The National Parks (Welsh: Parciau Cenedlaethol, Scottish Gaelic: Pàircan Nàiseanta) of the United Kingdom are to be found primarily in England and Wales; two recent additions exist in Scotland. There are as yet no National Parks in Northern Ireland.
Slightly less strict designations also exist, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the National Scenic Area in Scotland.
Each park is operated by its own National Park Authority, with two "statutory purposes":
- to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area, and
- to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the park's special qualities by the public.
Despite the name, National Parks in the UK are quite different from those in many other countries, where National Parks are owned and managed by the government as a protected community resource, and permanent human communities are not a part of the landscape. In the UK, National Parks can include substantial towns and villages, and land uses such as farming and forestry which are often integral parts of the landscape. Land within a National Park remains largely in private ownership, and so land access is usually subject to the same restrictions as elsewhere in the country.
National Parks in the UK have no admission changes, and there may only be a road sign to indicate that you are entering a park.
- The Broads - a large wetland area, one of the best spots for both birdwatching and inland watersports in the country.
- Dartmoor - an area of upland famous for its myths and legends both 'real' and fictional: Dartmoor was the setting for Sherlock Holmes' most famous case, The Hound of the Baskervilles
- Exmoor - Devonian moorland meets sea, in a misty northern alternative to Dartmoor
- Lake District - home to all of England's tallest mountains, its largest lake, and William Wordsworth
- New Forest - planted by William the Conqueror for hunting purposes, the New Forest now hosts wildlife both common - deer, the famous ponies - and rare - the Dartford Warbler and (possibly) Europe's most northerly cicada
- North York Moors
- Peak District
- The South Downs - England's newest National Park, designated on 1 April 2011
- Yorkshire Dales
- Brecon Beacons (Welsh: Bannau Brycheiniog)
- Pembrokeshire Coast (Welsh: Arfordir Penfro)
- Snowdonia (Welsh: Eryri)
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the United Kingdom are currently 41 defined areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, designated originally by the Countryside Agency, on behalf of the government. The equivalent in Scotland is the National Scenic Area. Natural England was set up in 2006 to succeed the Countryside Agency in England, and is a government body responsible for the protection and improvement of the natural environment in England.
National Scenic Areas
National Scenic Area (NSA) is a national landscape designation applied in Scotland. Currently there are 40 designated NSA's. They are considered of national importance based on their outstanding scenic landscapes. National Scenic area is equivalent to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation which is used in the other countries of the UK. Since 2003, the superior National Park designation has been introduced. There are currently 2 National Parks in Scotland.
- Deeside and Lochnagar
Argyll and Bute
Dumfries and Galloway
- North Arran
- Hoy and West Mainland
Perthshire and Kinross
- The Trossachs - now part of a National Park along with Loch Lomond.