Britain’s 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 national parks in 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. These are our top picks for some of our best loved national parks (and we’d love to hear yours! Get in touch at [email protected]
One of the most iconic national parks in the world, the Lake District is famous for its breath-taking 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 Lake District, Wasdale is a beautiful valley dominated at its head by the behemoths of the Lakes; Great Gable and Scafell Pike. Wastwater lake is the deepest lake in England and it’s 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.
The ‘oh wow’ experience: Striding Edge (not for the faint hearted!)
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. This one really is a challenge, it’s only for confident, able hill-walkers 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, Grasmere
Dove Cottage 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.
Dramatic, wild and beautiful, the Snowdonia national park is a must for any outdoor enthusiast. Our nine YHA properties in Snowdonia 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 of the national park 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 88-year-old business started in the small town of Criccieth and is still serving ice cream to some of the first customers who walked through their 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. 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.
The Peak District, home of outdoor adventure and literary tales, is teeming with places to see, things to do, new experiences to try and new delicacies to devour. And, handily, we’ve got 10 YHA properties scattered across the national park each with their 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 playground for trad climbers and boulderers of all abilities. Its stunning views also make it perfect for walkers.
Delicacies to sample: Bakewell tart from Bakewell
Proper Bakewell tarts (or puddings, to give them their proper name) 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 Peaks holds 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.
North York Moors
The North York Moors are 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
With a shape reminiscent of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, 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.
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 really rather good at making cider. And we agree.
History to explore: YHA Helmsley celebrating 50 years of the Cleveland Way
The second national trail to be opened after the Pennine Way, the Cleveland Way turns 50 this year and we’re having a joint birthday bash with the North York Moors Nation Park. On Friday 24th May we will be walking from YHA Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey to celebrate half a century of walkers enjoying this idyllic part of the world.
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.