When on a UK cruise there is so much to see and do; revel in the fascinating history, visit the bustling capital or venture to hidden villages. One thing we would really recommend is taking some well-deserved time out and visiting one of the many National Parks on offer. The perfect backdrop for wildlife fanatics, water sport devotees or seasoned hikers, the UK’s National Parks each offer something different. From Snowdonia to the Lake District, here are the best National Parks of the UK, as chosen by ROL Cruise.
Cairngorms National Park
At 1,748 square miles, Cairngorms National Park is the largest in the UK. Nestled in a gold mine of natural beauty, midway between Perth and Inverness, the park has five out of six of Scotland’s highest peaks. Lush forest, shimmering lochs and never-ending peaks are the perfect backdrop for camping in the wild. Wildlife fanatics should look out for Golden Eagles, red squirrels and the rare Scottish Wildcat, while thrill-seekers have the option of mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, off-road trailing, canoeing, sailing, canyoning or whitewater rafting.
Dartmoor National Park
Located on the southwest peninsula of England, in the warmest part of the country, is the beautiful Dartmoor National Park. The setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic crime novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dartmoor is steeped in fascinating history. Many Bronze Age archaeological remains can be found here, including standing stones and ancient tombstones. There is also eminent military history dating back to the Napoleonic Wars – during the Second World War it served as an airbase and was also used to train troops for the D-Day landings.
As almost half of the park is moorland, Dartmoor is fantastic for exploration; hiking, biking, camping, canoeing and horseback riding – whatever takes your fancy!
Lake District National Park
“The loveliest spot that man hath found.” William Wordsworth
Known as Wordsworth Country but simply called the Lake District, this national park is one of England’s most famous areas for breathtaking scenery. Home to Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain at 978 square miles and the infamous Helvellyn (with its hair raising Striding Edge) at 950 square miles, the Lake District is the most visited park with 15.8 million annual visitors. A pocket of paradise for avid walkers, cyclists and climbers, there’s an endless number of walking routes as well as permitted cycleways and bridleways that suit all experience levels.
Recently awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, the Lake District is home to over 16 lakes (making it ideal for water sports such as sailing, canoeing, fishing and swimming) but most famously Lake Windermere, England’s largest lake at over 10 miles long.
New Forest National Park
Originally a royal hunting ground, the New Forest is known for its ancient woodlands, untamed heathlands and stunning coast of shingle, saltmarsh, lagoons and mudflats. Nestled in the rolling hills of Hampshire, the New Forest has many hiking and cycling trails making it perfect for a slow stroll on a crisp Sunday afternoon. The Lyndhurst Parish Walk is one of the most popular walking routes, which spans 13.6km, just remember to look out for the native New Forest pony.
The New Forest Heritage Centre provides the opportunity to learn a little more about the area you explore, with historical artefacts and fascinating exhibitions.
Snowdonia National Park
Home to Snowdon, the highest peak in both England and Wales, is predominantly a hiking and walking destination. The knife-edged Crib Goch route to the summit of Snowdon is one of the hairiest routes in the UK and offers some of the country’s best alpine-style walks.
There also several well-known cycling routes through the park, most notably the Mawddach Trail, a leisurely 9-mile stretch. But there are more than just mountains, climbing and cycling, you’ll also find 37km of dramatic coastline with sand dune-backed beaches and rocky coves. Head underground to the caves and mines of Snowdonia – especially the Sygun Cooper Mine or Llechwedd Slate Caverns.