Britain’s Largest National Parks
Spring has finally arrived in the UK. With warm sunshine, flocks of birds migrating back from across the Equator and many animals waking up from winter hibernation, my mind always drifts away to places where the nature remains completely intact. Away from its many bustling cities, Britain’s thriving wildlife can luckily find a peaceful home in no fewer than 46 (!) Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in 15 additional National Parks. With minor differences in management, promotion and purposes between AONBs and NPs, landscapes of both are equally enchanting; endless horizons of varying terrain, tranquil atmosphere and breath-taking panoramas – nature in its purest form!
Flora and fauna of several species live in protected and looked-after areas of National Park protection across the whole of Wales, Scotland and England. Whilst they are home to many different attractions and places to visit it is the fact that they retain their natural geographical features, that truly brings them recognition. Although it is hard to decide which park is the most beautiful, as each and every one of them is uniquely special, it is definitely safe to list each of these countries’ largest National Parks.
Starting with the fourth largest in Britain, we have the magnificent Snowdonia (or Eryri) National Park in Wales. Located in its northern territory, this area is mostly recognized for the Snowdon Massif mountain range itself, which has the highest peak in England and Wales; Mount Snowdon, rises 3,560 ft above sea level. The park area of 840 square miles however has much more to offer besides; mountainous sprawling hills and lush river valleys providing dramatic, barren and snow-capped terrain alongside the 38 miles of unspoilt coastline of sweeping bays and rocky cliffs of golden brown colours astound with beauty and size.
Due to low temperatures, the land is covered with Arctic-Alpine plants, such as Snowdon lilies, round-leaved sundews or purple saxifrages. The last ones flower between February and April, so in time of this blog’s publication many rocks of Snowdonia are now decorated with these small purple-pink flowers releasing bitter sweet scent. Throughout the year, you may also spot park’s inhabitants, including various species of rabbits, Mustelids and deer, and many magnificent birds like peregrine falcons, goshawks or curlews.
Located around 150 miles north of Snowdonia, the Lake District is very different to the Welsh gem; the largest National Park of England with an area of 912 square miles, it is also the most popular one in the whole of Britain. It takes its name, as you may have already guessed, from the lakes and waterways spread across the region. Sixteen glacial ribbon bodies of water surrounded by enchanting woodland, craggy mountains and both gentle and dramatic valleys make the scenery truly enchanting; no wonder Lake District’s surreal setting has harboured the creative minds of Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth.
The mild but wet climate shapes the stunning wildlife of “The Lakes”. Arctic-Alpine plants and a broad diversity of mosses and freshwater algae combine with vibrant colours of various berries and yellow and purple wildflowers. Flower experts will spot wood crane’s-bills, globeflowers, junipers and orchids. When it comes to animals, the Lake District is proud to nest the only golden eagles in Britain, peregrine falcons, ospreys and owls, and provides a safe habitat for wild red deer, Herdwick sheep and otters. A day spent wandering somewhere between the biggest lake Windermere, the highest point of Scafell Pike (3,210 ft) and the largest tarn of Grisedale, will provide a day of nature and natural beauty to remember.
Moving a further 200 miles north in to Scotland we find the largest National Park in the whole of Britain – the Scottish Cairngorms (or Am Monadh Ruadh). A vast region covering 1,749 square miles with a highest point reaching 4,295 ft at Ben Macdui, it provides a truly glorious and unspoilt landscape. The Cairngorms are home to a diversity of high mountains (or Munros), gentle and dramatic glens, deep lakes with sandy beaches, fast flowing rivers and ancient forests making it truly unique.
In terms of climate, the Cairngorms is colder and higher, therefore plants are mainly Arctic-Boreal; pine trees, lichens and expansive grasslands mix with various beautiful flowers of ostrich-plume feathermoss, Highland saxifrages and twinflowers. The last one being a very delicate pink flower which splits creating two twin bells. You may be lucky enough to spot the park’s remarkable birdlife such as capercaillie and ospreys, or maybe even observe the land animals with protected Scottish wildcat, red deer, reindeer and pine martens.
After a long Winter indoors, it’s proven that getting outside in the fresh air, engaging in gentle exercise such as walking and spending time in nature helps to hugely improve well-being. If you live near to any of Britain’s National Parks or other wonderful areas of natural beauty, then please feel free to tag @adeotravel in your Instagram posts or stories so we can see them! We hope that the sun and Spring weather (and this blog post!) will inspire you to get out there in the countryside and appreciate the natural beauty of Britain. International travel should be resuming soon, and where better to escape the trials and tribulations of every day life and recent restrictions than with time spent in the remote wilderness of Britain’s numerous national parks. Enjoy and stay safe!
April 1, 2021