From enchanting lakes reflecting cloud-speckled skies to wild moors blanketed by vivid purple heather, the natural beauty of the UK has provided endless inspiration to artists, authors and poets over the centuries, and our national parks were set up to preserve this wild beauty.
With a variety of spectacular national parks to explore, there's nothing quite like the Great Outdoors here in Britain, and with 15 to choose from there's bound to be one within a relatively short distance from your house. We've picked out some of our favourite, but scroll down for a complete list of all 15.
The most popular park in the UK boasts blissful panoramas of dramatic hilltops, verdant valleys and, of course, the shimmering lakes that give the district its name. It's no wonder William Wordsworth fell in love, dubbing it 'the loveliest spot that man hath found'.
From a cruise on the waterways to hiking the mountains, the Lake District is chock-full of outdoorsy opportunities you won't soon forget.
Highlights of a trip to the Lake District include the beautiful Lake Windemere, the historic Levens Hall and, for the little ones, the World of Beatrix Potter.
Peak District National Park
The Peak District
Names can be deceiving at the Peak District, which is made up of gently undulating hills, magnificent gorges, rugged moorland and picturesque valleys but has hardly a peak in sight.
This is the park of choice for those who enjoy the rambling life, thanks to the selection of interesting stately homes and ancient stone villages that pepper the landscape.
Highlights of a trip to the Peak District include the stunning Chatsworth House and charming Bakewell, while Crich Tramway Village makes a fun day out for the whole family. Popular walking routes include the Monsal Trail, Tissington Trail, Kinder Scout and the impressive limestone ravine at Dovedale.
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Yorkshire's popularity just seems to grow and grow. Characterised by drystone walls, rolling hills, lonely farmhouses and bustling market towns, the UK's largest county has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other region outside London. The Yorkshire Dales remains a fantastic outdoor arena for recreation, peaceful relaxation and a haven for wildlife.
Dartmoor National Park
Idyllic Dartmoor is a picturesque land where you half expect hobbits to come tumbling out of the hills. Cascading streams dash against moss-swaddled boulders whilst wild ponies pick their way over heather-strewn moors.
Take some time to explore the diverse villages and market towns of this region or go one step further, rent a self-catered holiday cottage and live like a local.
There's plenty to see and do in Dartmoor, especially if you enjoy strolling through old churchyards and abbeys, with Buckfast Abbey and Buckland Abbey being particular highlights. For a family day out little ones will love the Miniature Pony Centre, while adults might enjoy a trip to Alder Vineyard.
Snowdonia National Park
For those who cannot resist a skyline dominated by the silhouettes of formidable peaks, Snowdonia National Park with its nine mountain ranges may well tick all the boxes.
As well as the mighty Snowdon, towering to an elevation of 1,085 metres above sea level, this part of Wales offers a range of attractions including coastal hikes, pony treks, heritage railways and wildlife water cruises. You really will be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do.
As well as countless beautiful mountains, lakes and gorges to explore you can also take tours of abandoned slate mines or visit the charming mountain villages, accessible by old steam railways winding their way past sparkling waterfalls and lakes.
The picturesque bridge over the River Colwyn at Beddgelert is a particular favourite with visitors, and a trip to iconic village of Portmeirion in Gwynedd is a must for fans of 60s TV series The Prisoner. Those with a taste for adventure will no doubt enjoy a trip to Zip World Fforest, or one of the many mountain bike trails or watersports in the region.
Wales is blessed with more than its fair share of spectacular natural beauty... Find out about our holidays to Wales here
Cairngorms National Park
Scotland's Cairngorms National Park features some of the highest summits to be found in the UK, as well as an impressive mountain plateau renowned for being the highest landmass in Britain. The name 'Cairngorm' means 'The Red Mountains', and refers to the red granite that would have dominated the landscape after the glaciers retreated, and although erosion has dulled the colour they are still striking.
Wild landscapes, fairy-tale castles, ancient traditions and legendary monsters define the captivating Scottish Highlands. The region may appear remote at first glance, but this beautiful part of Scotland is actually very accessible and certainly worth the journey. This sparsely populated region contains some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery and vast areas of unspoilt wilderness.
A bird-watcher's paradise, this other-worldly landscape of rocky granite and bouncing heather also plays host to a range of fascinating creatures, from wildcats and pine martens to golden eagles and reindeer herds. If you're lucky you might even spot the Loch Ness monster!
Popular sights in the Cairngorms include Loch Morlich, An Lochan Uaine and the RSPB site at Loch Garden. If you're feeling adventurous quad biking in Rothiemurchus or scaling the 2,000 foot Cairngorm Mountain might be in order. Looking for refreshments? Cairngorm Brewery has a shop and brewery tours, and there are several small distilleries in the area, including the highest distillery in Scotland at Dalwhinnie.
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Brecon Beacons National Park
The Brecon Beacons
This slice of paradise pie is located in the southeast corner of Wales, where the sparkling River Wye snakes its way along the British border.
Brecon country offers a glorious setting of patchwork fields and flawless countryside as well as a catalogue of activities as diverse as cycling, rambling, fishing and stargazing.
Popular attractions in the Brecon Beacons include the Penderyn Distillery, the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh and a sheep shearing experience at Jacob Sheep Trekking.
The New Forest
The New Forest contains a magnificent and almost unrivalled variety of scenery and is one of our newest National Parks, having been designated a National Park in 2004. It was created as a royal forest by William the Conqueror in 1079 for the hunting of deer and in the almost 1,000 years since then it has retained the 'new' part of its name, although it is anything but new.
The forest is famous for its abundance of ponies each pony, although privately owned, is allowed to roam free in its natural and original environment. As well as providing a visually remarkable and historic landscape, the New Forest has large areas of surviving lowland habitats which had been lost elsewhere in the country, including valley bogs, wet heaths, dry heaths and deciduous woodland.
The UK's 15 National Park
- Peak District, England
- Lake District, England
- Snowdonia, Wales
- Dartmoor, England
- Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales
- North York Moors, England
- Yorkshire Dales, England
- Exmoor, England
- Northumberland, England
- Brecon Beacons, England
- The Broads, England
- Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, Scotland
- Cairngorms, Scotland
- New Forest, England
- South Downs, England
Visit our Days Out in the UK section for more inspiration, including the best canal routes in the UK and idea for fun new ways to explore the UK
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