Looking to get out of the city and experience more of the UK countryside this season? Whether you’re an eager hiker, a dog walker or simply want to get out in the open air, the UK is home to some brilliant national parks that are well worth exploring - many of which can be accessed by train!
From river valleys in Dartmoor to stunning sea views in the South Downs, epic climbs in the Peak District to boat rides along the Norfolk Broads, we’ve rounded up ten of the UK’s best that might be easier to get to by train than you think.
Wales’ largest national park, Snowdonia covers a whopping total of 823 square miles. It combines nine mountain ranges, 23 miles of coastline, 11,000 hectares of native woodland and there are miles upon miles you can explore by foot or bike.
There is plenty to discover, from the wildlife and epic landscapes through to the culture and community, many of which still speak Welsh!
If you’re ready to take on a challenge, there is of course Mount Snowdon with a peak of 1,085m, making it the tallest mountain in Wales. You can experience this route by train too, thanks to the steam rail service that operates ¾ of the distance of Snowdon, offering your mesmerising views over the peaks with a little more ease than hiking.
Nearest Train Stations: Bangor, Llandudno
From hiking through springs and rivers to journeying through moors and dales, the Peak District is a brilliant national park in the centre of England. There are plenty of car-free walking routes that can be easily accessed from the Hope Valley Line and Derwent Valley Line, each with many scenic stops and villages to spend the day exploring.
If you’re interested in mixing up your hikes with a visit to one of the UK’s country estates, Chatsworth is a brilliant stop over, known better for being the backdrop of the Pride & Prejudice film adaptation. Or, perhaps spend the day wandering through the fascinating Treak Cliff Cavern, exploring the rock formations and eerie energy.
Nearest Train Lines: Hope Valley Line, Derwent Valley Line
Home to cascading waterfalls, sweeping valleys and plenty of history and heritage to explore, the Yorkshire Dales are bursting with attractions perfect for all ages. Spend a week here exploring the iconic dales, from Wensleydale, famed for its cheese, to the smaller dales such as Airedale, Lune Valley and Nidderdale.
There are plenty of picturesque towns and villages to explore too, each with their own story to tell. Spend a night at Settle, the small town that’s home to the billowing Attermire Scar limestone that lies atop the area or wander through the small villages, stopping by the local stores and pubs for a pint midway through your hike.
The Yorkshire Dales are home to many waterfalls worth stopping off by for a picnic or just to snap up a photograph.
Nearest Train Line: Leeds-Morecambe line, Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line
Renowned for its snowy peaks, wildlife and moorlands, Cairngorms National Park is Scotland’s secret weapon. It’s a beautiful natural destination that locals and tourists flock to every year to soak up the scenery.
There are plenty of paths to choose from, whether you’re after a woodland forage, water wander or fancy taking your hiking to the next level across the high mountains. Not to mention plenty of cycle routes to get inspired by.
Nearest Train Stations: Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore, Carrbridge
Located in southern Devon, Dartmoor National Park has been a protected area since 1951. It’s famous for its ponies, tors and epic walking trails that vary from short 3km trails through to longer treks, including the Dartmoor Way which is an epic circular route totaling 108-miles.
You’ll find a variation of routes that take you through moorland and farmlands, as well as tranquil river valleys that are perfect for those looking for a peaceful moment.
Nearest Train Station: Okehampton Station
Horseback rides, adventuring through caverns, abseiling down cliffs and hiking the sights, the Brecon Beacons is the ultimate destination for the nature lovers and thrill seekers.
For those looking to get stuck into the hiking routes, there are plenty of highlights to see along the way, from the quaint riverside town of Crickhowell to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, the Black Mountains through to the beautiful bluebell walks in the spring.
Nearest Train Line: Heart of Wales line, Cardiff to Manchester line
Another National Park famed for its wild ponies and coastal views, Exmoor is located in west Somerset and north Devon. Home to over 1,000km worth of footpaths and bridleways to explore, there’s a trail to be enjoyed by everyone.
From oak woodlands to flurrying rivers and a beautiful coastal route that stretches 35 miles long, prepare for all natural landmarks to make themselves known.
For those wanting more than a trek, there are plenty of other ways to experience the area too, including fishing, canoeing, cycling and mountain biking.
Nearest Train Stations: Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Barnstaple, Minehead
If you’re London based and want a quick escape from the city to the countryside, the South Downs is a great option. The national park stretches from the River Itchen in Hampshire to Beachy Head near Eastbourne, East Sussex, and is home to some breathtaking sights.
For a cliffside walk, try Seven Sisters. It’s been the backdrop to many films, including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Atonement. While Kingley Vale, the forest area West Sussex offers shade and shelter from the billowing sun or rain showers. Blackdown Hill is great for those looking for views that stretch far and wide, providing the perfect place for a picnic and pitch-up.
Nearest Train Station: Petersfield, Alton, Winchester, Liphook, Liss
With over 125 miles worth of lock free waterways, the Norfolk Broads is ideal for budding boaters, kayakers and sailing trips. There are plenty of small towns and villages you can hire boats at, from Wroxham to Stalham, Beccles to Martham. Or, perhaps bring your blow up canoe along for the journey to see the sights by paddling.
There are some great stop off areas, including beachy Hemsby and Great Yarmouth, Horning for lunch and a boat trip out, and Norwich for a different city experience.
Nearest Train Stations: Great Yarmouth, Wroxham, Norwich & more
From walking routes to cycling, family-friendly activities to quirky towns to explore, the New Forest is a brilliant holiday destination. Expect to find ponies, cattles, deer and even donkeys roaming free as you set out across the woodlands, open moors and heathland.
There are eight train stations dotted around the national park, each equipped with great walking and cycling routes, museums and history to tell.
Nearest Train Station: Totton, Ashurst, Beaulieu Road, Hinton Admiral, Lymington, Brockenhurst, New Milton, Sway