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5 UK National Parks to Hike Before You Die

Tired of stuffing yourself with ice cream on a sun lounger in your back garden all day? Get your hiking boots on and visit one of the UK’s national parks. It’s National Parks Week after all! The UK is home to some spectacular sights that should be on your bucket list right now.

Feeling fit? Here’s our top 5 favourite UK national parks (in no particular order).

1. Lake District

Cumbria, England

Why visit?

Mountains, lakes and water-sports galore

Nearest City

Manchester

Why it makes our list

With nearly 16 million visitors each year, the Lake District is the UK’s most popular national park, and for good reason! Whether you’re a camper, climber, hiker, kayaker (the list goes on, but you get the picture), there’s something for you. The park’s 16 lakes make it ideal for water sports enthusiasts like sailing, fishing and canoeing. Even swimming in the summer, depending on how brave you are. If you’re not the sporty-type, there’s beautiful scenery to take in, with long stretches of water reflecting the mountains and plenty of nooks and coves to be discovered on foot or by boat.

Best Hike

Helvellyn

The most romantic of the Lake District’s walks up England’s most famous mountain.

Difficulty

4/5

Time

3 hours (shortest route)

2. Cairngorms

Eastern Highlands, Scotland

Why visit?

Pine forest, mountains, wildlife

Nearest City

Inverness

Why it makes our list

Cairngorms is home to the highest mountain range in the UK and some of the most dense forest areas. If you’re something of a history-buff, Cairngorms has an array of castles and ruins to explore. Whilst picturesque in summer, the park is a sight to behold in the winter, when a blanket of virgin snow covers the landscape. If you’re up for getting geared up and feeling all Bear Grylls, the lochs, moorland, farmland, and snow-capped mountains await you.

Best Hike

Ryvoan Pass

A wilder walk off the beaten path through pine covered slopes

Difficulty

2/5

Time

5 hours

3. Dartmoor

Devon, England

Why visit?

Archaeology, camping

Nearest City

Exeter

Why it makes our list

How does a walk across vast, open countryside surrounded by ponies sound? Dartmoor is a great choice for city-dwelling Londoners since it’s a short drive away and has a warmer climate than many of the other national parks. Much of the land is moorland, which means you can see for miles. It’s also the only national park that allows you to camp wherever you like. If your kids are mini equestrians there are a cart load of horse riding and pony petting opportunities too – admittedly the favourite part of my visit a couple of years ago.

Best Hike

Wistman’s Wood

Take an easier walk through mystical woods straight out of a fairytale – ideal for families

Difficulty

2/5

Time: 3 hours

4. Snowdonia

North West Wales

Why visit?

Castles and rocky mountains

Nearest City

Bangor

Why it makes our list

Snowdonia is a rock-climber’s paradise. This one’s for the true walking and hiking fanatics. If jaw-dropping gorges and high peaks are your thing, you’re bound to fall in love with Snowdonia’s rocky landscape. If you’re looking to take on a real challenge, try scaling Snowdon, Scotlands’s highest peak. That’s not to say there’s nothing for those of us who aren’t mountain goats. The park is home to quaint, stone-walled villages, stunning waterfalls and even a mountain railway.

Best Hike

Tryfan (from Llyn Ogwen)

Scramble over rocks like and feel like a natural born mountaineer – move over, Ray Mears

Difficulty

5/5

Time: 2 hours

5. Brecon Beacons

Brecon, England

Why visit?

Rugged mountainous terrain

Nearest City

Newport

The Brecon Beacons is a vast, wooly and wild mix of peaks and lakes that boasts a crazy array of wildlife that’ll have Attenborough fans frothing at the mouth. You can find a host of outdoor activities to keep even the fussiest kids amused and castles that ooze history scattered across the terrain. Feeling adventurous? Hike up Pen y Fan for an awe-inspiring view across the park that’ll make you feel like Ned Stark (before his untimely demise).

Best Hike

Pen-y-Fan

Follow one of the many footpaths up to the peak and look out over a view that stretches for miles

Difficulty

3/5

Time: 2 hours