discover-national-parks

15 best National Parks you need to visit on your UK staycation this year

It's Discover National Parks fortnight

Eve Rowlands

With the possibility of vaccine passports being introduced and restrictions on international travel still in place, the opportunity to explore new and exotic destinations will have to remain on hold this summer.

READ: 5 best house swap destinations for a UK staycation this summer

The idea of a staycation might not fill you with excitement, but the UK actually has some incredible sights to be seen thanks to its wide array of National Parks. These designated protected landscapes offer "stunning natural beauty, beautiful wildlife and fascinating cultural heritage," according to National Parks UK.

With restrictions allowing day trips between counties in England and Wales, we've put together a list of the UK's most loved beauty spots in line with Discover National Parks Fortnight (4 April – 18 April). With 10 (yes, 10!) in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland, there's bound to be one you can visit.

Before we get into the where's and why's, first things first - plan ahead and keep up with the latest news. As much as we love spontaneity, always check your local government website for updates on travel and coronavirus restrictions. 

RELATED: 25 UK hotels you need to visit for a post-lockdown weekend getaway

1. Dartmoor

dartmoor

Haytor Rock in Dartmoor

Located in South Devon, Dartmoor has been an established park since 1951. Boasting stunning green moorlands, it is home to many walking, hiking and cycling trails and even England’s tallest waterfall. Full of archeological sites, the park and its surroundings pack a historical punch from granite tors to Neolithic monuments. Get your fill of fresh air, exercise, and culture all in one! 

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit dartmoor.gov.uk

2. Exmoor

exmoor

Heather blossoming on Holdstone Down

Overlooking the Bristol Channel, Exmoor became a designated National Park in 1954. With sites dating back 8000 years, spectacular coastal views, expansive moorlands and deep wooded valleys, it is an important historical landscape with its many undisturbed archaeological sites and monuments.

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

3. New Forest

new-forest

The New Forest National Park is perfect for hikers 

"Protecting together, saving tomorrow," is Southampton's New Forest National Park's motto. With walking being the preferred method of transport around the park, they have many historic walking trails for you to explore dating back to 1759. Galleries, gardens, cycle routes and pre-prepared itineraries are on offer for a more relaxing getaway. 

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit newforestnpa.gov.uk

4. South Downs

south-downs

The National Park’s wildflower grasslands are gorgeous

Only a stone's throw away from London, the park nicknamed 'Gateway to England' boasts forests and rare chalk grassland. Another rarity: it is the only place to host all of the UK’s native amphibian and reptile species. If that isn't enough, it holds International Dark Sky Reserve status, making it one of the best places in the world to view the night sky.

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit southdowns.gov.uk

5. The Norfolk Broads

norfolk-broads

Pay St Bennett’s Abbey a visit 

The Norfolk-based park is referred to as the 'Venice of the East' and is made up of six rivers that link the broads. Alongside walking, cycling and cultural sites, the broads are famous for – you guessed it – their waterworks. With over 125 miles of lock-free waterways, novices and nautical experts alike can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, or hire out a boat for the day! 
Currently, due to restrictions, this National Park is not open to the public just yet.

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit visitthebroads.co.uk

6. The Peak District

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Dusk or dawn, the Peak District National Park is a beauty

Made up of 555 square miles covering parts of Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire, the 70-year-old Peak District is the UK's original National Park, and stands at the heart of England. With wild moorlands fielding hundreds of wildlife species, walking, climbing and caving are popular activities.

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit peakdistrict.gov.uk/home

7. Yorkshire Dales

yorkshire-dales

Moorlands as far as the eye can see

With waterfalls, glens, dales, Abbeys and gorges in abundance, this wild and rugged national park will have you feeling like Cathy from Wuthering Heights! It is also home to the Three Peaks Challenge, should you wish to embark on a challenging outdoor adventure after months spent cooped up inside. 

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit yorkshiredales.org.uk

8. North York Moors

north-york-moors

Explore the history of the Wheeldale Roman road

"From pretty villages to stately homes, mighty abbeys to magical museums and of course, fabulous food and art, the North York Moors National Park is full of special places," the website boasts. If the rolling hillsides and film-famous castles (from both Victoria and Bridgerton) bordering Scarborough and Whitby don’t convince you, we don't know what will! 

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit northyorkmoors.org.uk

9. Lake District

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Cumbria's nature reserve is straight out of Lord of the Rings

Located in Cumbria, England's largest national park holds World Heritage site status. Roman remains, stone circles, and cloud-skimming fells surround the rolling valleys which can be experienced on walking or cycling trails. You can even camp under the stars after exploring one of its 12 lakes.

 For more information and COVID guidelines, visit lakedistrict.gov.uk

10. Northumberland

northumberland

Hadrian's Wall is 73 mile-long hikers dream

Northumberland National Park hosts one of the UK's most photographable spots - the Sycamore Gap tree. This tree also happens to stand in the dip of the famous roman ruin, Hadrian's Wall. To its left sits Castle Nick, named for its placement on the 'nick' of the hillside.

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk

11. Loch Lomand and the Trossachs

loch-lomond

Visit Scotland on a Loch Lomond cruise

With Scotland currently under tighter restrictions, these National Parks are out of reach for many of those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Keep these on your bucket list! 

Sunset strolls and sunrise mountain walks are encouraged when visiting this National Park. With 22 lochs, one natural lake, Britain’s biggest body of freshwater and 39 miles of coastline to discover, water is never far. Take this opportunity to dive headfirst into the plethora of aquatic activities on offer - even if it's just a day cruise!

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit lochlomond-trossachs.org

12. The Cairngorms

cairngorms

Visit wild lochs and sky-high sights on your Scottish staycation

Situated in the Scottish Highlands, The Cairngorms boasts five of Scotland’s six highest mountains with 52 summits over 900 metres. From granite tors to Ice Age glaciers, the park also holds some of the best examples of different landforms outside arctic Canada. Skiing, walking and fishing draw many outdoor lovers to experience its wow factor. 

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit cairngorms.co.uk

13. Brecon Beacons

brecon-beacons

Brecon Beacons National Park’s waterfalls are breathtaking

Home to Wales' famous Pen-Y-Fan hike and waterfalls walk, the mid-Wales national park covers 520 square miles from Monmouthshire to Merthyr. Established in 1957, the park, whose name derives from the central Beacons which dominate Brecon's skyline, hosts eight places on Cadw's Register of Landscapes of Outstanding and Special Historic Interest. With over 250 ancient monuments to visit and quaint villages, you're in for a treat.

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit www.breconbeacons.org

14. Snowdonia

snowdonia

The PYG is Snowdon’s most challenging path for hikers

'Land of contrast' embodies this North Walian National Park. One minute you're up in the clouds on Mount Snowdon’s Peak, the next you're lapping up the waves at Black Rock Sands. Whether you're travelling by foot, bike or car, its landscape basked in rich mythology make Snowdonia a legendary experience - with Arthur, Excalibur and Merlin making appearances throughout.

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit snowdonia.gov.wales/home 

15. Pembrokeshire Coastline

pembrokshire-coastline

The blue lagoon is a must-see

Recommended to be visited on foot, this is a walker's paradise and should be at the top of any wayfarers list. Covering 186 miles of coastal scenery, West Wales' National Park boasts beautiful beaches, craggy volcanic outcrops, limestone cliffs and green rolling hills. Doing it all in one go is a feat, so break up the trip - the blisters from your walking boots will be well worth the view.

For more information and COVID guidelines, visit pembrokeshirecoast.wales

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