Where will you spend your next holiday? If you would like to spend it enjoying the beautiful countryside of the UK, there is no better place to do that than a national park, and when it comes to national parks, the UK has an embarrassment of riches. In fact, the hardest part of planning a vacation to UK national parks is likely to be narrowing down the list! Here, we give you some help with that, by offering a guide to what we consider the 10 best national parks in the UK.
Location: North Wales
Spanning miles of gorgeous and rugged terrain in North Wales, Snowdonia is home to Mount Snowdon, the tallest peak in Wales. Ride a vintage train to the top of this lofty peak on a clear day, and you will be able to see Ireland, Scotland, England, and Isle of Man from the peak. Of course, the park has 827 square miles of area, so there is much more than just one mountain; in fact, there are nine mountain ranges inside this breathtaking park. Known as the UK’s adventure capital, it also has beautiful lakes, glittering waterfalls, sandy beaches, and some very impressive castle ruins, so it is the perfect place to explore. It is also home to the world’s fastest zipline, a surfing facility, an alpine rollercoaster, and underground trampolines. When you tire of all that adventure, you can simply soak in all that natural beauty.
What makes this national park unusual is that many of its best features are manmade. Within these 841 square miles of rolling hills are captivating little towns and villages like Kettlewell, Hawes, and Kirby Lonsdale that are so picturesque they nearly steal the show from natural wonders like Aysgarth Falls and Malham Cove. Still, there are few things greener or more pleasant than the gentle valleys, rushing rivers, and tumbling waterfalls of Yorkshire, and the sturdy stone villages only add to the character of the place. The scenery is so captivating, in fact, that it has starred in shows like All Creatures Great and Small, and movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Yorkshire Dales is the perfect place for hiking and biking, but it is also perfect for a lazy day spent watching the scenery from the window of a train on the Settle-Carlisle railway line. When you visit, do not miss the Ribblehead Viaduct, a marvel of Victorian engineering that supports this beloved railway line as it sweeps toward Scotland.
Location: South Wales
The UK’s only fully coastal national park, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park features some of the most stunning shoreline in Britain, with striking cliffs over gorgeous golden sand beaches. Take a boat ride to one of the park’s little islands to watch the puffins, seals, and porpoises, or walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path along the twists and turns of the coastline. Also, on one of these isles, Caldey Island, is a working Cistercian abbey. This is just one of the many historical and archaeological sites in this national park, and another is Pentre Ifan, which looks something like Stonehenge but is the entrance and only remaining trace of a Neolithic tomb lost to time.
Boasting some of the most beautiful scenery you could ever hope to enjoy, North York Moors National Park is not only popular with outdoor enthusiasts but also with photographers. Rolling hills, wooded dales, fields of heather, and captivating coastline hold places that seem magical, like Hayburn Wyke, a rocky cove, complete with a waterfall, hidden behind woodland filled with deer. From grand old abbeys to charming fishing villages against the backdrop of craggy cliffs, there is much to adore about this national park. At night, the views are just as stunning as they are in the daytime, because the national park is an International Dark Sky Reserve, which means that there is very little light pollution, and the stargazing is wonderful.
Location: Scottish Highlands
This park is the largest protected area in the UK, and holds five out of six of Scotland’s highest mountain peaks. With vast stretches of untouched wilderness, much of Cairngorms can only be explored on foot or by skis. It is one of the coldest places in the country and its peaks are blanketed in snow for much of the year. Fragrant pine forests frame picturesque villages that make the perfect base of operations from which to explore this iconic national park. It is one of the top parks for climbing, but you will also find three impressive rivers here, along with 60 lochs, huge wetlands, and a quarter of all Scotland’s native woodland.
Location: South Wales
Renowned for its rugged terrain, this park is used by the military to train soldiers. However, there is plenty to love about Brecon Beacons National Park, too. The striking Black Mountain, the lovely Sgwd yr Eira waterfall, and the tree-less “Great Forest” can all be found here, though much of the park is just grassy moorland, grazed by sheep and native ponies. Broad valleys, ancient woodlands, and craggy mountaintops make this corner of South Wales very appealing, and it is home to the Hay Festival, which brings together some of the most exciting creative voices in literature and arts. Like North York Moors, this park is a Dark Sky Reserve, making it the perfect remote camping spot for stargazing. The name Brecon Beacons? It refers to the sequence of green ridges housed within the park, where mountaintop fires were lit to warn of coming invasions.
Location: Northwest England
There are plenty of lakes here, but they are known by many different names: ‘meres’, ‘tarns’, and ‘waters’. England’s largest national park, this is a rugged swathe of country, molded by centuries of sheep farming. Against a backdrop of craggy fells, water activities as diverse as kayaking, paddleboarding, and yachting take place on these bodies of water. England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, is here, with many other fells and mountains, with gorgeous glacial valleys, stunning waterfalls, inviting towns and villages, and more than 1,800 miles of public footpaths and bridleways. Famously, poet William Wordsworth ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’, but you are unlikely to be lonely here, because this UNESCO-protected site has so much going for it that it is the most popular park in the UK, drawing millions of visitors each year.
Location: Norfolk Broads
The Norfolk Broads are manmade, a 125-mile network of channels created when sea levels rose and flooded peat pits dug in the Middle Ages. The Broads National Park is frequently compared to Venice, but instead of marble palaces along the seemingly endless waterways, you will find reedy backwaters occupied by otters, water voles, and some of Britain’s rarest birds and butterflies. It is a popular place to explore by boat, whether a cabin cruiser or a canoe, because this is the best way to see the charming hamlets, golden meadows, and ancient monasteries contained within this park.
The wide expanses of bleak but colourful moors, punctuated with barren granite hilltops, is the perfect place to enjoy big skies and epic sunsets. Ancient landmarks, secluded villages, and rolling mists add to the mystery of this bleak landscape, but knowing how to enjoy this beautiful space is no mystery. There are fast-flowing streams where you can fish, kayak, or swim, 450 miles of public footpaths and bridleways, and plenty of quaint towns and villages to visit. The Avon Dam Reservoir, Childe’s Tomb, and Hound Tor are all landmarks of Dartmoor, and it is a beautiful spot for camping or adventuring amongst the shaggy ponies known to graze the windswept grasses.
Huge, heather-covered hills guard Loch Lomond, Scotland’s largest lake. Straddling the fault line separating the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands, this bonny lake has snow-capped mountains on one side and verdant meadows on the other. The mountains are spectacular, with breathtaking views, and Loch Lomond is not the park’s only lake. In fact, there are 22 lochs in Trossachs National Park, and 21 Munros (mountains over 3,000 ft).
Why go to the trouble of traveling abroad when there is so much beauty right here in the UK? When you are ready to travel to a destination rich with history, bursting with charm, relaxing and beachy, or just surrounded by exquisite natural beauty, Together Travel Co. is here to bring your holiday dreams to life, just around the corner from home. All across the UK, we have luxurious, comfortable, unique properties located wherever you want to be, spending your family holidays connecting, relaxing, and enjoying all these vacation spots have to offer. Find out how we can make your trip amazing by contacting our expert concierge team at +44(0)1625 416430 or emailing us for more information.