Play Outdoors in England’s National Parks
Britain’s National Parks offer a huge range of activities from high adrenaline adventures on water, mountains, moors and vales to gentle strolls, bike rides and paddles with an ever changing view. The Parks offer the opportunity to reconnect with nature off the beaten path in contrast to the bustle of the cities. You are never too far from a local pub or café to taste the best of local produce served up with a local welcome. This landscape of rolling hills, ancient woodland and picture perfect villages have inspired generations of writers, artists and storytellers. The Parks are open all year round and offer something for every season with food festivals and also dark sky festivals and stargazing in stunning dark sky reserves.
Here are a few examples of the activities in the lesser known parks within easy reach of the cities.
South Downs National Park is known as the ‘gateway to England’ and has inspired artists including Jane Austen who lived in the picturesque village of Chawton, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury set. There is an abundance of paths, cycle routes, bridle ways and water ways which connect the villages, vineyards and waterways. An hour from Brighton by road or public transport.
- Paddle the South Downs is a kayaking adventure through flower strewn, chalk grassland and wildlife. Paddle to the village of Alfriston or Sussex’s beautiful county town of Lewes past a white horse carved into the hill, llamas and alpacas. The Kayak Coach offers a number of guided trips along the Cuckmere estuary.
- Bait to Plate is a unique guided fishing session, an afternoon fish preparation masterclass in the Smokehouse kitchen and a Chef's Table private dining experience.
- Hire a bike and explore the ups and downs of the South Downs National Park. Eroica Britannia is a celebration of cycling culture and lifestyle, set within the iconic Goodwood Motor Circuit with rides, local food and award-winning wine, shopping and activities across the weekend.
At the very heart of England, the Peak District brings together the finest of unmissable British architecture, wrapped in a contrast of classic landscapes from rolling green dales and moors. There is more than enough for keen hikers, cyclists, climbers and adrenaline-junkies. An hour from Manchester by road or public transport.
- Walking routes abound and there are guided options and even walking with Alpaca tours. Take a leisurely guided option with On Top of the World to explore the very best viewpoints of the Peak District with a series of short walks and scenic drives.
- For cycling there are over 400 kilometres of traffic-free trails with bikes and electric bikes for hire at cycle hubs. Off the beaten track traffic free trails include the Monsal Trail, Tissington Trail, High Peak Trail and Manifold Track.
- Visit the Peaks to try your hand at water sports including kayaking, canoeing, sailing and windsurfing or take a speedboat out for a spin.
- Climbing is extremely popular in the area with one of the most iconic places for rock climbing or bouldering being Stanage Edge.
- There are a number of caves and caverns in Derbyshire and the Peak District, such as Speedwell, Treak Cliff, Poole’s and Peak Cavern (also known as the Devil’s Arse). Another famous show cavern of the area is a cable car ride away, up at the Heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath
- The Blue John Stone Experience. Blue John Stone is a rare, semiprecious mineral found at only one location in the world – in the caves of Castleton. The experience includes mining gems and creating a bespoke piece of jewellery.
- Pudding & Ale Vintage Bike Ride explores the splendid scenery of the Peak District National Park and samples the local ale and produce along the way.
- Chatsworth House a magnificent stately home in the Peak District has plenty to offer and regular spectacular exhibitions which currently include the striking Art of Burning Man displayed over the grounds.
Spectacular limestone scenery and traditional farming landscapes meet expansive heather moorland and an international Dark Skies reserve. Just over an hour from York.
- The Wensleydale Farmer’s Experience offers the opportunity to try out aspects of farming life taking in feeding the animals, gathering sheep, dry stone walling and enjoying the local produce.
- The Dales are known for hiking with options from a short walk alongside a river to see a waterfall to the challenging and renowned Three Peaks challenge and fell running.
- Cycling routes and mountain bike trails include part of the Tour de Yorkshire which was included in the Tour de France.
- The Yorkshire Dales is the number one caving area in Britain with options to hire an instructor or visit a show cave.
- Other activities include a high tech treasure hunt, horseback riding, wild swimming and admiring the night sky in the dark sky reserve and annual dark sky festivals.
A land of hills, wooded dales, crinkly coasts, ancient abbeys and babbling brooks through quaint villages. Activities on land and in the air include bushcraft skills, climbing a rock, geocaching, swing through the trees and a glide through the air, and track down hidden caches! 40 minutes from York.
- Fossils, Forage and Feast leads a journey to discover Jurassic fossils, forage for seashore snacks, and cook on an open beach fire.
- Twilight Nature Sounds Safari have a mix of sensory exploration, discovery and adventure with a warming treat hosed by Adventures for the Soul.
- Outdoor Yoga and Sensory Nature Walk run tours in mystical woodland, alongside babbling brooks and in harmonious company.
- A magical meander on the Coast takes visitors to see stunning views including Ravenscar on the edge of the North York Moors, to breathe in the fresh sea air and stop along the way at hidden gems to meet the locals and enjoy the best of local fare.
- Dark Skies Festivals in October and February have a star-studded line up of events and activities.
The ‘land of far horizons’, Northumberland is the least populated National Park and includes the most iconic and best preserved section of Hadrian’s Wall and has England’s darkest skies, where you can see the Milky Way on a clear night. 40 minutes from Newcastle.
- Hadrian’s Wall Guided Tour. Immersed in the incredible landscapes and magical archaeology the tour brings 2000 years of history to life through award winning guided tours of Hadrian’s Wall.
- The Ingram Valley Farm Safari takes an off road trip through time and a post glacial tundra landscape with red deer, wild cattle and a journey through myths and legends and a picnic along the way.
- The Ranger Patrol of Hadrian’s Wall by Ebike explores the northern frontier of the Roman Empire on an E-Mountain Bike with a National Park Ranger along Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
The New Forest's ancient woodland and wildlife-rich heathland have long been a draw for visitors. The forest is spread across parts of Hampshire, east Dorset and Wiltshire, with wild horses, beautiful scenery, easy hiking, a network of cycle trails, paddle boarding and horseriding. 2 hours from London.
- Walk, stroll or take a long-distance hike or join guided walk companies such as Wild New Forest.
- Explore the forest on horseback on the bridleways that criss-cross the National Park, take lessons in riding skills or take a horse drawn carriage ride with Burley Wagon Rides.
- The park offers a 100 miles of off-road easy and well marked cycle trails with the option to hire bikes.
- Watersports include sea fishing, a cruise from Lymington harbour or a paddleboard from Milford on sea to Hurst Castle with the New Forest Paddle Sport Company. Take part in kayaking at the New Forest Water Park, New Forest Activities and Escape Yachting in Lymington.
- Insight Activities have woodland archery, crossbow shooting and axe throwing in their beautiful, rural location based in Fordingbridge and Calshot Activities Centre have sailing and a low-ropes course.
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