Considering how small and densely populated the UK is, we are blessed with some amazing natural beauty.
There are 15 national parks in total: 10 in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland. Each national park has its own distinct beauty and character, drawing visitors from around the globe.
From the Cairngorms’ rugged mountains to the quaint South Downs, Britain’s parks differ enormously in terms of scenery, climate and culture.
The country’s most visited national park is the Lake District, which sees 16.5 million visitors a year. However, others see far fewer. Here are some of the least visited:
Despite being located in the more populous South of England, Exmoor is actually Britain’s least visited national park. It receives just 1.4 million visitors a year.
Nestled on the border between Somerset and Devon, visitors can take in a spectacular mixture of dramatic coastal landscapes, rolling hills and lush woodland.
Sparsely populated, Exmoor is home to some of the darkest skies in the country and is a designated International Dark Sky Reserve. On a clear night, the Exmoor skies are simply stunning. Many astronomical wonders can be seen with the naked eye alone.
Northumberland National Park
This diverse national park is the most northerly in England and the least populated in the UK. Covering an area of 1,048 kilometres, this park encompasses Kielder Forest and the Cheviot Hills and receives just 1.5 million visitors a year.
The park is an excellent place to see Hadrian’s Wall, a colossal triumph of Roman engineering and a designated World Heritage Site. You can also still find red squirrels hiding in the park’s woodlands, a rare sight in England these days because of invasive grey squirrels which have nearly wiped out their red cousins due to a fatal virus they transmit.
The Pembrokeshire Coast is Britain’s only coastal national park, and its beauty hasn’t gone unnoticed. The American National Geographic Traveler magazine recently rated the Pembrokeshire Coast one of the top two coastal destinations in the world.
This section of the welsh coast is notable for its rugged cliffs, dazzling beaches and hidden coves. A mecca for adventure sports, walkers, surfers, kayakers and sailors are in their element.
The national park also features some amazing wildlife. Visitors can find puffins and Manx shearwaters on the islands of Caldey, Grassholm, Skokholm, Skomer and Ramsey. On a sunny day, you might even see a seal snoozing in the sun.
Located in North East Scotland, the Cairngorms is by far the country’s largest national park, stretching for 4,528 square kilometres. Despite its large size, the park sees just 1.5 million visitors each year.
If it’s remoteness you’re after, this is the place to come. The park is home to some of the UK’s most spectacular scenery and the country’s second highest mountain, Ben Macdui.
You can also find Scotland’s best established ski areas. Cairngorm Mountain near Aviemore can provide some excellent skiing or snowboarding if you get the conditions right. And if you’re blessed with a crisp, clear day, the views across the Cairngorms are truly a sight to behold.