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Peak District

Thanks to its position close to cities such as Sheffield and Manchester, around one million people live within an hour of the Peak District. This makes it one of the best national parks to visit both for short and long trips. Famous for its rugged limestone and gritstone scenery, it's the ideal location for hikers and climbers. However, there are also more unusual pastimes: for example, para gliding off the top of Mam Tor or kayaking down the river Derwent. And, when the adrenaline's spent, historic Chatsworth House and the spa town of Buxton are just two of the quieter sightseeing options.

North York Moors

Although largely heather moorland, home to red grouse, short-eared owls and snipe, around one quarter of the North Yorks Moors is actually woodland. Here, keen birdwatchers may spot a variety of rare birds of prey, including goshawks and, in summer, honey buzzards. The eastern edge of the park meets the Jurassic coastline of the North Sea, making National Park holidays in the North York Moors perhaps the only holiday in the UK where visitors can combine fossil hunting with watching out for the minke whales and white-beaked dolphins that migrate south every summer.

The Norfolk Broads

Arthur Ransome fans will need no introduction to the Norfolk Broads. As the UK's biggest area of wetland, boats really are the best way to travel about. They also make it easy to spot some of its waterfowl and birds of prey. The luckiest visitors may even hear a bittern, a secretive wading bird that hunts for fish in reed beds. As well as boats and birds, National Park holidays in the Norfolk Broads offer plenty of scope for whiling away the hours in cosy waterside pubs and for exploring the twin villages of Hoveton and Wroxham.

Snowdonia

Home to Snowdon, Wales' highest peak, Snowdonia is an obvious choice for mountain-lovers seeking UK national parks holidays. It offers a glimpse into an sub-Alpine world, home to hardy mountain sheep, the Snowdon lily and populations of ravens and choughs. Visitors can also enjoy the scenery and far-reaching views across the sea from the Snowdon mountain railway. Meanwhile, Penrhyn Quarry has Europe's longest zip line and the Llechwedd slate caverns are now home to three gigantic trampolines.

Trossachs

The perfect combination of quiet wooded glens and gleaming lochs, the Trossachs are also home to 21 Munros and 19 smaller mountains. Cycling is a popular activity for many visitors, and 250kms of well-marked and maintained trails make it a year-round pursuit. More leisurely pastimes include a round or two of golf on one of a number of courses, a cruise on Loch Lomond, or a distillery tour.

New Forest

Ponies, pigs, deer and donkeys are just some of the highlights of the New Forest, which is one of the most popular UK national parks and one of the most historic. Once a Royal hunting ground, it still retains its patchwork layout of forest, heathland and unenclosed pasture. Sailing enthusiasts head for Lymington, a town that makes its first recorded appearance in the Domesday Book, while the motor museum at Beaulieu is a colourful and informative day out for anyone interested in the history of motoring.

Dartmoor

Granite tors, deep river valleys and swathes of heather-cloaked moorland make Dartmoor national park ideal for walkers and cyclists. As southern England's largest upland area, Dartmoor is an important habitat for a variety of wildlife, including otters, dormice, ring ouzel, skylark, stonechat and several threatened species of bat. There's also plenty of evidence of past human activity, in the form of Bronze Age stone circles, neolithic tombs and the twelfth-century Buckfast Abbey.

Brecon Beacons

Although only an hour from Cardiff, the Breacon Beacons feels like another world. Home to Pen y Fan, the highest peak in south Wales, this area of moorland and mountains is perfect for rambling, horseriding, cycling or enjoying the swathe of stars that, thanks to the absence of light pollution, fills the night sky. More adventurous visitors can try kayaking over waterfalls or exploring the illuminated underground caverns of Dan-yr-Ogof, Bone Cave and Cathedral Cave.

Lake District

Scafell Pike, England's highest peak, is only one of the Lake District's many attractions. There are its lakes: for example, Coniston, as immortalised in "Swallows and Amazons", and Windermere, England's largest lake. Then there are its associations with writers such as William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, and fans can visit the World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere or Wordsworth's one-time residence, Rydal Mount.

Cairngorms

Ideal for outdoor adventures all year-round, the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands offer skiing, hiking, shooting, cycling, golfing, fishing and a range of watersports from relatively sedate canoeing to high-octane white water rafting and river tubing. Sharing the environment is some of the UK's most impressive wildlife, including golden eagle, Scottish wildcat, pine marten and capercaillie.

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