There are 15 National Parks dotted around the UK: each one is unique, ranging from verdant parkland skirting scenic coastline to green spaces with towering mountainous backdrops. We highly recommend getting out in nature and exploring these protected areas, and at the end of the day, why not stay within a National Park – at a hotel, B&B, self-catering cottage or hostel? Here at Cool Places
, we have an array of 'where to stay in National Parks' options for you to mull over – read on for some of our top picks.
Every year, the UK's National Parks welcome over 100 million visitors; anyone can explore them at any time, for free. In England, there are 10. Read on to learn more about each one and where to stay in the National Parks.
One of the United Kingdom's most individual and unusual landscapes, the Norfolk Broads is the largest wetland area in the UK and a fabulous place for bird and wildlife spotting. Three main rivers – Yare, Waveney and Bure and their tributaries – make up the National Park, meandering across flatlands and swelling in places into wide expanses of water called 'broads'. Accommodation-wise, check in to Hoveton Hall B&B, a striking Regency house at the heart of a Broadland country estate, or Mill Farm Eco Barns – a trio of modern and super comfortable sustainability-forward retreats amid glorious countryside, yet just minutes from the sea.
Picture wild and open moorlands, deep river valleys, swathes of heather and striking tors, and that's Devon's Dartmoor National Park. With a rich history and home to rare wildlife, there are 450 miles of paths to explore on foot or on two wheels, thousands of archaeological sites to discover, and innumerable views that will take your breath away. If you fancy planning a holiday there, Hillside Ashprington is a charming dog-friendly cottage that sleeps four. Another top option is Clawford Lakes: peaceful waterside lodges with hot tubs.
In Exmoor National Park, you'll find a scenic and tranquil swathe of green space where the moor meets the sea; head there for towering cliffs, deep valleys and tumbling streams. During your visit, rediscover your sense of adventure, spot wild red deer and be wowed by dark skies laden with twinkling stars. There are also plenty of quaint and characterful villages to explore. As evening rolls around, check in to Bossington Hall, a deluxe B&B with eight acres of grounds and glorious views. Equally lovely is Exmoor Farmhouse, an uber-stylish property sleeping 14 that's part of My Favourite Cottages.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lake District National Park is England’s biggest, offering spectacular landscapes, chocolate-box villages and ancient woodlands. Out and about, there's tons to do and see, from boating on Windermere and hiking the Old Man of Coniston to visiting the World of Beatrix Potter. Popular for hiking and biking, the area is home to England’s highest mountain: Scafell Pike. Lay your head down for the night at Victorian House Hotel, a stylish 20-room boutique property in gorgeous Grasmere. Another Place, The Lake is also an excellent choice – a handsomely sited hotel on the shores of Ullswater.
Boasting National Park status since 2005, the New Forest was created in 1079 and hasn't changed much in all that time. Relatively flat, it's ideal for walking and biking, and the forest also flanks a sizeable section of coastline, where you'll find sandy beaches
and harbour towns. Alongside that, the area supports a healthy wildlife population, including its most famous residents: New Forest ponies that roam at will. Stay at Montagu Arms
in Beaulieu, a lovely country retreat with a very special restaurant, or Cottage Lodge Hotel
– rustic chic accommodation with 16 rooms housing striking beds.
Home to some of England’s cleanest rivers and air, this National Park spans over 410 square miles between the Scottish border and UNESCO-designated Hadrian’s, and it's the least populated of the 15. In 2013, the International Dark Sky Association gave 'Dark Sky Park' status to a region including Northumberland National Park. Use Post Office House
as your base, a luxury boutique bed and breakfast with three guest suites that was rated one of the top 15 B&Bs in Northumberland. Or stay at The Whittling House
, a country-seaside property where stylish rooms sit above the owner's first-rate restaurant.
You'll find North York Moors National Park in a peaceful corner of northern England, boasting sweeping moorland, a meandering coastline, amazing dark skies and picturesque villages. While there, concentrate on your well-being
by connecting with nature in wide green spaces, get out on a bike, or walk part of the 109-mile Cleveland Way National Trail – the choice is yours. Accommodation-wise, Crag House Farm
offers two beautifully renovated self-catering barns, while Forest Holidays Cropton
are home to woodland cabins, including quirky treehouses. Check out their full collection here
The UK’s original National Park, the Peak District covers more than 550 square miles, with a boundary taking in Greater Manchester, South and West Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. Adrenaline fiends will be in their element: an array of world-class rock climbing and bouldering is on offer, plus challenging cycle routes. To stay? Dannah Farm
is a wonderful boutique B&B overlooking the Ecclesbourne Valley; we also recommend their sister business: Dannah Cottages
. Other fabulous choices include Losehill House Hotel & Spa
, a luxe property that won 'Sunday Times Country Hotel of the Year', and YHA Ilam Hall
, a hostel in a Gothic-style castle.
Spanning West and East Sussex and also stretching into Hampshire
, the South Downs is known as the ‘gateway to England’. Head there and discover rolling green hills, vineyards, chalk grassland, dark skies, windswept cliffs, and more than 2,050 miles of footpaths and bridleways, including wheelchair-friendly 'Miles without Stiles'. Noteworthy accommodation options range from Port
, a chic seafront hotel in up-and-coming Eastbourne with an extremely well-regarded restaurant
, to Nest Stay
, a quintessential country cottage for two with fantastic views of the Downs.
The 'dales' are the region's characteristic valleys, named after their rivers (Wharfedale, Ribblesdale...). There are half a dozen main ones, including very well-known Wensleydale, and around 40 in total. All are wonderfully attractive and packed with anything from caverns, waterfalls and streams to high moorland, limestone crags, and vast open fells. At the end of a day exploring, head to Georgia at Hollyhouse Farm
, a cosy yet contemporary cottage housing six, or 30 Frenchgate
, a large holiday home sleeping 10 with a lovely garden and stylish rooms. Both are located just outside Richmond and have a hot tub.
Wales offers sandy beaches, countryside, valleys and thriving cities, and boasts a whopping 870 miles of coastline dotted with coves and caves. There are three National Parks to discover – carry on reading to find out more.
Recently re-named Bannau Brycheiniog, this National Park covers 520 square miles of mountains, lakes, rivers and waterfalls in South Wales. And despite being less than an hour from Cardiff, you'll be able to find your own tranquil piece of heaven. Hikers will enjoy the strenuous 95-mile Beacons Way, and there's star-gazing to be had in Wales' first International Dark Sky
Reserve. Come evening, check in to The Neuadd B&B Suites
, a boutique getaway with three luxury rooms, or try their sister place – The Neuadd Cottages
– a group of five properties (three are dog-welcoming). For a pub with rooms that serves top-notch food
and is currently part of the Top 50 Gastropubs list, look no further than The Felin Fach Griffin
In the southwest corner of Wales is Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, where wild shoreline mingles with scenic clifftop walking and sandy seaside spots
. It's also home to Britain’s smallest ‘city’: St David’s. If you'd like to stay in this characterful spot, head to Penrhiw Priory
, a beautiful country house sleeping 16, or their sister business Penrhiw Farm
, a colourful B&B with four guest rooms. Another excellent choice is The Willows
, a truly special escape near Fishguard. Part of Sykes Exceptional Holiday Cottages – a Bespoke Collection
, their portfolio also includes Greystones Chapel on the outskirts of Snowdonia.
Make your way northwest, where it's all about the mountains. Indeed, Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales and England, attracting walkers, climbers and adventurous folk. That being said, there's also a lovely coastline to discover on the Llŷn Peninsula and the Cambrian Shores. If you'd like to spend some time in this varied part of the country, check in to Plas Weunydd
, a boutique hotel, bar and restaurant near Blaenau Ffestiniog. For a couple's hideaway, The Gallery
is a one-of-a-kind romantic cottage in the heart of Conwy that's part of Eden Retreats
, a business with self-catering holiday homes around the UK.
Home to more than 800 islands and over 10% of Europe’s coastline, Scotland was voted the world’s number one mountain biking destination and also boasts an abundance of wild and remote landscapes. Let's take a look at Scotland's pair of National Parks.
From adventures in historic woodlands and paddling in freshwater lochs to getting out in nature and wildlife spotting in the mountains, Cairngorms National Park is a spectacular place to visit. The largest and most northerly in Britain, the simply awe-inspiring area offers visitors water and snow sports, incredible hiking and cycling trails, and no less than 12 golf courses. Where to stay? Cairngorm Lodges
are home to eco-friendly cabins deep in the woods of Aberdeenshire, where it's all about the great outdoors. Or, check in to Dalnoid Cottages & Treehouses
for luxe accommodation with hot tubs.
Lowlands and highlands meet in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, where there's a variety of dramatic scenery on offer, from rolling hills and peaceful lakes to rugged mountains. Six of Scotland’s long-distance 'Great Trails' connect in and around the region, yet you're less than an hour from Glasgow
. Rest at East Cambusmoon
, a deluxe eco-friendly
cottage set on a five-acre smallholding that sleeps 14, or head to Riva Boutique Hotel
– the seafront property sits on the shores of Gare Loch and the Clyde, and has unparalleled views.