England has nine national parks (wwww.nationalparks.gov.uk), plus the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, which has equivalent legal status and is effectively a tenth. They account for around 8 percent of England’s land area and attract over 110 million visitors a year.
The Broads wwww.broads-authority.gov.uk. Fine place for a boating holiday: the rivers, marshes, fens and canals of Norfolk and Suffolk make up one of Europe’s most important wetlands, ideal for birdwatching. Forget a car: cyclists and walkers have the best of it. Don’t miss: a wildlife-viewing trip on the Electric Eel.
Dartmoor wwww.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk. In deepest Devon, England’s largest wilderness attracts back-to-nature hikers and trippy stone-chasers in equal measure – the moorland walks can be pretty hardcore, while the standing stones are famous. Don’t miss: Grimspound Bronze Age village.
Exmoor wwww.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk. A slightly tamer version of Dartmoor, straddling the Somerset/Devon border with high, hogsback hills overlooking the sea. Crisscrossed by trails and also accessible from the South West Coast Path, it‘s ideal for walking and pony-trekking. Don’t miss: Tarr Steps, a 17-span medieval bridge.
Lake District wwww.lake-district.gov.uk. The biggest national park, located in Cumbria amid a near-Alpine landscape of glacial lakes and rugged mountains. It’s great for hiking, rock climbing and watersports, but also has strong literary connections and thriving cultural traditions. Don’t miss: Honister’s hard-hat mine tour.
New Forest wwww.newforestnpa.gov.uk. Amid the domesticated landscape of Hampshire, England’s best surviving example of a medieval hunting forest can be surprisingly wild. The majestic woodland is interspersed by tracts of heath, and a good network of paths and bridleways offers plenty of scope for biking and pony rides. Don’t miss: off-road cycling from Brockenhurst.
Northumberland wwww.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk. Where England meets Scotland, Northumberland is adventure country. The long-distance Pennine Way runs the length of the park, while the Romans left their mark in the shape of Hadrian’s Wall, along which you can hike or bike. Don’t miss: the Chillingham cattle wildlife safari .
North York Moors wwww.northyorkmoors.org.uk. A stunning mix of heather moorland, gentle valleys, ruined abbeys and wild coastline in North Yorkshire. Walking and mountain biking are the big activities, but you can also tour the picturesque stone villages or sample the sea at Whitby. Don’t miss: a day out at Ryedale Folk Museum.
Peak District wwww.peakdistrict.gov.uk. England’s first national park (1951) is also the most visited, located between the big cities of the Midlands and the northwest. It’s rugged country, with some dramatic underground caverns, tempered by stately homes and spa and market towns. Don’t miss: a trip down Speedwell Cavern.
South Downs wwww.southdowns.gov.uk. These rolling chalk downlands in Hampshire and Sussex extend to the sea cliffs at Beachy Head and include ancient beech and oak forests as well as open heath. More than 100,000 people live within the park boundaries: this is less a wilderness than a lovely place for long walks on London’s doorstep. Don’t miss: following prehistoric droving paths on the South Downs Way.
Yorkshire Dales wwww.yorkshiredales.org.uk. Probably the best choice for walking, cycling and pony-trekking, Yorkshire’s second national park spreads across twenty dales (valleys) at the heart of the Pennines. England’s scenic Settle–Carlisle Railway is another draw, while caves, waterfalls and
castles provide the backdrop. Don’t miss: the train ride across Ribblehead Viaduct.