There are 15 breathtaking national parks spread across Britain, each with its own unique landscape, wildlife, history and communities. National Parks Week takes place between 22 – 19 July 2018 and gives locals and visitors the chance to celebrate these very special places with a range of activities, many of which are free, running over the course of an action-packed week.
There’s plenty to explore: take a walk with a national park ranger, discover the caves beneath the Brecon Beacons and nature-spot among the brawny peaks of the Cairngorms.
Find out more about the events taking place during National Parks Week 2018 with our guide to Britain’s National Parks
Climb a mountain, paddle in a stream or spot wildlife in the Brecon Beacons National Parl/Credit: Getty
Home to a mix of mountains and moorland, standing stones, castles, waterfalls and wildlife, the Brecon Beacons National Park extends for 42 miles from east to west, and is divided into three distinct areas: the Black Mountains in the east, the Brecon Beacons and Fforest Fawr in the centre, and the Black Mountain region (formerly called the Camarthen Fans) in the largely Welsh-speaking west.
As well as mountains to climb, there is a huge range of outdoor activities to try – mountain biking, horse riding, abseiling, paragliding, rafting and more. The region is also one of the UK’s four International Dark Skies Reserves and part of the National Park is a UNESCO Global Geopark, protecting and showcasing its geology, archaeology and history.
Royal Welsh Agricultural Show: 23 – 26 July
Safety on the Hills: 28 – 29 July
Explore more than 125 miles of waterways in the Broads National Park/Credit: Getty
A unique patchwork of rivers and lakes, the Broads is not – as was once thought – a natural landscape, but a result of intensive peat digging in the Middle Ages to provide fuel. The empty pits flooded, forming lakes known locally as broads. When combined with the area’s natural rivers, they make up a network of more than 125 miles of navigable waterways, nowadays mainly used for recreation. Renowned for its biodiversity, the Norfolk Broads are home to more than a quarter of Britain’s rare species, from birds and butterflies to mammals and fish.
Totally Broads Craft Activities and Quiz Trail: 27 July
Picnic in the Park 2018: 29 July
Wander along mountain ranges, forest paths and gaze across lochs in the Cairngorms/Credit: Getty
“Vast snowfields sweep to the horizon, covering the great, rolling, tundra-like plateaux. Icy cliffs, frozen waterfalls and huge, steep-sided, snow-filled corries ring the mountain. Lochs and lochans are frozen hard…. Deep glens and passes cleave through the mountains… Below the high tops lie magnificent Caledonian pine forests, part of the subarctic boreal forest that rings the globe.” Chris Townsend’s account of the Cairngorms National Park is a cold one. In the summer months, the dramatic nature of the park is still evident, but its paths and landscape more accessible.
Splish Splash! A watery nature adventure for the whole family: 25 July
Top Dogs day out dog training and competitions: 29 July
A walk in eagle territory in Upper Glen Cova: 29 July
Hike across wild mooralnd and scramble to the top of Dartmoor’s tors/Credit: Getty
Dartmoor is a breathtaking and mysterious place. The moor’s light distorts well-known places into unrecognisable forms, shadows stretch across its heath, and the gorse holds tight to its luminous yellow. You can explore the park’s 368 square miles of terrain by boot, bike and horseback, while a smattering of small villages and towns provide a great based from which to begin and end your adventures.
Evensong: 23 – 29 July
Buckfastleigh Farmers’ Market: 26 July
Widecombe-in-the-moor Craft Market: 26 July
Wild Signs & Star Paths with Tristan Gooley and Dartmoor’s Daughter: 26 July
Wild Signs & Star Paths with Tristan Gooley: 26 July
Totnes Show: 29 July
For the full schedule, please visit: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week/dartmoor
Roam the open moorland of Exmoor National Park/Credit: Getty
From dramatic coastal footpaths and gentle river walks to pretty cafes and beer-drinking by the sea, there are myriad ways to enjoy the rolling heath and dramtic shorelines of Exmoor National Park.
Wellbeing Weekend: 28 July
Dulverton Farmers Market: 28 July
Treemendous Tree Trail: 28 July
Outdoor theatre:28 July
For the full schedule, please visit: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week/exmoor
The Lake District have provided literary and artistic inspiration over the years/Credit: Getty
“The Lakes are sometimes referred to as ‘chocolate-box country’, and although they are astoundingly pretty, they are so much more than that” said Novelist Elizabeth Cooke on her trip to the Lakes. “They offer the exhilaration of the peaks – those primeval giants; but the lower reaches are seductive, throwing up glimpses of water and rolling ranges of hills and ever-changing colour.
This variety – of fell, dale, lake, woods, moorland and grassland – is one of the Lake District’s greatest charms. Yet you can experience all these riches in just a few days of gentle exploring. If you have never visited this part of the country before, the following seven walks are a perfect introduction.”
Dales and Place Fell: 28 July
Coniston Copper Trail: 28 July
One Tarn and Two Waters: 29 July
Coppermines Valley and Levers Water: 29 July
For the full schedule, please visit: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week/lakedistrict
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
Splash in icy lochs in the Loch Lomand and the Trossachs National Park/Credit: Getty
This is a diverse and fabled landscape of deep blue lochs, soaring Munros, rumbling rivers and lush glens. Easily accessible from Glasgow, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is a popular playground for locals and tourist alike, providing activities for families, adventure-seekers and those in need of a relaxing break. Follow in the footsteps of Scottish outlaw and folk hero Rob Roy and visit the castles once inhabited by kings and queens.
Walk in the Park: 23 – 25 July
RSPB Wildlife Cruise : 24 July
The New Forest is rich in history and wildlife/Credit: Getty
Hampshire’s New Forest is famous for its history and wildlife – indeed, venture into the national park and you will find it difficult to avoid either. “Everywhere you go you will be borrowing a trail with a human history,” suggests natural history writer Dominic Couzens in his account of the New Forest, “possibly bloody and almost always intriguing, while nowhere can you escape the all-pervading wildlife. The ponies wander the area’s villages as if they are idly window-shopping. This is a place of intermingling: local with visitor, wild with domestic, past with present.”
A Date With Nature: 23 – 29 July
Northumberland’s vast landscapes, castles and beaches will keep you coming back for more/Credit: Getty
Northumberland National Park is the least populated park in Britain, known for its clean air, beautiful rivers and dark skies. It’s home to the Cheviot Hills, the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site and the peaceful Coquetdale valley, the perfect landscape for quiet exploration.
Bushcraft Basics: 25 July
Guided Walk – Crag Lough & Sycamore Gap: 25 July
Lunar Eclipse: 27 July
Guided Walk – Moss Peteral & Thirlwall Common: 28 July
A Wee Trip Over the Border: 28 July
See the full schedule here: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week/northumberland
North York Moors
The North York Moors provide a haven for wildlife/Credit: Getty
Discover ancient trees, majestic birds of prey, rich heritage and a fascinating coastline of towering cliffs and nestled villages. The North York Moors are a nature-lover’s dream, but there’s history too. Explore a landscape steeped in evidence of the past, from as far back as the Iron Age through to the present day.
Guided Walk. Historic Ryedale: 25 July
Whitby Beer Festival: 26 July
Geocaching Treasure Hunt: 26 July
See the full schedule here: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week/north-york-moors
The trails of the Peak District offer a walker’s paradise/Credit: Getty
This upland area of limestone, gritstone and moorland deserves special mention as the pioneer of the national park system. Designated in 1951, the Peak District was the first national park to be formed, paving the way for 15 more. Covering 555 square miles, the upland region attracts cyclists, hikers, horseriders and campers, as well as archaeologist who come to explore the area’s rich past.
Wallabies and Green Knights: 28 July
Miles without Stiles (accessibility event): 28 July
Guided Walk. Bleaklow via Quarry Road: 29 July
Guided Walk. Waymarkers of the Eastern Moors: 29 July
See the full schedule: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week/peak-district
Established as a national park in 1952, walk Pembrokeshire’s long coastal path/Credit: Getty
With its sprawling sandy beaches, endless skies, atmospheric castles and churches, and a dramatic coastline teeming with wildlife, Pembrokeshire is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Britain. From hiking the gorgeous Pembrokeshire Coast Path to sea kayaking or surfing or even coasteering, this wild and wonderful place is the perfect holiday destination for families, friends and lone-rangers alike.
The Coast at Night: 27 July
Iron Age Life at Castell Henllys: 27 July
Leisurely Lighthouse Tour: 27 July
Seafood Barbeque with Live Music: 28 July
See the full schedule: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week/pembrokeshire-coast
Hike to Wales’ highest peak – Snowdon or find its gentler corners/Credit: Getty
Steeped in myth and legend, the dramatic landscape of Snowdonia is an adventurer’s dream. There’s mountains to be explored – true mountains, worthy of ropes and crampons and a head for heights – and deep gorges and cliffs to be climbed. But there’s a gentler side too; winding rivers and hidden villages, shallow shores and chugging trains.
Arts and Crafts at Yr Ysgwrn. Celf a chrefft yn Yr Ysgwrn: 25 July
Go Wild at Yr Ysgwrn’s Nature Club! Ewch i’r Gwyllt yng Nghlwb Natur Yr Ysgwrn!: 28 July
Cymdeithas Edward Llwyd guided walk. Taith dywys Cymdeithas Edward: 28 July
See the full schedule: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week/snowdonia
Easily accessible from London, the South Downs rolling coast line is spectacular/Credit: Getty
England’s newest national park is a tranquil landscape of rolling hills, chalk cliffs and crystal-clear rivers. It’s one of the busiest parks in Britain, yet solitude is easy to come by. Walk among the ancient yew trees of Kingley Vale and listen to skylarks above the parks farmland, and discover the South Down’s extensive history with Bronze Age barrows and World War II pill boxes.
South Downs Rangers on Tour: 25 – 28 July
Explore the atmospheric villages, moors and valleys of the Yorkshire Dales/Credit: Getty
Take a trip to the Dales and explore turbulent waterfalls, ruined abbeys and Ice Age erratics. Walk beneath the impressive stonework with Riddlehead Viaduct, take on the Three Peaks Challenge and eat as much cheese as you stomach can stand at the Wensleydale Creamery.
Haymaking Weekend: 29 July
By Castle and Byway guided walk from Aygarth Falls National Park Centre: 29 July
Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival: 29 July
See full schedule: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week/yorkshire-dales
See: www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week for more information
Main image: Llyn (Lake) Idwal and the peak of Pen yr Ole Wen in the distance, Snowdonia National Park/Credit: Getty