Posted 28th Jul 2015
It's National Parks week (from Monday 27th July to Sunday 2nd August 2015) and there's no better time to get out and enjoy Britain's breath-taking spaces
With the theme 'Landscapes of Plenty', this National Parks Week aims to showcase Britain's areas of natural beauty as so much more than brilliant places to play and find inspiration. Although these are great ways to get closer to nature, we've come up with a range of alternate exciting activities to celebrate National Parks Week.
Cycling – Whether you're an experienced trail rider looking to challenge yourself or a family wanting to get active on a fun day out, the perfect route for you is waiting to be discovered. Why not try Old Logging Way in the Cairngorms for 3.5 miles of traffic-free easy riding, Three Rivers Loop in the Norfolk Broads for 20 miles of unbeatable river views and country lanes, or Lon Las Cymru in the Brecon Beacons to see some of the best sights Wales has to offer, spread over 250 miles.
Wildlife watching – As areas of conservation, National Parks are naturally brimming with wildlife. Why not take the little ones on an educational and exciting trip to see what you can spot? The New Forest is one of the best places to start, abundant with ponies who are happy to let visitors roam amongst them. Or, for keen Ornithologists, Northumberland's open skies offer a wide variety of species to observe.
Sailing/water sports – Cool down this summer by getting out on the water. Loch Lomond has a cross-section of activities in its idyllic setting and has become one of the most popular windsurfing spots in Britain. The River Dart in Dartmoor also offers great water conditions for canoeing and kayaking, with plenty of places to hire equipment.
Horse riding – For those looking to take a four-legged friend on an adventure, The North York Moors provides the perfect trail – 35.5 miles of dramatic scenery for experienced riders to explore. There are a wealth of ways to try the sport for the first time this National Parks week. Head down to the South Downs where 12,000km of bridal ways awaits, along with local stables offering lessons and treks
Star gaze – Far from the orange glow of urban light pollution, the UK's National Parks offer some of the best open skies to spot the stars and constellations our ancestors used to gaze upon. The Brecon Beacons, Exmoor and Northumberland are all previous winners of the International Dark Sky Park Award.
Take to the skies – Anyone looking for an adrenaline rush can achieve lift-off in several parks offering hang-gliding, paragliding or micro-lighting. The Lake District has ample opportunity to get into the air, visit www.golakes.co.uk to find out more. Or, if you prefer to sit back and relax, you can enjoy a stunning aerial view aboard a gentle hot air balloon ride.
Walking – The National Park's most popular activity, there are a myriad of walking trails and tours in every park. England and Wales have a total 2,500 miles of walking routes, so there's something for everyone this National Parks Week.
Enjoy local food – Every National Park has amazing, locally-grown produce to offer its visitors well worth writing home about. There's really no better way to round off a tiring day out exploring than in a pub or restaurant with beautiful views and delicious local fare.
Climbing – one of the most exhausting physical activities on the list, climbing isn't for the faint-hearted. But for those wanting to give it a go for the first time, traditional crag routes found in the Lake District (www.golakes.co.uk) or Peak District may be best. These locations have plenty of instructors to get everyone going in the safest way. To make National Parks Weeks really memorable visit Snowdonia to discover Wales' highest peak reaching some 1,085m.
Volunteering – There are loads of ways to get involved with maintaining Britain's areas of natural beauty, from hedgelaying to conservation work. What better way to celebrate National Parks Week than getting involved to ensure the parks remain beautiful, clean and teeming with wildlife for generations to come.
By Lois Shearing
Images courtesy of Cairngorms National Park Authority: ©Wee Epics, Lake District: Brian Sherwen