We’ve come over all outdoorsy here at dealchecker – probably something to do with too long spent huddled up in winter coats or under blankets and the fact that spring has finally arrived! A day out in the fresh air surrounded by nature would hit the spot for us right now, and we won’t hear a word about rain showers from naysayers. To celebrate, here are our top ten National Parks in Great Britain. It’s time to strap on those comfortable shoes, pack a picnic (and your wet weather gear) and get going!
This mountain range in South Wales is home to beautiful Llangorse Lake, the remains of Carreg Cennen – a Norman castle perched on a craggy hilltop – the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal and numerous waterfalls such as Sgwd yr Eira. Plus, if you fancy a challenge you could always climb Pen y Fan, the highest point in southern Britain at 886 metres. Enjoy something a little more sedate in literary Hay-on-Wye where there are 40 bookshops!
Stay: Brecon, Abergavenny, Cardiff
Taking up a surprising 1% of the whole of Great Britain, the Lake District isn’t just about lakes – although you will find plenty of them too! Why not be bold and join in a lake swim? There are plenty of opportunities to get stuck in to a long walk or two, including going up Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England at 978 metres, or completing the 102-mile Alfred Wainwright Memorial Walk. Other attractions include a whopping 6,000 archaeological sites and Beatrix Potter’s house.
Stay: Keswick, Ambleside, Windermere
The wilderness of Dartmoor is something you won’t find anywhere else in southern England, and as such hikers and adrenaline junkies of many sorts make a beeline for it whenever there is sun. With around a thousand square kilometres there’s plenty of space for hiking, biking, climbing and canoeing. You could also take a self-guided podcast tour of the botanical attractions or the remains of the tin mines. Reward yourself with a trip to the regular Farmers Markets to enjoy all the local produce.
The most popular park for rock climbing, the craggy rock features are what makes the Peak District so instantly recognisable. Britain’s oldest national park, it’s got three distinct areas: the Dark Peak is where you will find the high moors covered in dark peat, the White Peak is characterised by its limestone rocks, whilst the South West Peak is the most idyllic, offering rolling valleys, moors and woods. Explore Castleton Cave, or go for a more refined look at things by touring beautiful Chatwsorth House and Gardens.
Stay: Buxton, Leek, Sheffield
Covering the coast and numerous small islands across south west Wales, this park boasts plenty of beaches, coastal walks and seaside towns, so you could enjoy a stay here without even breaking a sweat! You would certainly be missing out though, with the Preseli Mountains – famed for being the source of the rocks at Stonehenge – the castle-lined Daugleddau Estuary, and the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, which breaks up the entirety into manageable chunks, all waiting for you to explore!
Stay: Pembroke, Haverfordwest, Cardigan
The largest national park in Great Britain by quite some way – it’s double the size of the Lake District! Amongst the moors, mountains and woods you will find archaeological sites that date back over 6,000 years, as well as numerous forts and castles, including the impressive Balmoral Castle. Hike, enjoy mountain biking and explore the incredible diversity of birds, animals and plants which flock to this large Arctic wilderness. Amongst all this you can even ski in the winter!
Stay: Inverness, Keith, Aviemore
This park in northern Wales takes its name from Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales at 1,085 metres. Climbing Snowdon is a popular pastime and it can get very busy, especially with the railway running to the summit too, so concentrate on Glyderau and Carneddau if you prefer your hiking in peace. Or get away from it all in the lower land areas in the west, which are largely unvisited. Other attractions include the Bala Lake Steam Railway, and the Tomen y Mur Roman fort.
Stay: Caernarfon, Conwy, Bangor
North York Moors
Famed for its expanses of beautiful heather moors, this is actually the most wooded park in England too, with woodland covering nearly a quarter of the area. There are over 1,400 miles of pathways here which make it easy to explore the moors, woods and the coastline too, which is known for its dinosaur fossils. Medieval abbeys such as Rievaulx, Byland, and Mount Grace dot the park, along with numerous castles like Helmsley and Pickering. Visit in summer and early autumn to make the most of the stunning colours in the landscape, or escape the crowds be heading there sooner rather than later!
Stay: Pickering, Whitby, Scarborough
The Yorkshire Dales boast the Pennines as well as plenty of idyllic English farmland with drystone walls, rolling hills, pretty moors and wilder sights such as the dramatic Cautley Spout waterfall. Walk long-distance on the Dales Way or the Pennine Way, head out for a day pony-trekking, or get to know some of the cycle routes, and if you’re up for the challenge – the Three Peak Challenge is a good ‘un. There are also more than a handful of historic villages to enjoy a slower pace of life.
Stay: Harrogate, Ripon, Darlington
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
If you truly want to get away from it all then this national park, which boasts countless lochs and over 20 Munros – that’s mountains over 3,000 feet – as well as miles of coastline and the Argyll Forest will be sure to offer you a retreat. Walkers flock to the West Highland Way and anglers and bird watchers stick to the loch edges, but apart from that you should be able to venture out of foot or bike into glorious solitude. Especially if you visit outside the summer months, just be sure to wrap up warm!
Stay: Balloch, Stirling and Fort William