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15 National Parks to visit in the UK + things to do [2022]

Did you know we actually have 15 national parks in the UK? And 10 national parks in England. All of which are right on our doorstep just waiting to be explored! Whether you are looking for adventure, history, wildlife, or tranquillity there is a UK national park to match! 

Chances are if you are visiting the UK for a holiday, or even if you live in England, you are going to want to visit at least one or two of the UK National Parks.

Keep read for my UK national parks list…

In this blog post, we run through all 15 national parks in the UK (including the 10 national parks in England) and give you an overview of what you can expect from each one, as well as three suggestions in each national park, of places you should consider checking out, to get you started on planning your next trip…

Here is a short guide to the 15 national parks in UK and beyond….

national parks in uk

How many National Parks in the UK are there?

*UK national parks list in no particular order 

England has 10 national parks, Wales has three national parks and Scotland has two national parks.

Here is my list of national parks in the UK.

  1. Exmoor
  2. Dartmoor
  3. The Broads
  4. South Downs
  5. New Forest
  6. Peak District
  7. Lake District
  8. North York Moors
  9. Yorkshire Dales
  10. Northumberland
  11. Pembrokeshire
  12. Brecon Beacons
  13. Snowdonia
  14. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
  15. Cairngorms

But of these national parks in the UK is the best to visit?

 

Map of national parks UK

Credit: OS Get Outside

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15 of the best national parks UK

But which UK national park is the best? Here are the best national parks in the UK.

Exmoor

The first on my list of national parks in UK is Exmoor national park. It is one of the UK’s smallest parks but don’t let this put you off; with a beautiful coastline and open moorland, it is a great location for exploration and adventure. Exmoor is also home to a number of important habitats and species making it a great location for wildlife watching. The landscape also makes it perfect for enjoying a day of hiking before lunch in one of the historical villages. The coastline sitting 314 metres above sea level is the highest in the UK providing spectacular views of the cliffs and beaches, just waiting to be explored.

3 things to check out: Lynmouth, Exmoor Pony centre, Dunster Castle

Want to know where Exmoor is? Check out the national parks UK map above.

 

Dartmoor

The natural landscape of Dartmoor UK national park has been an inspiration for a number of famous authors and once you see the moorland and impressive Tors it’s easy to see why! The likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Michael Morpurgo found inspiration in the mystery of Dartmoor. This beautiful park is steeped in history and intrigue with the vast open moorland and miles of hiking trails its the perfect escape for those looking for adventure and mystery. Another amazing UK national park! 

3 Things to check out: Haytor, Chagford, Meldon Viaduct

 

The Broads

Next up on my list of national parks in UK, is Broads national park forms the UK’s largest protected wetland and waterways with hundreds of miles to explore by boat this is a truly unique national park. Whether you want a day trip boat hire, week long canal boat stay or a simple paddle in a kayak this UK national park can accommodate you! Alternatively, you can enjoy the waterways by land and take in the beauty from one of the riverside paths by foot or by bike. Whatever you decide the beautiful wildlife and scenery of this park is an amazing experience.

3 things to check out: Great Yarmouth Minster, How Hill, Norwich

Want to know where The Broads is? Check out the national parks UK map above.

 

LOOKING TO GO WILD SWIMMING?

Check out 48 best Wild Swimming spots near me

national parks in uk

South Downs

As the UK’s newest national park, the South Downs offers an exciting mosaic of habitats to explore; from chalk grassland; to woodland; all the way to the iconic chalk cliffs at Seven Sisters. As the most populated national park you are never too far away from a local pub or public transport which makes it a great location for those looking to get outdoors whilst still being able to enjoy the home-comforts of a Sunday lunch and a pint.

3 things to check out: Seven Sisters country park, Kingley Vale, South Downs way

 

New Forest

Next up on my list of national parks in UK is The New Forest national park is perfect for nature lovers, with an abundance of wildlife in the unique ecosystem; from the ancient woodland to heathland and coastline there is something for everyone to explore. An iconic feature of the new forest is the free-roaming animals from sheep to cattle and the famous new forest pony it’s rare to travel a few miles without spotting one of these guys. There are plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching and taking in the natural landscape, this is the perfect park for those looking for a place of quiet reflection and reconnecting with the natural world. An amazing national park in England which is well worth a visit!

3 things to check out: Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve, Heritage Centre, Hurst Castle

Want to know where the New Forest is? Check out the national parks UK map above. 

 

Peak District

Famous for being the ‘original national park’ the Peak District has a long and exciting history. The boundary of the park is the site of the 1930s ‘mass trespass’ which paved the way for hundreds of people to start enjoying the countryside and to connect with nature. This UK national park is a great choice for those looking to connect with nature and enjoy the countryside, with a myriad of accessible trails and access routes it is a perfect place for everyone to enjoy the outdoors.

3 things to check out: Bakewell, Castleton, Heage Windmill

North York Moors

Perfect for history lovers the North York moors offers everything you could want to see in a UK national park and more. This park boasts over 1,500 ancient boundary stones and crosses as well as 800 schedules monuments around historical villages and enchanting forest ready to be explored. It is also home to a beautiful coastline including the famous fishing villages of Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay which are well worth checking out. An amazing national park in England which is well worth a visit!

3 things to check out: Helmsley, Sutton Bank, Castle Howard

 

Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales offers a great picturesque escape into the English countryside, with rolling valleys full of meadows, stone barns, and sheep. This is the perfect UK national park for those looking for a bit of adventure juxtaposed with the calming nature of the classic British countryside. It is also home to the famous Yorkshire three peaks as well as the UK’s most extensive caving system, including the highest unbroken underground waterfall in the country.

3 things to check out: White Scar Caves, Dale’s countryside museum, Ingleton waterfall trail

Want to know where the Yorkshire Dales is? Check out the national parks UK map above. 

 

Lake District

Next up on my list of national parks in UK is one of the most iconic…. Perhaps one of the UK’s more well-known national parks The Lake district boasts stunning scenery, wildlife, and amazing cultural heritage. This is the perfect park for those looking to enjoy a natural landscape and get into the ‘great outdoors’. As the name suggests the Lake District is also perfect for trying out a new water activity such as kayaking, windsurfing, or paddleboarding.

3 things to check out: Lake Windermere, Keswick, Stone Circles

national parks in uk

Northumberland

Northumberland national park is the UK’s least populated national park making it the perfect escape for those looking to get away. It boasts some of the cleanest rivers and waterways in the UK, as well as being one of the best parks for stargazing and experiencing dark skies. Northumberland is also home to The Sill an ambitious national park project to help more people access the UK’s national parks. It holds regular events and activities as well as acting as an information centre for anyone new to exploring national parks in UK and in need of guidance. An amazing national park in England which is well worth a visit!

3 things to check out: Hareshaw Linn, Hadrian’s Wall, The Sill

 

Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire coast national park is the UK’s only park focused on coastline, and although small it is home to some of Wales most important ecological sites and habitats which are internationally recognised and home to rare species. It’s location on the coast makes it perfect for anyone who loves to be by the ocean, with a variety of coastal walks, water activities and beach views to enjoy.

3 things to check out: Carew Castle, Castell Henllys, The beaches

Want to know where Pembrokeshire is? Check out the national parks UK map above.

 

Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons is one of the most accessible national parks in UK situated only 3 hours from London and 1 hour from Cardiff, Newport, and Swansea. It offers a variety of different landscapes and is considered to be an area of outstanding natural beauty. From waterfalls, woodlands, and heathlands there is something for everyone. It is a huge range of accessible walking and cycling routes as well as being rich in history with several prehistoric sites, and medieval settlements bursting with local myths ready to be explored. An amazing national park in Wales which is well worth a visit!

3 things to check out: Big Pit National Coal Museum, Red Kite feeding Station, Talybont-on-Usk

national parks in uk

Snowdonia

My absolute favourite, next up on my list of national parks in UK, Snowdonia national park. Located in Wales it is the highest national park and home to the highest mountain in England and Wales. This national park is perfect for those seeking adventure. The vast landscape offers nine mountain ranges, and twenty-three miles of coastline to explore, which is perfect for enjoying the natural landscape and stargazing. The rugged mountains offer ample opportunities to discover new activities from climbing, and bouldering to hiking and caving.

3 things to check out: Mount Snowdon, Dolbadarn Castle, Llyn Tegid

 

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs

Next up on my list of national parks in UK is Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, which offers the perfect get-away without having to get too far away! This national park is where the lowlands meet the highlands. The south offers varied scenery with different moor and lochs whilst the North marks the start of the mountains. Located only an hour’s drive away from 50% of the Scottish population the park offers a huge variety of activities for everyone. 

3 Places to check out: The Loch, Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Benmore Botanic Garden

 

Cairngorms

The Cairngorms is the UK’s biggest and most northernly national park encompassing a wide expanse of different landscapes and attractions, including the highest range of mountains in the UK. Located in the Scottish Highlands and established in 2003, nearly half of the park is considered ‘wild land’. This park is perfect for those seeking a wilder adventure! However, don’t panic just yet if snow is not your thing because there is plenty of other activities to explore within the park including a range of rivers, woodlands, and nature reserves!

3 Places to check out: Aviemore, Strathspey Railway, Balmoral Castle

 

If you on a bigger trip exploring more of Europe check out my guides to FranceGermany, Greece, IcelandItalyPortugalSpain and United Kingdom.


My Travel Tips and Recommendations

Flights

To book flights, I always use flight search engine Skyscanner, I regularly use the Everywhere tool to find the cheapest places to travel. It’s how I get to travel so much all around the world. I find it the easiest way to compare flight prices across airlines and get the best deals. 

Accommodation

For accommodation, I usually book most of my hotels or hostels through Booking.com. I love using this platform as it provides me with some amazing deals for accommodation all around the world. Or if you prefer, I also recommend using Airbnb. 

Travel Insurance

Picking travel insurance that covers you in all eventualities is an essential part of planning a trip for every single person. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. You never know what’s around the corner. 

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Thank you for reading and as always happy adventuring! If you have any questions about the destination please leave these in the comments below.

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Sophie xxx

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