National Parks Week, a celebration of our country’s wide open spaces, takes place from Monday 27 July to Sunday 2 August. But what is a National Park? Where are they? And why should you visit them?
What is a National Park?
National Parks are the lungs of the country. They are areas that are protected because of their beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.
There are 15 National Parks in the UK. The first, in 1951, was the Peak District, which takes in the site of the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932. This famous episode, aimed at lobbying the government and landowners to open up access to Britain’s countryside, laid the foundations for the National Parks Act of 1949. The act led to the designation of 15 National Parks over the following decades, the latest being the South Downs in 2005.
Where are the UK’s National Parks?
The UK’s National Parks span from the Cairngorms in the north of Scotland to Dartmoor in Cornwall. They cover over 10% of the land mass of England and Wales and 7% of Scotland and they are well spread from north to south. What this means is that there is a national park near you!
The ones you may be most familiar with even if you didn’t know they are national parks are the Lake District, the Peak District, the New Forest and Dartmoor. Other less visited National Parks (and maybe the better for it) are the North York Moors, Exmoor, Northumberland and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
The remaining National Parks are the Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons in Wales, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, the South Downs in Sussex and the New Forest in Hampshire.
Why should you visit?
Apart from the excitement of National Parks week and the events surrounding it, there are so many things to do in each of our National Parks at any time of the year.
They are vibrant, breathing spaces, where people live and work, where you can sample local food, learn arts and crafts, buy unique gifts and find museums of rural life.
They are massive outdoor playgrounds where you can cycle, climb, canoe, sail and glide.
They are glorious canvasses of the British landscape where you can walk, enjoy picnics, stargaze or simply stand and stare.
They are wildlife havens where you can watch birds, see rare plants, spot elusive wild animals and visit forests, rivers, lakes, meadows and moorland.
The question is, why wouldn’t you visit?
Stay at Forest Holidays, visit a National Park
Forest Holidays are ideally situated for visiting the National Parks. Four of our nine locations sit within National Parks: Ardgartan Argyll and Strathyre are in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and Cropton and Keldy are in the North York Moors.
A further four Forest Holidays locations are well under an hour’s drive from a National Park: Deerpark is 45 minutes from Dartmoor, Blackwood Forest is just half an hour from the New Forest, Thorpe Forest is under an hour away from the Broads, and Sherwood Forest is 45 minutes’ drive from the Peak District. The Brecon Beacons, just over an hour away from the Forest of Dean, is a longer journey but gives you an excuse to visit Wales.
The National Parks are part of the fabric of the nation, ready to be explored and enjoyed. Which one will you visit first?
15 secret pleasures to enjoy in our National Parks this summer
1. Soak up the breath-taking views of Kildrummy Castle in the Cairngorms
2. Spot red squirrels in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
3. Take the Hethpool Wild Goat Walk in Northumberland
4. Visit the Laurel and Hardy Museum in the Lake District
5. Witness the purple carpet of heather over the North York Moors
6. Discover Ease Gill Caves, the longest cave system in the UK under the Yorkshire Dales
7. Choose from 1700 climbing and bouldering routes at Stanage in the Peak District
8. Visit the Ugly House in Snowdonia
9. Decipher the distinctive painted signs of the Broads villages
10. Enjoy some of the 60 iconic views of the Pembrokeshire Coast
11. Stargaze from the one of the few World Dark Sky Reserves in the Brecon Beacons
12. Find the 20 inspirational sculptures on the Shipwrights Way in the South Downs
13. Spot the rare dragonflies and damselflies in the New Forest
14. Take in the views from Great Hangman, Britain’s highest sea cliff, in Exmoor
15. Go Letterboxing on Dartmoor
Find out more about the National Parks here. Book your Forest Holiday here