Want to get away from the crowds this summer? Annabelle Thorpe, of 101 UK Holidays recommends heading to the UK's National Parks.
Here, Annabelle Thorpe, of 101 UK Holidays, recommends fifteen holiday ideas, one for each of the UK’s National Parks.
Norfolk BroadsKett Country Cottages has more than 70 properties, some of which have private moorings and fishing rights, with many in tranquil villages, with plenty of waterside pubs to discover. Boat rental shops are dotted throughout the Broads, making it easy to plan a day of independent exploration.
There are few places in England to rival Exmoor for wild, unspoilt beauty; a lush swathe of moorland, woodland, farms and river valleys stretching across Somerset and North Devon. Classic Cottages has ten gorgeous cottages, many of which welcome dogs, offering a luxurious self-catering base, whether you’re exploring on foot, by bike or horseback. But the real joy of Exmoor is that it combines a family-friendly coastline with stunning inland countryside, making days at the beach an easy option, alongside more rural pleasures.
Ancient forest, moorland, tors and ponies… Dartmoor has a mystery and savage beauty that draws generations of visitors. It’s criss-crossed with fascinating walks where you can discover Bronze Age stone circles and Neolithic tombs before treating yourself to cream teas, classic pub food or Michelin-starred dinners. Helpful Holidays has a range of self-catering cottages within and on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, some of which have the feel of being in the middle of nowhere.
Beloved by everyone from William Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter, the Lake District may be one of our most-visited parks, but there are still quiet corners to explore in the western half of the park. A day spent boat-hopping around Windermere is a must-do, the kids will love a visit to Hill Top (Beatrix Potter’s farm) and if the crowds get too much, pack up a picnic and drive the breath-taking Hardknott Pass and head to Wastwater, one of the Park’s quietest lakes – and one of the most beautiful. Stay at The Gilpin, an elegant boutique hotel with a world-class spa and Michelin-starred restaurant.
North York Moors
Brooding, stark and quiet, the North York Moors National Park is the perfect place if you need a post-lockdown re-balance. Check into the charming Feversham Arms Hotel tucked away in the pretty market town of Helmsley, and combine days exploring the wild, untamed landscapes with lazy afternoons by the shimmering pool or in the state-of-the-art spa, before dinner at the award-winning Weathervane Restaurant.
A perennial family favourite, the New Forest is one of the largest swathes of heath and forest in Southern England, and in spite of its popularity, it retains a pleasingly old-fashioned, slower-paced feel. New Forest Living has a collection of luxury cottages to suit everyone from multi-generational families to couples looking for a tranquil escape. Choose from a bolthole buried deep in the forest, or make the most of the nearby coast, with a seafront apartment in lively Lymington.
If avoiding crowds and maintaining clear social distancing are important, then the quiet, empty landscapes of the Northumberland National Park are the ideal choice. Discover the wide open beaches at Bamburgh, or the lively fishing communities at Craster and Seahouses. Cottages in Northumberland has a wide variety of properties along the coast, as well as a clutch of luxury log cabins and lodges set in the heart of the country park, which offers uncrowded spaces to explore by day and some of the darkest skies in the country by night.
Britain’s oldest national park is characterised by two very different regions; the rolling hills and gentle landscapes of the southern half, known as White Peak, and the more brooding, stark landscapes of the north, known as Dark Peak. Whichever you choose, Peak Cottages has a huge range of self-catering accommodation, including walker’s retreats surrounded by the stunning landscapes of Dovedale, and cosy boltholes in the region’s picturesque villages, including Matlock and Bakewell, famous for the (often wrongly named) Bakewell Pudding.
Tradition, heritage and beauty combine in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which brings together mesmerising waterfalls and dramatic caves, lush moorland steeped in history and bustling market towns, where the streets are dotted with specialist food producers – perfect for a self-catering week. Sykes Cottages has houses dotted throughout the park; choose from historic Richmond, buzzy Skipton or discover the Georgian elegance of Harrogate, with its glitzy past as a spa town.
England’s newest national park came into being in 2011, and stretches for 140km from Winchester to Eastbourne. Many visitors come to walk or ride along the South Downs way, which runs along the ridge of hills, to visit the historic towns of Arundel and Chichester in West Sussex, or take in the rakish charms of Brighton – and the vineyards that dot the fields in the countryside behind the city. Blackberry Wood is a wonderfully quirky campsite around 20 minutes’ drive from Brighton, offering accommodation in everything from your own tent to a Double Decker bus, or two luxury tree houses.
Often overlooked in favour of Snowdonia’s more dramatic landscapes, the Beacons have a wonderfully wild feel, with surprisingly artsy towns, such as Hay, Brecon and Crickhowell dotted among the imposing peaks. This is serious walking country; Pen Y Fan is the ultimate challenge, rising to 886 metres above sea level, but there are plenty of gentler walks, while the Usk and Monnow rivers, and tranquil Langorse Lake offer the chance to get on the water, by kayak, SUP or canal boat. Sugar and Loaf has more than 100 cottages, larger houses and glamping options dotted through the park, catering for everything from a romantic escape to a multi-gen family gathering.
If you’re keen for a beach holiday but don’t want to be somewhere too crowded, the stunning landscapes of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park are a great choice. Holiday Cottages has a wide range of properties, from beachfront boltholes to family houses in Tenby and Saundersfoot. The spectacular cliffs and long sandy beaches are the ideal playground for everyone from walkers to surfers and canoeists, the magnificent castles at Carew and Pembroke are ideal for a family day out, and there’s plenty of gentle walking trails to explore at a slower pace.
If you’re desperate for a change of scene, they don’t come more awe-inspiring than the Snowdonia National Park, home to the highest mountain in Wales, soaring peaks and rugged landscapes that feel more like America than the UK. Snowdonia holidays are all about exploring the great outdoors, so a comfortable place to return to at the end of each day’s adventures is essential. Rural Retreats offers fifteen farmhouses, barn conversions and cottages, all offering blissful isolation and a real sense of escape.
A dramatic mountain range in the Scottish Highlands, the Cairngorms are home to the UK’s only ski slopes in winter, and in summer provide a haven for a huge variety of wildlife; ideal for visitors who want a break that really takes them back to nature. Golfers are well catered for, with twelve courses in the park, while wildlife-lovers can see eagles and ptarmigans, otters and water voles and the elusive red squirrel. Sykes Cottages has over 100 cottages scattered across the Cairngorms, many of which welcome pets.
Loch Lomond/The Trossachs
Settle into a luxury lodge, complete with outdoor hot-tub, courtesy of Olivers’ Travels, or round up family and friends (as many as are allowed) for an unforgettable few days in a Scottish castle. Loch Lomond is one of the Scotland’s most beautiful lakes, with Glasgow in easy reach, and the imposing Trossach mountains rising up beyond the water. Days can be spent exploring by boat, on foot, or bike, and alongside the natural landscapes there are plenty of heritage sites, offering fascinating insights into Gaelic culture.
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