A One Day Guide to UK National Parks

National parks cover nearly 10% of England’s land area and nearly 20% of that in Wales. It's no wonder the idea of spending the weekend up a mountain, on a lake, or rambling through the countryside is second nature even to the owners of Britain’s stiffest upper lips.

Those who believe that the UK is a place of uptight, feeble, and cold-blooded aristocrats who’d sooner taste a cup of tea than an adventure could not be more wrong. For while most Brits would certainly like a cup of tea before, during and after their adventure, that’s exactly why every household has its own thermos flask – for a brew on the go. 

Far from a land of over-civilized cities and stately homes, much of Britain is protected wild land: national parks cover nearly 10% of England’s land area and nearly 20% of that in Wales. It's no wonder the idea of spending the weekend up a mountain, on a lake, or rambling through the countryside is second nature even to the owners of Britain’s stiffest upper lips.

It also means that whether you visit the UK for urban stimulation or rural recreation, you’re never very far from a national park. And there’s plenty there you can get on with even if you only have a day to spare – leaving you time to jump on a train in the morning, have an adventure all day, and pick up a bag of fish and chips to eat on the train back to your accommodation. A thermos is optional… but recommended.

1. Lake District (England)

Spectacular mountainous region in North West England, famous for its lakes and hills.

2. Snowdonia (Wales)

A beautiful mountainous region in North Wales and a National Park of 823 square miles.

3. Peak District (England)

Easily accessible by road and rail, the Peaks attract millions of visitors every year.

4. Dartmoor (England)

An area of moorland in southern Devon. It covers 368 square miles and is rich in archaeology.

5. Yorkshire Dales (England)

Famous for its magical scenery and distinctive hills, the Yorkshire Dales attract over eight million visitors every year.

6. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs (Scotland)

The fourth largest National Park in the British Isles. It includes 21 Munros, 19 Corbetts, two forest parks and 57 designated nature conservation sites.

7. Pembrokeshire Coast (Wales)

The only National Park in the UK to have been designated specifically because of its spectacular coastline.

8. Exmoor (England)

Exmoor National Park, which runs through parts of Somerset and Devon, is a superb destination for a coastal adventure. Rock climbing, scrambling, and diving all make up some of the exciting methods that go into ‘coasteering’, and once you make it into the water there’ll be plenty more to see.

9. Northumberland (England)

The northernmost National Park in England. It covers an area of more than 400 square miles between the Scottish border and Hadrian's Wall.

10. North York Moors (England)

Renowned for its open heather moorland, rocky coastline and dark night skies, the North York Moors provide a diverse landscape.

11. Brecon Beacons (Wales)

The Brecon Beacons will take you a bit higher. This mountainous area is made for climbing or a more modest ramble, and you’re sure to find a pub to refresh yourself at the end of the day.

12. The Broads (England)

A network of mostly navigable rivers and lakes in the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

13. New Forest (England)

An area of southern England which includes one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pastoral land, heathland and forest in the South East of England.

14. South Downs (England)

A spectacular range of chalk hills that extends across the south-eastern coastal counties of England.

15. Cairngorms (Scotland)

A mountain range in the eastern Highlands of Scotland. Rich in mountains, rivers, lochs, and wildlife.

Image source: This infographic from Sykes Cottages

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

G. John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. He is a digital nomad and his passions include world cinema, the beautiful outdoors, and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spott...