Guide to Britain’s best country parks and estates

The 20 best country parks, great estates and green spaces for gatherings with friends and family

Castle by the water

Finding the perfect place to meet friends and family in the countryside can sometimes be a little tricky,  especially when several generations are meeting up. What may bring joy to exuberant children, for instance, may not prove exactly granny and grandad’s cup of tea. The solution is to choose a location that has something for everyone – and where better than one of Britain’s wonderful country parks, estates, gardens or woodlands?

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To help you find the ideal rendezvous, we’ve hand-picked 20 of these special places. They’re all easily accessible, provide handy facilities, are packed with interest and offer fantastic walks for both the wildly energetic and the more relaxed rambler. All you need to do is find a time and a date. Fill your boots!

• Please check with venues before you travel. Opening times may vary, and some venues may require booking in advance. 

20 best country parks and great estates

Culzean Castle, Maybole, Ayrshire

Castle by the water
Culzean Castle, Maybole, Ayrshire/Credit: Alamy

The magnificent 260-hectare estate that surrounds this palatial clifftop castle encompasses sandy beaches, ancient caves, hidden follies, wild woods, a lake, play areas and café. Spot deer, llamas, wildfowl and butterflies.  nts.org.uk/visit/places/culzean

Beecraigs Country Park, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Red deer in field
The Red Deer herd at Beecraigs Country Park near Linlithgow, West Lothian/Credit: Alamy

Up in the Bathgate Hills, this 370-hectare park is home to red deer, Highland cattle, North Ronaldsay sheep and Hebridean sheep. There are walks and mountain bike routes, or you can have a go at orienteering on one of the park’s nine courses. The kids will love the adventure playground’s wigwams and flying foxes, and there’s a visitor centre, loos and two cafés to choose from. westlothian.gov.uk/beecraigs

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Aberfoyle, Perthshire

Queen Elizabeth Forrest Park, Scotland
Queen Elizabeth Forrest Park, Scotland/Credit: Mark Molly

Covering a vast area to the east of scenic Loch Lomond, this forest park within a national park promises lungfuls of fresh air and extraordinary views of wild mountains. Start at the Lodge Forest Visitor Centre with its loos and café, nearby wildlife hide and waterfall. Then head out on foot or cycle along one of the many signposted trails. You could even explore Loch Katrine by steamship. forestryandland.gov.scot/visit/forest-parks/queen-elizabeth-forest-park

Rosliston Forestry Centre, Rosliston, Derbyshire

Bird with fish
Spot kingfishers at Rosliston Forestry Centre/Credit Getty

Right at the heart of the National Forest, the centre promises woodland, meadow and pond fun for all comers amid the owls, kestrels and kingfishers that call it home. Take off on walking and cycle routes or choose from the many activities on offer, including archery, falconry, astronomy, crazy golf and laser games. Afterwards, enjoy panoramic views from the licensed Hub Café. roslistonforestrycentre.co.uk

Killerton house and garden, exeter, Devon

Family picnic in countryside
Family visitors in the garden at Killerton/Credit: National Trust Images

Killerton is a stunning Georgian house set in 2,600 hectares of historic parkland, with ancient woods, farmland and orchards, plus a flower-filled garden to explore. Build dens, climb an extinct volcano and visit a working watermill. nationaltrust.org.uk/killerton

Ham Hill Country Park, Stoke Sub Hamdon, near Yeovil, Somerset

Tower on hill
Ham Hill Country Park is near Yeovil in Somerset/Credit: Alamy

A mighty Iron Age hill fort dominates this huge park. Enjoy views of Exmoor, go Geocaching, discover the unique hamstone rock or take on the orienteering course. southsomersetcountryside.com/ham-hill

Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland

House and grounds
Cragside was the home of Lord Armstrong, a Victorian engineer and inventor/Credit: Alamy

Discover the gadget-filled house and gardens of Victorian inventor and genius landscaper Lord William Armstrong. Follow Cragside‘s miles of woodland footpaths past water features to Nelly’s Labyrinth in the rhododendron forest. nationaltrust.org.uk/cragside

Lanhydrock, Bodmin, Cornwall

trees and fields
Lanhydrock, Bodmin/Credit: Getty

There’s more to Lanhydrock than the stupendous Victorian country house. The substantial, colourful gardens include a remarkable parterre (formal garden of plant beds laid out in symmetrical patterns), while the huge estate can be explored via footpaths of differing lengths or on mountain bikes along exciting trails of different grades (cycle hire available), taking visitors through ancient woodlands on riverside paths. There’s also a plant shop, two cafés, an ice-cream parlour and a play area. Booking is essential. nationaltrust.org.uk/lanhydrock

Newstead Abbey, Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire

Cottages and walled garden in Newstead Abbey
Admire the castellated wall and turrets of Newstead Abbey lake/Credit: Getty

Once home to Lord Byron, the 12th-century abbey sits in glorious parkland and formal gardens whose lakes, ponds and cascades are fed by the beguiling River Leen. Explore the many themed gardens, from Japanese to sub-tropical, and hunt for clues on the fun indoor and outdoor family trails. newsteadabbey.org.uk

Lepe Country Park, Lepe, Hampshire

Coastal country park
Lepe Country Park in Hampshire/Credit: Getty

Set on the edge of the New Forest, with a mile of beach to explore and ravishing vistas of the Isle of Wight to feast on, Lepe can lay claim to being one of Britain’s most diverse and beautiful country parks. Ramble its pine-bordered clifftops, plunge into stunning wildflower meadows, or go birding by the mudflats and freshwater ponds. Learn about Lepe Beach’s role in D-Day with a free self-guided audio tour, or take to the nature trail or five-mile circular Lepe Loop walk. There’s a visitor centre, adventure playground, licensed café and refreshment kiosk, too. hants.gov.uk/lepe

Margam Country Park, Neath Port Talbot

Gothic Castle in Wales
Built in 1830–1840 for landowner and industrialist Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, grand neo-Gothic Margam Castle boasts an octagonal tower and a vast staircase hall/Credit: Getty

Industrial South Wales might not seem the obvious place to seek out a countryside walk with the family. However, if you venture just two miles from Port Talbot on Swansea Bay, you’ll come upon over 400 hectares of majestic woods, parkland and gardens waiting to be explored. 

Margam Country Park bristles with outdoor attractions for both adults and children, is free to visit (just a parking fee) and is home to more than 400 fallow, red and endangered Père David deer. margamcountrypark.co.uk

Bodnant Garden, Colwyn Bay, Conwy

Gardens and waterfall
Bodnant Garden is a joy to visit at any time of year/Credit: Getty

Perched on a steep hillside, Bodnant has 32 hectares of beautiful wildflower meadows, grand flower-filled terraces, water gardens and majestic woodland to explore, with various kiosks serving refreshments. Book in advance. nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden

Beeston Castle and Woodland Park, Beeston, Cheshire

trees and hills
A view over barley fields towards Beeston Castle/Credit: Alamy

Perched on the summit of a dramatic crag, Beeston Castle is the stuff of fairy tales. Enjoy views of the Welsh mountains as you explore the 13th-century fortress, a reproduction Bronze Age roundhouse and 16-hectare woodland. Look out for bats, buzzards and peregrine falcons then enjoy refreshments in the café. english-heritage.org.uk

Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean, Hampshire

trees and path
Queen Elizabeth Country Park Near Petersfield/Credit: Alamy

A sensational slice of the South Downs National Park, the Queen Elizabeth encompasses no fewer than 809 hectares of downland and woodland. There are chalkland butterflies aplenty, skylarks singing above, a range of trails for cyclists and ramblers, including an interactive story walk specially for children, along with an adventure play park, assault course and brand-new restaurant. hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/countryparks/

Pembrey Country Park, Pembrey, Carmarthenshire

Beach and sea
Pembrey Country Park in Carmarthenshire/Credit: Getty

For a bit of an adventure, make for this 200-hectare park to try out the dry ski-slope, toboggan ride, crazy golf, pitch-and-putt, horseriding, adventure play area and train rides. There’s also a visitor centre, cafés and calming nature trails, along with an eight-mile-long Blue Flag sandy beach. pembreycountrypark.wales

Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk

Gardens and trees
The Abbey garden at Bury St Edmunds/Credit: Alamy

These gardens are a pocket of floral splendour around the riverside ruins of an 11th-century Benedictine monastery. Acres of majestic gardens are teamed with a sensory garden, children’s playground, treehouse and willow maze. westsuffolk.gov.uk/leisure/parks/abbey-gardens.cfm

Mugdock Country Park, Mugdock, Stirling

Mountains and lake
Mugdock Country Park, Mugdock/Credit: Alamy

With 240 hectares encompassing a wide range of habitats, you’ll share Mugdock with roe deer, pine martens, sparrowhawks and a wealth of other wildlife. Roam the woods, heaths, moorland and wetland on the extensive network of footpaths (mostly wheelchair- and mobility scooter-friendly). Take a journey through time, too. The park boasts a Stone Age site, Bronze Age farm, medieval castle, Neo-Gothic mansion, Victorian gardens and a gun site from the Second World War. There’s also a visitor centre, restaurant, tearoom and two children’s play areas. And all just 10 miles from the centre of Glasgow. mugdock-country-park.org.uk

Crombie Country Park, near Dundee, Angus

Lake and trees
Crombie Country Park, Angus/Credit: Alamy

Have a go at Geocaching or walk one of the trails crossing this 80-hectare woodland surrounding Crombie Loch. Red squirrels and woodpeckers galore!
angusalive.scot/countryside-adventure/visit-us/crombie-country-park

Capstone Farm Country Park, Gillingham, Kent

track through trees
Capstone Farm Country Park, Gillingham/Credit: Geograph

A huge swathe of former North Downs farmland is now a wonderful patchwork of ancient woodlands, orchards, meadows and a fishing lake, with a café and children’s play areas, too. medway.gov.uk

Beacon Fell Country Park, near Garstang, Lancashire

Sculpture in country park
Beacon Fell Country Park, near Garstang/Credit: Alamy
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Walk the sculpture trail, hit the visitor centre and café, then climb up through pretty woodland and moorland to breathtaking summit views of the Irish Sea.
lancashire.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/country-parks-and-nature-reserves/beacon-fell-country-park