When tourists consider a trip to the United Kingdom, most will think of the big cities of London or Bath, but an alternate option for visitors is one of the many beautiful national parks across the country. Spanning hundreds of square miles each, every national park is a tranquil escape from everyday life, made up of everything from rolling hills to flowing rivers. Here are some of England’s most beautiful, travel-worthy national parks.
Of all the national parks in the UK, Northumberland National Park is both the most remote and the least visited, guaranteeing you a quiet, serene vacation. The beautiful, sprawling land covers more than 400 square miles. It includes walking routes through scenic territories, passing Hadrian’s Wall, Coquetdale, and the Cheviots. Notable tourist attractions include the moving Cheviot Memorial, honoring those who lost their lives during WWII, and the Drake Stone, a giant boulder with fun stories of magical healing powers. This park is the northernmost national park in the UK, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the country.
Snowdonia National Park is the largest park in Wales, covering more than 800 square miles of land. This park is home to Wales’ tallest mountain and largest natural lake. Running across much of the western coast, Snowdonia allows for everything from tranquil farm tours to adventurous white water rafting. The goal of this park is to preserve its natural wildlife and culture, and Snowdonia remains home to more than 26,000 residents, half of whom speak Welsh. Visitors can take educational tours and learn the history of the park, via tours of Conwy Castle, Harlech Castle, the Tomen y Mur archeological area, and Yr Ysgwrn, an old Welsh farmhouse, along with many others. Visitors will also have a chance for liesurely activity with cycling, horseback riding, and golfing.
Exmoor National Park, situated in South West England, is a beautiful escape from everyday life. There are moorlands, valleys, and farmland, as well as cozy tearooms and pubs. The park contains landmarks of the past 8,000 years, with incredible remnants of ancient villages. Unlike many national parks, Exmoor is also a living, breathing society. Active settlements populate the park, from bustling villages to quiet farmsteads. This national park has something for everyone, with gorgeous walking paths in the woodlands and along the coasts, as well as busy towns and marketplaces.
4. Pembrokeshire Coast
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park has more than 600 miles of walkways for visitors to take in the scenery of the west coast of Wales. Due to its location, Pembrokeshire Coast is filled with a diverse collection of beautiful beaches perfect for family fun, adventurous surfers, or solitary walks. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is almost 200 miles long, passing through diverse, beautiful scenery, and accessible to even the amateur explorer. Park visitors are treated to tours of the gorgeous Carew Castle and Tidal Mill, and the Oriel y Parc gallery hosts Local Makers Pop-Up Markets with wonderful unique finds. And no visit to Pembrokeshire Coast would be complete without a visit to one of its many offshore islands.
5. Lake District
Lake District National Park, perhaps England’s most well-known national park, is also one of the country’s largest. This park sits in the mountainous northwest region of England, home to both the country’s tallest mountain, Scafell Pike, and its deepest lake, Wastwater. One of the biggest draws of this park is the eponymous lakes -- Windermere, Coniston Water, Derwentwater, Grasmere, and Rydal Water, just to name a few. There are rentable kayaks, paddleboards, and motorboats, as well as guided boat tours. The lakes are surrounded by lively market towns, such as Keswick and Ambleside, as well as mountainous paths for walkers and climbers. As one of the darkest locations in the UK, the Lake District is also a prime location for stargazing. The park hosts regular viewing events and encourages visitors to settle in with binoculars and take in the night sky.
6. South Downs
South Downs National Park was home to early settlers more than 5,000 years ago, and ten years ago, it officially became England’s newest national park. South Downs is filled with incredibly diverse landscapes -- everything from rivers, valleys, woodlands, cliffs, and coasts. Located in the South of England, this national park has incredible historical sites to explore, such as an abundance of archeological sites with remnants of history from the past 1,000 years. Amberley Museum displays the history of craftsmen and offers courses in blacksmithing and pottery. Hollycombe hosts a collection of steam-powered vehicles, Weald and Downland Living Museum puts on demonstrations of activities from the past using authentic props and traditional methods, and Harvey’s Brewery is a gorgeous building and the oldest independent, functional brewery in Sussex.
Cairngorms National Park is located in northeast Scotland, and it is home to five of the six tallest mountains in Scotland. This park is filled with beautiful granite structures and formations dating back to the Ice Age. Perhaps best known for its skiing opportunities, Cairngorms has multiple ski resorts to choose from. There are also opportunities for climbing, biking, hiking, and boating. Less sporty activities available to visitors include castle visits and distillery tours. For a deep dive into the history of these locations, the Highland Folk Museum is an immersive recreation of villages of the past. There is no shortage of options of ways to spend time at the Cairngorms National Park.
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