Six Down, Nine to Go: Celebrating National Parks Week

The UK’s fifteen national parks are an eclectic mix of landscapes, ranging from heather-clad moorland, rolling hills and craggy fells to expansive lochs, wooded valleys and sandy beaches. They’re home to our highest peaks, our deepest lake and miles upon miles of trails for everyone to enjoy. Oh, and millions of sheep (of which the Lake District’s hardy Herdwicks are by far the cutest). I’ve visited six of our national parks to date – some on multiple occasions, others just the once – and each of them holds a place in my heart.

Snowdonia, having been virtually on my doorstop for the majority of my existence, is the one I’ve visited the most over the years. I remember following our head teacher up the Watkins Path on a school trip way back when, gleeful at the prospect of an impromptu hike to the top of Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak. We never did make the summit on that occasion; three-quarters of the way up, it transpired that not everyone was suitably prepared, so we had to turn back. Fast-forward a few years and, fuelled on bacon butties, I made it to the top with my family (and a couple of toys which came along for the ride). I’ve since climbed it again twice, but I’ve only had clear views from the summit once. Snowdonia isn’t just Snowdon, though: there are beautiful waterfalls to see, heritage railways to ride and slate caverns to tour.

1-Snowdonia

Doing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at the University of Leeds led me to the Peak District, a national park widely known for its dramatic moorland in the north and limestone dales in the south. I, on the other hand, know only of its enveloping mist, bitter temperatures and snow-covered plateaus. (Remember when the UK had snow at Easter? Yep, that’s the year that I was doing my practice expedition.) One of these days, I’d love to go back and do a walk there that doesn’t involve wading through thigh-deep snow.

1-Peak District

Next up, it’s the Yorkshire Dales, a perennial favourite. I completed my final expedition there, back in 2013, inadvertently squashing a mouse under my boot in the process. Since then, I’ve volunteered at Trailtrekker (an Oxfam fundraising event, which was discontinued a few years ago), hiked a small chunk of the Dales Way and climbed the Yorkshire Three Peaks (see these posts for more on Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside). I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve visited Malham Cove; if the name doesn’t ring a bell, the photo will – it’s been immortalised in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1). I wouldn’t say no to a trip up to Wensleydale one day for a spot of cheese and crackers with Wallace and Gromit.

1-Yorkshire Dales

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award also took me to the North York Moors – only this time, I was on the other side of the fence, as a supervisor. Other than the campsites being the utter pits (think fields shared with cowpats of extreme proportions and spider-filled outhouses-cum-toilets), I have nothing but fond memories from those few days spent tootling round the national park. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have all that many photos of from that trip. I’ll take that as a good excuse to return . . .

1-North York Moors

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lake District has cast its spell over many a visitor for centuries. Whilst Windermere, Ambleside and Grasmere draw the biggest crowds, forming a tourist triangle of sorts, that’s not to say that other parts of the park aren’t worth a visit. Quite the contrary, in fact. For starters, you can conquer Scafell Pike without having to contend with a human motorway of hikers, à la Snowdon’s Llanberis path. (Do tell me what the views are like from the top if you’ve been fortunate enough to have any; I could see precisely nought through the fog when I was up there.) Alternatively, board the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, and discover scenic waterfalls, tarns and a former mill turned heritage museum in the quaint village of Boot.

1-Lake District

More recently, I ventured up to Scotland to walk the West Highland Way and explore Loch Lomond and The Trossachs (more on this soon). I came home with a few blisters, many memories and a burning desire to do some Munro-bagging when I’m next en Écosse. (Feel free to drop me a recommendation in the comments!) If you’re looking for breathtaking scenery, this park won’t disappoint: it’s got expansive lochs, mountains and pinewood forests aplenty (plus some resident red deer). Scotland sets the bar high, that’s for sure!

1-Loch Lomond and The Trossachs

National Parks Week runs from 22-29 July 2018.

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17 thoughts on “Six Down, Nine to Go: Celebrating National Parks Week

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I haven’t seen nearly enough of the Peak District, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a trip there this bank holiday (decent train times and fares permitting!).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the recommendations! I hadn’t heard of Stanage or Chatterly House – I’ll have to look into them. Bakewell’s been on my radar for a while, mostly just to try the original tart!

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  1. The Lake District is still on my bucket list, and I really need to go soon, after seeing your photos! Granted, with the logistics of such a journey from another country, I might end up just visiting the main towns you mentioned, but I’m sure they’re still a sight to behold!

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    1. The Lake District is a stunner of a national park, and so easy to get around if you don’t have a car (always a plus!). I’d recommend avoiding the summer holidays if you can, as it gets very congested at that time of year.

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      1. Are there buses/public transport that connects between the towns and to the main sights and hikes? If you have tips on transportation and accommodation, I’d be interested in hearing!

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      2. There’s a decent public transport network in the Lakes, with train stations on the periphery (e.g. Windermere, Kendal, Penrith, Ravenglass) and buses serving the park itself (the GO Lakes bus runs a good service seven days a week), which makes it super easy to get around without a car. Some of the towns aren’t so very far apart; for example, there’s a nice walk between Grasmere and Ambleside which only takes a few hours, is almost entirely flat and has beautiful views. There’s an official website for the park (http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/), which is good for getting an overview of things to do, places to stay etc. We stayed in a hostel in Kendal on one trip, and camped on another – and there’s definitely accommodation to suit all budgets! Give me a shout if you want any more tips 🙂

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  2. i’m proud to say I have visited Dartmoor National Park, the only park I’ve been to in the UK. The ones you’ve mentioned here all look great. i dont know too much about them except for Lake District. considered going on a wellness retreat there, but didnt work out. maybe someday.
    will you visit (or already have been) to any national parks in the U.S.? (I bet you’ve been to more than I have already hehe)

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    1. I haven’t been down that way in so long. I’d love to see more of Devon and Cornwall, as it’s an area I really don’t know all that well! The Lake District is beautiful, and definitely worth a visit should you get the chance. I’ve only been to Yosemite in the USA 🙂 I’d love to see more of your national parks in the future (especially those with canyons, as we just don’t have landscapes like that over here).

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    1. I’ve heard good things about Dartmoor. What time of year did you visit? I think The Broads will probably be the next one I visit, as it’s a lot nearer to Cambridge than any of the other national parks!

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      1. I hadn’t clocked it was a National Park until recently, as it’s a man-made network of rivers and lakes. I can imagine it being a bit chilly on the moors at that time of the year, but beautiful and peaceful!

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