In this age of belt-tightening and credit crunching, ‘staycations’ are all the rage – but don’t be fooled into thinking only the skint need apply.
The National Parks – often sold as ‘Britain’s breathing spaces’ - hold a broad and rich appeal, with thrill-seekers and great outdoors fans alike attracted year on year to sample the all-encompassing range of natural and man-made attractions.
Skyscraping mountains, plunging valleys, expansive coastlines and rugged, desolate moorland are just of some of the natural wonders residing in our National Parks.
For such a small and overpopulated island, Britain maintains a remarkable amount of untamed, scenic land. From cave to coast, wildlife to watersports, fens, farms, peaks and pikes, there is an unrivalled array of adventure and protected beauty to be found here.
There are now 15 designated parks on our shores, with the South Downs the most recent addition to the family on March 31st 2010. Between them they attract, roughly, a staggering 110 million visitors every year. The Peak District – which became Britain’s first National Park in April 1951 – remains the most popular, and is reputed to be the most-visited official park in the western world.
Britain’s size, or lack of it, means accessibility is seldom an issue - the only problem you’re likely to face is how on earth to make a decision on which one to visit.
Although the parks all have their own unique selling points, they have plenty in common too. Air doesn’t come fresher anywhere else in the country - be it the salty sea air or the manure-tinged greenery of the countryside. The parks’ shared architectural and archaeological heritage barely conceals historical tales of yore and the footprints of our forefathers.
So many of our most-celebrated writers and poets were inspired to put quill to paper by the beauty of our countryside, long before it became protected of course. Wordsworth put it more succinctly than this writer ever could when he famously proclaimed the Lake District as "a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy".
Well said that man!
Another of the parks’ shared traits is the delicious locally-produced food and drink on offer, courtesy of farm shops and traditional inns of which there’s never a shortage. Whether it’s seafood from the Pembrokeshire coast, Yorkshire Dales ale or Brecon lamb, some of the nation’s finest foodie feasts can be enjoyed in the most breathtaking of surroundings.
It’s all too easy to book that week in Majorca. Yet, on our own doorstep, more invigorating, inspiring and rewarding holidays can be found - recession or no recession. A visit to one of our National Parks will provide memories forever cherished, and - be it returning to an old favourite or experiencing one of the other fab fourteen - you’ll want to do it again and again.
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