The best National Parks near your university
It’s National Parks Week from 22nd-29th of July, so we’re sharing our pick of the best parks near university cities across the UK – arguably the country’s worst-kept secrets! So if you’re already studying at (or just about to move to) one of the cities below, you'll see that it’s worth spending some of your spare time exploring the natural delights on your doorstep. Whether you want to pack a picnic, learn about the local history or simply enjoy a brisk walk, you’ll find there’s plenty to see and do (and the pics will look great on your Insta feed, too).
Brecon Beacons National Park
Closest student city: Cardiff
Image source: grant_hyatt
Regular bus services run to Brecon Beacons from Cardiff, so students living in the area don’t need to worry about transport at all! Take the T4 service or the train to start off your adventure and see more of the rural lifestyle that Wales has to offer. Renowned as being one of the best places to walk in the UK, the park is home to lakes, waterfalls, crags and caves. Plus, it’s dotted with little towns and museums to give you a bit of shelter (and knowledge) if it ever starts to rain.
Cairngorms National Park
Closest student city: Aberdeen
Image source: donald_tod
Scotland’s scenery is second-to-none, so it’s no wonder that the Cairngorms National Park is considered worldwide to be one of the most beautiful parks on the planet. If you’re in Aberdeen for university, that makes you incredibly lucky – you can access the park via a short drive or train. The easternmost parts of the park can even be reached on foot! In winter, you can ski in Aviemore, while in summer, you can boat on lakes, hike or golf… Year-round, you can learn about the bloody battles that shape Scotland’s history at one of eleven(!) castles, including the famous Braemar and Balmoral. The possibilities are simply endless!
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Closest student city: Glasgow
Image source: graham_williamson_1985
You’ve probably heard of Loch Lomond. Well, if you’re studying in Glasgow, you can see it for yourself! In just half an hour, you can drive to the edge of the park, or take a train to either Balloch (where you can walk from the station to take a little cruise), or Oban/Fort William, the train journey from which is incredibly picturesque. Scottish National Heritage even has a free audio app guiding your journey along the way, because the views are just honestly that good.
Northumberland National Park
Closest student city: Newcastle
Image source: helenaknightley
Loads of different bus services serve the Northumberland National Park from Newcastle, so there’s no excuse not to check it out. Probably the most notable place to head to in the Park is Hadrian’s Wall, which plays an absolutely pivotal role in British history. This iconic frontier of the Roman Empire became a World Heritage Site in 1987. You’ll find plenty of ruins here, as well as lots of lovely places to have a picnic or a walk.
Peak District National Park
Image source: lpalacio.photo
The Peak District National Park has a reputation for being one of the most accessible National Parks in the UK, especially if you’re living in Manchester or Sheffield. From Sheffield, you can take a train to villages within valleys such as Derwent, Hope and Edale Valleys. The line from Manchester also goes there, as well as to Glossop and Buxton. The Park is brilliant for hiking, biking and rock climbing, but if you like culture and historical sites, you can also visit landmarks like Chatsworth House or Norman Peveril Castle. After tiring yourself out, there’s even the riverside market town of Bakewell, where they really do bake (their puddings) well – a terrible pun, but they’re famous for them!
Yorkshire Dales National Park
Closest student city: Leeds
Image source: timperceval
Yorkshire is fiercely proud of the fact that it’s home to both powerhouse cities and plenty of rolling countryside as well. The Yorkshire Dales are nestled in between other National Parks in the UK, and from Leeds, you can hop off the train in a variety of different places, depending on what you want to see. The area is especially known for natural attractions like Malham Cove and Aysgarth Falls, which make the perfect backdrop for your social stories! Better yet, there are plenty of places for you to refuel, whether you’re after a traditional Dales pub or fancy swinging by one of Yorkshire’s charming food festivals.
South Downs National Park
Closest student city: Southampton, Portsmouth or Brighton
Image source: andreea_stefan11
If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering why all the parks are seem to be up North. Well, they’re not - Southern counties also have their own gem: the South Downs National Park. About an hour’s drive from Southampton, South Downs is totally worth the trek, because the Hampshire countryside is simply stunning. While you're there, don't miss visiting its quaint gardens, white cliffs or the beaches of the Gunwharf Quays. Literature students may also know that Hampshire served as inspiration for many of Jane Austen’s novels, as it was where she lived. So, get close to nature, lost in a literary landscape, or both!
So, no matter where you’re living in the UK, you’re never too far from some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, especially if you’re living at a student residence in one of the above cities.