Best National Parks in the UK

Bluebells and the pikes, Great Langdale | John Millen
Bluebells and the pikes, Great Langdale | John Millen
The UK boasts 15 national parks that showcase the most breathtaking and unique landscapes in the island nation. From the dramatic chalk cliffs in the South Downs to the rugged mountain ranges and lochs of Scotland, all of the UK’s national parks have their own unique identities and are natural paradises for outdoor enthusiasts. 
Here are our picks of the best national parks in the UK and our favourite trails in each. 
Bridge at  Side House farm, Great Langdale |  <i>John Millen</i>

1. Lake District

The Lake District in the northwest corner of England in Cumbria county is famous for its forests, idyllic villages, lakes, the highest mountains in England, and the artists, poets and writers it has inspired. It is a popular holiday destination for active travellers and by far the UK’s most popular national park, and in 2017 it became the first national park in the UK to be designated as a World Heritage Site, because of its unique hill-farming culture.
The Cumbria Way is a 70 mile (112km) trail that cuts a path through the heart of the Lake District National Park and links the historic towns of Ulverston and Carlisle on the Scottish border. The route uses valley systems where possible to avoid mountain passes. 
Find out more about walking the Cumbria Way
Exploring around Dent in Spring |  <i>Katia Vignes</i>

2. Yorkshire Dales

A huge chunk of the magnificent Yorkshire Dales in northern England has been designated a national park. Each of the Yorkshire Dales has its own distinct character, for example the Northern Dales are characterised by wild heather moorland, hay meadows and dry stone walls, while the Western Dales are renowned for their charming, picturesque villages.   
The area boasts magnificent castles and abbeys, lush valleys, ancient woodlands, spectacular waterfalls and some of the best limestone landscapes in the UK. 
James Herriot Way, a stunning circular walk around Wensleydale and Swaledale’s green valleys, has been described as the best short walk in England. The 50 mile (80km) walk takes in some of the countryside that James Alfred Wight wrote about in a series of books that spawned a film and the popular television series ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. 
Find out more about walking the James Herriot Way
The Highland fault and Loch Lomond |  <i>John Millen</i>

3. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs

The fantastically diverse landscapes in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park are steeped in folklore and history. The enormous national park boasts more than 20 significant lochs, including the largest lake in the UK, forests as far as the eye can see, rugged mountain ranges, unique villages and the historic city of Stirling. It is also home to a quarter of the UK’s threatened bird, animal and plant species. 
The John Muir Way is a 134 mile (or 215km) long-distance trail across the heart of Scotland, linking Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute in the west to Dunbar, East Lothian in the east. It is Scotland’s version of England’s Coast to Coast Walk. The trail is named after its famous son, who is best known for his writing, for founding the Sierra Club, and for his activism, which helped save Yosemite Valley and other wilderness areas. 
Find out more about walking the John Muir Way
Looking towards the Seven Sisters

4. South Downs

Easily accessible from London and the Southeast by train, the South Downs National Park is a haven for nature lovers. Although it’s been a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for half a century, it was only awarded National Park status in 2011, making it one of the UK’s newest National Parks. 
The South Downs encompasses a wide range of landscapes, including historic bustling market towns, rolling hills, dramatic chalk cliffs, ancient woodland and heaths and vineyards. 
The South Downs Way stretches exactly 100 miles (160km) from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex. Much of the ancient route is along old droving roads and follows the soft limestone ridge to the north of the popular seaside towns on the Hampshire and Sussex coast. 
Find out more about walking the South Downs Way
Approach to Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island

5. Northumberland

Sandwiched between Hadrian’s Wall and the Scottish border, Northumberland National Park is in the most tranquil corner of England, making it the perfect place to get away from it all. Despite its pretty villages, impressive prehistoric monuments and wealth of natural attractions, including valleys, hay meadows, waterfalls, moorland and pristine rivers, it is one of the least visited national parks in the UK. 
St Cuthbert’s Way is a 62 mile (100km) trail linking Melrose in the Scottish borders and Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland, England. The walk reflects the life of St Cuthbert, a 7th century monk, and traverses some of the most unspoiled countryside in the UK. 
Find out more about walking St Cuthbert’s Way

>> Browse our full range of walking trips in the UK
>> Prefer cycling? Check out our range of UK cycling holidays
United Kingdom, Walking

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