Great Britain’s 15 National Parks are areas of protected countryside that everyone can visit, explore and enjoy. As well as some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the country, they also include features from human heritage, with historic towns, villages and working farmlands.
National Parks have areas that are suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities, including walking, cycling, horse riding, greenlaning, climbing and water sports. If you’re looking to visit a National Park, you can save 20% with our map sets, available in both OS Explorer (1:25 000) and OS Landranger (1:50 000) scales. The sets provide complete coverage of all the National Parks in standard paper and weatherproof ‘Active’ versions.
You can also print unlimited A4 maps for all the National Parks using our subscription-based online service, OS Maps.
The Brecon Beacons are a series of mountains in South Wales, but the National Park covers a larger area and includes a number of towns and villages. There are activities both on land and water, and the area designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve and hold regular stargazing events.
Official site: www.beacons-npa.gov.uk
Pen y Fan View To Cribyn, © Douglas Law
The Broads is a large area of wetlands and navigable waterways, close to the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts. Naturally, boating is one of the biggest attractions, with sailing, canoeing and rowing all available. There are many nature reserves, and opportunities for walking, cycling and fishing.
Official site: www.enjoythebroads.com
Traditional Broads boats, © Chris Holifield
The Cairngorms National Park covers a substantial area of central mainland Scotland. It is very mountainous - five of the UK's highest mountains and three of the main ski areas of Scotland are inside the park boundaries. The area offers walking, riding and cycling routes, plus water sports on Loch Insh 12 golf courses provide some of the most scenic tees in the world.
Official site: visitcairngorms.com
Cairn Lochan from Glen More, © Nigel Brown
Dartmoor is 954 square kilometres (368 square miles) of moorland punctuated by exposed granite tors. Although parts are a military firing range, there are still ample opportunities for walking, running, cycling, riding and climbing.
Official site: www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk
Langstone Moor, © Chris Andrews
Exmoor National Park in Somerset and Devon has a variety of terrain from dramatic sea cliffs to gentle valleys. With 55 km (34 miles) of coastline, there are opportunities for fishing as well as walking and cycling. Like the Brecon Beacons it is designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve and runs regular events.
Official site: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk
Five Barrows Hill, Exmoor, © Douglas Law
The Lake District National Park (or just ‘The Lakes’) contains 19 major lakes and some significant mountains or fells, including Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England at 978 m. The dramatic scenery of the Lake District is credited with inspiring writers and poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats.
Official site: www.lakedistrict.gov.uk
The Combe, Lake District, © Bill Boaden
As well as the activities on the loch itself, the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park has 21 Munros, providing ample opportunity for exploring. While some peaks require proper equipment all year round, some lower routes are easily accessible to walkers of all abilities. As well as walking, there are also routes for cycling and, riding and climbing.
Official site: www.lochlomond-trossachs.org
Summit of Ben Lomond, © Iain Russell
New Forest National Park on the south coast was established in 2005. Despite the name, around half the area consists of open heaths and grassland, the rest being largely deciduous trees. As the area is fairly flat, it is ideal for cycling, and despite the relatively high population has a considerably range of wildlife.
Official site: www.newforestnpa.gov.uk
New Forest Ponies near Burley, © Mike Smith
The North York Moors National Park boasts a beautiful landscape of moorlands, coastline, ancient woodlands and historic sites. As well as walking and cycling, you can visits sites dating from the Iron Age to the Industrial Age.
Official site: www.northyorkmoors.org.uk
Steam Train at Green End, © Wayland Smith
In the north of England, Northumberland National Park contains Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviot Hills. There are facilities for horse riders and cyclists, as well as for walkers of all abilities, from short pub walks to multi-day hillwalking tours. Northumberland National Park also has three National Nature Reserves, popular with birdwatcher, and a Dark Sky park for Stargazing.
Official site: www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk
Elsdon Tower, Northumberland, © Andrew Curtis
In central England, the Peak District National Park was the first in Britain and is still one of the most popular. With both numerous footpaths and large open access areas, it’s popular for hiking and hillwalking and the natural rocks and caves make it ideal for climbers and potholers. The spa town of Buxton provides an excellent base for longer stays.
Official site: www.peakdistrict.gov.uk
Wooden pilings, Upper Derwent, © Neil Theasby
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park consists on a relatively narrow strip of coastline in south-west Wales. With a varied landscape of rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, low wooded estuaries and rolling hills, it contains a large number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Nature Reserves. As well as walking on footpaths and National Trails, you can enjoy surfing, coasteering, sea angling and wildlife watching.
Official site: www.pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk
Carmarthen Bay, Tenby, © Stephen McKay
Snowdonia National Park in North Wales contains Snowdon, which at 1085 m (3560 ft.) is the tallest mountain in England and Wales. However, it is also the largest National Park, with the largest lake in Wales, Bala Lake, plus other peaks and paths to explore.
Official site: www.snowdonia-npa.gov.uk
Walkers on the Pyg/Miners Track to Snowdon, © Gareth James
Fully open in 2011, the South Downs National Park is Britain’s newest. It covers from Winchester to Eastbourne along the south and south-east coast. Close to major cities like London, Brighton, Southampton and Portsmouth, it’s one of the most populated National Parks in the UK and already attracts a large amount of visitors for walks and sporting activities.
Official site: www.southdowns.gov.uk
South Downs Way, © Trevor Harris
Also known simply as ‘The Dales’, the Yorkshire Dales National Park consists of the valleys and peaks of the Pennines. The area offers hill walking, climbing, mountain biking, caving, cycling, horse riding, fell running and water sports, and has Britain’s first National Trail, the Pennine Way.
Official site: www.yorkshiredales.org.uk
Sheep near Hebden, © Derek Harper