A guide to the UK’s best country parks
17th November 2022
Country parks are a wonderful way to experience the outdoors, offering fun things to see and do for all ages and levels of mobility – including those who might use indoor stairlifts at home. Country parks often fall halfway between a park and the great expanse of the countryside, providing beautiful scenery, enjoyable walks, and a number of activities that can be enjoyed by all.
This guide highlights a handful of the very best options out there, letting you know which country parks to visit and if they are accessible.
Best and most accessible country parks in the UK
- Beecraigs Country Park
- Moors Valley Country Park
- Lepe Country Park
- Wellington Country Park
- Dalkeith Country Park
- Upton Country Park
- Aldenham Country Park
- Pembrey Country Park
- Rufford Abbey Country Park
- Lullingstone Country Park
Beecraigs Country Park
Beecraigs Country Park in West Lothian, Scotland, is one of the best and most accessible parks in the UK and it should be part of your to-do list when in the area. Nestled in the hills near Linlithgow, there are 370 hectares of the park to enjoy. Featuring a plethora of explorable woodland, whether by foot, bike, or even horse, Beecraigs won’t disappoint.
Sam, the family travel blogger who is the author of the Travels With My Boys site, talks about why the park is a must-visit.
“When visiting Beecraigs Country Park you are spoilt for choice as it is a great place for families who love the outdoors. There are plenty of footpaths for walking along, and if you are into cycling to take your bikes along and whizz around the tracks. For animal lovers, check out the Red Deer herd, cows and more down near the old visitor’s centre car park. To let the little ones run off steam head to the play park for lots of fun whether it rains or shines. If you fancy a hill climb, then try Cockelroy for stunning views over the Scottish Countryside. Lastly, when you have tired legs, head to the café for some cake and hot drinks. They even cater for allergies too which is such a bonus for us!”
Visit Scotland gives the park 4 stars and describes some of what is on offer for visitors, including a “wide range of recreational and wildlife viewing opportunities:
- Animal Attraction: Red Deer herd, Highland cattle, Belted Galloways and Hebridean and North Ronaldsay Sheep
- Caravan, camping and little lodges
- Park activities like walking, cycling, fly-fishing and horse riding
- Beecraigs Visitor centre
- Ranger service”
As far as accessibility goes, there is accessible parking and a drop-off point, accessible toilets, ramps to the main entrance, and partial wheelchair access. Their full access statement can be read here.
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Moors Valley Country Park
Image credit: Moors Valley Country Park
Dorset is truly spoiled when it comes to country parks and another one that has to be visited is Moors Valley Country Park. No matter if visitors fancy enjoying a peaceful walk along the picturesque fitness trails, engaging in intimate falconry experiences, or lazy afternoon fishing on the Lake, Moors Valley Country Park can provide. There’s even hot food and snacks available at their restaurant!
Emma Reed runs her own lifestyle blog and she says the Moors Valley Country Park is a great place to visit as a family.
“Moors Valley Country Park has so much to offer the whole family. Our particular favourite areas have to be the train which is perfect for all ages, the woodland play equipment because it is fun and interactive, bringing everybody into the mix and the Rangers Den which is packed full of really interesting and educational facts and activities like fossil hunting and learning about the different bugs you may find in the area.
“The park is free to enter, you just need to pay for the car park which makes it a more affordable day out than some other attractions. There is just so much to enjoy - dog walks, Go Ape, play areas, woodland, cafe, trains, wildlife - that every visit could be totally different from the last.”
Kara from Are We Nearly There Yet has also spent time at Moors Valley Country Park and has nothing but glowing words to say about the experience: “Moors Valley is a fantastic day out for all the family. For older adventurers, there is a 1.5-mile play trail and Go Ape treetop course.
“There are also plentiful bike trails, a miniature gauge railway, two adventure play parks and a large picnic area to enjoy. Best of all, with the exception of Go Ape and the railway, it’s all FREE. Just pay for parking!”
Regarding Moors Valley’s accessibility, they have worked hard to make the park accessible for all visitors, with wide access to trails, buildings and events. Assistance dogs are welcome and accessible toilets are available. Some of the accessible trails that visitors with mobility problems can go on are:
- Lake and Riverside Walk – 3/4 mile (1.2km)
- The Corsican Circuit – 2 miles (3.2km)
- The Crane Loop – 2 miles (3.2km)
Full details can be found here.
Lepe Country Park
Lepe Country Park in the New Forest is one of the finest parks in the country. From the park, you can enjoy stunning views over to the Isle of Wight and the Solent as well as enjoy all the natural beauty the park has to offer.
With a mile-long stretch of beach and cliffs, there are some delightful walks to be had along the front or via the five-mile circular walk which includes a slice of WWII history and wildflower meadows.
Anna, the blogger behind the Travel With Penelope and Parker blog, has visited Lepe Country Park before and she spoke about some of the attractions you can enjoy during a visit.
“We’ll be back visiting Lepe Country Park again soon enough when the weather is a little warmer. Time on the beach, or starting a walk from there, with the new facilities, is really good for us. We were glad to have been reminded of it and would definitely recommend it as a day out for a little family wanting some fresh air, beach and playground time, and a little bit of important history and good food too.”
Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage, Councillor Seán Woodward, also says the country park has lots of attributes that make it stand out: “Lepe Country Park has it all – spectacular coastal scenery, fascinating wartime history and newly-renovated facilities, including accessible boardwalks, a Changing Place facility, convenient parking and of course, our stunning new restaurant, The Lookout.
“The Lookout has won awards for its iconic architecture and offers beautiful panoramic views across the Solent, and is very popular with visitors, for everything from coffee and ice cream to hot meals.
“During World War II, hundreds of men, vehicles and supplies were based at Lepe. It was also the site where six phoenix caissons were constructed, that would go on to form the ‘mulberry harbour’… which ultimately contributed to a successful Allied advance into France. You can see the physical remnants of this historic piece of engineering, with a short walk along the beach.”
At Lepe Country Park there are accessible toilets, accessible pathways and platforms by the pond, and an all-terrain wheelchair, and the beach is also accessible via ramps. Read the full access statement here.
Wellington Country Park
Wellington Country Park in Berkshire offers visitors the perfect family day out as there are a whole host of outdoor attractions to enjoy and exciting events taking place throughout the year.
The country park is set within 350 acres of parkland and one of its star attractions is the 35-acre lake. There are several play areas around the park that will keep any children you are visiting with fully entertained. As well as the play parks, there is a Dinosaur trail with more than 30 models along the route, a 12-hole mini golf course, a miniature railway and an animal farm, with a range of domestic animals.
If you are an animal lover, you will enjoy visiting Waterloo Meadow as it is home to herds of red and fallow deer. During the summer months when the weather is hot, children and family members can cool down at the splash zone.
If you are a wheelchair user or suffer from a mobility problem, you will be glad to hear that Wellington Country Park is accessible. There are 8 free disabled parking spaces available, wheelchair access to all buildings, cafes, soft play areas, and function rooms. The majority of the park now has tarmac paths, allowing for wheelchair access to all areas of the Park including access to, in and around the Animal Farm, the Dinosaur Trail and around the back of the small lake. Access to the back of the large lake is only partly accessible for wheelchair users.
Read the full access statement here.
Dalkeith Country Park
Just a few miles from Edinburgh is the Dalkeith Country Park and here you can explore 1,000 acres of history, walks, wellness, shopping, food and adventure.
The country park is home to a variety of attractions that the whole family will enjoy, and this includes the Fort Douglas Adventure Park, GoApe and its high ropes and ziplines, the Restoration Yard with its shops and restaurants, and its variety of accessible walking trails.
One of the jewels in the park’s crown is the Dalkeith Palace, which is considered one of the grandest classical houses in Scotland. You can admire its stunning architecture and gardens as well as get an insight into its fascinating history.
The park welcomes visitors with mobility issues as it boasts car parking spaces for wheelchair users, accessible toilets, easy access to its restaurants and cafes, and attractions such as its Sky Maze. There are routes available for wheelchair users across the park, including a route to Fort Douglas.
Read the full access statement here.
Upton Country Park
Upton Country Park in Dorset should certainly be on the agenda. With 140 acres of parkland, shoreline, and formal estate gardens waiting to be enjoyed, there is a lot to like. There is free admission seven days a week and visitors can look forward to exploring the Grade II* Georgian Mansion, cycling, having a refreshment in the team rooms, and even Segway tours!
The team at Upton Country Park told us what they believe makes the park so special: “Upton Country Park is the only Country Park in the South that directly borders the special (and SSSI protected) shorelines of Poole Harbour – the second largest natural harbour in the world. Being winners of the Green Flag award for eight consecutive years means our park and woodlands are some of the very best in the country.
“The park hosts an ever-expanding and varied events programme throughout the year including summer music festivals, open-air cinemas and Santa’s Christmas Grotto - as well as offering bespoke weddings packages and private venue hire.”
Kara from the family blog Are We Nearly There Yet has fond memories of visiting Upton Country Park, and she describes what it is she enjoyed most about it: “We love Upton Country Park for its walks and play trail for kids. There are spectacular views over farmland and Holes Bay towards Poole.”
As Kara mentions, the park is a great spot for bringing the little ones so for those looking to entertain grandchildren, Upton Country Park will be ideal. Kara offers a top tip: “If going with kids, take their swimming costumes as there is a small splash zone, and for adults, Dorset Segway runs tours of the park which is great fun.”
Councillor Dr Felicity Rice, Cabinet Member for the Environment at BCP Council told us: “Upton Country Park is truly intergenerational! From the exquisite walled gardens and play trail to the 140 acres of open grassland, woodlands, shorelines and meadows, Upton Country Park is a paradise for family fun, dog walkers, and for cyclists to explore. Plus being accessible, every generation of the family can enjoy these outdoor experiences together.”
As Dr Rice mentions, Upton Country Park also has accessible facilities for those with limited mobility, with the team telling us: “Accessibility for wheelchair & pushchair users and those with limited mobility is good as the park has a network of hard-surfaced wheel-friendly footpaths. There are several kissing gates throughout the estate; each is accessible with a RADAR key.
“Accessible toilets are located in the car park and by the Tea Rooms (RADAR key). A lift from the tea rooms takes users to 'The Gallery Upstairs' art gallery on the first floor. Access to Upton House’s ground floor includes entrance/exit ramps and toilet facilities, and the Education Centre is accessed via a wheelchair-friendly ramp.”
Read the full access statement here.
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Aldenham Country Park
One of the best country parks in the UK is Aldenham, a not-for-profit country park and farm based on 100 acres of beautiful countryside only 12 miles from central London.
At the park, you can visit a farm and meet a wide selection of farm animals, explore the 100 Aker Wood – home of Winne the Pooh and friends, walk along countless nature trails, and if you are with children and grandchildren there is an adventure playground or the SEND Pavilion, which is home to sensory rooms, games and toys.
The country park is accessible to visitors with mobility issues and there are accessible car parking spaces, toilets, and trails. Staff are also trained in dealing with visitors who have a disability.
You can read more about the access to Aldenham Country Park here.
Pembrey Country Park
Based in Carmarthenshire, Wales, the Pembrey Country Park is an award-winning park set in 500 acres of Green Flag-awarded woodlands and alongside eight miles of a beach which has been awarded Blue Flag status.
The unique blend of countryside and coastline has made the country park one of the most popular attractions in Wales. On top of the golden sandy beach and plethora of walking trails in the woodland, there are other attractions such as a dry ski slope, a toboggan ride, a crazy golf course, a train, and an adventure play area.
Pembrey Country Park has made some great strides to make it accessible for all as they have car park spaces for Blue Badge holders, landscaped paths made to make them accessible for all visitors, and accessible toilets. There is also equipment visitors with mobility issues can hire, such as a Beach Wheelchair Sandcruiser to allow wheelchair users to travel along the beach as well as adapted skiing and cycling equipment.
Read the full access statement here.
Rufford Abbey Country Park
For a true slice of history during a day out, Rufford Abbey Country Park in Nottinghamshire is an excellent choice. Located on the grounds of a 12th-century Cistercian monastery, there is beauty everywhere a visitor looks. From delightful walks in the woodlands to boating, archery, and an ice cream parlour, there is something for everyone.
Speaking about what they believe makes their country park such an attractive proposition, the team say: “Rufford Abbey Country Park is situated on the edge of Sherwood Forest and offers visitors plenty to explore. From our historic ruins, native woodlands, beautiful lake and landscaped gardens, plus a variety of places to relax, eat and drink, visitors could easily spend an entire day at Rufford.
“If you like exploring nature or enjoy taking part in activities there is something to enjoy at Rufford. You will be welcomed by our friendly staff at our visitors’ information point where you will be able to pick up your guide to the park. This will offer you a number of options for walks or you could simply explore on your own after enjoying a cream team at one of our catering outlets. We have a gift shop which is located in the Stables Courtyard, where you will be able to find unique gifts from jewellery and ceramics through to local produce. We also offer a seasonal garden shop selling plans and gifts for the season.”
Rufford Abbey is also accessible, with mobility scooter hire and wheelchair loans available. Apart from the ruins, the site is flat and easy to get around and all public buildings can be accessed by mobility scooter.
Read the full access statement here.
Lullingstone Country Park
Another country park that has to be highlighted is Kent’s Lullingstone Country Park. This former deer park is situated on a large 460-acre estate and is home to an internationally renowned collection of ancient trees. Additionally, visitors can look forward to beautiful wildflower displays, picturesque walks, a kids’ play area, and a much-loved café that serves up delicious homemade food and fresh coffee.
Kate from the family travel and adventure blog The Smaller Explorer, knows full well the joys of Lullingstone Country Park, describing what she enjoyed most about her visit: “I enjoyed how family-friendly and relaxed it was. Finding an outdoor café next to a playground is the holy grail for parents, and Lullingstone provides this. It's also got very pretty walks of varying difficulty through the Kent countryside. The family walk takes one to two hours, with plenty of picnic spots and shady benches to rest on as well as a zip wire and tiny playground en route. Another good route is along the river to Lullingstone Castle and Roman Villa, two more fantastic places for families to visit. Both routes are suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs on sunny days.”
The park has five allocated disabled parking spaces and an accessible toilet. The café is on the ground floor and accessible through double doors, and access around the park is good during the spring to autumn months. All in all, Lullingtsone is an ideal spot to bring the grandkids for a fun and pleasant day out.
Read the full access statement here.
These are just some of the many wonderful country parks that the UK has to offer and as you can see, there is plenty to be excited by! So, if you are near any of the above, make sure to head on down and see what all the fuss is about for yourself.
While you’re here, take a look at our guide to how stairlifts work if you or someone in your life is thinking about improving accessibility at home.
For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to visit our news page.
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.