Whether you're visiting historic sites, climbing mountains or trekking through cave systems, these U.K. parks offer more than just the casual stroll.
1. Go Fishing at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
Loch Lomond is the largest lake in Great Britain, and its namesake park includes dozens of other lochs and some 50 rivers. Much of that cold, clean water teems with salmon, sea trout, rainbow trout, and grayling. Some lochs also hold feisty brown trout and coarse fish species like toothy pike. Dozens of loch fisheries are found throughout the park, each one selling its own permits, setting tackle restrictions, and enforcing daily limits. Boats and guides are widely available for hire.
2. Climb the Cairngorms
Head for the high ground in mountain country. Cairngorms National Park includes four of Scotland’s five highest peaks and large tracts of barren but beautiful highlands. The ground above 1,970 feet (600 meters) is more ecologically akin to the Arctic than the nearby British lowlands. Those with a head for heights can walk or scramble to the region’s more accessible summits or tackle challenging routes of vertical rock. In winter these mountains become a premier playground for ice climbers. Mountain weather is notoriously variable; climbing and camping in these high peaks is a serious endeavor in any season. Guides are available for those with high enthusiasm but little experience.
3. Visit Historic Homes in the Lake District
The Lake District boasts such enchanting scenery that many British notables have made homes here. Visiting their houses and country homes offers a glimpse into the good life. Mirehouse, built in 1666, is a splendid example. Wordsworth and other famed poets were once regulars here; today the family welcomes all visitors. Townend was built in 1626 and still showcases the lifestyle of that era’s wealthy local landowners. Architect M. H. Baillie-Scott built Blackwell in a much later era (it was completed in 1900) and its Arts and Crafts style artfully bridges Victorian and modern architectural styles.
4. Go Caving in Brecon Beacons
Explore the world under scenic Brecon Beacons National Park, home to some of the U.K.’s most incredible cave systems. More than 300 million years ago, ancient seas laid down a layer of limestone, which became the foundation of a karst landscape now cut with extensive caves. Caving requires special equipment and experience but Brecon Beacons is a great place to begin. Several local clubs and companies can give novices a first glimpse at the park’s underworld and help the experienced discover its wonders. For those with no interest in technical caving but a desire to poke their heads underground, the National Showcaves Centre for Wales offers well-lighted tours.
5. Go Coasteering at Pembrokeshire
The rugged, rocky boundary between sea and shore is a playground for the well equipped and wild-spirited. Sign up for a coasteering adventure and climb, cliff-jump, splash, swim, and wave-ride through some of the U.K.’s most scenic landscapes. Wet suits, helmets, buoyancy aids, and other gear make the wild coast accessible. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park works with half a dozen outfitters eager to get you started.
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