National Parks in England and Wales

The National Parks of the United Kingdom are areas of exceptional landscapes where development and commercial activities are restricted. Most of these areas are privately owned and managed independently. Currently, there are 15 national parks in the United Kingdom, with nine in England, covering approximately 7% of the English territory, and three in Wales, covering about 20% of the Welsh land area.

List of National Parks in England and Wales

Snowdonia National Park

The Snowdonia National Park in Wales is a vast and diverse landscape of rugged mountains, deep valleys, and crystal-clear lakes. Within it lies Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, which attracts hikers and climbers from around the world. In addition to its mighty peaks, the park is home to a wide variety of wildlife and offers activities such as hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and bird watching.

Peak District National Park

The Peak District National Park, located in central England, is known for its rolling hills, rocky valleys, and charming rural villages. It is the first national park established in the United Kingdom and spans parts of Derbyshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, and South Yorkshire. It offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, cycling, and climbing.

Lake District National Park

The Lake District National Park, situated in northwest England, is famous for its impressive lakes, rugged mountains, and picturesque landscapes. It is the largest national park in England and attracts millions of visitors each year. It offers a wide range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, boating, cycling, and wildlife watching.

Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor National Park, located in southwest England, is known for its vast moorlands, rocky hills, and ancient stone monuments. It is an area of unique natural beauty, with a rich history and cultural heritage. Visitors can enjoy activities like hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, and exploring the numerous archaeological sites.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

Yorkshire Dales National Park, located in northern England, is known for its stunning landscape of limestone hills and valleys. It offers a wide variety of walking trails, caves to explore, and charming traditional villages to visit. It is a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, cycling, and wildlife watching.

Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park, situated in southwest England, is famous for its expansive moorlands, wooded valleys, and rugged coastline. It is a haven for a wide variety of wildlife, including the famous Exmoor ponies. Visitors can enjoy hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and bird watching, as well as exploring picturesque villages and ancient archaeological sites.

Brecon Beacons National Park

Brecon Beacons National Park, located in Wales, is known for its mighty mountains, extensive moorlands, and spectacular waterfalls. It is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with an extensive network of walking trails, cycling routes, waterways for kayaking, and caves to explore. It also hosts a great diversity of wildlife and offers breathtaking panoramic views.

New Forest National Park

New Forest National Park, in southern England, is known for its beautiful landscape of ancient woodlands, open heathlands, and charming villages. It is a sanctuary for a wide variety of wildlife, including the famous New Forest ponies. Visitors can enjoy peaceful woodland walks, explore picturesque villages, bird watch, and participate in outdoor activities such as cycling and horseback riding.

South Downs National Park

South Downs National Park, located in southeast England, encompasses impressive rolling hills, spectacular white cliffs, and charming rural landscapes. It is a paradise for hikers, with a network of trails winding through meadows, woodlands, and protected areas. Visitors can also enjoy activities such as cycling, bird watching, and horseback riding. The park is a refuge for a variety of wildlife and offers stunning panoramic views of the English countryside.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, known in Welsh as Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro, covers the stunning southwest coast of Wales. With its dramatic cliffs, golden beaches, and picturesque coastal villages, it is a paradise for lovers of marine landscapes and outdoor activities. Visitors can explore coastal trails, spot seabirds, and enjoy a variety of water sports. The park also hosts a rich history and unique biodiversity.

North York Moors National Park

North York Moors National Park, situated in northeast England, is known for its stunning landscape of moorlands, rugged valleys, dense forests, and picturesque villages. It offers a wide variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife watching. Visitors can explore ancient archaeological remains, such as burial mounds and stone circles, and enjoy panoramic views from the park’s many viewpoints.

Northumberland National Park

Northumberland National Park, in northeast England, is the northernmost national park in England and one of the quietest and least visited. With a unique combination of coastal landscapes, rugged hills, and extensive protected areas, it is a haven for wildlife and offers exceptional opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and outdoor activities. Visitors can explore ancient castles, such as Alnwick Castle, and marvel at the night sky in one of the darkest places in England.

Bannau Brycheiniog National Park

Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, also known as Brecon Beacons in English, is an impressive national park located in southern Wales. Known for its mighty mountains, rolling moorlands, picturesque valleys, and stunning waterfalls, it is a popular destination for outdoor and nature enthusiasts. Visitors can enjoy activities such as hiking, climbing, cycling, and bird watching, as well as explore ancient castles and archaeological sites in the area.

The Broads National Park

The Broads National Park, located in eastern England, is a vast network of waterways, rivers, lakes, and wetlands covering parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. Known for its unique natural beauty and abundant wildlife, the Broads is a paradise for boating enthusiasts, bird watchers, and outdoor activity lovers. Visitors can explore picturesque riverside villages, take boat cruises, fish, and discover a variety of aquatic and terrestrial habitats.

Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms National Park, located in northeast Scotland, is the largest national park in the United Kingdom. Covering an area of approximately 4,528 km², it encompasses a wide variety of landscapes, from rugged mountains to picturesque valleys and extensive forests. It is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including the golden eagle and the musk ox. It offers opportunities for hiking, skiing, bird watching, and other outdoor activities, attracting visitors from around the world.

Map of the Location of National Parks in England and Wales

Regulation of National Parks in the United Kingdom

National parks in the United Kingdom are regulated by specific laws in each country. In Scotland, they are governed by the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000, while in England and Wales, they are governed by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The Environment Act 1995 stipulates that national parks must conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage, as well as promote opportunities for public enjoyment. Additionally, the Broads have a third purpose centered on protecting navigation interests. In Scotland, national parks have two additional purposes: promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and fostering the sustainable economic and social development of local communities.

National Parks of England and Wales

Designation of Protected Areas in England

The legal designation of national parks in the United Kingdom was first established by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. This law, applicable in England and Wales, requires the confirmation of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs to designate new national parks. It emerged after a long campaign for public access to the countryside, with roots in the Industrial Revolution.

Map of the location of protected areas and national parks in England and Wales
Although proposals were made as early as 1884, it was not until 1949 that the law was passed, following a 1945 white paper on national parks as part of post-war reconstruction. Designation as a national park means that the area is considered of national heritage importance, which entails special protection and attention. Unlike other countries, the national parks in the United Kingdom are not state-owned and may include human settlements and land uses within their boundaries, with multiple owners, both public and private.

Beginning of the National Parks Network

The areas designated as national parks in the United Kingdom have been inhabited by humans since the Stone Age, at least 5,000 years ago. Before the 19th century, these remote areas were considered wild and dangerous, but romantic poets like Byron, Coleridge, and Wordsworth praised their natural beauty. In 1949, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was enacted, inspired by the picturesque movement. Unlike other countries that established national parks in the 19th century, the United Kingdom adopted this model later.

What Are the Largest National Parks in England and Wales?

The largest national parks in England and Wales are Lake District with 2,292 km², followed by Snowdonia with 2,142 km², Yorkshire Dales with 1,769 km², South Downs with 1,641 km², and finally, Peak District with 1,438 km².

What Is the Most Famous National Park in England?

Lake District National Park is a must-see if you want to know the country, being one of the best national parks in the United Kingdom. With 912 square miles, it is the largest in England. The park attracts millions of visitors each year, making it the most popular in the entire UK. It’s not hard to see why it would attract so many people.

Entry Fees for English National Parks

The unique aspect of national parks in the United Kingdom is that people live and work in them, and anyone can visit them freely at any time. This unique accessibility makes them ideal places for developing innovative projects that address the current challenge of how to live on the planet sustainably without causing its destruction.

Which Is the Most Visited Park?

The most visited national park in the United Kingdom is the Lake District, with 15.8 million visitors in 2009. However, in terms of visitor days, the South Downs recorded 39 million, compared to the Lake District’s 23.1 million.