26th July, 2016

There's been lots of talk about National Parks Week in the media over the past couple of days, so we wanted to throw our two cents in (i.e. give ourselves an excuse to get misty-eyed and wax lyrical about a few of Mother Nature's finest works). We love a National Park, and many of our walking and cycling routes travel right through some of the best of them. Europe certainly holds its own in this department, but there are many abroad we are dying to visit. Yosemite and Yellowstone for one! Perhaps one day we'll design a Carter Company holiday there... it would be the perfect excuse to visit.

In the meantime, we share some of our favourites in Europe..

  1. Dartmoor National Park. Rich in antiquities and archaeology, and home to gorgeous native ponies, Dartmoor is a moorland with unique exposed granite hilltops known as 'tors', which provide important habitats for the park's flora and fauna. But Dartmoor is also famous for its myths and legends. It is supposedly home to a headless horseman, pixies, a pack of spectral hounds, and a very large black dog! It's no surprise then that many writers and artists have been inspired by Dartmoor - including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Eagle-eyed Hogwarts fans may also recognise Dartmoor as the setting for the the Quidditch World Cup final in 1994 between Ireland and Bulgaria in 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'. Visit on our 'Devon coast to coastl' cycling holiday.

  2. The Yorkshire Dales. An upland area of the Pennines in the historic county of Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Dales have a special allure about them that keeps us going back for more. What's it like? Think heather moorland, lush green valleys, rolling hills often shrouded in a charismatic mist and upland pastures criss-crossed with old stone walls and peppered with grazing sheep. 'Dale' means 'river valley', and typically the dales in this area are named after their river i.e. "(name of river)+dale" - e.g. Swaledale. The Dales are also home to some charming towns - we particularly love Richmond. And did you know you can walk to the Lake District through the Dales on the National Trail the 'Dales Way', which our founder Wendy walked last year. She highly recommends it! Or our 'In the footsteps of famous writers' walking holiday stops for a few days in the area.

  3. Monfrague National Park. Spain has 15 National Parks and Monfrague is one of its newest, located in western Spain. It is a recognised UNESCO Biosphere reserve. The landscape is made up of an magnificent mountainous ridge, which the River Tagus has cut through, and there is a rather dramatic rock face, the famous Penafalcon, which is on the western side. The eastern side boasts a castle. Monfrague has long been designated a Special Protection Area for birdlife. Species nesting here include raptors, such as the Eurasian black vulture, the Spanish imperial eagle and the golden eagle, as well as the black stork, the rare white-rumped swift and the Eurasian eagle owl. Interesting fact: there park is also home to just one (human) village, Villareal de San Carlos, which has a population of just 28. Savour the spectacular bird life on our 'Land of the Spanish Conquistadors' cycling holiday.

  4. The Trossachs. Our not-so-gentle cycling holiday in this fab part of Scotland - aptly titled 'Scotland's Grand Tour' - is a great way to explore the Trossachs. It's definitely 'grand', both in terms of the luxury hotels en route and the level of physical exertion required to pedal up some of those hills (!), but we'll let you into a little secret: most of our customers who choose this holiday either start or switch to an electric bike. And there's no shame in that! Why not - it offers more of an opportunity to soak up the landscape and take in the great beauty of the Trossachs.

  5. The Lake District. An all-time favourite of not one but many of our trip planners, the Lakes (see pic above) are unmissable and unrivalled (in our opinion!). It may be the wettest place in England - an annual average of 130 inches of rain falls on Borrowdale - but if you're nifty you can skirt around the bad weather: Keswick is only a short car ride away and enjoys a far dryer year with just 50 inches of rainfall. You can also sort around the crowds in summer if you know what you're doing (hopefully that's where we come in) but the landscape here is totally mind-blowing and even when it's pouring down with rain, this National Park has the ability to charm and surprise. In amongst climbing England's highest mountain - if you're feeling energetic -and boating across its deepest lake, you can also visit the houses of some of England's most famous writers who had immensely fruitful creative relationships to Lakeland, from Beatrix Potter to John Ruskin and William Wordsworth. Don't miss it! Try one of our bespoke Lake District walking holidays.