Scattered across England, Wales and Scotland, the UK National Parks have some of the nation’s most epic landscapes. From green spaces to beautiful villages, there are plenty of opportunities to unplug and take in the scenery. With 15 in total, you’re never too far away from one of the stunning National Parks in the UK. So sit back and check out this list of National Parks in the UK and discover all the best things to see and do.
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List of National Parks in UK
Here are a list of UK National Parks by country:
- England – Broads, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Peak District, Northumberland, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, and South Downs
- Wales – Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast, and Snowdonia
- Scotland – Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs
Map of the UK National Parks
How to Reach the UK National Parks
Most of the National Parks in the UK can be reached by train or car.
I suggest using Trainline as it is the easiest and often cheapest way to plan and book train travel in the UK.
If you plan to do a road trip and need to hire a car, I suggest using this tool to compare car rental prices.
National Parks in England
Peak District National Park
The Peak District is the UK’s first National Park and was founded in 1951.
Located across 5 counties, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, it’s central location makes it the most accessible as it is within a 4 hour drive of 80% of the UK’s population.
The landscape is made up of rugged, rocky moorlands and grassy limestone dales, ensuring it is great for cyclists, rock climbers and hikers alike.
In fact the most popular thing to do in the National Park is to take advantage of the many beautiful walks in the Peak District.
The Peak District also has plenty of attractions to visit such as Blue John cavern in Hope Valley, one of the best show caves and caverns in England, and the many historic stately homes such as Chatsworth House in Bakewell.
- Best Time to Visit: September for the autumnal colours and lower crowds
- Closest City: Sheffield
- How to Get There: 30 minutes by train from Sheffield, 45 minutes by train from Manchester, 2 hrs 30 minutes by train from London
- Where to Stay: YHA Castleton Losehill Hall or these beautiful Airbnbs in the Peak District
Lake District National Park
Situated in Cumbria, the Lake District is England’s largest National Park.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is filled with awe inspiring landscapes, deep glacial lakes and quaint rural villages, so it’s no wonder the Lake District National Park has inspired many artists and writers over the years including Wordsworth.
The Lake District gets its name from it’s 16 sparkling lakes, that are perfect for swimming, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and fishing.
However that doesn’t mean the Lake District is not a dream destination for hikers.
There are plenty of trails to keep you busy for weeks including the one day hike to the top of Scafell Pike (978m), England’s highest mountain.
If you want to relax, explore some of the beautiful villages such as Ambleside, Hawkshead, and Bowness-on-Windermere.
- Best Time to Visit: September – October
- Closest City: Manchester
- How to Get There: 5 hours by car from London, 1 hr 30 mins by car from Manchester, 2 hours by car from York
- Where to Stay: Unique Airbnbs in the Lake District
South Downs National Park
Rolling green hills, bustling market towns, and hidden coves make up the picturesque South Downs which is the newest National Park UK.
The perfect day trip from London includes hiking the famous white cliffs at Seven Sisters.
Starting from Eastbourne and heading to Seaford, you’ll pass traditional lighthouses, golden beaches and of course an ice cream stand or two.
If you want to extend your hike, the South Downs Way national trail is 160 km long and stretches from Winchester to Beachy Head. If you want a shorter hike try the Halnaker tree tunnel walk.
The South Downs is best explored by foot, on horseback, or even by air on a paraglider.
- Best Time to Visit: Spring – early Summer
- Closest City: Winchester
- How to Get There: 60-90 minutes by train from London
- Where to Stay: Winchester Royal Hotel
Northumberland National Park
One of the most tranquil National Parks in England is Northumberland.
It’s remote hills stretch from Hadrian’s Wall to the Scottish border, and are perfect for ramblers.
It is the least populated National Park in the country, and is home to 700 miles of trails which make it easy to get off the beaten track.
During the day there are plenty of adventurous activities on offer from climbing to horse riding, cycling and watersports on the Kielder Water lake.
When darkness falls, the skies come alive as Northumberland National Park is one of the least polluted areas of England and home to Europe’s largest area of protected night sky.
This makes it is one of the best places in the UK to see the Milky Way and one of the top things to do in England.
- Best Time to Visit: Spring
- Closest City: Newcastle
- How to Get There: 6 hour drive from London, 1 hr 45 min drive from Edinburgh
- Where to Stay: The Hadrian Hotel
Yorkshire Dales National Park
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is situated in the central Pennines in the counties of North Yorkshire and Cumbria.
Famed for its limestone scenery and underground caves, the dramatic landscapes of the National Park make it one of the best to hike in.
If you’re up for the challenge, you can summit the Yorkshire Three Peaks – Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent.
Or if you are looking for something less strenuous hike to the top of Malham Cove and enjoy the beautiful waterfall views.
For cheese lovers, The Wensleydale Creamery, is found at the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and is home to the famous Wensleydale cheese.
First created by monks nearly a thousand years ago, the creamery is now open to visitors who want to learn more about the cheese making process and of course try the real thing!
- Best Time to Visit: September
- Closest City: Leeds
- How to Get There: 4 hours by train or car
- Where to Stay: Ribblesdale Pods
Broads National Park
Situated in Norfolk, the Broads National Park is England’s largest protected wetland and offers 200km of scenic waterways.
It is also one of the most biodiverse UK National Parks and is home to over a quarter of the nation’s rarest wildlife.
Known as the ‘Venice of the East’, the Broads can be explored on the flat footpaths, cycle routes or most popularly by boat.
Whilst sailing the waterways you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fish, and explore the pretty towns, great pubs, and distinctive windmills along the way.
There are also plenty of other watersports on offer including kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding, that make for an action packed microgap adventure.
- Best Time to Visit: Spring for bird watching but November is great if you want to see baby seals on the beaches!
- Closest City: Norwich
- How to Get There: Less than 2 hrs by train from London
- Where to Stay: Hotel Wroxham
Dartmoor National Park
The South west tip of England is home to the wild moors of Dartmoor National Park.
Famous for its wild ponies, ancient granite tors and stone circles, Dartmoor is one of the best all year round Nationals Parks in England.
From gorse in the Spring, to Bracken in Summer and golden tones in Autumn, the views are colourful whenever you visit.
The most unique aspect of Dartmoor compared to the other UK National Parks is that wild camping is permitted here. Just make sure to follow the rules here.
Also make sure you visit the medieval market towns of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, and Tavistock, and visit the beautiful Buckfast Abbey.
- Best Time to Visit: September
- Closest City: Exeter
- How to Get There: 4 hours by train or car from London
- Where to Stay: Edgemoor Hotel
Exmoor National Park
Located in the south-west of England, are the moorlands, valleys, forests, and dramatic coastlines that make up the Exmoor National Park.
Great for climbing, mountain biking, horse riding and trail running, the Exmoor National, is also home to The South West Coast Path.
Just make sure to look out for the Exmoor ponies that are bound to join you on the trail.
On the water you can try sea kayaking, if you prefer to stick to lakes, try canoeing in Wimbleball Lake.
- Best Time to Visit: Late Summer/Autumn
- Closest City: Taunton
- How to Get There: 3 hr 30 mins by car from London
- Where to Stay: Tarr Farm Inn
New Forest National Park
Named by William the Conqueror nearly 1000 years ago, the New Forest National Park isn’t all that new!
It also isn’t all woodlands, and includes wild open heathlands and stretches of beautiful coastline.
One of the most unique aspects of the New Forest is how many wild animals roam free including the ponies and horses that are almost guaranteed to be seen grazing on the heather.
It’s therefore no wonder the New Forest National Park is one of the best places to go horse riding in the UK.
If you prefer to use your own two feet, there are plenty of walks, museums and historic villages in the New Forest to visit.
- Best Time to Visit: Spring
- Closest City: Southampton
- How to Get There: 1 hr 40 mins drive from London
- Where to Stay: Glamping sites in New Forest
North York Moors National Park
Along the north-east coast of England lies the North York Moors National Park.
Stretching from Scarborough to Middlesbrough, the area is characterised by open heather moorlands, a glorious coastline and woodlands.
Whilst perfect for hiking and biking, the National Park is also home to some of the most dazzling dark skies in England.
For sightseers, there are plenty of attractions in the North York Moors from ancient abbeys to timeless villages, and a steam railway that will transport you back in time.
- Best Time to Visit: August – September, for the heather in full bloom
- Closest City: Scarborough
- How to Get There: 4 hour drive from London
- Where to Stay: Holiday cottages in Whitby
National Parks in Wales
There are 3 National Parks in Wales, one in the North, Snowdonia National Park, one in the South, Brecon Beacons and one in the West, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Brecon Beacons National Park
The Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales is a wonder by day and night.
During the daylight discover the heather-clad cycling trails and walk along the four mountain ranges that pass through the National Park.
Favourite hikes include summiting the beautiful Pen y Fan mountain and The Dragon’s Back.
Other activities on offer within the National Park include paragliding, horse riding, caving and watersports.
Or if you prefer a relaxed trip, visit one of the nine castles in Brecon Beacons, hop onboard a narrow boat along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal and sample the local ales on offer.
During the night enjoy the incredible stargazing on offer as the Brecon Beacons is an International Dark Sky Reserve. The best spots include Usk Reservoir, Hay Bluff, and Llanthony Priory.
- Best Time to Visit: Spring for the bluebells, September for the waterfalls and heather
- Closest City: Cardiff
- How to Get There: Train or drive from London in 3 hr 30 mins
- Where to Stay: Gliffaes Country House Hotel
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
The Pembrokeshire Coast is the UK’s only fully coastal National Park.
It is made up of 300km of coastal paths peppered with over 50 golden beaches, limestone cliffs and some of the most spectacular views in Britain.
Throughout the year there are plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, by taking one of the small boats out to the surrounding islands, if you’re lucky you can witness puffins, seals, porpoises, dolphins and even basking sharks.
As well as exploring the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, make sure you drop into the smallest city in Britain, St Davids, home to less than 2000 people and visit the stunning Blue Lagoon in Abereiddy.
- Best Time to Visit: June – September
- Closest City: Swansea
- How to Get There: Just under 5 hours by train or car from London
- Where to Stay: Timber Hill
Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park in North Wales is lined with picturesque villages, impressive waterfalls and miles of sandy beaches.
Known as the adventure capital of the UK, Snowdonia offers gorge walking, ziplining and surfing as well as the usual National Park activities such as hiking and cycling.
The best hikes in Snowdonia National Park include traversing the highest mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon (1085m), via one of the eight possible routes. Or go off the beaten path on the circular Llyn Ogwen walk.
If you are looking for slower paced activities, board the famous steam engine trains on the Snowdon Mountain railway or visit one of the many castles found in Snowdonia.
- Best Time to Visit: June – August
- Closest City: Bangor
- How to Get There: 3 hours by train from Manchester, 4 hours by train from London
- Where to Stay: Tan-y-Foel Country House
National Parks in Scotland
There are only two UK National Parks in Scotland, both very close to each other, Cairngorms National Park and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.
Cairngorms National Park
The Cairngorms is the largest National Park in the UK and houses five of the six highest peaks in Scotland.
For most of the year the peaks are covered in snow and you can even ski on them during winter.
In the summer, wander the ancient pine forests and admire the shimmering lochs as you go in search of the amazing wildlife that roams the Highlands.
From red deer, to osprey, golden eagles, and woodland grouse, it’s easy to see why Cairngorms National Park is one of the wildest places left in Europe.
- Best Time to Visit: October for the Autumn colours
- Closest City: Inverness
- How to Get There: Trains from Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and Aberdeen
- Where to Stay: Macdonald Aviemore Hotel
Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park
This Scottish National Park is home to the UK’s largest lake, dozens of lochs, extensive forests and stunning mountain ranges.
Other popular things to do in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs include climbing Ben Lomond, visiting Rob Roy’s grave, and trying the local whisky at the Loch Lomond Distillery on a day tour of the National Park.
- Best Time to Visit: Summer
- Closest City: Glasgow
- How to Get There: 1 hr from Glasgow by car, 5 hr 30 mins from London by train
- Where to Stay: Loch Lomond Lodge
All the National Parks in the UK
That’s the top things to see and do in each of the 15 UK National Parks list covered but if you’re interested in more UK posts check out the below.
- 15 Best Walks in the Peak District
- Best Cottages to Stay in the Peak District
- One Day in Castleton Peak District
- Best Cottages in Whitby England
- 15 Gorgeous Airbnbs in Devon England
- 13 Stunning Places to Stay in Dorset England
- Best Places to Stay in Cornwall
- 12 Beautiful Cottages in the Isle of Wight
- Quirky and Unique Treehouse Holidays in the UK
- Best Glamping sites in New Forest
- Unique Airbnbs in the Lake District
- Beautiful villages in the Cotswolds
- Where to go Glamping in the Cotswolds
- Gorgeous Airbnbs in the Cotswolds
- Best Cottages in the Cotswolds with Hot Tubs
- Micro adventure in the UK
- Mini adventure Paddle boarding in UK