Hidden Gems In All 15 UK National Parks
From Scotland to the south coast of England and everything in between, our National Parks are something we should be incredibly proud of.
Millions of us each year head to the National Parks around the country on holiday or on days out, and there are a huge number of popular tourist spots to check out. However, what about those less well-known places, those hidden gems off the beaten track?
Well, we’ve put together a list of some of the very best hidden gems and secret treasures across all 15 UK National Parks. Of course, if you live close by or visit regularly then you might be aware of some of these, but for many of us, we may well miss them if we stick to the usual hotspots.
Read on to discover the glorious hidden gems at each of the UK’s 15 National Parks…
Force Crag Mine
Owned by the National Trust, Force Crag Mine was the last working metal mine in the Lake District until it was decommissioned in 1991. If you want to access the mine, you’ll have to book, but even if you just want to pop your walking boots on and go for a ramble, there’s so much beautiful scenery.
You’re also not far from Keswick – so you can pop into Winfields Outdoors Keswick while you’re there!
Crummock Water isn’t exactly hidden away, but it is often overlooked by its sister lake, Buttermere. It offers some truly stunning views and is flanked by Grassmoor and the fells of Mellbreak, so if you fancy some hill walking, there are few areas in the country.
Holme Fell Lake
For some relaxing peace and quiet or a spot of wild swimming, try making your way to Holme Fell Lake, an old reservoir on the way up Holme Fell. Originally used for the mines below, it’s not enormous but is picturesque and will make you feel like you’ve stumbled on a real hidden gem.
Last but not least, we have Wasdale Valley, which can be found in the western region of the Lake District. This is definitely the place to go if you’re a thrill-seeker, as the location offers superb spots for rock climbing. The Wasdale valley is also a place to soak up the stunning views of nature whilst mountain hiking. The Wasdale Valley offers outdoor enthusiasts remote and vast landscapes, along with striking natural mountain ridges. Not many people know about the Wasdale Valley, so we highly recommend checking it out for yourself!
Lavender Tea Rooms, Bakewell
We’re not all about walking and being outside – we know the importance of a good cup of tea and cake as well! So if you’re taking a trip to Bakewell, swing by Lavender Tea Rooms and see what’s on the menu.
St Joseph’s Shrine
Now, this is a real hidden gem that you need to seek out. It’s a fascinating little shrine, built in 1889 in honour of Miss Dona Maria Dolores. She was a teacher at a school on the Errwood Hall Estate, who died on a visit to Lourdes. It can be found around three-quarters of a mile from the ruins of Castedge Farm.
Again, it’s not really a hidden gem if you live there, but for visitors, it might not jump out as an obvious destination. Pronounced ‘eem’, Eyam has a fascinating history, especially during the 17th century around the time of the Black Death, where residents self-imposed a quarantine to stop it from spreading.
Little Johns Grave
If you fancy taking a detour to visit the memorial of the partner in crime to the one and only Robin Hood – you can do so in the Peak District. Little John’s memorial can be found in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church, Hathersage.
Womack & Gay’s Staithes
If boats are your thing (and they are for a lot of people on the Broads), then it’s worth paying a visit to Gay’s and Womack staithes. The areas close to the staithes are lovely and quaint where you’ll find plenty of pubs to quench your thirst.
Located near Great Yarmouth, Burgh Castle was built in the late 3rd century and was part of a network of Roman coastal defences. It is one of the best-preserved Roman structures in Britain, with three of its walls still intact. It’s worth a visit on its own or as a stop along a walk in the area.
Surlingham itself isn’t hugely hidden away, although many still overlook it on their visits, there are plenty of treasures to be found in its vicinity. For example, there are the ruins of St Saviour’s Church, Surlingham Broad, and the Ferry House Inn.
St Benet’s Abbey
Similar to Surlingham, St Benet’s Abbey isn’t exactly hidden away either, but as you will only be able to visit by boat – this historical monument can often be forgotten. Located in the heart of Norfolk Broads, St Benet’s Abbey is a 1,000-year-old historical ruin where a medieval monastery once stood.
The Aquaduct at Black Tor
It is here that the Devonport Leat (which supplies water to Plymouth) crosses the River Meavy. For a nice walk in, park at Sharpitor, walk up to Sharpitor and Leather Tor then down to the leat and through the plantation north along the leat.
The Spiral Cairn at Yar Tor
Not even a kilometre north from the Yartor car park, this cairn makes a lovely spot in which to shelter with your flask of tea on a windy day. You could also explore the Memorial and Corndon Tor cairns across the lane to the East.
The East Dart Waterfall
The East Dart Waterfall is a useful crossing place for the East Dart and is a lovely spot to sit and watch the river as it tumbles into the valley below. It is a fairly steep walk up from Postbridge where there is a Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centre and you can buy a copy of our children’s book ‘Dart the River’, which features the waterfall. Map and compass skills required.
This lovely little beach is a real jewel along the West Somerset coast, so if you want some peace and quiet, this could be the one for you. However, it’s not the most accessible and you need to be wary of the tides coming in, so go prepared and it might not be the most appropriate for children.
If you could draw a windmill from memory, this is what it would look like. A truly stunning setting of rolling fields provides the perfect surrounding for this hidden gem near Axbridge. It is often open for you to go and have a look inside as well.
The River Barle at Cow Castle
There are plenty of lovely spots along the River Barle, but one of the nicest is at Cow Castle. It’s a nice deep pool which is perfect for wild swimming, while Cow Castle itself, an Iron Age hill fort, is worth a walk to the top of.
Nestled deep within the forest, Setthorns Campsite is the perfect place for people who really want to get reacquainted with nature. You may see wild ponies or deer roaming nearby, while you can easily get lost (in a good way) along the various paths that meander around the woodland.
Furzey Gardens is a social enterprise supporting people with learning disabilities and has some stunning grounds that date back to the 1920s. With 10 acres of woodland gardens to explore, there’s something wonderful to see all year round.
Hareshaw Linn is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is home to many types of rare ferns and lichens. If you’re lucky, you may also spot badgers, red squirrels and great spotted woodpeckers. There are some amazing walks in the area, with six bridges leading to a spectacular waterfall.
St Cuthbert’s Cave
Interestingly, St Cuthbert’s Cave may refer to one of two natural sandstone caves in the Northumberland. The first is a cave near Doddington, otherwise known as Cuddy’s Cave.
The second is an overhanging outcrop of sandstone rock, which is supported by a single stone pillar, in the Kyloe Hills near Holburn. Both are hidden gems and worth a visit!
Although award-winning, this ‘secret’ beach is still relatively unknown to tourists so is well worth a trip. Its small beach coves are largely sheltered from the sea behind small cliffs, while history states that it was once the haunt of whiskey smugglers. A fascinating little area.
In the village of Lastingham, not far from Pickering, sits a beautiful little church. The architecture of Lastingham Church is stunning, but it also features a fantastic Norman crypt, which sets it apart from many other churches.
Mallyan Spout Waterfall
The local area of Goathland is well known as the area where TV’s Heartbeat was filmed. However, this beautiful waterfall is a little less travelled. The terrain can be a little rough (and slippy in the wet), but it’s worth persisting to reach the 70ft waterfall. Another lovely waterfall, Thomason Spout isn’t too far away if you fancy a double bill.
Wheeldale Roman Road
This mile-long stretch of Roman road cuts through the spectacular moorland that the park is famous for. Linking the Roman forts of Cawthorn and Lease Rigg, there isn’t a huge amount to see on the road apart from the scenery, but it’s fascinating to be able to tread the same cobbles as Romans did all those years ago.
For anyone with an interest in trains and the railways, Levisham Station is a real gem. Still styled the way it was back in 1912, it’s a real trip back in time, and from there you can head out on a number of amazing walks – the spectacular Hole of Horcum isn’t too far away, either.
High Moors Over Carlton
Not so much of a hidden gem as a nice peaceful walk in the Dales, but if that’s what you’re after, then the High Moors over Carlton are ideal. The views over the Vale of Mowbray are wonderful especially if the heather is in bloom. Find out more about this walk.
Cheese Press Stones, Kingsdale
These large stones were left behind by the last ice age. They’re somewhat of an oddity, seemingly abandoned in the middle of nowhere, but if you wander up there, you’ll be treated to some quite breathtaking views across the Dales, particularly on a clear, sunny day.
Tinwood Estate Vineyard
While you obviously want to be out and about seeing the local scenery, sometimes a glass of wine (or a bottle) is in order, and there are few places as relaxing to enjoy one as Tinwood Estate Vineyard. You can stay the night there or just take part in one of their tours of the vineyard – with plenty of wine tasting of course.
St Hubert’s Church
A truly stunning little church in amidst the rolling Hampshire fields, St Hubert’s Church dates back to the 11th century. Inside are some equally impressive wall paintings that are believed to be from the 14th century.
The entire Highdown Gardens has been deemed a National Collection thanks to the rare plants and trees on view. The 8.5-acre gardens were created out of an old chalk pit, where creator Sir Frederick Stern worked to prove that flowers could grow on chalk.
Pwll-y-Wrach is a beautiful waterfall and pool in the Black Mountains near Brecon. Meaning “the witches’ pool”, the area is said to be where witches were tried way back when. A slightly morbid place, along with a whipping tree and burial mounds also nearby, but fascinating and just one of several stunning waterfalls in the Beacons.
Near to the town of Merthyr Tydfil right on the edge of the Brecon Beacons sits the ruins of 13th-century Morlais Castle. Not a huge amount remains of the castle today, but the ruins are still well worth a visit, and the surrounding scenery is worth the visit in itself.
Llyn y Fan Fach
Llyn y Fan Fach is a lake over 500 metres above sea level on the north ridge of the Carmarthen Fans near to the Black Mountain. You can also take a short hike to the slightly larger Llyn y Fan Fawr whilst taking in the amazing views. If you’re on a walking holiday in the Beacons, this hidden gem is an absolute must.
St Govan’s Chapel
St Govan’s Chapel is a curious little building built into the cliff. St Govan was apparently a 6th-century hermit, although stories vary wildly about him – that’s part of the charm!
The Pembrokeshire Coast is known for its ‘secret’ beaches, and Bullslaughter Bay is one of the finest. Not visible from the coastal path, you’ll have to actively seek it out. It has a lovely little beach and on a nice day, the water is as blue as anything you’d find in the Mediterranean.
Another lesser-known beach, Precipe Bay has some amazing vertical strata rock formations in the cliffside to really give the beach a unique backdrop. Obviously it’s not completely unknown, but if you take a trip here, you’ll really feel like you’ve found somewhere special.
This beautiful lake is often relatively tourist-free and is a great walk around its perimeter. It also has some fascinating mythology attached to it. Apparently, there is a marble palace at the bottom of the lake belonging to the fairies. You can then head off in pretty much any direction for an equally wonderful hike.
The Ugly House, Betws Y Coed
Although more well known than it used to be, the Ugly House is still a relatively hidden gem in Snowdonia. No-one really knows when it was built or who by, but it dates back to at least 1900. It is now run by the Snowdonia Society who have worked hard to renovate it.
A bit more out in the wilds is the modest yet beautiful Llyn Gelli-Gain. There’s not much in the way of infrastructure, so you’re very much on your own with nature, although the nearby area of Bronaber has some historical interest in the shape of Roman ruins.
Meaning ‘The Green Loch’, Lochan Uaine is an amazing deep green coloured loch near Glenmore, Aviemore – fairies are apparently said to wash their clothes there! From there it’s only a small detour to the Ryvoan pass which is a wonderful walk.
The Balmoral Cairns
The Balmoral Estate is hardly a hidden gem (although still well worth a visit), but the cairns erected on the site are an interesting little discovery. They commemorate various members of the Royal Family and their lives, and many of the cairns were erected by Queen Victoria – one of them is a giant pyramid!
Uath Lochans is a collection of beautiful shimmering lochs with beautiful views. It’s a little bit of a walk, albeit a very nice one through some stunning woodlands, but it’s well worth every step. As well as the scenery, it’s also known for being a great place to see dragonflies in the summer.
Thank you to Visit Cairngorms for the suggestions.
Obviously, this small village will be known to those familiar with the area, but for newcomers, it might well get overlooked. Ardentinny is on the west shore of Loch Long, 14 miles north of Dunoon. It’s home to around 150 people, giving you an idea of how small it is, but is a great place to wander around or for outdoor pursuits.
If you’re going to Scotland for the stunning scenery of woodland, hills and mountains, then Loch Chon should be high on your list. It’s rich in folklore (apparently it has a resident kelpie) and features a lovely informal campsite with a mixture of open and woodland camping – don’t forget your tent!
Situated on the Highland Boundary Fault, the small island of Inchcailloch really gives you an idea of the remoteness of this part of the world. It has wonderful woodlands, scenery and even a beach to get some sand between your toes.