It’s National Parks week! If there’s anything you ever wanted to know about National Parks, read on! (Photo above is the Peak District National Park)

International Definition of a National Park

A National Park is an area of countryside, sea or fresh water, protected by the state for the enjoyment of the general public or the preservation of wildlife.

History of National Parks

The first National Park in the world was Yellowstone in the United States, which was established in 1872. Yellowstone attracts around two million visitors a year and it is twice the size of the Cairngorms National Park. The very first National Parks across the world were established in countries where the government was the main landowner which made the process a lot more straightforward.

The United Kingdom was somewhat slower to establish National Parks; although a Government National Parks Committee was set up in 1931, it wasn’t until 1951 that the first UK National Parks were established; the Peak District, Snowdonia, Lake District and Dartmoor. In the UK, much of the land was – and still is - owned by private individuals that meant it was more difficult for everyone involved to agree on how the land should be protected.

Lake District National Park

Snowdonia National Park

Dartmoor National Park

The UK's National Parks

There are 15 members of the UK National Park family:

  • 10 in England - The Broads, Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Lake District, the New Forest, Northumberland, the North York Moors, the Peak District, the South Downs and the Yorkshire Dales.
  • 3 in Wales – the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia.
  • 2 in Scotland - Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

The difference between Scottish National Parks and other UK National Parks

English and Welsh National Parks have two aims:

  1. Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage
  2. Promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the Public

whereas our Scottish National Parks have four:

  1. To conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area.
  2. To promote sustainable use of the natural resources of the area.
  3. To promote understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the form of recreation) of the special qualities of the area by the public.
  4. To promote sustainable economic and social development of the area’s communities.

The Cairngorms National Park was established in 2003 with the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) taking on all its statutory powers on 1 September 2003.

The Cairngorms NP from the north; photo Bygone Cars

Cairngorms National Park facts 

  • The National Park is 4528 sq kilometres (1748 sq miles), or 6 per cent of the size of Scotland, and is twice the size of the Lake District and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Parks.
  • Cairngorms is a high country National Park. Not only are four of Scotland’s five highest peaks in the park but more than a third of its total area is above 2,625 feet (800 meters). The lands above 1,970 feet (600 meters) are part of an ecologically “Arctic” wilderness habitat filled with representative plant species.
  • The Cairngorms NP is a stronghold for British wildlife, including many of the UK’s rare and endangered species - like golden eagles. is home to 25 per cent of the UK's threatened bird, animal and plant species.
  • 18,000 people call the Cairngorms NP their home. At 4.2 people per square kilometre, the population density is very low.
  • at least 1.4m people visit our National Park every year.

Osprey - Cairngorms NP is a stronghold for wildlife

More than a third of the Cairngorms NP total area is above 2,625 feet 

At least 1.4 million people visit the Cairngorms NP each year