The U.K. national parks contain some of the nation’s most beautiful and inspiring landscapes. The country’s dedication to preserving green space is one aspect I love about Britain.
The U.K. National Parks Service, which includes England, Scotland, and Wales, maintains 15 parks; 10 in England (covering a land surface area of 9.3% of the country), 3 in Wales (covering a surface area of 19.9.% of the country), and 2 in Scotland (covering a surface area of 7.2% of the country). Northern Ireland currently has no national parks.
I’ve done train, car, bus, and good old fashioned walking all over Britain, and one thing I can say is they’ve done a great job of preserving much of the country’s natural beauty.
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Peak District, England
The Peak District is England’s first national park covering a gorgeous stretch of terrain in central England, mostly in the county of Derbyshire.
Not to be confused with the more northern Lake District, this expansive national park is an area of outstanding beauty that keeps me coming back year after year. What I love most about this area is the almost perfect way it’s laid out; rolling hills lined with stone walls, dramatic landscapes and cliffsides, old castles and churches, quaint charming villages dotting the countryside, and the occasional grand stately homes (Lyme Park House pictured above) as a cherry on the cake.
The Broads, England
Located in Norfolk in eastern England, the Broads is Britain’s largest protected wetlands, with more waterway mileage than Venice! The 125 miles of waterways are best navigated by boat as you explore historic pubs, old churches, and unique windmills.
The Lake District, England
Situated in northwest England, the Lake District is the largest national park in England comprising 912 sq mi of high mountains, lakes, rivers and coastline, and receives almost 16 million visitors a year (pre-covid).
Dartmoor National Park covers an area of 368 sq mi in southwest England in the county of Devon. The rugged moorlands offer a real sense of remoteness and escape, despite being easily accessible by car which is convenient.
Yorkshire Dales, England
The Yorkshire Dales is a large upland area covering 841 sq mi in the historic county of Yorkshire in northern England. The Park holds extraordinary natural beauty, a diversity of wildlife habitats, rich cultural heritage, and awesome opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Northumberland is the northernmost national park in England stretching from Hadrian’s Wall to the Scottish border. The Park covers an area of more 400 sq mi, entirely in the county of Northumberland, and is one of the least populated and least visited of the National Parks.
South Downs, England
The South Downs is England’s newest national park, designated March of 2010, covering 628 sq mi in southern England from Winchester to Eastbourne through the counties of Hampshire, West Sussex, and East Sussex. The park is home to the famous White Cliffs of Dover, as well as being packed with wartime history.
New Forest, England
The New Forest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled pasture land, heathland, and ancient woodland in southern England. Covering parts of Hampshire and Wiltshire, the New Forest National Park was first given protection by William the Conqueror nearly 1,000 years ago.
North York Moors, England
North York Moors National Park stretches between Scarborough and Middlesbrough on the northeast coast of England, featuring a huge expanse of lovely heather moorland.
Situated not far from Dartmoor just on the other side of Devon, Exmoor National Park has an abundance of moors, forests, coast, and rivers for the outdoor enthusiast to explore.
Named after Mt. Snowdon, the largest mountain in Wales, Snowdonia National Park has inspired poets, princes, and songwriters for generations. It’s easy to see why Snowdonia is one of the most visited places in Wales.
The mountainous region in northwestern Wales covers an area of 823 sq mi with gorgeous mountains, glens, and shimmering lochs. You can explore one of the last real wildernesses of Europe, home to red deer, osprey and golden eagle.
Brecon Beacons, Wales
The 519 sq mi National Park is centred on the Brecon Beacons range of hills in southern Wales. Brecon is a wonder to behold with the rolling landscape and large spaces distrubed only by a peaceful village nestled in the low valleys.
Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales
The smaller 243 sq mi National Park along the Pembrokeshire coast in western Wales is a spectacular stretch of coast that contains dramatic sights to see as you breathe the healthy sea air.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, Scotland
Located in the southern highlands of Scotland, the 720 sq mi park is centred on the famous Loch Lomond and the glens of the Trossachs. The ‘bonnie bonnie banks’ of Loch Lomond as immortalised in song and verse epitomize the true taste of the Scottish Highlands.
Situated in the northeast of Scotland, the 1,748 sq mi wild landscape of the Cairngorms is Britain’s largest national park; almost twice the size of the Lake District. The park has 60 lochs and many more lochans (small lochs), along with more than half the surviving Caledonian forest.