Accessible experiences in UK national parks

Take a look at these top accessible experiences in UK national parks, selected by Rough Guides. With a range of activities and landscapes, this list is the perfect inspiration for your next day out!

As summer draws to a close and the Autumn colours start to appear, the great outdoors is the perfect place to enjoy the coming weeks. In particular, the UK’s national parks offer a variety of natural wonders and outdoor activities for all ages and interests.

You can take to wildlife-rich waters, look out over mountains from soaring viewpoints, or rattle through the countryside on a historic steam train. Many national park activities are accessible to all, and we’ve picked the best of them. Get ready for an adventure!


Traverse the South Downs Way

The South Downs Way © National Trust Images/John Millar

The South Downs – known for its cattle-grazed chalk hills and dramatic white cliffs lapped by the  English Channel – leads the charge when it comes to accessible national parks. And in 2016, the site worked in collaboration with Pony Access to launch an all-terrain pony cart that allows wheelchair users to explore the entirety of the beautiful South Downs Way. The route strikes out from Winchester, wending its way to Eastbourne and the breathtaking coastal views from Beachy Head. The broad, shingle strands of Cuckmere Haven are another seaside highlight. 

Inland, the ancient yew forests and grasslands of Kingly Vale are sure to enchant you, too; the reserve has accessible country gates operated by a RADAR key. 

Discover Roman history in North York Moors National Park

Epic views and ancient history are served up in the North York Moors National Park. In the site’s central moorlands, there’s a series of Roman earthworks that date back more than 2,000 years, and they’re accessible on a mellow one-mile trail (clearly signposted with markers). The ground is mostly hard and level and, best of all, you’ll get far-reaching vistas over the moorland from the historic spot. 

The Cawthorn Roman Camps route is one of six in the park designated “easy access trails”. Others include Esk Valley, which follows a picturesque old railway route, as well as a path around Staindale Lake in the peaceful Dalby Forest. 

Have a boating adventure in the Broads National Park

A range of accessible trails slice through the Broads, a patchwork of navigable waterways spanning Suffolk and Norfolk – but the best way to see them is from a boat. There are a slew of wheelchair-friendly skippered vessels, so you can relax and drink in reed beds bristling with wildlife as you sail through the waters.

Try Waveney Stardust, a company that specialises in cruises on the Broads for those with additional mobility needs. There’s level flooring at the base and you’ll access the boat via a ramp and hydraulic lift. Soft drinks and a skipper are included, and they’re in operation from April through to December. 


Reach dizzying heights in Snowdonia National Park 

Wales is home to plenty of pretty landscapes © Warren Field/Shutterstock

Snowdonia is a land of thrusting peaks and rugged shores, and you’ll get some of the finest views in the whole park on the Foel Ispri path near Dolgellau. The route stretches some 300m and places you at one of the highest viewpoints in the country. From here, you’ll get sweeping panoramas over the Mawddach estuary – there’s an accessible picnic bench for a pit-stop too. 

Take a rail ride through Brecon Beacons National Park

Brecon Beacons National Park © Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock

This stirring national park has a wealth of landscapes, from soaring mountain plateaus to plunging valleys – and one of the top, and most accessible, ways to experience them is with a trip on the Brecon Mountain Railway. The narrow gauge steam train chugs through the countryside, until it reaches Pontsticill Reservoir – from here, there are views over the glassy water and the surrounding countryside. 

There’s ramp access to the platform, the ticket office and the gift shop, and one of the carriages has been specially designed for wheelchair users. 


Spot wildlife in Cairngorms National Park 

No less than nine National Nature Reserves fill Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park and Craigellachie is a favourite. The reserve is rich in wildlife, from colourful pollinators like dragonflies to birdlife including ospreys and pellegrines, and the Lochan Trail is accessible for all. The even route wriggles around the edge of Loch Puladdern, which is hemmed in by native birch trees. 

If you’ve not already got one, you can hire a mobility scooter from the Glenmore Visitor Centre. There are also accessible toilets which can be opened with a RADAR key. 

Northern Ireland 

Enjoying the view © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Northern Ireland is yet to designate any national parks, but the Giant’s Causeway has been awarded UNESCO status. It’s not surprising that this site is steeped in myth and legend: it comprises some 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns, which rise from the shore, and it’s said that they once formed a path between a pair of feuding giants. 

Experience the magic with a visit to the coast: the looped section of the Green Trail is wheelchair-friendly with plenty of rest stops and a picnic area. Headed towards Runkerry, it skirts the clifftops, offering sweeping views over the Causeway and out to sea – the area is a habitat for skylarks and other birdlife, too. 

There’s level access to the Visitor Centre, which has BSL guided tours and exhibits in Braille. The centre is wheelchair-accessible and there are also several chairs available to borrow.

Image credits

Rough Guides would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs (in order of appearance on the web page):

  • Header image: © Warren Field/Shutterstock
  • The South Downs Way: © National Trust Images/John Millar
  • Wales is home to plenty of pretty landscapes: © Warren Field/Shutterstock
  • Brecon Beacons National Park: © Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock
  • Enjoying the view: © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

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