national park is Mount Snowdon, the largest mountain in Wales, but also within the park is a coastline of fine sandy beaches, quaint villages, and a number of impressive waterfalls. The trails offer easy access walking and some fantastic mountain bike tracks, or if you’re in the mood for relaxing you can try the scenic Snowdon Mountain Railway to the Mount Snowdon summit.
The 9 National Parks in England:
The Broads National Park
303 km² in Norfolk & Suffolk
With over 200 km of navigable waterways, boating around the broads is a fantastic way to take in the quiet country and gentle landscapes of East Anglia. On dry land, there are some lovely tracks for walking and cycling, and an excellent selection of scenic country pubs to soak up the ambience.
Dartmoor National Park
953 km² in Devon
Dartmoor National Park offers a huge wilderness to explore, in the form of heather-covered moorland, granite tors, and wooded valleys, The park is easily accessible by foot or bike, and dotted plentifully around the landscape are ancient monuments, the occasional family of wild ponies, and a number of historic villages with gifts for outdoorsy people on offer.
Exmoor National Park
694 km² in Somerset & Devon
Near the top of the list of the UK’s national parks for walkers, Exmoor in south west England offers a unique mosaic of broad open moorlands, rolling hills, and some wonderful coastline. There’s no shortage of footpaths to take you between sights, and with luck, you’ll get a sighting of the local Exmoor ponies as you stroll.
Lake District National Park
2,362 km² in Cumbria
As one of the five natural World Heritage Sites in the UK, the rugged and beautiful Lake District National Park is world-renowned as an impressive landscape of high fells, glacial lakes, and chocolate-box villages.
With the highest mountains in England within its borders, the Lake District has some incredibly scenic fell-walking, along with the sights.
New Forest National Park
570 km² in Hampshire & Wiltshire
The New Forest National Park, once a royal hunting ground, consists of ancient woodlands and heathlands and stretches down to the southern coast of England. New Forest ponies and cattle roam free in this truly unique landscape.
Northumberland National Park
1,048 km² in Northumberland
Northumberland National Park, home to the iconic Hadrian’s Wall, is the perfect place for a quiet getaway. Walk in the remote rolling moorland of the south or the Cheviot Hills in the north on the Scottish border or try a spot of stargazing in one of Europe’s largest area of protected night sky.
North York Moors National Park
1,434 km² in North Yorkshire
The North York Moors is a huge expanse of hills covered in purple heather, deeply forested dales and stunning coastline. It’s also home to the incredible ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, villages of a bygone ear and many cycling and walking trails.
Peak District National Park
1,437 km² in Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, West Yorkshire & South Yorkshire
The Peak District was the UK’s first national park. The landscape that inspired one of England’s most famous authors, Jane Austen, consists of rocky moorlands and grassy limestone dales. Home to one of the most beautiful stately homes in the country, Chatsworth House, and some incredible walking trails to suit all ages, the Peak District is great for families. It’s also worth noting that the Peak District cycle routes provide some of the best mountain biking in the UK for riders of all levels of ability.
Being located so centrally in the country, the Peak District is an area that shouldn’t be missed if you’re planning a road trip around the UK.
South Downs National Park
1624 km² in East Sussex & Hampshire
The South Downs National Park, stretching across the south of England from Winchester to Eastbourne with the iconic white cliffs (the Seven Sisters, not the White Cliffs of Dover). The rolling green hills, ancient woodland and heaths of the South Downs are home to some beautiful downland villages and offer some excellent cycling.
Yorkshire Dales National Park
2,179 km² in Yorkshire
The Yorkshire Dales are characterised by rolling green valleys, drystone walls and lots of sheep. Farming is very dominant here and farming families go back many generations. Extensive footpaths and bridleways offer walking for all abilities, from gentle strolls taking in the magnificent scenery to the challenge of the Three Peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.
UK National Parks Map:
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