22 – 29th July was UK National Parks Week. The 15 UK national parks marked the week in their own ways. Visitors to Exmoor had the chance to join an evening deer search (with photography rather than venison being the aim of the event). Further north, the North Yorks national park invited visitors to take part in a geocaching treasure hunt. Meanwhile, artists of all ages were invited to help colour in a giant wildlife mural in the South Downs, while runners, joggers, amblers and idlers were advised to head for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs for a mountainous park run.
The events were only a taster of what each park has to offer its visitors throughout the year. Moreover, with the distribution of parks throughout the UK meaning that few people are further than an hour or two from their nearest national park, there’s even less excuse not to get out into the countryside.
England’s ten national parks cover 9.3% of its land area. Scotland’s two national parks encompass 7.2% and Wales’s three take in an impressive 19.9%. Worldwide, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are 113,000 national parks (or similarly protected areas), which cover around 6% of the planet’s land surface. Some of these are remote, otherwise inaccessible or located in areas not currently ideal for tourism. Others are just waiting to be discovered by new visitors. Three that might not be on everyone’s radar but are nevertheless well worth a visit are:
Turkey’s Beydağları Coastal National Park, which includes mountains, beaches, historic ruins and a picture-perfect lighthouse.
Bulgaria’s Rila National Park, located high in the Rila mountains, takes its names from a Thracian word, meaning “lots of water”. Water – in the form of rivers – aside, the park is also home to many species of endangered wildlife and an impressive monastery.
The Vikos National Park in northern Greece. Famed for its spectacular gorge, the area is still regarded as one of the country’s best-kept secrets – at least as far as non-Greeks are concerned.