5 healthy holiday ideas in Britain’s National Parks

Friday 15 July 2016
MDean

There are 15 National Parks in Britain, and the terrain varies significantly between them. On the whole, those in the south are gentler: the rolling hills of the South Downs and the wild-pony-inhabited New Forest; the incredible woodland and purple moors of Dartmoor and Exmoor; or the dreamy canals and windmills of the Norfolk Broads; they’re all excellent for walks and taking in the sights.

For the more intrepid, the mountain ranges of Wales and Scotland, or the towering fells of the Lake District make for a more sizeable challenge, but offer some truly breath-taking views as a reward. It goes without saying that all of them are ideal for a bit of healthy living: fresh, clean air, exercise, fantastic locally sourced food, even a bit of skiing or wild swimming. Here’s some ideas on how to stay healthy with a visit to our National Parks.

Sightseeing in the Dales and North York Moors

(Image © National Trust Images / Andrew Butler)

Rich green fields and hills, criss-crossed with drystone walls, and studded with a wealth of fascinating historic buildings: the Yorkshire Dales really are a picturesque treasure trove of great walks and incredible sights to see.

Stroll amid the water meadows of Fountains Abbey, a romantic medieval ruin dating back to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, and an atmospheric place to walk and breathe in the fresh country air.

How to get there:
Depending on where you’d like to go in the Dales, catch the train to York, Harrogate, Bradford or Leeds in the south, Lancaster, Preston or Carlisle to the west and Darlington or Middlesbrough to the north-east. Check the National Rail website for trains and times.

Wild swimming in the Lake District

There’s nothing quite like the Lake District’s magnificent bodies of water to get a healthy revivifying buzz. Many of the lakes are surrounded by the majestic moutnains this region is famous for, so you can soak up the sights as well as the exhilarating sensation.

Head to Tongue Pot in Eskdale, a long series of pools you can explore, or Gill Force, the highest waterfall in the Lake District, if you like a bit of visual drama with your swim. For more incredible views, try Overbeck Br (it’s not called ‘Br’ because of the cold, we promise!) where you can jump into Wastwater and swim free.

How to get there:
Penrith, Oxenholme and Carlisle are connected to London and Glasgow on the West Coast mainline, while a direct train runs from Manchester to Windermere. From here you can catch buses to the local villages you’re looking for. Take a look at the Lake District website for detailed travel information.

Highlands adventures in the Cairngorms

The variety of landscapes in Scotland's Cairngorms National Park is staggering. From forests, waterfalls and lochs to 5 of the UK’s 6 highest mountains, you can go from a day of windsurfing and relaxing on the sandy beaches of Loch Morlich to skiing or walking on Cairngorm Mountain.

The snowsports season runs from around December to April, and it’s a great mix of thrills and incredible views. Cycling is also very popular here: it’s a great way to cover a load of ground and to really get a look at the epic sights here. Choose between rougher mountain routes and road cycling.

How to get there:

The Cairngorms National Park is right in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, so it’s well serviced by road and rail links. Detailed travel information can be found on the VisitCairngorms website.

Mountain walking in Snowdonia

Snowdonia National Park, and Wales’ highest mountain at its heart, Snowdon, are among the UK's most popular destinations for walkers.

On one side a steep rocky climb, on the other a smoother, grassier trek (that’s a very basic summary, we realise), Snowdon is an ideal trek for all abilities – though of course, not something to be undertaken without the appropriate footwear and waterproofs, as the weather can change quickly.

Trek to the top, stop for a hot drink in the Snowdon Café, then admire the spectacular views on the way down. If you’re more in it for the views than for the exercise, jump on the Snowdon Mountain Railway for a smooth ride to the top.

(Image © Crown Copyright/Visit Wales)

How to get there:
Snowdonia is in North Wales, and well-connected to Britain’s major transport hubs. Check the Snowdonia website for complete travel information.

Wellbeing in the New Forest

Ancient woodland grazed by wild ponies, picture-perfect country villages, great locally grown food and clean air: just talking about the New Forest fills you with a sense of wellbeing.

If you’re looking for a gentler way to relax, explore and soak up some of Britain’s beauty, the New Forest is ideal. Set off on forest walks and take in a landscape that’s existed since the ice sheets began to withdraw around 12,000 years ago.

You’ll find the area full of ancient monuments and ancient burial mounds, together with some fantastic stately homes, not to mention locally sourced and organic food at places like the Mill at Gordleton.

(Image © www.newforest.co.uk)

How to get there:
The main railway stations in the New Forest National Park are Ashurst, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst and Sway. Take a look at the New Forest website for transport information.

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