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Accessible national parks in the UK that older people should visit

10th May 2021

The national parks in the UK are a must-visit as they are full of world-class landscapes with high peaks, glacial valleys and stunning lakes (among much more). There’s also the beautiful wildlife and fascinating cultural heritage that make these spaces so special.

Some people who suffer from mobility problems and need to use aids such as stair lifts or wheelchairs might think that it would be impossible to visit these national parks, but many are accessible to visitors with mobility issues.

To celebrate the recent Discover National Parks Fortnight, which took place from 4 – 18 April, this article takes a look at the best national parks across the UK that older people and visitors with a mobility issue can visit.

What is a national park?

Before going into the accessible national parks that you can visit within the UK, it’s important to answer the question ‘what is a national park’?

A national park has been designated as a protected landscape because of its special qualities and each one is different and extraordinary in its own way.

There are 15 national parks in the UK and each one is controlled by its own authority, but they do not own all of the land within the park. There are thousands of public rights of way and many of these are mobility-friendly.

Most accessible national parks in the UK

With the weather brightening up and the days getting longer, it's a great time to get outdoors and see the stunning British countryside. Here are some of the most accessible national parks in the UK:

•The Peak District

•Cairngorms

•Lake District

•Brecon Beacons

•Dartmoor

•Yorkshire Dales

•New Forest

The Peak District

Location: Derbyshire, England

As the lockdown restrictions begin to ease, national parks such as the Peak District are welcoming more people back.

With its breathtaking views, bustling market towns, pretty villages and famous attractions, it should come as little surprise that it is a much-loved national park. In the north of the park, visitors can explore moorland plateaus while in the south there are rolling green hills.

Roshni, the writer behind the travel blog The Wanderlust Within, says that the Peak District is a great national park to visit as it is not only beautiful but accessible as well.

“The UK’s first National Park, the Peak District, has 64 miles of accessible trails. This includes the Upper Derwent Valley Trail, an 18-mile circuit around Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs. This trail is perfect for those with mobility issues as disability-adapted bicycles and mobility scooters are available to rent from Fairholmes Cycle Hire. On top of that, one of the most famous spots in the Peak District, The Dovedale Stones, is also accessible. You can skip the steps, narrow bridge and uneven path on the east bank of the River Dove and instead use the tarmac path to reach the stunning steppingstones.”

The Peak District doesn’t just have plenty of accessible routes for those with mobility problems, but there are disabled toilets, disabled parking bays and free parking for Blue Badge holders as well as accessible visitor centres.

Accessible attractions in the Peak District

Chatsworth

Great British Car Journey

Bolsover Castle

Peak Wildlife Park

Cairngorms

Location: Aberdeenshire and Moray, Scotland

Cairngorms is the largest national park in the UK and five of the six highest peaks in Scotland are located within the park. The peaks are generally covered in snow and during the winter months, people can even ski on them.

The national park is famed for its wildlife, so if you intend to visit the Cairngorms then you might spot anything from woodland grouse and golden eagles to red deer and osprey.

The Cairngorms are open for everyone to enjoy as the national park has ensured that visitors in wheelchairs or who need to use mobility aids are well catered for. There is a wide range of paths with easy access in most communities across the park and some of these can be found in Badenoch and Strathspey, which is on the western edge of the national park. There are wheelchair-accessible toilets and car parking all over the national park.

Mobility scooters and wheelchairs are also available on short-term loans, while there is a local community transport company called Where 2 Today that offers an accessible minibus service to most of the attractions in the Cairngorms.

There are a plethora of activities that people with mobility problems and disabilities can enjoy in the national park, but one of the best things you can try is to travel up the sixth highest mountain in the UK. By going on the Cairngorm Mountain Railway, you can summit the mountain and enjoy stunning views from the top.

Accessible attractions in the Cairngorms

Balmoral Castle

RSPB Visitor Centre Loch Garten

Strathspey Steam Railway

Cairngorm Reindeer Herd

Lake District

Location: Cumbria, England

England’s largest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lake District is one of the UK’s most popular outdoor spaces to visit.

With its stunning landscapes and picturesque lakes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the national park has inspired many artists and writers over the years, including the likes of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Another reason the park is extremely popular is down to the fact that there are plenty of trails to keep you busy for weeks and lots of other activities such as fishing and kayaking that visitors can enjoy.

The Lake District has 48 routes that are suitable for people with limited mobility, including wheelchair users, families with pushchairs, and the visually impaired. There are also lots of accessible activities that can be enjoyed in the Lake District through activity business Anyone Can such as canoeing, sailing and rock climbing.

On the Visit Lake District website, Anyone Can talk about some of the facilities they have available to visitors with mobility problems: “We have a wheelchair access (and float onboard) support boat called 'Freedom’. Freedom allows us to take one-way journeys, whisk you back to use the accessible toilets or give you somewhere to rest. Freedom gives you the confidence of knowing that if you somehow ended up in the water, there is an easy way to get back (our water ramp).”

Accessible attractions in Lake District

The World of Beatrix Potter

Windermere Lake Cruises

Levens Hall

Derwentwater

Brecon Beacons

Location: Carmarthenshire, Powys and Monmouthshire, Wales

The Brecon Beacons is a national park that has it all. There are mountains, moorlands, waterfalls, castles and vibrant towns and villages.

The national park is around 42 miles wide and covers an area of around 520 square miles of South and Mid Wales. The parks night skies are world-renowned and as a result, has seen the Brecon Beacons recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve.

The Brecon Beacons is accessible to visitors who are either disabled, less mobile or visually impaired. There are accessible visitor attractions including museums, steam trains and castles as well as campsites that have facilities for disabled holidaymakers.

Some of the accessible activities that older people can enjoy in the national park include trips on a canal barge and hikes. The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority started working with local disability groups to make the park as accessible as possible for wheelchair users and other visitors who were unable to walk very far and as part of this project step-over stiles and steps were replaced with gates and ramps whilst surfaces were upgraded.

Accessible attractions in the Brecon Beacons

Dartmoor

Location: Devon, England

With its imposing granite tors and ancient woods, vast landscapes and windswept ponies where dishevelled students go to complete their Ten Tors challenges, it might seem from the outside that Dartmoor isn’t accessible, but that isn’t the case.

In fact, there are many sides to Dartmoor that make it extremely accessible, regardless of mobility or fitness levels. Some trails can be enjoyed in a wheelchair and there are accessible eateries located around the national park. There are even organisations such as Disabled Ramblers who plan walks across Dartmoor and these are run annually from April to October.

The easy-going routes on Dartmoor are most suitable for people with limited mobility as they are flatter and some have surfaces that are accessible for wheelchair users. There are also plenty of accessible toilets and visitor centres located across Dartmoor national park.

Mollie, the travel writer behind the Where’s Mollie blog, talks about why she loved Dartmoor during her recent visit: “This vast moorland is riddled with walking and hiking trails, home to cute villages, and even inspiration behind the Sherlock Holmes story, ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. There are many beautiful places to visit in Dartmoor; here you can see England’s highest waterfall, beautiful churches and fairytale woods.”

Accessible attractions in Dartmoor

Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre

Pennywell Farm

The Miniature Pony Centre

Dartmoor Zoo

Yorkshire Dales

Location: Yorkshire, England

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is famed for its limestone scenery and underground caves and its dramatic landscapes make it one of the best to hike in. The national park has also recently been designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve.

The national park is very accessible and it has a number of routes that are under two miles which are suitable for those in wheelchairs or those who have mobility problems. Some of the most accessible routes in the park include Burnsall, Malham Cove and Buckden.

Visitors with mobility issues can also hire a Tramper, which is a specially designed, four-wheel-drive, all-terrain, electric buggy, to explore parts of the Yorkshire Dales. There is also disabled parking available for Blue Badge holders and accessible toilets located across the national park.

Accessible attractions in the Yorkshire Dales

The Wensleydale Creamery

Bolton Abbey Estate

Dales Countryside Museum

Ingleborough Cave

New Forest

Location: Hampshire and Wiltshire, England

The New Forest National Park isn’t actually all that new as William the Conqueror supposedly gave the area its name more than 1,000 years ago.

The park boasts ancient woodlands, wild open heathlands and stretches of beautiful coastline, but one of the most unique aspects of the park are the wild animals that roam free here, including the ponies and horses that are so iconic with the national park.

The New Forest National Park has made every effort to make sure that everyone can enjoy the area regardless of their mobility. There are designated accessible footpaths provided by the Forestry Commission and these range from a few hundred metres to longer routes as well as lots of facilities including accessible parking and toilets.

Some of the most accessible routes you can enjoy include Janesmoor Pond, a 300-metre route around a stunning pond, and the 1.3 mile Tall Trees Trail in Blackwater.

The Blue Badge Company says the national park is extremely accessible: “From the scenic coastline to the dramatic heathland and the mystical forest, the New Forest can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their mobility.

“We most liked the look of the Knightwood Oak walk. An easy route, taking in what is believed to be the oldest oak tree in the New Forest at around 600 years old.”

Accessible attractions in New Forest

Exbury Gardens

National Motor Museum Beaulieu

Marwell Zoo

Paultons Park, Home of Peppa Pig World

These are just some of the accessible national parks that you can visit in the UK and no matter whether you suffer from mobility problems or are in a wheelchair there are plenty of activities that you can enjoy in each park.

If you suffer from mobility problems and are in need of new or reconditioned stairlifts then take a look at our website to find a solution that suits you. If you want to read more articles like this, then check out the Mobility News section of the site.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.