10 must-dos in England's National Parks

by Louie.kenyoncrockett

Category: The great outdoors
July 22 2016

It's National Parks Week and to celebrate, we are sharing some of the best ways to experience our 10 National Parks. From stargazing in Northumberland to the Peak District's medieval county houses, here's our list of 10 unmissable things to do...

1) Visit the fairy-tale sites of The Peak District

Indulge in the history of the Peak District, and all the gorgeous examples of nature it has. Camp in fields alongside ancient forests, go fell running across sprawling hills and visit one of many stately homes, including the fairytale Haddon Hall, dating back to the 12th century. 

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2) Ramble The South Downs Way

South Downs National Park © AndrewPickettPhoto.com

Climb rolling hills and bustling markets full of character, or stalk through the woods and see what wildlife you can discover. Not sure where to start? There are plenty of signs to help you from getting lost along the 100 mile-long South Downs Way which stretches from Winchester in Hampshire. Keep an eye out for the acorn logo.

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3) Sail away in The Broads

Broads National Park © Tom Mackie

Famous for its waterways, The Broads National Park is one of the best places in England for a boating holiday. Choose from a river cruiser, vintage barge or a sailing boat and moor up at a country pub or two for delicious local food. 

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4) Explore the North York Moors in style

North York Moors Railway ©VisitBritain

Spanning both coast and countryside, stick with civilisation and build sandcastles and explore quaint local market town, or go off grid and follow the  heather-clad moors for wide-open views. Better still, hop aboard a steam train with the North York Moors Railway and soak it up from the comfort of a vintage carriage.

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5) Hike or bike through Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park © VisitBritain / Adam Burton

Exmoor is a warren of trails and paths that are ideal for anyone who wants a bike ride to remember. The Tour of Britain was held in Exmoor, and you can follow the same 56 mile trail that they did then. Or tackle the South West Path on foot, and wander along a section of the South West Coast Path on a 12.5 mile walk from Minehead to Porlock Weir. 

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6) Galaxy gaze in Northumberland

Northumberland National Park © Cain Scrimgeour

Visit the least populated National Park in the UK and you'll find utter tranquility and some of the darkest skies in Europe. Get tips from a team of experts at Kielder Observatory or head to the Dark Skies Discovery Site at Cawfields and see what constellations you can spot above the Park's peaks. It's even possible to spot the Milky Way! 

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7) Find some furry friends in the New Forest

New Forest National Park © VisitBritain

New Forest National Park is the place to go if you want to spot a vast variety of wildlife. See critters ranging from butterflies to warthogs at the New Forest Wildlife Park, or head out on your own to track down ponies, deers, donkeys and pigs who graze freely through the countryside. 

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8) Conquer the Lake District by steamboat

Ullswater Steamer

Perfect for kayaking, conoeing, and rafting, The Lake District has vast meres flanked by dramatic mountain views, so you won't want to return to dry land in a hurry. Take a cruise on one of the handsome steam-powered liners designed so you can take in the views, or even take a dip in a lake yourself. 

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9) Try a Victorian pastime on Dartmoor

Dartmoor National Park © Adam Burton

Dartmoor National Park was the inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles, and you too can be a victorian sleuth with a game of Letterboxing. Begun in 1854, Letterboxing is a twee outdoor hobby that combines treasure hunting and orienteering as you find your way to various stashes hidden around the moors.

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10) Test your mettle climbing in the Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales, National Park © VisitBritian/Nadir Khan

Perfect climbing spots come in the form of the Yorkshire Dales' gritstone outcrops and limestone cliffs. If you're looking for something a bit more sedate, there's always the Settle to Carlisle Railway which sweeps over across the  historical Ribblehead Viaduct and takes in some of the most dramatic scenary in the country.

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