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National parks of the United Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fourteen areas are designated as National parks in the United Kingdom; in addition, the Broads now have 'equivalent status'
Fourteen areas are designated as National parks in the United Kingdom; in addition, the Broads now have 'equivalent status'

Within the United Kingdom there are fourteen national parks, and one further area with 'equivalent status'. There are ten in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland. These parks are not truly national parks according to the internationally accepted standard of the IUCN[1] but they are areas of outstanding landscape where habitation and commercial activities are restricted.


Each is administered by its own national park authority, a special purpose local authority. National parks are a devolved matter with each of the countries of the United Kingdom having its own policies and arrangements. The national parks of Scotland and those of England and Wales are governed by separate legislation: the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 in Scotland and the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 for England and Wales. The Environment Act 1995 defines the role of national parks as being: to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Parks, and to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Parks by the public. The national park authority for each park addresses these aims in partnership with other organisations, such as the National Trust. In cases where there may be conflict between the two purposes of designation, the first must take precedence under the Sandford Principle. The national park authorities also have a duty to foster the economic and social wellbeing of communities in pursuit of these purposes.[2]

The Scottish national parks have two further statutory purposes:

  • To promote sustainable use of the natural resources of the area, and
  • To promote sustainable economic and social development of the area's communities.

All of the UK's national parks are members of National Parks UK, which works to promote the UK national parks family and to facilitate training and development between staff and members of all parks.[3]

Legal designation

National parks were first designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, and in England and Wales any new national park is designated under this Act, and must be confirmed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The 1949 Act came about after a prolonged campaign for public access to the countryside in the United Kingdom with its roots in the Industrial Revolution. The first 'freedom to roam' bill was introduced to Parliament in 1884 by James Bryce but it was not until 1931 that a government inquiry recommended the creation of a 'National Park Authority' to select areas for designation as national parks. Despite the recommendation and continued lobbying and demonstrations of public discontent, such as the 1932 Kinder Scout mass trespass in the Peak District, nothing further was done until a 1945 white paper on national parks was produced as part of the Labour Party's planned post-war reconstruction, leading in 1949 to the passing of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.[4]

In England and Wales, as in Scotland, designation as a national park means that the area has been identified as being of importance to the national heritage and as such is worthy of special protection and attention. Unlike the model adopted in many other countries, such as the USA and Germany, this does not mean the area is owned by the state. National parks in the United Kingdom may include substantial settlements and human land uses which are often integral parts of the landscape, and within a national park there are many landowners including public bodies and private individuals.[5]

Origins and growth

The first national park, and site of the Kinder Scout trespass, the Peak District, was designated in April 1951 under the Clement Attlee led Labour administration, eight months before the end of King George VI's reign. This was followed in the same year by the designations of three more national parks; the Lake District, Snowdonia and Dartmoor. By the end of the decade the national park family had increased to ten with the Pembrokeshire Coast, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Exmoor, Northumberland and Brecon Beacons national parks all being designated.[4] The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, the eleventh member of the national park family, was designated through its own Act of Parliament in 1988 gaining status equivalent to that of a national park. Separate legislation was passed in Scotland, namely the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000, and from this two Scottish national parks, the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, were created. Of the original twelve proposed English and Welsh national parks, two remained undesignated going into the new millennium - the Cambrian Mountains and Cornish Coast. The New Forest became a national park in 2005 and the South Downs was formally designated on 31 March 2010. All fifteen United Kingdom national parks are represented by the Association of National Park Authorities.

Of the ten national parks in England, five are in the northern counties, two in the southwest counties, one in the east, and the most recent two designations in the south. In total, the national parks touch only sixteen English counties and cover 9.3% of England,[6] with no national park in the southern Midlands. The three national parks of Wales by contrast occupy 19.9% of the land.[6] The Cairngorms National Park at 4,528 km2 (1,748 sq mi) is the largest of the national parks. Outside the Scottish Highlands, the largest is the Lake District National Park at 2,292 square kilometres (885 sq mi); the largest National Park in England and second largest in the United Kingdom. Snowdonia National Park, at 2,142 square kilometres (827 sq mi), is Wales' largest national park and the third largest in the United Kingdom. The smallest national park in England and Wales, and in the United Kingdom, is The Broads at 303 square kilometres (117 sq mi). The total area of the national parks in England and Wales is approximately 16,267 square kilometres (6,281 sq mi), for an average of 1,251 square kilometres but a median of 1,344 square kilometres.[6] In the United Kingdom the total increases to 22,660 square kilometres (average 1511 km2).[6] The most-visited national park is the Lake District, with 15.8 million visitors in 2009, although by visitor days the South Downs at 39 million compares to 23.1 million for the Lake District.[6]

National parks

List of National parks

Name Photo Country /
Date formed[7] Years since formed Area
Peak District
Mam Tor.jpg
Derbyshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire
53°21′N 1°50′W / 53.350°N 1.833°W / 53.350; -1.833
17 April 1951 69 years 1,438 square kilometres (555.2 sq mi)
Lake District
54°30′N 3°10′W / 54.500°N 3.167°W / 54.500; -3.167
9 May 1951 69 years 2,292 square kilometres (884.9 sq mi)
(Welsh: Eryri)
Llyn Llydaw from Crib Goch 2.jpg
Gwynedd, Conwy
52°54′N 3°51′W / 52.900°N 3.850°W / 52.900; -3.850
18 October 1951 68 years 2,142 square kilometres (827.0 sq mi)
High Willhays.jpg
50°34′N 4°0′W / 50.567°N 4.000°W / 50.567; -4.000
30 October 1951 68 years 956 square kilometres (369.1 sq mi)
Pembrokeshire Coast
(Welsh: Arfordir Penfro)
Marloes peninsula, Pembrokeshire coast, Wales, UK.JPG
51°50′N 5°05′W / 51.833°N 5.083°W / 51.833; -5.083
29 February 1952 68 years 620 square kilometres (239.4 sq mi)
North York Moors
Heather moorland on the North York Moors.jpg
North Yorkshire
54°23′N 0°45′W / 54.383°N 0.750°W / 54.383; -0.750
29 November 1952 67 years 1,436 square kilometres (554.4 sq mi)
Yorkshire Dales
Dry stone wall 20.JPG
North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire
54°16′N 2°05′W / 54.267°N 2.083°W / 54.267; -2.083
16 November 1954 65 years 2,179 square kilometres (841.3 sq mi)
Somerset, Devon
51°06′N 3°36′W / 51.100°N 3.600°W / 51.100; -3.600
19 October 1954 65 years 693 square kilometres (267.6 sq mi)
Northumberland National Park.jpg
55°19′N 2°13′W / 55.317°N 2.217°W / 55.317; -2.217
6 April 1956 64 years 1,049 square kilometres (405.0 sq mi)
Brecon Beacons
(Welsh: Bannau Brycheiniog)
Brecon beacons arp.jpg
Blaenau Gwent, Carmarthenshire, Merthyr Tydfil, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Caerphilly
51°53′N 3°26′W / 51.883°N 3.433°W / 51.883; -3.433
17 April 1957 63 years 1,351 square kilometres (521.6 sq mi)
The Broads
How Hill.jpg
Norfolk, Suffolk
52°43′27″N 1°38′27″E / 52.72417°N 1.64083°E / 52.72417; 1.64083
1 April 1989 31 years 303 square kilometres (117.0 sq mi)
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs
Loch Katrine.jpg
Argyll, Perthshire, Stirlingshire
56°15′N 4°37′W / 56.250°N 4.617°W / 56.250; -4.617
24 April 2002 18 years 1,865 square kilometres (720.1 sq mi)
The Cairngorms - - 1766434.jpg
Inverness-shire, Perthshire
57°5′N 3°40′W / 57.083°N 3.667°W / 57.083; -3.667
6 January 2003 17 years 4,528 square kilometres (1,748.3 sq mi)
New Forest
New Forest heath and horses.JPG
Hampshire, Wiltshire
50°52′N 1°34′W / 50.867°N 1.567°W / 50.867; -1.567
1 March 2005 15 years 580 square kilometres (223.9 sq mi)
South Downs
Seven Sisters cliffs and the coastguard cottages, from Seaford Head showing Cuckmere Haven (looking east - 2003-05-26).jpg
East Sussex, Hampshire, West Sussex
50°54′40″N 0°22′01″W / 50.911°N 0.367°W / 50.911; -0.367
12 November 2009
2010 (operational)[8]
10 years 1,641 square kilometres (633.6 sq mi)

National parks in England

  • Peak District: The central location of this park provides for the coincidence of the northern limit of many lowland species, such as the stemless thistle and nuthatch and the southern extent of many northern upland species, such as the mountain hare and globe flower. The Carboniferous Limestone of the White Peak in its southern and central areas, gives rise to peaks formed by harder reef limestone and dales rich in wildlife (typically over fifty species of wildflower and herb per square metre) gouged out by meltwater from the Ice Age. In the north, east and west is the Dark Peak where the rocks are shale, sandstone and gritstone and where layers of peat have given rise to bleak moorland landscapes.[9]
  • Lake District: England's largest national park has geology providing a dramatic record of nearly 500 million years, with evidence of colliding continents, deep oceans, tropical seas, and kilometre-thick ice sheets. The area has the largest and deepest lakes and highest peaks in England. This landscape is overlaid by thousands of years of human activity and the habitats for wildlife to be found in the park include mires, limestone pavement, upland heath, screes and arctic-alpine communities, lakeshore wetlands, estuary, coastal heath and dunes.[10]
  • Dartmoor: Dartmoor is the largest and wildest area of open country in the south of England. Granite, intruded 295 million years ago underlies 65% of the park and is surrounded by sedimentary rocks including limestones, shales and sandstones belonging to the Carboniferous and Devonian periods. Almost half of the park is moorland, and within it are four separate national nature reserves, including the 366 hectare East Dartmoor Woods & Heath. There are also over forty locations designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest within the national park covering 26,169 hectares. Dartmoor is also home to England's second highest waterfall (Canonteign Falls) and highest man made waterfall.[11]
  • North York Moors: Boasting archaeology dating from the end of the last Ice Age, the park contains the largest Iron Age hill-fort in the North of England, Roman forts, castles and abbeys, moorland crosses and important early industrial sites.[12] Its ancient and varied geology includes the evidence left behind of ancient oceans, huge river deltas and great ice sheets. The evidence left behind by these events has brought geologists to the area for over a century, including figures such as William Smith, 'the father of English geology'. The area is also famous for its fossils, from ammonites to dinosaur footprints.[13]
  • Yorkshire Dales: The park straddles the central Pennines, known as the backbone of England. At the Millstone Grit-capped Three Peaks it rises to over 2,300 ft, contrasting with its deep cut valleys (dales) from which it derives its name. In the south the park boasts limestone (Karst) scenery, with its crags, pavements and extensive cave systems, whilst in the north valleys with distinctive stepped profiles are separated by extensive moorland plateaux. A different geology shapes the grassy rounded hills with deep ravines in the west known as the Howgill Fells. The park is noted for its glacial and post-glacial landforms including the drumlin fields, Norber erratics, and the moraines and post-glacial lakes of Semerwater and Malham Tarn. The park also boasts waterfalls including Hardraw Force and the Aysgarth Falls.[14][15]
  • Exmoor: The majority of Exmoor's rocks were formed during the Devonian period of geological history between about 410 and 360 million years ago,[16] the most prominent being old and new red sandstones, Devonian slates, shales and limestone. The park rises to 519m at Dunkery Beacon and boasts 55 km of coastline towards which flow a number of rivers, most notably the River Lyn. In contrast the Exe flows south and east. A number of settlements are found within the park including the much visited Lynton and Lynmouth.[17]
  • Northumberland: With a population of around 2,000 people this is the least populated of all the national parks in England and Wales. Rising to 815m at The Cheviot, the park contains over 1,100 km of paths for walking, cycling and horse-riding. The park also contains a Ramsar site (an international site for the protection of wetlands) as well as 31 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, six Special Areas of Conservation and three national nature reserves. The park's human heritage is no less impressive than its natural diversity, with 259 listed buildings, 432 scheduled ancient monuments and 3,883 Historic Environment Records.[18]
  • The Broads: Britain's largest nationally protected wetland, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads is considered to be the eleventh member of the national park family, but in fact was designated through its own Act of Parliament in 1988 gaining similar status to a national park.[19] The Broads was not established as a national park, but was described at the time as having a 'status equivalent to that of a national park'. It has since adopted the title 'national park' and is a member of the UK national parks family, with the same level of landscape protection and an additional statutory purpose; to protect the interests of navigation.[20] Its rivers, broads (shallow lakes), marshes and fens make this area rich in rare habitats, supporting myriad plants and animals. It is also one of Europe's most popular inland waterways. There are six rivers (Bure, Ant, Thurne, Yare, Chet and Waveney) and 63 broads within the park, comprising over 125 miles (200 km) of navigable waterways. The How Hill National Nature Reserve is wholly contained within the boundaries of the park, as well as 28 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, most of which fall under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.[21]
  • New Forest: England's smallest national park[22] was designated as a hunting ground by William the Conqueror almost 1,000 years before it became a national park and has its own section in the Domesday Book, in 1086. Originally the term 'forest' referred to the designation as a hunting ground subject to forest law, not to a collection of trees[22] and today less than half the national park is tree-covered (22,300 hectares).[23] The rest is heather- and bracken-covered heath, open pasture, marsh, villages and coastline, and the park contains the largest remaining lowland heath in Europe as well as three quarters of Europe's 120 lowland valley mires.[24] 38,000 hectares of the park is covered by the historic 'Perambulation' in which commoners’ rights apply and their animals can roam freely.[22] Amongst the 700 species of wildflower in the forest grow the blue marsh gentian and the bog orchid and the park is the only place in Britain where the wild gladiolus grows. The park is home to five types of deer, all species of British newt, all three native species of British snake, the UK’s largest breeding population of the Dartford warbler, the rare Southern Damselfly with thirty colonies, thirteen native species of British bat and the New Forest cicada, rediscovered in 1962.[25] The park also contains a wealth of human history with 214 scheduled ancient monuments.[26]
  • South Downs: The most recently designated national park in the United Kingdom is a line of hills that run from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east. The underlying geology of the eastern half, from the River Arun to Eastbourne, is mainly hills made of Chalk. To the west of the Arun, the area is wider and includes not only chalk hills but also part of the Weald made of sandstones and clay.[27] Most of the rocks that make up the South Downs were formed 120 million years ago, uplifted by earth movements and pushed up into a huge dome about 125 miles long and 50 miles wide which was then worn away to form the North Downs, South Downs and the plain of the Weald.[28] Amongst the key habitats overlaying this geology are chalk grassland, lowland heath and floodplain grazing marsh. The park rises to 280 metres at Blackdown in Sussex.[29] The park has the highest population of any national park in the UK which at 107,929 is bigger than the next two largest combined (Lake District: 42,000 and Peak District: 38,000). The park has a wealth of cultural heritage from evidence in Boxgrove of the earliest humans, through to contemporary arts, such as Edward James’ collection of surrealist art at West Dean College.[30] The park contains 600 Scheduled Monuments, over 5,000 listed buildings, two registered battlefields and 165 conservation areas.[29]

National parks in Wales

National parks in Scotland

National parks in Northern Ireland

There are currently no national parks in Northern Ireland though there have been controversial moves to establish one in the Mourne Mountains.[37] If established, it would stretch from Carlingford Lough to Newcastle and Slieve Croob. Though it might create jobs in tourism, there were fears that it would drive up the area's cost of living.

Other designated landscapes

The United Kingdom has a number of other designated landscape areas besides its national parks. Most similar to the parks are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty which differ in part because of their more limited opportunities for extensive outdoor recreation.[38] Dartmoor, the Lake District, North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales all abut AONBs and in addition the coasts of Exmoor and the North York Moors coincide with heritage coasts.[39] All the Parks contain in varying numbers Sites of Special Scientific Interest and national nature reserves. A part of the Brecon Beacons National Park is also designated a European Geopark. Of the various World Heritage Sites in England and Wales, none are national parks in themselves though a part of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site falls within the Brecon Beacons National Park.[40]

See also


  1. ^ "The IUCN categories". UK ANPA. Archived from the original on 2012-10-01. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  2. ^ Natural England - National Parks Archived 2012-05-18 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "About National Parks UK". National Parks UK. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  4. ^ a b History of the National Parks - National Parks official site Archived 2013-04-21 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b The Geology of Snowdonia Archived 2013-09-16 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b c d e National Park facts and figures Archived 2012-05-13 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "National Parks Listed in Chronological Order of Date Designated". National Parks. 27 June 2005. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  8. ^ "South Downs National Park Confirmed". DEFRA. Archived from the original on 2009-10-23. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  9. ^ Roly Smith, Andrew Bibby (Andrew Bibby – ed) Peak District: Eastern Moors and the South - Volume 5 of Freedom to Roam Series, pp22-23 (Frances lincoln ltd), 2005, ISBN 9780711224988
  10. ^ Lake District National Park - What's So Special?
  11. ^ Dartmoor National Park Authority - General Fact Sheet
  12. ^ Archived 2012-09-05 at
  13. ^ Archived 2012-09-10 at
  14. ^ Archived 2012-05-30 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Archived 2012-05-29 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Archived 2012-03-27 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^
  18. ^ Archived 2013-01-04 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ The Broads is not governed by the Sandford Principle meaning that rights of way and navigation rights are protected. Whilst not strictly a national park the Broads is considered to be 'a member of the national parks family'.[citation needed] The legislation covering the Broads is unique.What is a National Park? at Archived 2012-06-08 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Aims and purposes of National Parks". UK ANPA. Archived from the original on 10 August 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  21. ^ Archived 2006-02-09 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ a b c,000-to-120m
  23. ^,000-to-30,000 Archived 2012-03-15 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Archived 2012-03-14 at the UK Government Web Archive
  25. ^ Archived 2012-03-14 at the UK Government Web Archive
  26. ^,000 Archived 2012-04-18 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Great Britain's 15 National Parks". Archived from the original on 2014-10-01. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  28. ^ [1] Archived June 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ a b Archived 2012-06-28 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Archived 2012-04-07 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Snowdonia National Park
  32. ^ 60 facts for 60 years from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park official site
  33. ^ Geological Conservation from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park official site
  34. ^ "Basic Facts about the Brecon Beacons National Park" (PDF). Brecon Beacons National Park. Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  35. ^ "Key Facts". Loch Lomond & the Trossach National Park Authority. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  36. ^ "Facts and Figures". Cairngorm National Park Authority. 2015. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  37. ^ Cassidy, Martin. "Northern Ireland | Community split over national park". BBC News. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  38. ^ Natural England - AONB
  39. ^ Natural England - facts and figures
  40. ^ "World Heritage List". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 6 February 2010.

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