Make the most of the UK's National Parks

Days out, Rural

We are very lucky here in the UK to have 15 national parks, each offering something different and unique. We’ve pulled together a list of some of the top activities to do in our National Parks and we’ve detailed which parks will suit you best!

Adventures on horseback

With over 600 miles of bridle paths, the Brecon Beacons National Park offers some of the most scenic riding routes in the UK. Ancient hills roll into grassy green fields and moors which are criss-crossed by country tracks and lanes; it’s a land where you can well and truly get lost. There are lots of pony trekking and horse riding centres throughout the Brecon Beacons which cater for all abilities, whether you’re an experienced rider looking for a challenge or you want to try something new. Fall in love with the Brecon Beacons National Park on horseback.

Head for the coast

The 210 miles of coastline in Pembrokeshire National Park will definitely take your breath away. The 186 mile Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail weaves its way along the coast from St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south. For a taste of the coast, Exmoor, the New Forest, the North York Moors and Snowdonia National Park all lay claim to stunning coastal scenery. The great thing about this is that you can make the most of countryside as well. In all of these areas, fantastic boat trips take visitors to remote islands and there are tours and trips to discover hidden sea caves and secluded coves.

Mountain adventures

Five of the National Parks offer mountain ranges to explore: The Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, Lake District, the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, but no two are the same. If you’re heading to Wales, follow the A370 which will take you straight up through the Brecons and on towards Snowdonia. A picturesque drive which transports you into the heart of Wales and links the country’s two national parks. If you’re feeling really energetic, you could take part in the Three Peaks Challenge and experience Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike in 24 hours!

Take to the water

It goes without saying that the Lake District is a water sport lovers’ haven. You don’t have to be an experienced sailor or keen kayaker though, this could be your chance to try something new. Windermere is the hub for activities in the Lake District and here you can indulge in all-kinds of outdoor adventures, from messing around in hired boats to fuelling your adrenaline with waterskiing, wakeboarding or sailing. If you’d prefer someone else to be in control, then there are lots of boat trips which take visitors around the lake including the National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola.

The Lake District isn’t the only National Park with vast bodies of water though, Norfolk is well-known for its picturesque Norfolk Broads while Scotland’s beautiful lochs make up much of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

Hot air ballooning

This is a great way to admire the breathtaking beauty of the UK’s National Parks, and for couples, a romantic addition to their holiday. It doesn’t matter which National Park you choose, from the air the Cairngorm Mountains, Norfolk Broads or the rolling hills of Exmoor will all look spectacular. For trips taking off near our Northumbria cottages, check out Alba Ballooning, in the South West, Aerosaurus, or for flights all over the UK, check out Virgin Balloons.

Hill walking

If you’re not quite ready to tackle the UK’s mountains but you love a spot of hill walking, head to Dartmoor National Park in Devon. Dotted with giant granite tors with far-reaching views, Dartmoor is an absolute haven, with walks to suit all abilities. Devon benefits from a second moorland, Exmoor National Park which is connected to Dartmoor by the 102-mile Two Moors Way – made up of smaller sections of gentle walks. The 51-mile Coleridge Way allows you to walk in the footsteps of the romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Cycling

Another fantastic way to soak up the scenery and unique atmosphere of the UK’s National Parks is by taking to bike! Rather than finding your way alone, why not try one of these cycle trails which meander throughout the country. The Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway follows the ancient wall for 173 miles while the Pennine Cycleway visits three national parks, the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland. For a taste of the coast by bike, the Moor to Sea across the North York Moors starts on the coast and takes you deep into the moors. The Monsal Trail is a great option for families.

Train journeys

In the UK, there are numerous absolutely stunning train journeys which whip through the countryside and reveal some of the most breathtaking scenery. The Ravenglass and Eskdake is a perfect example, and a gem of the Lake District. Starting in the only coastal town in the Lake District, Ravenglass, the steam train takes you across the estuary and through the hills for seven miles, at the foot of the Scafell range.

Star gazing

Many of our National Parks offer the deepest dark skies which allow stars to shine bright and sometime you’ll even spot galaxies. Dark sky reserves work to ensure that dark skies remain untouched by the orange glow of light pollution above built up, populated areas. While work continues to designate more national parks as dark sky reserves, many already have that status including, Northumberland, Exmoor and the Brecon Beacons. The Lake District offers a dark sky discovery site at Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre and in the North York Moors there are sites at Dalby Observatories in Dalby Forest and Sutton Bank.

Wildlife watching

There’s no doubt that every single one of the UK’s National Parks are a haven for wildlife and birds. The RSPB operate various reserves across the country with several sites in the Norfolk Broads, the Cairngorms, Loch Lomond and Trossachs and the Pembrokeshire coast. While various other reserves are maintained to take care of wildlife throughout the National Parks and ensure safe viewing and discoveries for visitors. Not only that, but projects to help specific species and habitats flourish are also taking place all the time. There is no one National Park which beats another when it comes to wildlife, whether you’re heading to the coast, the moors or the mountains, you’re bound to set eyes on fascinating species.

Posted by Sarah on 5th January 2017