If you’d like to spend a day soaking up sun and scenery outdoors but don’t have time to head to the remote countryside, why not visit a country park? Most country parks have beautiful walks, gorgeous grounds, and plenty of fun activities for children to enjoy too. Plus, country parks tend to be more accessible than national parks, so people of all ages and levels of mobility can enjoy them.
Luckily, the UK isn’t short of breathtaking parks to explore. So no matter where you’re based, you shouldn’t be too far from a country park. And, because many country parks are located just outside urban areas, you probably won’t have to travel too far either.
With that said, here are eight of the best country parks in the UK to get you inspired.
1. Lepe Country Park, Hampshire
If you’re based in Southern England, visiting Lepe Country Park is a wonderful way to spend the day.
Set on the edge of the tranquil New Forest and offering gorgeous views of the Isle of Wight and the Solent, Lepe has got to be a contender for the most spectacular country park in the UK.
There’s a mile long beach encircled by pine-fringed cliffs to stroll along, as well as a five-mile circular walk through stunning wildflower meadows for those who’d like to stretch their legs. History buffs can enjoy exploring and learning about the D-Day remains scattered along the way.
Nature enthusiasts can go birdwatching along the mudflats and freshwater ponds. And Lepe’s accessible boardwalks mean everyone can enjoy these stunning rambles.
There’s also a great restaurant, The Lookout, which has spectacular panoramic views across the Solent, picnic areas, accessible toilets, an adventure playground, visitor centre, and even an all-terrain wheelchair!
2. Mugdock Country Park, Glasgow
If you’re based in or around Glasgow, Mugdock Country Park is definitely worth a visit. This 600-acre stretch of land is full of stunning scenery and open year-round.
For hikers, there’s a wild network of paths that’ll take you through incredibly varied landscapes, including meadows, moorlands, woodlands, freshwater, and farmland. There’s plenty of wildlife here too; roe deer, pine martens, sparrowhawks, butterflies, bats, and plenty of other fascinating flora and fauna are frequently spotted here.
Mugdock is also cloaked in over 5,000 years of history. – There’s a 14th-century castle, 19th century Gothic mansion, a Stone Age site, a Bronze Age farm, Victorian gardens, and a gun site from WWII – so it’s a great place to learn more about Scotland’s past.
If you get peckish, there’s an onsite restaurant and tearoom, as well as two children’s play areas and a visitor centre.
3. Carnfunnock Country Park, County Antrim
Located on Northern Ireland’s famous Antrim Coast Road just 20 miles from Belfast, Carnfunnock Country Park is a wonderful blend of natural scenery, fascinating history, and manmade attractions.
With a wealth of outdoor activities for children to get stuck into, it’s the ideal place to tire out little ones. Though equally, adults can also enjoy a quiet and scenic day out here.
You’ll find peace and tranquility in the Walled Garden, which is home to distinctive sundials and unique wooden sculptures. Boasting a wide range of exotic plants and trees, the gardeners among us can also enjoy exploring all of the Walled Garden’s different sections. This includes the water garden, rock garden, heather garden, scented garden, and butterfly garden…to name just five!
Carnfunnock Country Park is especially famous for its impressive hedge maze formed in the shape of Northern Ireland. And there are nearly 200 hectares of woodland, gardens, and coastline, where you can walk and admire panoramic views of the Antrim Coast.
There’s also a golf driving range, an adventure playground, outdoor games, miniature railway, and a visitor centre with a shop and cafe.
4. Lullingstone Country Park, Kent
Spanning an impressive 460 acres, Lullingstone Country Park in Kent is a former deer park famous for its collection of ancient trees – some of which are more than 500 years old.
There’s plenty of history to be uncovered here as the park’s historic manor house, Lullingstone Castle, was frequently visited by King Henry VIII.
And if you’re looking to get active, the acres of chalk grassland and ancient woodland are criss-crossed with marked trails. You can go running, horse riding, dog walking, or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll in some of Kent’s most beautiful surroundings. There’s a 6.5-mile circular guided walk which is particularly popular.
If you’re visiting with kids, they’ll love getting to grips with the zip-wire, and there’s also a play area, as well as several picnic spots set among beautiful wildflower displays.
If all of that walking makes you hungry, you can fuel up in Lullingstone Cafe, which sells delicious hot meals, sandwiches, and cakes, and the shop is packed with treasures and trinkets. There’s also an accessible toilet.
5. Pembrey Country Park, Carmarthenshire
If you’re looking for a day out on the Welsh coast, Pembrey Country Park is accessible and full of adventure.
Located on the Carmarthenshire coast, this 500-acre park is home to an eight-mile sandy beach which has been awarded Blue Flag status. This means that it’s met (and must maintain) certain environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria. While you can easily spend all day on Cefn Sidan beach, there’s plenty more to get stuck into if you’ve got itchy feet.
The miles of woodland trails and walks have been awarded Green-Flag status, which is similar to Blue-Flag status but for green areas. And there are three distinct trails that allow you to wander in solitude, learning more about the local flora and fauna as you stroll.
History enthusiasts can enjoy doing the Historic Augmented Reality Trail, where you can learn about what happened in the park during World War I and II.
There are plenty of activities on offer here too – including a dry ski slope, crazy golf course, cycling routes, horse riding trails – as well as an adventure playground, train, and a toboggan ride for children.
Despite all the action, Pembrey is an accessible park, with landscaped paths, adapted skiing and cycling equipment, and wheelchair sandcruisers for the beach. There’s also a restaurant, cafe, and beach kiosk!
6. Sherwood Forest Country Park, Nottingham
If you’re a fan of myths and legends and love the idea of exploring one of the oldest woods in the UK, why not head to Sherwood Forest Country Park?
One of the most popular parks in the country, Sherwood is most famous for being the legendary home of Robin Hood. Though, this vast woodland has several other claims to fame too – including an oak tree that’s said to be 1,000 years old!
A sense of history parades this park, and whether you believe its most famous resident really existed or not, there’s still a feeling of magic in the woodlands where Robin Hood was once said to have roamed.
Historic legends aside, there’s much more to do in Sherwood Forest Country Park. There are walks and trails to suit all interests and ability levels – from short paths of less than one mile to more challenging four mile hikes.
Despite this country park’s name, Sherwood is much more than just a forest. It’s home to a diverse collection of landscapes such as heathland and wood pasture, and if you’re into cycling, there are gorgeous cycle trails to zoom down.
There are also regular events held here, from festivals and bug hunts to archery competitions. So whatever your age or interests, there’ll be something to tickle your fancy at Sherwood.
7. Beecraigs Country Park, West Lothian
Another one of Scotland’s most spectacular country parks is Beecraigs, which is located in the Bathgate Hills, in West Lothian.
This 370-hectare park is ideal for animal enthusiasts, as it’s home to red deer, Highland cattle, Belted Galloways, and North Ronaldsay Sheep.
For walkers, there are miles of pretty walks and trails which wind through the woodland, as well as a trek to the top of Cockleroy Hill, where you can admire panoramic views of the vast Beecrraigs grounds. Or, if you prefer exploring on two wheels, there are plenty of exhilarating mountain bike routes too.
To get your adrenaline pumping, there are all kinds of activities you can get involved with, including kayaking, abseiling, climbing, mountain biking, white water rafting, and even skiing on the park’s artificial ski slope!
Or, you might like to wind down and take it easy at Beecraigs’ lovely hilltop restaurant or cafe. There’s also a visitor centre, and an adventure playground for children.
8. Lickey Hills Country Park, Birmingham
If you’re based in or around Birmingham, why not head to Lickey Hills? This 524-acre park is just a short drive from Birmingham city centre.
Lickey Hills offers something for everyone, whether you’re planning a solo visit for some peace and quiet, a romantic walk with your partner, or a family day out.
If you’re interested in nature, you’ll enjoy the park’s varied scenery, which includes ancient woodlands, heathland, and grassland – all of which are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife.
Bird watchers can spot robins, chaffinches, great tits, blue tits, wood pigeons, and sparrow hawks. On the ground, adders and lizards have been spotted, and squirrels, rabbits, wood mice, and shrews live here too.
For an active day out, why not go cycling, orienteering, horse riding, hiking, or play a spot of golf, tennis, or bowls?
Walk up Beacon Hill to enjoy sweeping views as far as Worcestershire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire, and then treat yourself to cake in the cute cafe!
Country parks are a special part of the UK’s makeup. Because many of us live in large towns and sprawling cities, it can be difficult to find the peace and solitude we all need from time to time – and not all of us have the time or ability to drive out to remote countryside or national parks.
But, thanks to their proximity to urban areas, country parks offer many of us an accessible day out in peaceful, rural surroundings. Whether you’re seeking a challenging hike, a gentle woodland stroll, want to spot wildlife, or simply enjoy a day out with your extended family, country parks are the ideal destination.
For more ideas for fun days out, head over to the travel section of our website. Here you’ll find everything from the best woodlands to visit and coastal walks to enjoy in the UK to must-see historical sites.