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Did you know there are no less than 15 National Parks in the United Kingdom? Think about it: in a country so small, that’s 15 officially recognised areas of outstanding natural beauty, each of them bustling with activities, adventure or relaxation opportunities, as you see fit. Although our country is blessed with such areas from coast to coast, the beauty of the National Parks is that they have been designated as protected areas in an effort to preserve them for future generations, ensuring that everyone can make the most of their visit.
Every park offers its own distinctive experience, but by and large you can expect to savour the great outdoors in all its majesty wherever you choose. Whether it’s the spine-tingling mountains of Loch Lomond or the silvicultural wonders of England’s New Forest, your domestic break will be one that’s guaranteed to live long in the memory.
Top five UK National Parks
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
The United Kingdom’s very first National Park can be found on the westernmost peninsula of Wales, incorporating most of the coastline around the mainland and a number of small islands just offshore. A day trip by boat to Ramsey Island is a great way to spot some grey seals and seabird colonies, while a short journey to Caldey Island gives you the chance to tour its Benedictine monastery. Of course, its geographical position means that beaches are in abundance: the most notable are found in Tenby and Poppit Sands.
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Cairngorms National Park
Arguably the most dramatic of all the country’s National Parks, and certainly the most statuesque in terms of sheer scale, is that of the Cairngorms. This mountainous terrain in the Scottish Highlands is a thrill seeker’s dream, with ample skiing facilities and peaks tall and rugged enough to keep the more casual climber satisfied. Ben Macdui is the highest of these, and even comes with its own unexplained phenomena in the fearsome shape of the Big Grey Man. The town of Aviemore, meanwhile, is a charming place to rest your weary legs after a day on the mountains.
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Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
The only National Park in Britain to have a song named in its honour – or at any rate the only instantly recognisable one! – the “bonny, bonny banks” are clear for all to see in Loch Lomond, from the quaint village of Luss on its northwest shore to the more modern commodities of Balloch on the opposite side. For a truly surreal experience, hire a boat from the latter to the forest island of Inchconnan – one of the few places outside Australia where you can encounter wallabies in the wild. Seriously.
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New Forest National Park
As its name probably suggests, New Forest is a largely… well, forested area! Interspersed with roaming green pastures, the area was only assigned National Park status in 2005, but has flourished ever since. The wildlife park is among the most popular family-friendly attractions for visitors here, with a healthy mixture of indigenous and exotic creatures to behold. Elsewhere, the picturesque village of Beaulieu is home to both the stunning Palace House and the National Motor Museum.
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Norfolk Broads National Park
Revered for its wealth of peaceful lakes, rivers and marshlands, the Broads is perhaps the sleepiest of all the UK’s National Parks. You won’t find much in the way of nightlife within its boundaries; but if you’re more interested in the earthly lures of Mother Nature, this is the place to be. The wetlands host several conservation areas, with Redgrae and Lopham Fen noted for rare insects breeds and an RSPB reserve at Berney Marshes.
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