Great Britain is home to numerous national parks and scenic destinations. Many are protected areas that showcase some of the most beautiful landscapes and natural wonders in the world, including rugged mountain ranges, towering cliffs, crater lakes, primeval forests and deep canyons.
Main Mountain Ranges of the UK
The United Kingdom has two distinct groups of mountains: the Highlands and the Southern Uplands. The former is home to the highest summit in Great Britain, Ben Nevis, while the latter includes all of England’s and Scotland’s major ranges as well as large clusters of hills.
The Southern Uplands include some of the most scenic parts of Great Britain. The Lochaber region is distinguished by its deep glens and massive lochs (lakes), which are known in Gaelic as “lochs.” Among Lochaber’s main attractions is the Quiraing, a striking rock formation where five hills rise straight up out of a steeply sloping plateau.
The Cairngorms area, also part of the Southern Uplands and once called “the Granite Highlands,” is a region of rugged mountain peaks, heather-covered hills and deep glens. Its highest peak is Ben Macdui, which looms above Great Britain’s largest and deepest glacier, the Cairngorm.
The Pennines are a wide range in northern England that stretch all the way from coast to coast. They have several summits above 2,000 feet and are the source of several major rivers, including the Derwent, Eden and Tyne. In prehistoric times, they were covered by ice sheets that carved out many of their distinctive valleys.
The Peak District National Park is in northern England and covers part of the Pennine mountain range. The park’s total area is over 1,000 square miles, making it one of the largest areas of protected land in Britain. Dozens of small, remote and beautiful villages are located within its boundaries. As well as some challenging hikes, there are also some relatively easy Peak District walks.
The Lake District is in northern England and contains one of the largest expanses of open space in western Europe. Its mountain groups include the English and Helvetic group to the north, and the Norse mountains to the west. Lake Windermere is among its many scenic attractions.
The Lake District National Park has a reputation for having the most scenic hikes in Britain—and it’s not undeserved. There are some amazing dog walks in the Lake District and the area is very dog friendly.
Many of its trails take visitors past natural wonders such as waterfalls, inspirational vistas and ancient ruins. Among the park’s many attractions is Grasmere Village, which is home to several historic homes and sacred sites.
North York Moors
The North York Moors lie in northern England and contain several rounded hills known as “barns” or “tumps,” including Castle Howard Tump (1,475 feet). The area is known for its heather moors and rugged hills, as well as ancient villages and small towns.
The Brecon Beacons National Park in southern Wales encompasses the highest mountains in Great Britain south of Scotland. Cefn Cyfarwydd (elevation 2,340 feet) is the highest peak. The park’s name means “beacons” or “fires” in the Welsh language.
Snowdonia National Park
The Snowdonia National Park, also in Wales, covers parts of Snowdonia and is part of the larger area known as “Yr Wyddor Gwyn a Feddwlad.” The park’s highest peak is Mount Snowdon (3,306 feet) and also contains the Snowdon Horseshoe, a classic loop hike that includes three of its most striking peaks.
New Forest National Park
The New Forest National Park in southern England fills a land area that has been the royal hunting ground since William the Conqueror. The park’s western border lies near the city of Southampton. It still has large herds of deer, and its open spaces are dotted with small villages, farms, historic sites and grand estates like the Belvoir Castle.
The South Downs National Park in southern England, which includes the highest chalk cliffs on mainland Britain (near Seven Sisters), has several peaks under 1,000 feet but also quite a few summits exceeding 2,000 feet. It’s home to over 10,000 acres of beech woods.