A rocky mountain in the Scottish Highlands with a lush green foreground and a grey sky.
UK Travel Advice

Staycation 2021 – Best National Parks to Visit in the UK

The UK is full of wonderful wild places! From the Scottish Highlands to the Cornish seaside. There is a rich variety of stunning landscapes around the country. And the best part is that many of the unique landscapes are represented by a variety of National Parks. Here is a list of the 5 best National Parks to visit in the UK in 2021. With tips for things to see and do to help inspire your staycation!

Everyone has heard of the romantic landscapes of the picturesque Lake District. Known for its rolling green hills, imposing cliffs, and cool clear waters. Or the open skies and peaty heather moors of the Peak District. With its signature gritstone edges stretching out for miles. It’s no wonder why they are some of the UK’s busiest visitor attractions!

But, for a feel of the wild and a true holiday experience without the crowds. Why not plan a visit to one of these national parks instead, they truly some of the best in the UK!

Dartmoor National Park

The uplands of Dartmoor in southern Devon have had the protected National Park status since 1951. The park covers the respectable area of 954 km2 (368 sq mi) of moorland. It is a popular destination for hikers, cyclists, horse-riders, and wild campers.

Fun fact: did you know that Dartmoor is the only area in England, where you can legally wild camping? However, Dartmoor is not only great for outdoor activities. It also has ample historical and cultural destinations to visit. You should definitely spend an afternoon wandering around Buckland Abbey or Castle Drogo!

The villages nestled around the edges of the park offer a variety of lovely tea rooms and pubs. And the Ullacombe Farm Shop & Barn Cafe is always a lovely stop for some locally made treats!

P.s. have you ever heard of the charming activity of Dartmoor Letterboxing? Essentially a prototype to geocaching, this pastime involves finding well-hidden visitor books, which are hidden around the park.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (or Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro in Welsh) is a unique area in Wales. It got the status of a national park in 1952. And it is the least known of the three Welsh national parks, which also include the Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog) and Snowdonia (Eryri). The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is the only one in the UK to consist solely of wild and maritime landscape.

From active days of surfing and coasteering to leisurely strolls enjoying the amazing nature on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail. There is something for everyone here!

It is possible to visit an Iron Age village, tour castles, or peek into old mills here. But the highlight of any visit to Pembrokeshire should be a trip over to Pembrokeshire’s offshore islands! Home to impressive sea bird colonies, surprising viking history, and a famous Cistercian abbey. A day touring these islands will be truly memorable.

Northumberland National Park

Northumberland National Park is one of the UK’s best-kept secrets. It is nestled between the Scottish border in the north and the Hadrian’s Wall in the south. And it covers an area of more than 1,050 km2 (410 sq mi).

It is one of the least-populated and least-visited national parks in the UK. And a closely guarded secret for its charming nature!

The Northumberland National Park has a variety of distinct areas. In the north are the Cheviot Hills, changing into open moorland in the south, before reaching the Kielder Forest. The southern part of the park includes the central parts of the historic Hadrian’s Wall, dating back to the Roman occupation.

For an outdoor lover, Northumberland is a paradise, with endless hiking, cycling, and some of the UK’s best rock climbing. But it also has a lot to offer for those interested in history. From prehistoric monuments to Roman remains, it offers a fascinating look through the history of the British Isles.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is a 2,178 km2 (841 sq mi) area in northern England. It was designated as a national park in 1954. The park is known for its beautiful landscapes and impressive natural attractions, such as Malham Cove and Aysgarth Falls. It is a well-loved destination regardless of age and is often visited by walkers, cyclists, and horse-riders.

For those looking for more to do, there is an impressive array of villages, cafes, and pubs to visit. There are several lovely local museums and heritage sites to go and spend an afternoon in.

Most of all, everyone should take a tour of one of the Yorkshire Dales signature caves! If getting underground is not your thing, why not try a day of gorge walking instead?

Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms National Park (Pàirc Nàiseanta a’ Mhonaidh Ruaidh in Scottish Gaelic) is located in northeast Scotland. It is the wilder and more rugged of the two famous Scottish national parks. (The other one of course being the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.) It was established by the Scottish Parliament in 2003.

The national park covers the Cairngorms mountain range and the surrounding areas. It is the largest of the national parks in the UK, covering a whopping 4,528 km2.

Nature, wildlife, and conservation are at the heart of this park, which is truly worth a visit for its stunning scenery. It is known for its skiing and winter sports, mountains, forest paths, and lochs.

But fear not, it is also possible to visit many friendly villages with inviting pubs and tearooms. It would also be a missed opportunity to not pop into one of the many distilleries located in the national park!

Why not try something new on your visit?

Interested to try wild camping on your visit to one of the best national parks in the UK? Check out my step-by-step guide on how to prepare for your first wild camp. For more information on how to get into hiking, see my essential guide to hiking for beginners.

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