If you’re planning on visiting the UK National Parks and you’re on the lookout for what to do, what to see and where to visit, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, I’ll outline everything you need to know about the 15 UK National Parks, which are some of the best places to visit in the UK, and the best things to do when you visit.
From taking on Via Ferratas in the Lake District or climbing Scafell Pike, to rock climbing in the Peak District and walking alpacas in the South Downs, or from taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge and summiting the highest mountain in Wales in just a day to gentle walks along the coastline in Pembrokeshire! If you’re looking for the best things to do in the UK, the UK National Parks are the perfect place to get the dose of fresh air and sunshine that you’re craving.
Should you go to England National Parks, Scotland National Parks or Wales National Parks? By the end of this post, you should have a pretty good idea of some of the best places to visit in the UK!
- England has 10 National Parks: The Broads, Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Lake District, the New Forest, Northumberland, the North York Moors, the Peak District, the South Downs and the Yorkshire Dales.
- Scotland has 2 National Parks: Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs.
- Wales has 3 National Parks: the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast, and Snowdonia.
And if you head to Dartmoor, you’ll find some of the best places to go camping in the UK too.
Did you know that Northern Ireland doesn’t actually have any National Parks? However, it’s still worth visiting! See our favourite places to visit in Northern Ireland here.
Think of this blog post as the ultimate UK National Parks bucket list. If you’re looking for the top things to do in the UK, this is the post for you. We’ve taken all the highlights from our UK National Parks blog posts and created a travel guide for you which will give you some of the best places to visit in the UK – especially if you’re short on time in some of these areas and you need to know the best things to do!
And if you’re wondering where the UK National Parks are on a map, and you’re still deciding which UK National Park to visit, and you’d like a little more information about the UK National Parks… check out our ultimate guide to the UK National Parks here.
Other travel guides you might find useful…
Now let’s get to the good stuff… here are the best things to do in the UK National Parks, some of the best places to visit in the UK.
The best things to do in the UK National Parks...
1. Go wild camping in Dartmoor National Park.
Dartmoor’s byelaws allow for you to take a small tent and backpack wild camp for one or two nights. If you’re looking for some of the best things to do in the UK National Parks, go wild camping in Dartmoor and get up close and personal with nature and enjoy the fresh air!
2. Try local gingerbread in the Lake District.
A cup of tea and a Grasmere gingerbread biscuit is definitely one of the best things to do in the Lake District. This is the perfect treat after a day on the lake or after a long hike in one of the best places to visit in the UK! The gingerbread recipe here, created by Sarah Nelson in 1854, is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy, gooey and crumbly… and completely irresistable!
Find out more about Grasmere Gingerbread in our complete guide to the Lake District.
3. Take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge.
The UK National Parks are some of the best places to go hiking in the UK, and the Yorkshire Dales National Park is no exception. You’ll need to get an early night so that you can get up at the crack of dawn and hike the three highest peaks in the Dales in under 12 hours!
We survived and completed the challenge, and had a lot of fun doing so. For more on what the challenge entails and how to prepare, check out my guide to the Yorkshire three peaks challenge here.
4. Smell the lavender at New Forest Lavender Gardens.
Lavender has so many health benefits, and it grows in abundance in the New Forest. One of the best places to visit in the UK is the New Forest Lavender Gardens in Salisbury. After taking a walk through the gardens you can visit the nursery and the tearooms.
Lavender is really important in terms of its medicinal and wellness properties. Explore wellness further on the blog here.
5. Swim to a castle in a lake in Cairngorms National Park.
Loch an Eilein in Cairngorms National Park is one of the best places to visit in the UK, and with the castle in the centre of the loch, one of the most unique. Hidden in the Rothiemurchus Forest, you can swim up to the castle itself or take a walk around the loch if the clear lake waters don’t take your fancy.
See all the best things to do in Cairngorms National Park here.
6. Walk along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland National Park.
One of the best things to do in the UK National Parks is to walk along the infamous Hadrian’s Wall. Many people think Hadrian’s Wall is in Scotland, and while the wall is on the England-Scotland border, the 84-mile long National Trail is actually in England.
A large part of the trail along the wall is in Northumberland National Park, so this is one of the best places to visit in England to admire Roman architecture and enjoy the great outdoors. You can also find Sycamore gap in a dip in the wall, one of the most photographed trees in England.
See all the best things to do in Northumberland National Park here.
7. Take on Europe's longest and the world's fastest zip line in Snowdonia National Park.
Fancy flying over Snowdonia National Park at over 100 mph? If you’re an adrenaline junkie, then you definitely want to visit Zipworld at Penrhyn Quarry. Admire the bright blue lake from the sky as you take on the longest zipline in Europe! Find out more on the Zipworld website here.
8. Take a boat trip to look at the windmills on The Broads.
Stretched across Norfolk and Suffolk, windmills are one of the most iconic features of the Broads, and one of the best things to do in the UK National Parks is to take a boat trip along the rivers to see them. Build to grind corn or pump water, seeing the windmills is a must-do when you visit.
Thurne Mill is one of the most famous windmills in the Broads, one of the best places to visit in the UK. There’s a museum there if you want to learn more about the windmills on The Broads!
There are plenty more windmills to visit here too. Find out more in our Broads National Park guide.
9. Walk alpacas in the South Downs.
Travelling is all about the experiences and having fun, and one of the most fun things to do in the UK National Parks is to walk an alpaca! While you can do this in National Parks across the UK, my personal experience doing this was in the South Downs National Park. Alpacas have such a loving calm nature (they are often taken into hospices to cheer up the patients) and they have such funny tendencies. Book yourself a trip and go and see them for themselves!
10. Explore Aviemore in the Cairngorms.
Aviemore is the main town in the Cairngorms National Park and the perfect place to base yourself if you want to explore one of the best places to visit in the UK. You can visit Aviemore year-round, and do everything from hiking to climbing, skiing to lakeside picnics, and even visiting the reindeer!
11. Hike Pen y Fan at sunset.
Pen y Fan is the highest peak in South Wales and you’ll be treated with one of the most beautiful sunets in the UK if you go at golden hour. It’s one of the most popular hikes in the UK, and suitable for beginners too! If you’re looking for things to do in the UK National Parks, watching the sky turn from blue to orange and all the colours in between has got to be on your bucket list.
There are four different routes up to Pen y Fan – find out which one is best for you in our blog post on the best hikes in the Brecon Beacons.
12. Say hello to the wild ponies in the UK National Parks.
One of the best things to do in the UK National Parks is to see the wild ponies that roam in Dartmoor, Exmoor & the New Forest. The ponies are a really important part of the National Parks’ history, heritage, culture and landscape. Most of the ponies roam freely but are ‘owned’, and you shouldn’t approach or feed them.
13. Explore the beaches along the Pembrokeshire Coast.
With over 300km of coastline to explore, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is one of the best places to visit in the UK. Think rugged cliffs, hidden coves, blue-flag beaches, a wealth of wildlife plus so much more. With golden sands and crystal clear waters, some of the best beaches in the UK can be found here. Our favourite is Barafundle Bay, but you can find out more about the beaches in Pembrokeshire in this travel guide.
14. Go rock climbing in the Peak District.
One of the best places to visit in the UK if you like rock climbing is the Peak District. There are several locations for climbing and bouldering across the park, but we went to Lawrence Field, which used to be a quarry, and where the gritstone rock you find there is 270 million years old!
Find out more of the best things to do in the Peak District National Park here.
15. Try watersports on some of the best lakes in the UK.
One of the best things to do in the UK National Parks is to get out on the water on one of the many beautiful lakes in the UK. From kayaking in the South Downs to SUP in the Lake District or canoeing on Loch Lomond, there are so many options across the country for you to choose from!
16. Admire the view at the infamous Robin Hood's Bay.
If you’re looking for places to visit in the UK for families, Robin Hood’s Bay is perfect. This picturesque village, full of cobbled streets and independent shops, overlooks a stunning bay which features a sandy beach, rock pools to play in and fossils to discover.
See more of the best things to do in the North York Moors here.
17. Check out some of the UK's best mountain biking trails.
Mountain biking is becoming more and more popular in the UK, and one of the best things to do in the UK National Parks is to give it a go. Some of the best mountain biking trails are in the National Parks, and you don’t need to be an experienced rider to give it a try.
Some of the best places for mountain biking in the UK include…
- Coed-y-Brenin in Snowdonia National Park
- Dalby Forest in North York Moors National Park
- Grizedale, Ullswater and Whinlatter in the Lake District
- Jacob’s Ladder, Cut Gate and The Beast trails in the Peak District
- Horner Wood in Exmoor National Park
- Gunnerside Gill in the Yorkshire Dales
18. Go stargazing at Exmoor's International Dark Sky Reserve.
The dark skies in Exmoor National Park are some of the best in the world, never mind in the UK. The Exmoor International Dark Sky reserve is one of the best places to visit in the UK if you love astronomy. With regular events, the self-guided Exmoor Dark Sky Discovery Walking Trail and the annual Dark Skies Festival, there are plenty of opportunities to stare at the 1000s of stars in the sky.
See all the best places to visit in Exmoor National Park in this travel guide.
19. Try a via ferrata in the Lake District.
I’ve been obsessed with via ferratas ever since I did my first Via Ferrata in Switzerland. Since then, I’ve done them in the Lake District, Loen (Norway) and in Chamonix (France), and loved every minute. The pictures below are proof that you can enjoy the UK National Parks whatever the weather, and it’s a great way to get the adrenaline going!
While you’re in the Lake District, make sure you try caving in the Honister Slate Mine, the last working mine in England.
20. Go chasing waterfalls... some of the prettiest in the UK!
Waterfalls are definitely some of the best places to visit in the UK, not to mention some of the prettiest. There’s nothing quite like witnessing the beauty of mother nature, surrounded by trees, and hearing the sound of the rushing water.
Some of the best waterfalls in the UK National Parks are…
- Whitelady Waterfall in Dartmoor National Park
- Falling Foss in the North York Moors
- Falls of Falloch in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
- Henrhyd Falls in the Brecon Beacons National Park
21. Tour the Yorkshire Dales in a tuk tuk.
You don’t have to go to Sri Lanka or Thailand to spend a day in a tuk-tuk! Andrew from Love TukTuks has created several tours around the Yorkshire Dales in his tuk-tuk, and you can even create your own bespoke day. It’s a great way to take things slowly and really enjoy the countryside landscape! Check out my experience as part of my weekend in Leeds here.
See all the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales National Park here.
22. Spend some time at Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Great Britain.
It goes without saying that Loch Lomond is one of the best places to visit in the UK. It’s the largest lake in Great Britain and it’s the heart of the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park. There are so many fun things to do here: lakeside picnics, sightseeing cruises, seeing the sunset or the sunrise, swimming and watersports… Check out all the best things to do in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park here.
23. Climb two of the National Three Peaks: Scafell Pike in the Lake District or Mount Snowdon in Snowdonia.
If you enjoy hiking in the UK and you’re up for a challenge, climbing two of the UK’s highest peaks is not something that you can miss! Scafell Pike in the Lake District and Mount Snowdon in Snowdonia National Park are two of the three National Peaks (the other being Ben Nevis) and should be on every outdoors lover’s bucket list!
24. Explore the ancient woodland in the UK National Parks.
The 15 National Parks are home to some of the most beautiful places to visit in the UK, and the ancient woodland areas are no exception. Ancient woodlands are areas of woodland that have persisted since 1600 in England and Wales, and 1750 in Scotland, and because of their longevity, are home to a variety of flora and fauna that can’t be found elsewhere.
Ancient woodland in the UK you should visit includes…
- Caledonian Forest in the Cairngorms National Park
- Wistman’s Woods in Dartmoor National Park
- The New Forest (despite its name!)
25. See the Farndale Daffodils in the North York Moors.
If you’re looking for the best places to visit in the UK in spring, make sure you get yourself to the North York Moors National Park to see the Farndale daffodils. Take a spring walk along the River Dove, through the Farndale Nature Reserve, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by these stunning yellow flowers.
See more of the best things to do in the North York Moors in this travel guide.
26. Go surfing in Snowdonia National Park.
Yes, you read that correctly… you can go surfing in Snowdonia National Park! Surf Snowdonia is home to the first inland surf lagoon, where you’re guaranteed to catch some waves every time. The technology here produces the longest man-made waves in the world, which can hold their power and form over any distance. Beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers are all welcome, and if you want to make a weekend of it, and they also have on site glamping pods. Find out more on the website here.
See all the best things to do in Snowdonia National Park here.
27. Try more of the best hikes in the UK.
We’ve mentioned the big ones… Mount Snowdon, Scafell Pike, Pen y Fan at sunset, Hadrian’s Wall and the Yorkshire Three Peaks. But some of the best hikes in the UK are found in the UK National Parks! If you’re looking for some of the best things to do in the UK and you love being outdoors, try some of these lesser-known hikes in the UK National Parks…
- Brentor Church, located on top of an extinct volcano in Dartmoor National Park
- Dunkery Beacon, the highest point in Exmoor National Park
- Butser Hill in South Downs National Park
- Cwm Idwal Walk through Ogwen Valley, a glacial valley in Snowdonia National Park
What are your favourite things to do in the UK?
Where are your favourite places to visit in the UK? Anything you’d add to this UK National Parks guide?
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