Celebrating 75 Years of UK's National Parks: 10 Top Trails

The fascinating Roman ruins found in the UK | Matt Sharman
The fascinating Roman ruins found in the UK | Matt Sharman

In 2024, we celebrate a momentous milestone: 75 years since the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed, marking the establishment of Britain's National Parks.

To date, the UK has 15 National Parks spread across England, Wales and Scotland, each with designated protected landscapes due to their unique qualities. These world-class parks are a haven for wildlife and offer a deep connection with nature and endless opportunities for adventure.

As we mark this 75th anniversary, there has never been a better time to walk or cycle in these remarkable places. Here are 10 top trails to explore in the UK's National Parks:

England's Coast to Coast

This incredibly varied path could very well be England's best-loved trail. And you don't just cross one National Park, you traverse three! 

The journey begins from the Irish Sea coast of Cumbria near the striking red sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head, before reaching the North Sea at the charming fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay, nestled on the rocky coastline of the North York Moors.


Stand in awe before dramatic coastlines, explore delightful valleys with their crags and broadleaved trees, visit historical sites and ruins, and cross through wild moorland.

If you book your guided walk in August or September, you can avoid the summer rush and enjoy more quieter trails.

Pennine Way 

A mountain of a journey in England's northern highlands, the Pennine Way became Britain's first National Trail in 1965. Much of the trail traverses three National Parks: Derbyshire, Yorkshire Dales, and Northumberland while also darting across other very scenic areas, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

walking along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal |  <i>John Millen</i>

Fun fact: the North Pennines National Landscape is also a designated UNESCO Global Geopark!

John Muir Way

This iconic path symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and the seaside town of Helensburgh in the west, to form a Scottish coast-to-coast route.

Walking the Dunbar Cliff Top Trail on the John Muir Way. |  <i>Kenny Lam</i>

The route combines some fine landscapes, countryside and places of natural and historical interest, including the Antonine Wall, Roman forts, Linlithgow Castle and the Forth Rail Bridge. Enjoy a mixture of seaside, river and canal side paths, with some forestry walking for good measure.

The Dales Way

Did you know? Yorkshire Dales National Park boasts some of the darkest skies in the UK where, on a clear night, you can catch views of the Milky Way, planets, meteors, and even the Northern Lights during the right season. This special quality has earned the Dales international recognition as an official Dark Sky Reserve.

Come daytime, the landscapes can be described as some of the purest forms of English highland landscape, with traditions and views that have remained virtually untouched for centuries. 

The Dales Way runs right across the National Park for 78 miles (125 km) from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria.

The beauty of this area lies in its versatility: you can explore scenic walking trails or enjoy a peaceful cycling adventure through quiet lanes.

The Cotswold Way

The area offers a perfect active holiday for those seeking a leisurely introduction to English countryside walks where rolling hills blend seamlessly with quaint, well-preserved villages. Encounter parklands, Jurassic limestone walls, and unspoilt woodland. It comes as no surprise why it has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Hailes Abbey, The Costwolds |  <i>Tom McShane</i>

James Herriot Way

With the enduring popularity of the TV series "All Creatures Great and Small," this section of the Yorkshire Dales National Park remains a stunning route in northern England. It follows a path designed to showcase the countryside cherished by James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales under the pen name James Herriot.

Stepping stones across the Ure

The James Herriot Way is an ideal introduction to walking in the Dales where classic scenes of rolling hills and picturesque villages unfold daily. The circular walk threads its way around the valleys of Wensleydale and Swaledale.

Hadrian's Wall Trail

Considered a British cultural icon and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, experience Roman Emperor Hadrian's legacy on this historical walk. 


Traverse scenic countryside dotted with stoic castles, ancient relics and forts, and enduring Roman ruins along the world’s largest Roman artefact. It also takes in charming towns and cities across Northern England with the chance to sample British fare.

South Downs Way

The South Downs stretches over a rare large Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the crowded southern UK. Most of the route reflects an ancient past, consisting of old droving roads that once transported animals and goods between the market towns in the region. Along the way, you'll encounter numerous historical features, such as a couple of remaining round-towered Saxon churches, ancient "Dew Ponds" that provided water for cattle on the high Downs, cross dykes and tumulus burial sites, and Bronze Age hill forts and rings.

A couple walking towards the Seven Sisters on the South Downs Way |  <i>Marc Najera</i>

This ancient route follows the chalk ridge just north of the popular seaside towns on the Sussex and Hampshire coast.

English Lake District

Celebrated by the poetry of Wordsworth and the stories of Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome, the Lake District is the first National Park in the UK to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. In between quaint market towns, the trail leads past the peaceful depths of Coniston Water and Derwentwater lakes as well as the superb Tarn Hows, which is set in picturesque wooded hills. 

Herdwick sheep at a local farm in England's Lake District |  <i>John Hodgson</i>

Either walk the Cumbria Way which crosses the Lake District or embrace a two-wheeled adventure by e-bike with ample time for sightseeing.

West Highland Way 

This epic trail crosses the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park and travels through magnificent, rugged Scottish Highlands. 

Rest stop near Loch Lomond on the West Highland Way |  <i>Tom Riddle</i>

An ideal active holiday for entry-level long-distance hikers, the famous route links Britain's largest lake to its highest mountain. Talk about another bucket list must!

The United Kingdom's landscapes are as diverse as they are breathtaking. It is a place where histories, cultures, and natural beauty converge to create a destination that is so rich and varied, that it deserves a top spot on every traveller's travel list.

Ready to head outdoors? Explore these UK trails and more - start browsing.

United Kingdom, UK National Parks

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