For many people, the UK’s National Parks are, indeed, national treasures. The carefully preserved unspoiled landscapes, the fascinating and sometimes endangered wildlife, and the traditional ways of life found within them are widely thought of as well worth looking after. But what’s the best way to enjoy these dramatic and picturesque landscapes?
In my humble opinion, the most enjoyable way of experiencing a UK National Park is to walk through it. Nothing beats this up close and personal method of exploring everything that each unique park has to offer. So, with this in mind, I’ve collated some of the most outstanding trail walks that pass through UK National Parks for your perusal.
Cleveland Way – North York Moors
Officially recognised as a UK National Trail, the Cleveland Way is, nevertheless, often overlooked in favour of more well-known walks like the Coast to Coast (more on that one later). However, you’d do well to sit up and take notice of this 109 mile walk through the simply breathtaking North Yorkshire Moors and along the east coast. This walk has everything – bleak yet beautiful moorland, adorable and cosy villages, lush green vegetation and, once you reach the coastline, stunning seascapes. It’s a nice manageable distance for a trail walk, and there are plenty of hearty provisions to be found along the well maintained and consistently impressive route.
Hadrian’s Wall Path – Northumberland National Park
You probably recognise the name of this trail from school history lessons; once upon a time, Hadrian’s Wall demarcated a boundary line somewhere between the countries of Scotland and England. The building began in AD122 when the Roman emperor Hadrian decided he wanted to preserve his empire from the ‘barbarians’ to the north. There are large sections of this ancient wall still standing, and it just so happens that the walk along its line is a great one.
Taking in the southerly tip of Northumberland National Park along its way, the trail passes from the hustle and bustle of Newcastle city all the way across the country to the peace and tranquillity of Bowness-on-Solway.
Pennine Way – Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District, North Pennines, Northumberland
If you want to fit in as many National Parks as you possibly can along one trail, then the Pennine Way is the walk for you. Not for the fainthearted, this 268 mile behemoth goes through five separate parks and a myriad of different environments. You’ll experience natural beauty in its many contrasting forms, including moorland, mountains, lush valleys, farmland and those classic English fields of green.
When on a long distance trail like this one, I like to make sure I’m prepared with plenty of activities for when the nights are long and lonely. I always have a good book tucked into my rucksack, but modern technology allows me to pack plenty of entertainment into my phone. Whether that means a mindboggling word game, a few spins on the roulette wheel or testing my general knowledge, I know that I can stay occupied even when the weather fails me and I’m tent-bound.
South West Coast Path – Exmoor National Park
This trail is quite the undertaking as it racks up a massive 630 miles in total. However, as we’re focusing on National Parks here, I would suggest checking out the section at one end of the official trail that takes in Exmoor National Park. Here you can find charming Exmoor ponies roaming freely, miles of rugged coastline, dramatic landscapes and even views of Wales in the distance. Naturally, this is the ideal walk for those people who just love the sea, and, in my opinion, it does make for one of the best walking companions; a day’s walk is never not exciting when you have a lively and every shifting seascape by your side.
Coast to Coast – Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors
Taking a slight detour from the rest of the suggestions in this article, I couldn’t leave out the world famous Coast to Coast walk. It remains mostly unsignposted and is not recognised as an official UK National Trail, but rather was assembled by walker and author Alfred Wainwright in the 1970s. It is well loved by walkers from all over the world and it’s easy to see why; starting on the west coast, it passes through the Lake District, then the Yorkshire Dales and finally the North Yorkshire Moors. This gives anybody attempting the trail the opportunity to see some of England’s finest and most awe-inspiring views.
So, as you can see, you are absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to tried and tested trails that take you through the UK’s National Parks. If you’d rather forge your own path, however, then there’s always the option of turning up at your preferred park and just seeing where your feet take you!