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Top picks for our national parks

National parks – those one-stop-shops for beautiful places and great big breathing spaces. We’re lucky enough to have more than 60 properties in the amazing national parks dotted around England and Wales. What’s more, we know the best places, the best views and the best food to enjoy in each of them, and would you believe it – we’ve written it all down for you here.

Lake District

A fiery sunset over boats on the shore of Derwentwater at Keswick in the Lake District in Cumbria

One of the most iconic national parks in the world, the Lake District is famous for its breathtaking views and endless abundance of adventure. We have 19 YHA properties in the Lakes so we’ve got your accommodation covered, from the heights of YHA Black Sail to the lakeside hugging YHA Ambleside.

Marvels of mother nature: Wasdale Valley

One of the wildest and most remote areas of the park, Wasdale is a beautiful valley dominated at its head by the behemoths of the Lakes, Great Gable and Scafell Pike. Wastwater is the deepest lake in England and its steeply screed banks make it one of the most dramatic. The view from YHA Wasdale Hall forms the basis of the iconic Lake District national park logo and was once voted Britain’s favourite view.

The ‘oh wow’ experience: Striding Edge

YHA Helvellyn sits (you guessed it) at the base of the towering fell, Helvellyn. Striding Edge is the most dramatic route to the summit, famed for its spectacular views and adrenaline-inducing exposure along its narrow walkways, making it the perfect adventure to enjoy when you visit the hostel. This one really is a challenge, it’s only for confident, able hillwalkers who don’t mind heights.

Delicacies to sample: Kendal Mint Cake

The hero food for intrepid adventurers, Kendal Mint Cake is a sugary bar flavoured with peppermint that’s renown for giving weary travellers a much-needed energy boost. Kendal Mint Cake accompanied Sir Edmond Hilary and his team on the first successful ascent of Everest.

History to explore: Wordsworth Trust at Dove Cottage

Dove Cottage, situated in the picturesque village of Grasmere, was the setting for some of William Wordsworth’s most famous and best-loved poetry. Today, the traditional Lakeland cottage and the adjacent Wordsworth Museum show visitors the inspirations, musings and day-to-day life of this literary icon.

For little adventurers: Lakes Aquarium

Home to hundreds of fascinating creatures, the Lakes Aquarium showcases the life that’s teeming below the surface of the national park’s lakes and rivers, as well as more exotic species from around the world. Come face to face with a pike, the supreme predator of the lakes, or follow the family of oriental small, clawed otters as they gambol about their habitat.

Book a Lake District adventure.

Snowdonia

The Sun shining across a mountain and into Llyn Gwynant, Snowdon

Dramatic, wild and beautiful. The Snowdonia National Park is a must for any outdoor enthusiast, because of the many challenges it entails. Our YHA properties in the park are the perfect base camp for exploring the towering summits and deep valleys of this stunning area.

Marvels of mother nature: Cader Idris

This stunning mountain area in the southern tips is popular with walkers both for its gorgeous views and well-maintained path. The name ‘Cader Idris’, which translates as “the chair of Idris”, is believed to originate from Welsh mythology referring to ‘Idris the giant’, who used the mountain as an enormous armchair to stargaze.

The ‘oh wow’ experience: Snowdon Mountain Railway

This tiny train has been taking avid adventurers and tickled tourists to the summit of Snowdon since the 19th century, when the only other alternative to the long hike to the top was on the back of a disgruntled donkey. Enjoy the unforgettably scenic journey then breathe in the fresh air and stunning views from the highest point in England and Wales.

Delicacies to sample: Cadwalader’s Ice Creams in Criccieth

Cadwalader’s Ice Cream is sold all over Wales and is known for its delicious taste and super-secret recipe. The business started in the small town of Criccieth and is still serving ice cream to some of the first customers who walked through its doors back in 1927.

History to explore: Conwy

The small town of Conwy often referred to as the gateway to Snowdonia, is the best-preserved medieval towns in Wales, making it clear why it’s such a popular location. Conwy Castle, described as ‘one of the great fortresses of medieval Europe’, was built in the 13th century by King Edward I to subdue the Welsh.

For little adventurers: Llwchwedd Slate Caverns

Five hundred feet underground down the steepest mining cable railway in Europe lies the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, a homage to slate history that allows you to imagine what life would have been like without electricity.

Book a Snowdonia adventure.

Peak District

Sunrise at Mam Tor hill in Peak District

The Peak District, home of outdoor adventure and literary tales, is packed with places to see, things to do, new experiences to try and new delicacies to devour. And we’ve got 10 YHA properties scattered across, each with its own unique character and history.

Marvels of mother nature: Poole’s Cavern

This two-million-year-old natural limestone cave on the edge of Buxton is one of the ‘wonders of the Peaks’ and has fascinated visitors for generations. Mary Queen of Scots has supposedly explored its depths, which are named after an outlaw who used the cave as a lair from which to rob unsuspecting travellers.

The ‘oh wow’ experience: Stanage Edge

Just 10 minutes from YHA Hathersage, the long gritstone crag of Stanage is something of a pilgrim site for climbers with more than 2,000 routes stretching over the mile-long crag. Up to 20 metres high, Stanage’s irresistible grooves, crack lines and slabs are the ultimate playgrounds for trad climbers and boulderers of all abilities, making it perfect location for a family day out. Its stunning views also make it perfect for walkers.

Delicacies to sample: Bakewell pudding from Bakewell

Proper Bakewell puddings don’t look much like the Mr Kipling variety. The market town of Bakewell has been famous for its puddings ever since the 1860s, and today there are two bakeries claiming to be the ‘original’ outlet: Bloomers and the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. Now there’s a great excuse for two puddings if ever I heard one…

History to explore: the ‘Plague Village’ of Eyam

The tiny village of Eyam in the heart of the Peak District is a big place in the history of the area. In 1665, the plague found its way to Eyam via a bale of infected cloth. The villagers took the remarkable decision to quarantine themselves to prevent the spread of the disease, saving countless lives but condemning many of their own.

For little adventurers: Dovedale stepping stones

A gorgeous two-mile walk from YHA Ilam Hall takes you to a series of wide, sturdy stepping stones over the River Dove. Perfect for little feet and confident paws, the stepping stones will be a big hit with the whole family, so make your Peak District getaway one to remember.

Book a Peak District adventure.

North York Moors

Summer on the North York Moors national park in Yorkshire

The North York Moors is a tranquil area of gentle hills, striking moorland and hidden coves that bring visitors from all over the world. When it comes to accommodation, we’ve got you covered; from the home comforts of YHA Helmsley to the stately home-ness of YHA Whitby and no one could ever forget the infamously fun YHA Boggle Hole.

Marvels of mother nature: Roseberry Topping

Roseberry Topping is one of the most distinctive and best-loved hills of the North York Moors. Surrounded by bluebell woods and heather moorland, the area’s a must for walkers of all ages and abilities, so make sure you are packing your walking gear.

The ‘oh wow’ experience: Whitby Abbey

Right next to YHA Whitby and free to those staying in the hostel, Whitby Abbey sits at the top of the town’s iconic 199 steps. The dramatic seventh-century ruins overlook the North Sea and were the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Delicacies to sample: Ampleforth Abbey beer cider

For more than 200 years the Benedictine monks of Ampleforth Abbey have grown apples in their orchards. As the years went by and they found the supply of apples overtook to demand, they found they were rather good at making cider. And we agree.

History to explore: The Cleveland Way

The Cleveland Way boasts beautiful views, the North York Moors, and a host of historical sites that make it a truly fascinating part of the country, ensuring a hugely enjoyable route for walkers.

For little adventurers: Saltwick Bay

A true adventurer never passes up the opportunity to take the adventure home with them, and that’s exactly what avid fossil hunters have been doing for years when they visit Saltwick Bay. Full skeletons of prehistoric beasts have been discovered there, so you never know what you may stumble across.

Book a North York Moors adventure.

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Image credits: Helen Hotson / _Danoz / Pawel Pajor / Will / Adobe Stock

Written by Ruby Higton

Here is Ruby and she is a digital marketer at YHA. She looks after all things social media, as well as content writing for livemore.yha.org.uk and SEO. Her favourite YHA is YHA Perranporth.

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