Holidays: National Parks
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The UK has 15 incredible national parks, offering a wide number of outdoor activities, from sunny coastal walks to serious mountain climbing. They are among the most atmospheric and remote places to stay in the UK. Expect a charming mix of bucolic villages and breathtaking wilderness that have inspired British poets and artists for centuries. As protected landscapes, wildlife is abundant and scenic views unspoiled. Travel here to experience the heart of Britain.
The Lake District is the UK’s favourite national park. Home to sylvan valleys, tranquil lakes and majestic mountains, the Lake District is a hiking paradise. There are also ample Beatrix Potter-related attractions in and around Windermere. These include the children's favourite, the World of Beatrix Potter, her former residence, Hill Top, and a number exhibitions, including one in Wray Castle.
Wales' Pembrokeshire Coast is the UK's only coastal national park. This wild landscape of volcanic rock and sea stacks makes for spectacular days out. You can walk the entire coast along a well-maintained trail or visit historic seaside cities like St Davids. If you’re looking to explore the coast in depth, it’s worth downloading the free Coast to Coast app developed by the national park. It contains vital information about tides so you can make the most of your beach visits.
One of England’s most enigmatic forests, the New Forest provides a blissful walk. The forest is home to Douglas firs and redwoods, as well as beech and ancient oak trees. Some 5,000 ponies wander throughout the park, making it an ideal location for animal lovers. It’s also among the country’s oldest protected royal forests, having been established by William the Conqueror.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs are one of Scotland’s most extraordinary natural areas. Home to the UK’s largest lake, the best way to explore this region is on foot via the quiet eastern shore. Heading north, you'll find dense forests and breathtaking mountain vistas, while the south is more pastoral. Inchcailloch is among the region's highlights, sitting remote off the coast of Balmaha and accessible by waterbus.
Encompassing a varied landscape of rugged Pennine hills and pastoral valleys, the Yorkshire Dales boasts some of England's most breathtaking natural scenery. After exploring the stunning mountains and moorland, head to a cafe for a traditional Yorkshire tea. You'll find a number of pretty rural villages with tea rooms throughout, including in Hawes, Grassington and Malham.
Set within 7 acres of beautifully maintained grounds, Briery Wood is close to Lake Windermere with quick links to pretty Ambleside. The 19th-century cottage is tastefully decorated with period furnishings and clean, modern rooms. It’s the perfect introduction to the relaxing Lake District with excellent views of fells and lakes.
Located in the heart of Pembrokeshire's stunning coastal national park. Hammet House boasts excellent, airy rooms. Choose to explore this magical coastal region with trips toward Cilgerran Castle and the pretty town of Cardigan. The hotel itself dates back to the 18th century and is Grade II listed.
This superb country hotel is set within the relaxing landscape of the Trossachs. Explore this vibrant region in luxurious style with walks in the country followed by cosy evenings in the hotel's bistro. This is undoubtedly one of the finest hotel experiences available in the Loch Lomond region.
The UK’s national parks are popular summertime excursions, but they are fine year-round provided you pack and dress appropriately. Shoulder seasons in spring, late-summer and early-autumn are ideal if you’d like to avoid the crowds. The Lake District, for instance, gets particularly busy in the July – August season with fewer hotel spaces. Likewise, the Trossachs are a keen favourite for travellers in Scotland during the warmer seasons, with direct links to hubs like Glasgow and Stirling. Winters in northern national parks often see snow and ice, with potentially dangerous conditions for the unprepared in remote mountains like the Cairngorms. Winter remains one of the most atmospheric periods to visit national parks, but hiking and mountain trails will be limited. The New Forest is particularly pretty during winter.
Most of the UK’s national parks require a car to fully explore. The UK’s train network is comprehensive and well connected, but it doesn’t service smaller villages within national parks. In the Yorkshire Dales, for instance, you’ll find limited train networks with many villages only accessible via road. As such, it’s best to rent a car to get around the UK’s national parks.
The UK’s national parks are popular weekend and day excursions for sightseers and hikers, but a more comprehensive itinerary is required if you want to truly explore the landscapes. Larger national parks like the Trossachs, Snowdonia, the Lake District, Cairngorms and Yorkshire’s two parks will require at least a week to explore. Smaller parks like the New Forest and Dartmoor make perfect day’s out. Nevertheless, however long you spend in these enigmatic national parks, there’ll always be something else to explore on a return trip.
The UK's national parks run the gamut of gentle, rolling hills to rugged, wild terrain. They've caught the imagination of artists, writers and poets for generations. Follow in their footsteps with a trip to a national park. Whether you choose the misty and magical waters of the Lake District or the wild and windy moorland of the North York Moors, the UK's national parks are places where British history and culture were and continue to be made.