The United Kingdom’s National Parks are amongst its finest and most treasured landscapes, rightly recognised for their tranquillity, special wildlife and unique habitats. They are also cultural landscapes, shaped by human activity over thousands of years. These living, working landscapes have, in turn, influenced local and national identity, inspiring writers, poets and artists and contributing significantly to the nation’s rich cultural legacy.
The UK’s National Parks contain some of the earliest and most extensive evidence of human ingenuity, endeavour and creativity, from stone tools left by hunter-gatherers at the end of the last Ice Age to some of the finest Bronze Age landscapes in Western Europe. National Parks also protect some of the best-preserved Roman military structures, castles and hunting forests of medieval monarchs, beautiful 18th century designed landscapes, and historic mines and quarries, some of which are still in use today. Moreover, National Parks protect a rich and distinctive vernacular architecture, with buildings, farmsteads and villages constructed from local materials such as stone, slate, pantile and thatch that create a unique sense of place and identity. These physical remains form the story of England, Scotland and Wales and are all key factors in attracting inward investment and tourism.
Fifteen percent of all designated heritage assets lie within National Parks. This, however, represents only a fraction of the total resource as new discoveries are constantly being made. The historic environment provides the excitement of discovery whilst delivering cultural experiences and significant volunteering opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
National Park Authorities also have a strong record of providing high-quality training and delivering apprenticeships, and have been involved in the design and development of several Trailblazer Apprenticeships, from historic environment investigation to traditional countryside management.
In recent years dedicated National Park staff, working in strong partnerships with other bodies and local communities, have secured millions of pounds worth of external funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and charitable trusts. This funding supports vital work to conserve and enhance our historic environment, whilst providing educational, health and recreational opportunities and helping local economies to thrive and grow.
National Parks are incredibly special places. Their heritage is a national asset recognised the world over. Understanding, conserving and communicating the stories of these cultural landscapes is integral to protecting them, allowing us to realise their potential and, by so doing, enriching the lives of all of those who live in, work in or visit National Parks today and in the future.
Stunning lochs and landscapes inspired many, with the romantic literature of Sir Walter Scott encouraging Victorian tourism which left a legacy of incredible engineering structures, passenger steamers and fine buildings.