Celebrating our National Parks

A path to the top of a hill, walking between ferns and by a stone wall 

It’s National Parks Week; the annual celebration of those iconic landscapes that have inspired so many people throughout the years. The Ramblers have campaigned for National Parks from the very start, lobbying for the National Parks and Access to the Countryside act in 1949, and we have championed them ever since, from the creation of the first National Park in 1951, the Peak District, to the most recent, the South Downs, in 2009. 

There are 15 national parks across the UK, from the heather-covered moorland of Dartmoor, to the cliffs, beaches and harbours of the Pembrokeshire Coast, the dramatic mountains of Snowdonia, and the ancient pine forests of the Cairngorms. There is so much variety, so much to discover, and the best way to get to know the parks is to head out on foot. We have pulled together our favourite walks from each of the parks to give you inspiration. These routes come from our Ramblers Routes, an online library for our members, made free for National Parks Week (until 29 July). Simply register to view the full route, download and you’re good to go!

Your favourite route not included? Let us know in the comments!   

Loch Lomond

Conic Hill, Stirlingshire, 6.1 miles, moderate. 

Loch Lomond owes its fjord-like splendour to the grinding action of glaciers during the last Ice Age. By that time, the Highland Boundary Fault had already existed for hundreds of millions of years. During the so called Caledonian Orogeny era, the tectonic plate holding the lowlands drifted northwards, crumpling the land beyond it into hundreds of high mountains and valleys.  

Looking down on Loch Lomond from the top of Conic Hill, you can trace the precise point the plates collided. The line marks a stark shift in geology.  On one side, the sedimentary sandstone of the south and east; on the other, the metamorphic shale and granite of the northwest. 

Brecon Beacons

Ystradfellte, 6.6 miles, moderate.  

The village of Ystradfellte is situated in what is popularly known as ‘Waterfall Country’ in the south of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The area is renowned both for its waterfalls and caves. Here the rivers Mellte, Hepste and Nedd Fechan flow down deep wooded gorges, cascading over a series of dramatic waterfalls, before joining to form the River Neath. Mosses, ferns and lichens thrive in the humid conditions. 

Near the village (on the route of the walk) is Porth yr Ogof, one of the most impressive and largest cave entrances in Britain, where the River Mellte disappears underground before reappearing 250m further downstream.

Lake District 

Great Langdale, 8.4 miles, moderate. 

Cocooned in the spectacular chasm of Great Langdale’s enclosed trough of a valley, The Old Dungeon Ghyll’s Hikers Bar at the start of the route has drawn countless walkers to its welcoming room since 1949, when it was converted from a shippon (cattle-shed). The extraordinary location of this watering hole lends itself easily to countless walks; this route keeps to the low levels, offering a taste of mountain walking without the serious exertion. There are awesome views, a sprinkling of tarns, miner’s tracks and pretty bridges and an unforgettable final return to the pub along the Cumbria Way’s much-loved route in the shadows of some of the finest mountains in England.

New Forest 

Brockenhurst, 11.3 miles, moderate. 

The New Forest, unlike its name suggests, is one of the largest surviving swathes of ancient forest in South East England. Its centuries-old management as a royal hunting ground and then an important source of shipbuilding timber for the Royal Navy, has created a rich, beautiful patchwork of mixed forestry, open heath and unenclosed pasture, which is still grazed by local residents’ free-roaming horses today under common rights established in the 17th century. A network of well-maintained surfaced tracks and woodland trails offers endless options for city-fleeing walkers alighting at Brockenhurst train station right in the heart of the national park.

This lovely day-long circular walk encompasses the full range of scenery immediately surrounding the village, including mixed forestry, open heath and unenclosed pasture, and visits the New Forest’s oldest and tallest trees along the Tall Trees Trail. Keep an eye out for majestic herds of deer at dusk, moving out from the cover of forest to graze the plains.

Yorkshire Dales 

Circular walk linking Grassington, Thorpe and Linton, 5.1 miles, leisurely. 

A beautiful, but relatively short, walk which links four of the Dales' most picturesque villages: Grassington, Threshfield, Thorpe and Linton.
The hub of Upper Wharfedale, Grassington is a historic town that is over 1000 years old. 

Thorpe is a picturesque hamlet which rests in a dell beneath Elbolton (also known as Thorpe) Hill. It is a noted plague sanctuary village, where the plague didn't reach, reportedly because no one could find it!

Threshfield is over 1000 years old. Threshfield Primary School, which is passed during the main route of this walk, was constructed in 1674 and is a Grade II listed building. The village also contains the Old Hall Pub, reputedly the oldest in the Dale dating back to the 1300's. Almost as remarkably, the village is the home of Wharfedale RUFC - a semi-professional Rugby Union club that is a local obsession. Despite the small size of the village and the local area Wharfedale remained a presence in the third tier of British club rugby for over twenty years and operate four senior and twelve junior sides.

How about a route in one of the other National Parks?

The Broads 

Barton Turf and the Broads, 6.9 miles, easy. 

Cairngorms

Sgoran Dubh Mor and Sgor Gaoith, 11 miles, strenuous. 

Dartmoor

Dartmoor, 11.3 miles, strenuous. 

Exmoor 

Exe Head, 12.0 miles, strenuous. 

North York Moors 

YHA Boggle Hole to Robin Hoods Bay, 2.6 miles, moderate. 

Northumberland

Cheviots, 16.6 miles, moderate. 

Peak District 

Butts, dams, Imaginary Castles and a tin town, 9.0 miles, leisurely. 

Pembrokeshire 

Bosherston, 6.2 miles, moderate. 

South Downs 

Slindon Folly, 4.5 miles, easy.

Snowdonia 

Llyn Cranfnant and the Gwydr Forest, 9.3 miles, moderate. 

Access to all the routes

Become a member of the Ramblers you’ll get full access to our library of 3,000 routes, giving you everything you need to explore Great Britain on foot.