Ten other national parks and what to do in them

From sweeping dales to the flattest wetland.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Apart from the Lake District, there are 10 National Parks in Britain - though there are none in Scotland. Every National Park has an information centre, as well as the central Association of National Park Authorities in Moretonhampstead, Devon.

Brecon Beacons National Park

It straddles central Wales, covering 520 square miles, and it is popular with walkers and pony-trekkers. In the far western side, the open moorland of the (largely unforested, despite the name) Fforest Fawr dominates, which merges in the south with a rocky terrain of caves and waterfalls, especially around the village of Ystradfellte and the Dan yr Ogof caves. East of Brecon, however, the Black Mountains march their way into England in a region that contains both the Usk valley the medieval double castle of Tretower.

Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor is England's greatest expanse of wilderness, over 360 miles of granite, grass and moor in the South-west of England. Not that it's a wasteland. You can come across flocks of sheep and small ponies as you wend your way across this area's bleak beauty. The Ministry of Defence owns land in the North-west, but if you pay attention to the warning signs and lights, you shouldn't get in the way. Among the tracts of almost unbroken moorland, there are numerous unspoilt moor towns,. while Hound Tor, near Grimspound, was the inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles.

North York Moors National Park

A vast area graced with supreme natural beauty. This part of Yorkshire provides visitors with both moor and gently rolling hills, steep, enclosed river valleys and views that stretch for tens of miles. Perfect walking country, the area is sprinkled with some picture-perfect towns (such as Thornton-le-Dale and Hutton-le Hole) and places to visit: the baroque Castle Howard in the west was built by Vanbrugh, while the picturesque ruins of Rievaulx Abbey are a similarly popular tourist favourite. For cheaper thrills, the panoramic views from the precipitous Sutton Bank (on the A170) are stunning.

The self-styled "Gateway to the Moors" of Pickering may be a good place to begin, as is the ever-popular North York Moors Railway, which you can also hop on at Pickering.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Britain's only predominantly sea-based park, the Pembrokeshire Coast Park is a series of unconnected patches of coast and inland scenery across the west of Wales. The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path wiggles its way round almost every nook and cranny of the daunting coast line, and areas such as around St David's Head and the Marloes Peninsula are recommended for their views of sea-lashed cliffs, islands and the vivid flora and fauna.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

From the pastoral valleys of Wharfedale and Airedale to the fearsome natural might of the Three Peaks, from medieval market towns such as Richmond and its magnificent castle, to small, white-washed villages hidden in the limestone hills, the Dales are as photogenic and dramatic as any part of rural Britain. Made up from a verdant collage of dales well-known (Wensleydale) and maybe not (Arkengarthdale), the area is perfect for outdoor types: walkers and hikers, cyclists and pony-trekkers, and there are also pot- holing and caving opportunities beneath the craggier peaks.

The Broads Authority

One of the most important wetlands in Europe, the Broads were created by a combination of the River's Yare, Waveney and Bure's meandering courses to the sea and the results of peat-cutting which left pits subsequently filled by flooding. A haven for delicate species of wildlife, the popularity of the region has led to wear and tear on the famous 125 miles of navigable waterways. However, you can still lose yourself in the relaxed lifestyle available on riverboats, or simply cycle around the edges of the waterways.

Exmoor National Park

A high, naked plateau, streaked by the occasional wooded valley and river, Exmoor in the mist can be a forbidding, gothic place. Clinging to the north coast of Devon, this park is bursting with wildlife - the short, stocky, prehistoric-looking Exmoor ponies are a sight to see, though you'll be lucky if you spot any red deer. There are an infinite amount of ways of walking the 600 miles of pathways and bridleways.

Northumberland National Park

Once the hiding place of brigands, Northumberland has panoramic views and swathes of forest,. It stretches for over 400 square miles between Hadrian's Wall and the Cheviots. Northumberland is great for walking and the most popular route is the Pennine Way, which enters at Hadrian's Wall, rises to 2674ft above sea-level and finishes in Kirk Yetholm, in Scotland: it's 64 miles long, so you can't do it in a day. Northumberland is blessed with breathtaking valleys such as Tynedale and Redesdale. If you're sick of walking on blasted heaths, the massive reservoir of Kielder Water is perfect for splashing about in.

Peak District National Park

The Peak District has a invigorating mixture of romantic peaks and gentle hills studded with villages and elegant towns. You can walk the Pennine Way or go caving in the limestone around Castleton, though the less energetic may visit Buxto. Around the park are numerous fine places to get away for a while, be it a real country pub or the attraction of ancient piles such as Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall. Fifteen million people live within an hours drive of the ever-popular Peak District, so visiting on a Bank Holiday is not advised if you desire real solitude with nature.

Snowdonia National Park

A dramatic, inspiring stretch of over 800 square miles from Conway in the north to Aberdovey in the south, Snowdonia is Wales's most awe-inspiring (and first) national park. Made up of several mountain ranges, with 15 peaks over 3,000ft, there are also wide areas of forest and moorland. The slate mining and rain-drenched vastness of Snowdonia shaped the north of Wales as much as coal shaped the south. Apart from the grandeur of the scenery, the falls at Betws-y-Coed are good place to start when exploring; indeed the town is touted as the "Gateway to Snowdonia". Once your are past the gateway, the summit is Mount Snowdon, the highest British mountain south of Scotland. You don't have to worry about walking to the peak- Yr Wyddfa, because there is a train that goes all the way.

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