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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Milo Boyd

Two national parks in UK revealed as the best in Europe for hikers - see the full list

Two of the UK's cherished national parks have been judged to be the best in Europe.

The New Forest and Lake District came first and second respectively in an analysis of the best spots to hike across the Continent, carried out by outdoor specialists Cotswold Outdoor.

Securing top spot, the New Forest boasts the best choice of amenities and activities, housing six campsites, 25 viewpoints/historical landmarks and a great choice of hiking trails (216).

The Hampshire-based Park doesn’t fall short in the popularity category either, ranking as Europe’s sixth most popular, boasting 973,022 hashtags on Instagram, 22,200 average global searches and a 4.8 rating.

Claiming second, the Lake District has the most hiking trails of all European national parks, offering visitors a whopping 1,273 routes for walkers to explore.

The Lake District has many challenging hikes (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It is also something of a social media icon, being beaten by just Teide in Spain for the title of “Europe’s Most Popular”, raking in 74,000 global searches on average and over 438,000 hashtags.

Hiking has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, possibly fuelled by lockdown which led many people to outdoor activities for the first time.

A 2023 travel study of 24,000 holidaymakers found that 58% of British travellers are increasingly seeking trips that push them to the limits and out of their comfort zone.

The Lake District may be the perfect place to do just that, due to the grandeur and ruggedness of its mountain landscapes.

Routes are more likely to be easy going in the New Forest, where heathland, forest trails and native ponies abound.

The Lake District has 1,273 routes for walkers to explore (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The best hiking national parks in Europe

  1. The New Forest, UK
  2. The Lake District, UK
  3. Teide National Park, Spain
  4. Calanques National Park, France
  5. Krka National Park, Croatia
  6. Grand Paradiso National Park, Italy
  7. Hohe Tauren, Austria
  8. Port-Cros National Park, Croatia
  9. Mols Bjerge National Park, Denmarl
  10. Peneda Geres, Portugal

UK law has enshrined certain beautiful parts of the country as national parks since the early 1950s.

Unlike the many areas overseas covered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's definition, UK national parks are generally not made up of publicly owned land, meaning large parts of them are ruled out of bounds by private land owners.

Research by the Campaign for National Parks shows that just 10% of the Pembrokeshire coast land is open to the public, while just over a third of the Peak District is accessible.

Only half of Dartmoor, the New Forest and the Lake District are open to the public.

The New Forest has some gentler hikes (Getty Images)

So if you are planning a trip to one of the UK's 14 National Parks, make sure you plan your route out before hand as you aren't legally allowed to roam freely.

Those who like to hike and make the most of Britain's beautiful landscape were dealt a blow on Friday, when a High Court judged ruled that people do not have a right to wild camp in Dartmoor National Park without landowners' permission.

The decision was called a "huge step backward", as disappointed campaigners vowed to "go to war" and challenge the decision.

Farmers Alexander and Diana Darwall brought a successful legal challenge over wild camping, claiming some campers cause problems to livestock and the environment.

The right to wild camp in Dartmoor was rolled back in a court last week (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Mr and Mrs Darwall, who keep cattle on Stall Moor, which forms part of their more-than 3,450-acre estate in the southern part of Dartmoor, secured a finding from a judge that a 1985 law that regulates access to moorland does not provide a right to wild camp.

The Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), which defended the High Court claim, said it was "really disappointed" by Sir Julian Flaux's ruling and would be considering whether to appeal.

The Ramblers Association, a walking charity now known as the Ramblers, tweeted: "This decision is a huge step backward for the right of everyone to access nature."

It said it supported the "long-established precedent" of wild camping on Dartmoor and said it would fight to "defend our rights of access & overturn this result".

The charity later said it was concerned the legal case "could be the thin end of the wedge for people's rights to explore nature".

"Access to nature helps everyone stay connected to the environment and passionate about protecting it for future generations," it added.

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