National Parks in England: The Good, The Great & The Must-Visit
Updated On: January 21, 2023
National parks in England are not exactly the first thing to come to the mind of people while planning a trip to Old Blighty. But that’s a shame, as the country has a plethora of national parks that must be on any traveller’s bucket list.
Beyond the castles and palaces that beam with grace, England is home to enchanting natural beauty, namely the English national parks. Each of England’s national parks is remarkable and is an excellent alternative for a holiday outside the city.
National parks in England have been popular destinations to travellers for many years and continue to be so. The parks are scattered across the country so everyone can enjoy the charming scenery and unspoilt wildlife.
A visit to one of England’s national parks is a chance to experience the treasures of nature. But which of England’s national parks should you visit? We’ve gathered all 10 of the national parks in England to help you plan your perfect outdoor adventure.
1. Broads National Park
The Broads National Park has picturesque bodies of water and is home to rare wildlife. Its rich history and extraordinary ecosystems create a unique atmosphere for visitors to interact with nature. To protect this wetland, the Broads Authority does its best to look after the animals and plants and maintain the waterways, alongside taking responsibility for conservation, tourism, and planning.
The park is the perfect place for a wide range of outdoor activities; visitors can enjoy the park’s diversity with hiking trails, cycling paths, and swimming paths.
However, what differentiates the Broads from the rest of England’s national parks is that it has around 1/4 of the rare species found in the United Kingdom, like the Norfolk hawker dragonfly, in addition to more than 250 distinctive plants.
2. Dartmoor National Park
Dartmoor National Park is famous for its wild heather blooms. It is located in southwest England and surrounded by stone circles. There are also medieval villages where visitors can drop in to enjoy the park’s historical monuments and wildlife.
Cycling and walking trails run through the park, and walking along them offers dramatic scenery and steep wooded river valleys. What’s unique about Dartmoor is that visitors can explore the natural treasures all by themselves —for example, by going on a ‘wild’ hike with tents. There are also special Dartmoor ponies that are only found in the area. The park was the setting for many films, books, and songs, such as War Horse (2011).
Dartmoor offers a lot; from moorlands and deep river valleys with rich history and rare wildlife to outdoor activities, it is definitely one of the finest of England’s national parks.
3. Exmoor National Park
Exmoor National Park encompasses some stunning woodland, moorland, valleys, and farmland landscape. Its medieval villages are charming, and the surrounding standing stones and Roman forts delight visitors with their vast landscapes.
The park is an excellent gathering hub for friends and families who enjoy Exmoor’s neighbouring nature and available activities.
As for hikers and cyclists, they can walk through the park’s ancient oak woodlands, along rivers and open heathland. There are also high cliffs and views over the Bristol Channel, which adds to the park’s alluring.
4. Lake District National Park
With its towering hills and deep glacial lakes, the Lake District National Park is one of the largest English national parks. It’s home to the highest mountain in the country, Scafell Pike, as well as Wastwater, the deepest lake in England.
While there, immerse yourself in nature and explore the park along the lakes and high hills; it is a soothing experience like no other.
There are also several thriving rural communities living near the 16 local lakes. Since there’s plenty of water in the park, tourists are encouraged to paddle, sail, windsurf, kayak, and even fish. You can also go swimming or just soak your feet if you like.
There are numerous activities in the national park, so visitors won’t get bored and will enjoy the cheerful vibes. You can even visit the park’s historical sites that have inspired writers and poets over the last few decades.
5. New Forest National Park
Located in the south of England, the New Forest National Park is known for its magnificent scenery, ancient and modern woodland, and open heathland. If you want to explore unique nature with rich history, then New Forest is the best option for you.
The park’s vast landscapes boast an array of activities you and your family can enjoy, including horseback riding and golfing.
The park has a fascinating history as it was used by William the Conqueror as a hunting ground. At that time, he presented several feeding grounds for cattle, deer, ponies, and pigs. All these animals gradually formed a unique landscape that became the perfect place for people to explore its rivers, valleys, and marshes.
6. North York Moors National Park
One of the UK’s most valuable natural resources, the 550 square mile North York Moors National Park is a wonderfully scenic wilderness. There are purple heather flowers, rocky shores, old stone houses, and lots of long-haired sheep roaming around.
One of the best activities to explore the park is walking, and the 110-mile (177 km) Cleveland Way from Helmsley to Filey gives you perfect views of the mountain and coastal variety.
We recommend taking the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which runs through 18 miles of picturesque countryside. It is an exhilarating experience you should add to your list.
7. Peak District National Park
The UK’s oldest national park was established in 1951 and is located in central England. Unlike what the name might suggest, the park is not full of peaks but rather rounded hills, limestone, and valleys. With a large area of around 555 square miles, the park presents many different landscapes.
There is much to enjoy at the park; water sports, air sports, horse riding, climbing, cycling, fishing, and much more. The Peak District has an activity for everyone, and there is never a dull moment spent there.
Jane Austen used the Peak District as the backdrop for a major scene in her novel Pride and Prejudice, and some scenes from the 2005 film version of the novel were filmed in the park.
8. South Downs National Park
The South Downs was established to protect the unique natural beauty, historical sites, and diverse flora and fauna of the South East coast of England, most notably the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs near the English Channel. The ancient chalk hills are the geological stars of the area, stretching along England’s east coastline.
9. Yorkshire Dales National Park
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is famous for its deep valleys created by the flowing rivers that cut through the hilly terrain. There are more than 2500 caves in the park, the most famous of which is Gaping Gill.
Covering over 841 square miles of open land, where sheep can be seen strolling comfortably along the paths and fields marked by dry stone wells, the Yorkshire Dales is a working environment where 24,000 people live.
10. Northumberland National Park
Want to have a true National Park experience? Then head right away to Northumberland National Park. Nestled between the Scottish border in the north and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hadrian’s Wall, the park is considered England’s most tranquil corner.
Although it is considered the ideal spot for history and culture lovers, the national park is the least visited and least populated out of the 15 national parks in the UK. But despite being the northernmost national park in England, the activities and sites in Northumberland National Park will satisfy any type of visitor.
Walking, hiking and cycling can all be done here. However, we would recommend spending time exploring the beautiful villages of Harbottle and Holystone in the centre. Afterwards, head north towards the Scottish border, where you can find the renowned Cheviot Hills, home to the spectacular Linhope Spout. Of course, for history buffs, Hadrian’s Wall is a must-visit. This spot alone has a Dark Sky Discovery Site (Cawfields), a perfect place for picnics (Walltown Country Park), and UK’s National Landscape Discovery Centre (The Sills).
The fun (albeit peaceful) doesn’t just end there. As the least populated out of all the national parks in the UK, nature can breathe freely here, and so can you! Explore the fantastic varied wildlife, from stunning waders and rare reptiles to the cutest squirrels and goats. The park also enjoys some unique habitats, including heather moorland, hay meadows with gorgeously colourful flowers, and vital peat bogs.
To sum up, you can’t go wrong with the English national parks. No matter which one you decide to visit, you are guaranteed to have fun!