Discover the 10 largest national parks in the UK

Becky blog author avanti social team

By Avanti Web Team

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6 mins read | June 21, 2023

If you are in search of a serene getaway or a thrilling expedition, there are many parks in the UK to consider. With Avanti, you can explore the UK's 10 largest national parks and find the perfect backdrop to satisfy your wanderlust.

Keep reading, below, for the most famous parks in the UK, and begin planning your own relaxing trip.

What are the most famous parks in the UK?

The National Parks in the UK are full of natural beauty, with wildlife and dramatic landscapes. Each with their own distinctive charm, here are the 10 biggest and some of the most National Parks in the UK.

1. Cairngorms National Park – 1,748 square miles

Home to the highest mountain range in Scotland and nothing short of spectacular. Cairngorms offers visitors the chance to explore stunning lochs, rivers, and castles.

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Walks and cycle routes

Choose from more than 2,800 miles of scenic trails, including easy strolls, challenging hikes and cycle paths. The waterfall walk, Falls of Bruar, and low-peak mountain, Morrone, are popular.

Adventure activities

A paradise for thrill-seekers, this destination offers both summer and winter adventures. Take to the slopes of some of Britain's top ski resorts, or enjoy water sports amidst the stunning rivers and lochs.

In this park, the immersive experience of wild camping is a popular choice among visitors seeking a closer connection to nature.

Historical sites

Explore the Cairngorms National Park’s ruins and castles to learn about its fascinating history and heritage.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in the Cairngorms National Park include Aviemore, Tomintoul, Grantown-on-Spey and Ballater.

Getting here

You can get the train to Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore, or Carrbridge. There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

2. Lake District National Park – 912 square miles

The Lake District, England's largest National Park, is a dream come true for outdoor enthusiasts. With the country's highest peak and deepest lake, it offers a haven for walkers, climbers, and those passionate about water sports.

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Walks and cycle routes

With over 1,900 miles of walking paths and cycling trails, The Lake District is made for meanderers. Arriving by train, visitors can easily rent a bike and begin their exploration of the Lakes and Dales Loop.

Adventure activities

In this national park, 16 lakes await your exploration. You can even hire canoes and kayaks or embark on scenic boat trips. For mountain enthusiasts, there's no shortage of climbing options, including conquering Scafell Pike, England's highest peak, for a greater challenge.

Historical sites

You’ll find castles, stately homes and ruins throughout The Lake District.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in The Lake District include Ambleside, Keswick, Windermere, Grasmere, and Coniston.

Getting here

You can get the train to Oxenholme Lake District or Penrith (North Lakes). There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

3. Snowdonia National Park – 827 square miles

With its rugged mountains, shimmering lakes, and rolling hills, Snowdonia National Park is a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers. Home to Wales' highest peak, as well as ancient castles and breathtaking vistas, Snowdonia is a destination not to be missed.

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Walks and cycle routes

Snowdonia has over 1,200 miles of trails to explore or cycle through. Those who are feeling adventurous can climb the popular Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.

Adventure activities

You’ll find plenty of opportunities to go rock climbing, mountain biking, white-water rafting, kayaking and fishing.

Historical sites

Spend time visiting Snowdonia’s mediaeval towns and castles.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in Snowdonia include Betws-y-Coed, Beddgelert, and Bala.

Getting here

You can get the train to Penrhyn Bay, Minffordd, Tygwyn, Talsarnau, Penrhyndeudraeth, Llandecwyn, or Betws-y-Coed. There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

4. Scottish Borders – 698 square miles

The diverse landscape of the Scottish Borders encompasses the best of the west and east. Visitors here can explore everything from undulating hills and moorland to softer valleys and fertile plains.

Even experiencing the sea here is breathtaking, with the Berwickshire coast that adorns the shoreline.

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Walks and cycle routes

There are hundreds of walks and cycle routes to choose from. Favourites include the coast-to-coast Southern Upland Way or the historic Borders Abbeys Ways.

Historical sites

The Scottish Borders are home to mediaeval stately homes, castles, and abbeys.

Golf

You’ll find many golf courses, including champion courses like the Roxburghe.

Arts and culture

The Scottish Borders is brimming with museums and galleries. If you time it right, you could visit the Borders Book Festival, too. This festival takes place in Melrose over four days in June.

Shopping

The Borders are full of whimsical villages with independent shops that sell local crafts and produce. You’ll also find distilleries and breweries, like the Border Berries and Born in the Borders Brewery.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in the Scottish Borders include Melrose, Jedburgh, Kelso, Peebles, and Eyemouth.

Getting here

You can get the train to Tweedbank, Galashiels, Stow, Dunbar, Reston, and Berwick-upon-Tweed. There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

5. Northumberland National Park – 405 square miles

Northumberland National Park, with the fewest inhabitants among all parks, offers a serene escape. Discover tranquil scenic locations, hidden walking paths, and pristine, unspoiled landscapes for a truly peaceful experience.

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Walks and cycle routes

The Northumberland National Park has more than 700 miles of walking trails. You could try the Pennine Way, the first National Trail in England.

Adventure activities

Embrace the thrill of Northumberland's adventures, including canoeing and rock climbing experiences for adrenaline seekers.

Historical sites

Northumberland is full of mediaeval castles and top tourist attractions like Hadrian’s Wall.

Stargazing

Northumberland National Park is an International Dark Sky Park, which means it’s a great spot for stargazing.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in Northumberland National Park include Bellingham, Alwinton and Wooler.

Getting here

You can get the train to Wylam, Prudhoe, Stocksfield, Riding Mill, Corbridge, Hexham, Haydon Bridge, Bardon Mill, or Haltwhistle. There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

6. Peak District National Park – 555 square miles

The Peak District was recognised as the UK's first national park, with a rich history and stunning scenery to match such a prestigious recognition. From its heather-covered moors to its dramatic rock formations, The Peak District offers something for everyone.

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Walks and cycle routes

You have plenty of choices if you’re looking for scenic walking and cycle routes in The Peak District. One of the most popular but challenging cycle routes is the Monsal Trail. This route runs over viaducts and through well-lit tunnels.

Water activities

You’ll find lots of opportunities for wild swimming, fishing and kayaking in The Peak District.

Historical sites

Get to know The Peak District’s local history by exploring Chatsworth House, Haddon Hall, and the Peveril Castle ruins.

Arts and culture

Explore The Peak District’s cultural heritage by taking a trip to some of its many museums. Perhaps try the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery or the Derbyshire Open Arts Festival. This open studio event runs in May and features numerous artists’ work.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in The Peak District include Matlock Bath, Buxton, Bakewell, Castleton and Tideswell.

Getting here

You can get the train to Matlock, Grindleford, Hathersage, Bamford, Hope or Edale. There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

7. Yorkshire Dales National Park – 683 square miles

Nestled in the heart of Yorkshire, the Dales are a patchwork of rolling hills, picture-perfect villages, and wild moorland. The park is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, from rare orchids to red squirrels, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

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Walks and cycle routes

There are more than 1,200 miles of walking routes to choose from in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. Experienced cyclists can have a go at the Tour de France route.

Adventure activities

Water lovers can take to the park’s rivers and lakes to enjoy wild swimming, fishing and kayaking. The Yorkshire Dales is also known for its dark caves, with caving opportunities to suit all abilities.

Historical sites

Learn about the local history at the wide range of museums and galleries in the area. Try the Swaledale Museum, which covers local rural history. You could also visit the Dales Countryside Museum, which tells the story of the Yorkshire Dales over thousands of years.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in the Yorkshire Dales National Park include Hawes, Grassington, Settle, Reeth, and Kettlewell.

Getting here

You can get the train to Ribblehead, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Garsdale, Dent, Settle, or Hellifield. There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

8. Brecon Beacons National Park – 519 square miles

Located in the heart of South Wales, the Brecon Beacons is a land of rolling hills, tranquil valleys, and dramatic waterfalls.

This national park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with its elevated plateaus of grass and heather offering breathtaking views and endless opportunities for adventure.

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Walks and cycle routes

The Brecon Beacons are home to more than 750 miles of walking trails. There are also several popular cycling routes. Try the Taff Trail and the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal Towpath.

Adventure activities

When the weather’s warm, visitors can enjoy wild swimming, fishing, and canoeing in the park’s rivers and reservoirs. When it’s cooler, you might prefer the Brecon Beacons’ rock climbing opportunities.

Historical sites

Visit the ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle, the Brecon Mountain Railway, and the Roman Amphitheatre at Caerleon.

Stargazing

The Brecon Beacons is an International Dark Sky Reserve. This means you can expect clear skies, littered with stars.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in the Brecon Beacons include Brecon, Crickhowell, and Llangorse.

Getting here

You can get the train to Abergavenny, Cynghordy, Merthyr Tydfil, Bow Street, Aber, or Llandovery. There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

9. Dartmoor National Park – 386 square miles

Dartmoor's wild and rugged landscape has captured the imaginations of visitors for centuries. From its windswept moors to its deep river valleys, this national park is a paradise for hikers, horse riders, and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life.

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Walks and cycle routes

If you can’t decide which of the 590-plus miles of walking routes to follow, try the tree-lined Dartmoor Way. You’ll also find cycling routes wherever you look, with noteworthy choices like the Dartmoor Way, Granite Way, and Drake’s Trail.

Adventure activities

Whatever kind of adventures you enjoy, Dartmoor has it all. Choose from water activities, rock climbing, and horse riding.

Historical sites

Explore the local history by visiting the ruins of ancient sites like Merrivale.

You’ll find the remains of a Bronze Age settlement here. Another popular attraction is Finch Foundry, a National Trust forge from the 19th century.

Arts and culture

You can learn more about the history of Dartmoor and its culture at the local museums and galleries. Try Dartmoor Prison Museum and the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in Dartmoor National Park include Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Chagford, Moretonhampstead, Ashburton, and Princetown.

Getting here

You can get the train to Okehampton, Bere Alston, Ivybridge, Morchard Road, Bere Ferrers, Yeoford, Copplestone, Lapford, Eggesford, and Crediton. There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

10. Exmoor National Park – 268 square miles

With its heather-topped moorland, ancient woodlands, and rugged coastline, Exmoor is a national park of contrasts.

Home to the iconic Exmoor ponies and a wealth of other wildlife, this park offers visitors the chance to reconnect with nature and discover a hidden corner of the UK.

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Walks and cycle routes

There are more than 500 miles of walking trails in Exmouth National Park. These walks include England’s longest waymarked footpath, the South West Coast Path. Meanwhile, Exmoor’s cycling routes follow unspoiled countryside and dramatic sea cliffs.

Adventure activities

Those who want fun-filled adventures can enjoy horse riding and water activities.

Stargazing

Exmoor is an International Dark Sky Reserve. This means you can sit back in the evening and enjoy an unpolluted sky of stars.

Arts and culture

Exmoor boasts many opportunities to enjoy arts and culture. Among its most popular attractions is the Museum of Somerset, nestled within the grand confines of Taunton Castle's great hall.

Local towns and villages

Popular towns and villages to visit in Exmoor National Park include Dunster, Lynmouth, Porlock, Combe Martin, and Dulverton.

Getting here

You can get the train to Taunton, Tiverton, or Barnstaple. There are additional train and bus connections to take you to your destination.

Book your tickets to the Great Outdoors

As you choose the UK national park that best fits your adventurous desires, remember that convenience is key. Download our app to arrange your tickets for your next expedition and discover unique savings.

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Buying through our website or app saves you money because we never charge booking fees. To take a look at more ways to save including using a Railcard, booking in advance and booking as a group visit our ways to save page.

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