Forget tropical beaches and far-flung destinations, if you really want to find some breathing space this year, the UK’s national parks are the perfect place to access some peace and quiet.

How many national parks do we have in the UK and Ireland?

In 1951, the Peak District was named the first national park in the UK, and now our nation boasts an impressive 15 altogether, with the most recent being South Downs near Brighton, which was given the honour in 2010. In total, there are ten parks in England covering over 10% of the land area, while Scotland boasts two. Over 20% of Wales is taken up with three stunning national parks, while Ireland has six scenic reserves. In total, there are 21 national parks accross the UK and Ireland just waiting to be discovered. 

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From captivating landscapes to charming wildlife, there’s plenty to draw visitors to these beauty spots. Best of all? Entry to national parks is free, meaning anyone can visit at any time. Each of these reserves has its own unique features and plantlife, but to get you started on your national park journey, we have shortlisted six of the most popular.

1. The Wicklow Mountains

Glenmacnass Valley, County Wicklow, Ireland

The stunning Wicklow Mountains National Park is a 220-square-kilometre (54,000-acre) protected area in Ireland – one of six national parks in the country.

No trip to Dublin is complete without an excursion to Wicklow, which is about an hour and a 15 minutes’ drive away from the Irish capital.

Here, the landscape is dramatic and beautiful; think heather-clad moors, glassy lakes and winding mountain roads. At this natural oasis you’ll also find Glendalough, one of the most important ancient monastic sites in Ireland. The crumbling remains of churches and a tower are evidence of an early Christian settlement.

2. Dartmoor National Park

The Church of St Micheal de Rupe on Brentor, Dartmoor National Park, Devon England UK

Whether you fancy an uphill cycling challenge or you want to enjoy a historic family day out, there’s something for everyone at Dartmoor.

This vast moorland is nestled in the heart of Devon, and is famous for its ponies that roam the rugged landscape that’s punctuated by wetlands, rivers and valleys.

Dartmoor’s 954 square kilometres (368 square miles) is a major lure for active types, and there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, horseback rides, wild swimming and kayaking.

3. Exmoor National Park

A view across Porlock Common, with Porlock Bay in the distance, Exmoor National Park, England.

Although considered one of England’s lesser-known national parks, Exmoor National Park has plenty of unique beauty going for it.

From medieval villages to unspoilt moorland, woodland and valleys, there’s Instagram-worthy scenery at every turn, so don’t forget to pack a camera and a picnic for your visit.

Exmoor is also a brilliant place to explore the outdoors through walking, cycling and horse riding, thanks to its many footpaths and bridleways that trail alongside rivers and moors.

4. Snowdonia

Snowdonia.

It’s no secret that Snowdonia is home to Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon. Many adventurers are called to scale its 1,085 metre (3,560 feet) peak, which has impressive views of Snowdonia, Anglesey, Pembrokeshire and Ireland from its iconic vista.

It’s not all about high mountains though; the coastline of Snowdonia is some of the most picturesque in Britain, where you’ll find forests, pastures and pretty villages.

5. Trossachs National Park

Autumn Trees on a Sunny Day in the Trossachs, Scotland, UK

This Scottish gem boasts all the makings of the perfect country getaway: crystal clear lochs, forest-filled drives and snow-capped mountains in the distance.

In The Trossachs National Park, you’ll also find wildlife aplenty, thrilling history and superb local food and drink.

At the heart of the park is Loch Lomond, a large lake in southern Scotland, measuring 190m deep and with a shoreline of 153 km.

6. Northumberland

Mountain river, Coquetdale, Northumberland National Park, UK

If you’re a fan of stargazing, Northumberland is the place to visit – it’s the largest area of protected dark sky in the whole of Europe.

There are more than 1049 square kilometres (405 square miles) of scenery in which to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, whether you fancy a gentle ramble or an all-day hike.

Here, you can trek through greenery, check out the iconic remains of Hadrian’s Wall or simply curl up with a hot chocolate and take in the glittering night skies above you.

Best-selling national parks in the UK guidebooks

Stuck for inspiration? Check out our list of best-selling Amazon guidebooks.

Bestseller No. 1
The Lake District - The finest walks in the Lake District National Park (Top 10 Walks) (Top 10...
  • Carl Rogers (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 64 Pages - 07/31/2018 (Publication Date) - Northern Eye Books (Publisher)
SaleBestseller No. 3
Peak District (Top 10 walks): The finest walks in the Peak District National Park (UK National...
  • Kelsall (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 64 Pages - 08/31/2018 (Publication Date) - Northern Eye Books (Publisher)
SaleBestseller No. 4
Yorkshire Dales: The finest themed walks in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (UK National Parks:...
  • Neil Coates (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 64 Pages - 12/17/2019 (Publication Date) - Northern Eye Books (Publisher)
SaleBestseller No. 5
National Parks in Britain (Aa)
  • Hardcover Book
  • AA Publishing (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update on 2021-11-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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