With National Parks Week taking place this week, now’s the perfect time to pack a picnic and check out some of the most beautiful National Parks the UK has to offer, courtesy of DK Eyewitness Travel: Great Britain.
Memorable for featuring in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, the landscape of the park surrounding Princeton is dotted with scores of prehistoric remains which have survived thanks to the durability of the granite sourced from the area’s rocky tors.
The varied, dramatic scenery of Exmoor National Park can be seen from over 600 miles of public paths, from the charming fishing village of Lynmouth to the ancient castle of Dunster. If you can tear yourself away from the view along the South West Coast Path, further inland you may well come across the Exmoor ponies, horned sheep, and wild red deer which graze on the wild rolling hills.
Spanning over 520 sq miles, from the Wales-England border almost all the way to Swansea, the Brecon Beacons National Park features no less than four mountain ranges: Fforest Fawr, the Black Mountains to the west, the Black Mountains to the east, and the Brecon Beacons themselves. Visitors to the park can enjoy a variety of outdoor pursuits, from fishing in the Brecon Beacons’ numerous reservoirs to pony-trekking, caving, and walking.
With some of the most spectacular scenery and diverse wildlife in Great Britain, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is waiting to be explored. This expansive park runs around the edge of South and mid-Wales, surrounding towns include Tenby and St.Davids. Whether you have a picnic near Pembrokeshire’s stunning cliffs or visit Tenby castle, you’re bound to find a new favourite spot out here.
Named Britain’s first National Park back in 1951, the Peak District’s natural beauty and sheep-grazed crags contrast sharply with the factories of nearby valley towns. Make sure to visit Heathersage, said to be the inspiration for Morton in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, as well as Dovedale, one of the park’s prettiest river valleys.
This region of stunning natural beauty has barely changed in 10,000 years, and offers endless scenic views, rambling walks, and even opportunities for watersports. Check out the major peaks, including Skiddaw, Grisedale, and Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. Of course, if you don’t fancy a climb, you are just as welcome to enjoy the views from Keswick, which has been a popular tourist destination since the end of the 18th century.
The least populated of the UK’s National Parks, has over 700 miles of paths and trails waiting for you to explore. One particularly lovely, if remote, spot in the park is the Cheviot Hills, north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. From being smoothed into rounded humps by Ice Age glaciers, the area has a long and vivid history – Roman legions, warring Scots, English border raiders, cattle drovers and whiskey smugglers have all left their traces on the hills with the tracks they carved out here over the centuries.
Situated between Thirsk, Teeside and Scarborough, the North York Moors National Park is full of beautiful moorland and lush green valleys. Featuring a (supposedly) Roman road known as Wade’s Way, the Norman-built Lastingham church and the beautiful Mallyan Spout waterfall near Goathland, the North York Moors have plenty of fascinating attractions to explore. But don’t take our word for it – with 6 million visitors every year, this National Park is clearly worth a visit.
Formed from a collection of dales, including the infamous cheese-producing Wensleydale, the land that makes up the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been shaped by 12 centuries of settlement. Cottages, castles and villages create a delightful walking environment for visitors, although that doesn’t mean you should forget the park’s natural features. Take the fluted limestone potholes near the B6270 Hawes road. These deep caverns are known as ‘Buttertubs,’ as farmers going to market used to lower their butter into the holes to keep it cool. While certainly ingenious, if you’re planning on taking a picnic on your visit, it might be easier to bring an icebox with you instead.
Whether you’ve been inspired to visit your local National Park or want to venture a little further afield, make sure you pack DK’s Eyewitness Travel: Great Britain, an indispensable guide to this beautiful part of the world. The recently-updated guide includes region-by-region information on everything from charming countryside festivals to street-by-street maps of fascinating towns and cities.