Exploring the UK’s Greatest Treasures with the Good Access Guide
There are many inspiring reasons to stay in the UK when the holidays come around, or when you have the urge to just get away from it all for a few days. Even so, there are two that really stand out for readers of the Good Access Guide. The first is that there are plenty of options to hand when it comes to disabled friendly holiday accommodation and the second is that UK is literally brimming over with national parks to visit, some more famous than others.
Britain has earned international reputation for the beauty of its national parks. They are, without a doubt, considered to be some of the country’s greatest national treasures. With a total of 15 national parks in the UK, 10 in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland, they are the nation’s pride and joy. The official designation of Britain’s first national parks, Dartmoor, The Lake District, The Peak District and Snowdonia, occurred in 1951 and with 16.4 million visitors per year, The Lake District is by far the most popular. But what about the parks that seem to get less exposure on travel websites and in travel magazines?
The Yorkshire Dales National Park
The Yorkshire Dales offers the most quintessential reflection of British countryside. Every which way you look the landscapes of this park appear to have been stolen from those found on UK postcards. Heather moorlands, stone-built villages and traditional farming landscapes are paired alongside the UK’s finest limestone scenery, flower-rich hay meadows and even an underground labyrinth of caves.
The great thing about the park, for those with mobility concerns, is that there are 17 routes to explore that have been dubbed the “Miles without Stiles” routes. All options are easy to download or can be bought directly from the park’s various centres. If you love the water, there’s a really pretty circular walk that is 100% accessible to all around Grimwith Reservoir. Wildlife lovers might want to visit the nature reserve at the Water Houses end. This route travels along a rough grass gradient of 1:10 for the first 500m and then converts into a well-surfaced track, at least 300cm wide from start to finish.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
There are an impressive 22 lochs located in this national park, together with 50 rivers, three sea lochs, two forest parks and 21 small mountains that climb to a little over 3,000 ft. Loch Katrine is one of the lochs that can be easily accessed and enjoyed, whatever mobility issues you may have. The path begins at the Trossachs Pier. It’s smooth and tarmacked, with the occasional gradient.
If you have a passion for flora, however, then you really must visit the Benmore Botanic Gardens. Fully accessible for anyone in a wheelchair or on a scooter, these gardens are located on the Cowal Peninsula within an incredible mountainside setting. The views are dramatic, to say the least. For anyone more interested in urban settings, there are lots of villages and small towns to explore, including Aberfoyle Village, Balloch Village and Callander Town.
The South Downs National Park
South Downs, the UK’s youngest national park, was officially added to the country’s national treasure list in 2010. Similar to The Yorkshire Dales, South Downs is home to a series of routes that cater to the needs of those with limited mobility. There’s actually quite a good video of wheelchair user, Mel, who travels regularly to The South Downs National Park with her dog, Jasper, to take in the fresh air, enjoy the variety of smells of the countryside and watch her furry friend play in the water.
So, whatever your mobility and whatever you really enjoy when travelling, whether that be urban locations, water, countryside, mountains, or gardens, the UK’s national parks will have a range of options for you to explore. While the Lake District and the Peak District might benefit from the greatest amount of media attention, the remaining 13 are just as enchanting.
[Written for Good Access Guide by Jane Sandwood]