National Park Guides

Exploring the Variety of National Parks in the UK

POSTED ON October 25, 2023 BY RALPH S.


Introduction

Welcome to the United Kingdom, a country known for its rich history, cultural diversity, and bustling cities. But amidst the hustle and bustle of urban life lie hidden treasures waiting to be explored—the national parks of the UK. These parks offer stunning scenery, wildlife, and trails that are off-the-beaten-path. With fewer visitors, you’ll have a chance to reconnect with nature, peace, and solitude.

While places like the Peak District and Lake District are well-known among tourists, there are many other lesser-known national parks waiting to be discovered.

Here, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of the hidden gems of the UK national parks that offer unique experiences away from the usual tourist hotspots. So grab your hiking boots and get ready to explore.

National Parks in England

England’s national parks are known for their stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage. From the rugged moors of Dartmoor to the rolling hills of the Peak District, there is no shortage of beautiful national parks to explore.

These hidden gems offer a quieter and more intimate experience compared to their more popular counterparts. So lace up your hiking boots and get ready to discover the lesser-known but equally breathtaking national parks in England.

Broads National park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 117.0 sq mi (303 square kilometers)
  • Location: Norfolk and Suffolk, East of England, United Kingdom
  • Number of Visitors: Over 7 million visitors a year.
  • Establishment: April 1, 1989
  • Number of hiking trails: About 19 forest trails
  • Total length of hiking trails: Approximately 199 miles (320 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: Sea level
  • Highest point: Beechwood Marsh, West Somerton, at 338 feet (103 meters)

Nestled in the heart of the United Kingdom’s best national parks, Broads National Park in Norfolk, England, is a true gem that seamlessly blends natural beauty with local history. This remarkable national park is a testament to the harmonious coexistence of nature and human heritage, making it a perfect destination for a family adventure.

The Norfolk Broads, a network of shallow lakes, are at the heart of this park, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, and wildlife watching. But Broads National Park isn’t just about picturesque landscapes and outdoor activities. Its history dates back to the Middle Ages, when peat was dug, leading to the formation of these iconic broads. Exploring the region, you’ll come across historic windmills, quaint villages, and charming cottages that tell the story of a bygone era.

Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 369.1 sq mi (956 square kilometers)
  • Location: South-West England, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: Around two million day visitors per year.
  • Establishment: October 30, 1951
  • Number of hiking trails: About 46 footpaths and bridleways
  • Total length of hiking trails: 730 miles (1,173 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: Doghole Bridge at 98 feet (30 meters) above sea level
  • Highest point: High Willhays at 2,039 feet (621 meters) above sea level

Dartmoor National Park is located in south-west England and is known for its wild and rugged landscapes. The park offers an excellent opportunity for campers, hikers, and backpackers to explore the moors and valleys.

The park has the largest concentration of prehistoric remains in the UK, including stone circles, hut circles, and standing stones. You can also spot wildlife such as ponies, deer, and birds of prey. The park has a unique flora, including mosses, lichens, and heather.

Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 267.6 sq mi (693 square kilometers)
  • Location: South-West England, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 2 million per year
  • Established: October 19, 1954
  • Number of hiking trails: Over 103 footpaths and bridleways
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 1000 miles (1610 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: Exmoor Coast at sea level
  • Highest point: Dunkery Beacon at 1,703 feet (519 meters) above sea level

Exmoor National Park, located in the southwestern part of England, is a hidden gem among the UK’s national parks. This national park in England is a breathtaking blend of stunning landscapes and untamed wilderness that will leave you rejuvenated.

Green valleys sprawl across this idyllic park, offering a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The fresh air fills your lungs as you explore the winding trails and rolling hills, making it the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts and hikers.

One of the most enchanting aspects of Exmoor National Park is its population of wild ponies.

Lake District National Park

Lake District National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 885.0 sq mi (2,292 square kilometers)
  • Location: North-West England, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 18 million per year
  • Establishment: May 9, 1951
  • Number of hiking trails: Over 50 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: Approximately 1990 miles (3,203 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: Duddon Estuary at sea level
  • Highest point: Scafell Pike at 3209 feet (978 meters) above sea level

Nestled in the heart of the UK, the Lake District National Park stands as a testament to beauty and a rich tapestry of local history. As England’s largest national park, the Lake District boasts an array of natural wonders that have captivated generations of visitors.

At the heart of this captivating region lies the Lake District, a picturesque landscape adorned with emerald-green valleys, glistening lakes, and rugged mountains. England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, and its tallest mountain, Scafell, dominate the skyline, offering a challenge to avid hikers and mountaineers.

Lake Windermere (location), the largest natural lake in England, adds to the region’s allure, providing opportunities for boating and lakeside adventures. But the Lake District isn’t just about the stunning scenery. Its history, with links to literary greats like Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, adds depth to the park’s charm.

New Forest National Park

New Forest National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 224.0 sq mi (580 square kilometers)
  • Location: Hampshire Wiltshire, England
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 13–14 million per year
  • Establishment: March 1, 2005
  • Number of hiking trails: Around 115 footpaths and bridleways
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 300 miles (483 kilometers) in total
  • Lowest point: Avon Water at sea level
  • Highest point: Pipers Wait at 459 feet (140 meters) above sea level

New Forest National Park, located in the picturesque countryside of southern England, is a true jewel among the UK national parks. This enchanting national park is renowned for its unique blend of beauty and the freedom of its inhabitants.

The New Forest, after which the park is named, is a sprawling expanse of ancient woodlands and heathlands. What sets this park apart is its population of wild ponies. These gentle creatures roam freely, an iconic sight that captures the essence of this natural haven.

For outdoor enthusiasts, a horse ride is a popular activity in New Forest National Park. The park boasts an extensive network of trails and bridleways, offering a unique way to explore this lush landscape.

The North York Moors

North York Moors

Quick Facts

  • Size: 554.4 sq mi (1,436 square kilometers)
  • Location: North Yorkshire, England
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 8.74 million per year
  • Establishment: November 29, 1952
  • Number of hiking trails: Approximately 320 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 700 miles (1,127 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: River Tees at sea level
  • Highest point: Urra Moor at 1,490 feet (454 meters) above sea level

The North York Moors National Park, a jewel among the UK national parks, is a place of enchanting beauty and remarkable diversity. Spanning the striking North York Moors, this national nature reserve is rich in history, natural wonders, and activities for outdoor enthusiasts.

As you explore the vast expanse of the North York Moors, you’ll encounter ancient monuments and ruined abbeys, reminders of a bygone era. Hikers and mountain bikers will revel in the extensive network of trails that wind through the moors, while fishing villages along the coast offer a delightful contrast to the rugged landscape. Horseback riding is another popular way to immerse oneself in the park’s serene ambience.

The North York Moors National Park is known for its fresh air and pristine landscapes, where the night skies are so dark that it’s designated an International Dark Sky Reserve.

Northumberland National Park

Northumberland National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 405.0 sq mi (1,049 square kilometers)
  • Location: North East England, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 1.27 million per year (2021)
  • Establishment: April 6, 1956
  • Number of hiking trails: Around 111 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 600 miles (965 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: River Tweed at sea level
  • Highest point: The Cheviot at 2,674 feet (815 meters) above sea level

Northumberland National Park is located in north-east England and is the least visited national park in the UK. This park offers a unique blend of rugged landscapes, history, and culture.

The park boasts the darkest skies in England, making it a perfect spot for stargazing.

If you’re into hiking, then the 84-mile (135-kilometer) Hadrian’s Wall Path is a must-do national trail that runs the length of the park. You’ll also find the Cheviot Hills (location), which offer an excellent chance to spot rare wildlife such as red squirrels, otters, and birds of prey.

The Peak District National Park

The Peak District National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 555.2 sq mi (1,438 square kilometers)
  • Location: Cheshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and West Yorkshire
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 13.25 million per year
  • Establishment: April 17, 1951
  • Number of hiking trails: Over 93 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 1,500 miles (804 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: River Trent at sea level
  • Highest point: Kinder Scout at 2,086 feet (636 meters) above sea level

Established in 1951, the Peak District National Park holds the prestigious title of being the UK’s first national park. Nestled in the heart of England, this enchanting park is a true gem among the country’s collection of natural treasures.

The Peak District is renowned for its captivating landscapes, which are characterized by rolling hills and breathtaking vistas. The park’s winding trails offer opportunities for exploration, with each turn revealing a new and inspiring view.

Horse-riding enthusiasts are in for a treat, as the Peak District’s bridleways and paths provide a picturesque backdrop for an equestrian adventure.

South Downs National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 633.6 sq mi (1,641 square kilometers)
  • Location: South East England, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: approximately 16 million per year
  • Establishment: November 12, 2009, but became operational on April 1, 2010
  • Number of hiking trails: Around 167 footpaths and bridleways
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 500 miles (804 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: Beachy Head at sea level
  • Highest point: Blackdown Hill at 919 feet (280 meters) above sea level

Nestled in the picturesque landscapes of England, South Downs National Park is a shining gem among the country’s best national parks. Spanning across the iconic South Downs, this national park offers visitors a delightful escape into nature.

The South Downs are characterized by their gentle, rolling hills, creating a soothing and inviting atmosphere. The fresh air in this park is invigorating, making it a perfect destination for those seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

East Sussex, a county known for its charm and history, is a significant part of the South Downs National Park, offering a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

Yorkshire Moors Dales

Quick Facts

  • Size: 841.3 sq mi (2,179 square kilometers)
  • Location: North Yorkshire, Westmorland and Lancashire, England
  • Number of visitors: approximately 5.21 million (2021)
  • Establishment: November 16, 1954
  • Number of hiking trails: Over 450 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 900 miles (1,449 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: River Tees at sea level
  • Highest point: Whernside at 2,415 feet (736 meters) above sea level

Nestled in the heart of Northern England, the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a true gem among the UK national parks, renowned for its awe-inspiring landscapes and an array of activities.

The Yorkshire Dales are characterized by their iconic rolling hills and majestic mountains, offering a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts. Rushing rivers wind through the valleys, providing both a soothing ambience and opportunities for outdoor adventures like kayaking and fishing.

One of the park’s most famous attractions is Aysgarth Falls, a series of cascading waterfalls that make for a truly mesmerizing sight. Aysgarth Falls is just one of the many natural wonders that adorn this national park, drawing visitors with its captivating beauty.

National Parks in Scotland

Scotland is a land of breathtaking landscapes and wild beauty, and it boasts some of the most stunning national parks in the UK. From rugged mountains to pristine lochs, Scotland’s national parks offer endless opportunities for outdoor adventures.

Here are the hidden gems of Scotland’s national parks, giving you a taste of what makes each one unique.

Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 1,748.3 sq mi (4,528 square kilometers)
  • Location: Scottish Highlands, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 1.92 million per year
  • Establishment: January 6, 2003
  • Number of hiking trails: About 43 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 750 miles (1,207 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: Loch Morlich at 984 feet (300 meters) above sea level
  • Highest point: Ben Macdui at 4,295 feet (1,309 meters) above sea level

The Cairngorms National Park is the largest national park in the UK. Located in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, this park offers breathtaking landscapes, wildlife, and adventures.

You can hike to the summits of Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui, the second-highest peak in the UK. The park is home to the famous reindeer herd, red squirrels, golden eagles, and ospreys. You can also explore the ancient Caledonian forests, waterfalls, and lochs.

In winter, the park offers skiing, snowboarding, and winter climbing.

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Loch lomond & the trossachs national park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 720.1 sq mi (1,865 square kilometers)
  • Location: Scotland, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 4 million per year
  • Establishment: April 24, 2002
  • Number of hiking trails: Over 49 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 450 miles (724 kilometers) in total
  • Lowest point: Loch Lomond at sea level
  • Highest point: Ben More at 3,852 feet (1,174 meters) above sea level

Nestled in the heart of Scotland, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is a true gem among the UK national parks. This pristine wilderness encompasses some of Scotland’s most stunning beauty and offers a wealth of activities for nature enthusiasts.

Majestic mountains dominate the landscape, providing a challenging yet rewarding playground for hikers and mountain bikers. The iconic Loch Lomond (location), the largest freshwater lake in the UK, adds to the park’s allure with its sparkling waters and the opportunity for water-based activities like kayaking and boating.

The national nature reserve in the Trossachs area is a haven for wildlife, offering a chance to spot a wide range of flora and fauna. The park’s extensive network of trails and paths caters to outdoor enthusiasts of all levels, ensuring that there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

National Parks in Wales

Wales may be a small area, but it boasts some of the most stunning national parks in the UK. From snow-capped mountains to rugged coastlines, these parks offer a diverse landscape and endless opportunities for outdoor adventures.

Whether you’re seeking peace and solitude or an adrenaline rush, there’s something for everyone in these beautiful Welsh landscapes.

Here are three options for you:

Brecon Beacons National Park

Brecon Beacons National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 521.6 sq mi (1,351 square kilometers)
  • Location: South Wales, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 3.4 million per year
  • Establishment: April 17, 1957
  • Number of hiking trails: Approximately 38 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 500 miles (805 kilometers) in total
  • Lowest point: River Taff at 394 feet (120 meters) above sea level
  • Highest point: Pen y Fan at 2,907 feet (886 meters) above sea level

The Brecon Beacons National Park is located in South Wales and offers a blend of traditional cultural landscapes, wetlands, and hills.

The park offers an opportunity to hike to the highest peak, Pen Y Fan (location), and admire the stunning views of the Black Mountains. The park has numerous waterfalls, including the famous Sgwd Yr Eira waterfall.

You can also explore the traditional Welsh towns and villages and learn about the rich history and culture of the area.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 239.4 sq mi (620 square kilometers)
  • Location: Pembrokeshire, Wales, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: Approximately 4.15 million per year
  • Establishment: February 29, 1952
  • Number of hiking trails: Around 38 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: Over 600 miles (965 kilometers) in total
  • Lowest point: Sea level
  • Highest point: Foel Drygarn at 1,325 feet (404 meters) above sea level

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is located in West Wales, and it’s the only UK national park that’s a coastal park. The park offers magnificent views of the sea cliffs, beaches, and bays.

You can explore the 186-mile (299 km) Pembrokeshire Coast Path (location), which runs right through the park. This trail offers a chance to spot dolphins, seals, and seabirds. The park also has a rich history, from the Neolithic burial chamber to the Norman castles and St. David’s cathedral.

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park

Quick Facts

  • Size: 827.0 sq mi (2,142 square kilometers)
  • Location: North Wales, United Kingdom
  • Number of visitors: approximately 10 million per year
  • Establishment: October 18, 1951
  • Number of hiking trails: Over 50 paths and tracks
  • Total length of hiking trails: About 1,497miles (2,409 kilometers)
  • Lowest point: River Conwy at sea level
  • Highest point: Snowdon Mountain summit at 3,560 feet (1,085 meters) above sea level

Nestled in the breathtaking landscape of Wales, Snowdonia National Park is a true jewel among the UK national parks. This pristine wilderness boasts a mesmerizing blend of beauty and thrilling adventures.

Majestic mountains and rolling hills define the park’s scenery, making it a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts. Snowdon, often referred to as “Wales’s highest mountain,” is the centerpiece of the region and a popular destination for climbers and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s a place where you can ascend the tallest mountain in Wales and enjoy panoramic views that stretch to England’s tallest peak.

But Snowdonia National Park isn’t just about rugged terrain. The park’s borders extend to some of North Wales’ sandy beaches, offering a serene contrast to the rugged landscape. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Snowdonia is also home to some of the UK’s most exhilarating zip lines, allowing you to soar above the treetops and valleys.

Conclusion

Exploring the less-known national parks in the UK offers a chance to discover hidden gems and enjoy peace and solitude. With endless opportunities for outdoor activities and stunning landscapes to explore, a national park family holiday is sure to create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

The parks offer breathtaking landscapes, wildlife, history, and adventures. From the rugged moors of Dartmoor to the coastal cliffs of Pembrokeshire, there’s something for everyone.

So, grab your hiking boots, backpack, and camera and start exploring the less-known national parks in the UK.

Check out our National Parks Guide to find more exciting destinations worth visiting.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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