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National Parks

Incredible churches in wild landscapes

by Sarah Crossland, Church Tourism Manager

 

This year (2021) sees the 70th anniversary of the designation of the Peak District as the UKs first National Park, on 17 April 1951.

From the rugged wilds of the Cairngorms in Scotland and the ancient woodlands of the New Forest in southern England to the golden shores of the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales, all of our National Parks are truly special places. Here we visit each, in alphabetical order, seeking out all the churches, in each park, listed on ExploreChurches.

Discover beautiful churches in our most breath taking and treasured landscapes.

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Brecon Beacons National Park

Discover heather clad mountains, loved for big green open spaces which offer miles and miles of wonderful walking, rugged cycling trails and incredible dark sky stargazing. The Brecon Beacons also boasts a year round programme celebrating all that’s good about food and drink, with stalls from local producers and free musical entertainment.

Brecon Cathedral welcomes everyone who passes through. It started life in 1093 as a Benedictine Priory, built by the Normans on the site of an earlier Celtic church. Although a building of relatively modest proportions, the Cathedral is set in a walled Close, unique in Wales, and surrounded by former monastic buildings.

Brecon Cathedral
RichardCroft
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Broads National Park

Explore idyllic waterways, gaze at the big skies and spot some of the UKs rarest wildlife. Norfolk is possibly most famous for the man made Broads, over 125 miles of navigable lock free lanes set in beautiful countryside and studded with charming villages. Heritage churches are a vital part of the landscape, visible evidence of Christian heritage that stretches back to the 7th century.

The Cathedral of the Broads, attracts visitors from all over the world. St Helen Ranworth (as it is otherwise known), is famous for its remarkable screen, a masterpiece made in about 1450. It stretches the entire width of the church, and the figures on it include the Twelve Apostles, St George, St Mary, John the Baptist and other saints. Pilgrims, sailors, church lovers and families visit on summer days and this grand church offers a wonderful welcome to all.

St Helen, Ranworth
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Cairngorms National Park

Experience the UKs highest mountain range, explore ancient pine forests and become immersed in the Scottish wilderness. Cairngorms National Park is the home to some of the most unique animals and plants in the UK, it's also home to some gorgeous churches.

Crathie Church church overlooks the River Dee and the ruins of the 14th century church. This is where the Queen worships when in Scotland. Queen Victoria's personal attendant, John Brown is buried here, along with others who served her. Some have headstones with personal epitaphs from Victoria.

Crathie Kirk, Ballater
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Dartmoor National Park

Discover wild open moorlands, iconic granite tors, ancient monuments and rich local history in the south of England. The story of Dartmoor's cherished and protected landscape and wildlife is one of powerful geological forces, relentless weather and more than 10,000 years of human activity.

Nestled in the shadow of Dartmoor, in a beautiful wooded valley beside the river Dart, Buckfast Abbey is a working monastery offering visitors a tranquil refuge from the hectic pace of everyday life. The church is surrounded by gardens which in the summer come alive with colour. Spacious lawns and three specialist garden areas are maintained for pleasure and relaxation: a lavender garden, a physic garden and a sensory garden.

Buckfast Abbey
LewisClarke
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Exmoor National Park

A unique mosaic of expansive moorlands, woodland valleys, rolling hills and dramatic coastline. One long story of how people have tried in different ways to live on and around the moor , they traded, travelled, worshipped, and buried their dead.

The unique gleaming lime and tallow washed walls of All Saints Selworthy overlook Exmoor. They give a foretaste of the wonderfully light and spacious feeling interior, with its slender white pillars and soaring wagon roofs.

All Saints, Selworthy
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Lake District National Park

An awe inspiring landscape of high fells, deep glacial lakes and quaint rural villages, now a World Heritage Site. Visiting the Lake District is one of the most popular breaks for people across the UK and from further afield, its churches are nothing like those found in other parts of the country.

St Oswald, Grasmere is well known because of its associations with the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth, who lived in nearby Dove Cottage and is buried in the churchyard. It is named after St Oswald, a 7th century Christian king of Northumberland, who is said to have preached on this site and still celebrates its Rushbearing Festival, a custom dating back to the days when the earthen floor was strewn with rushes, both for warmth and cleanliness.

St Oswald, Grasmere
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Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park

Home to the largest lake in the UK, multiple stunning lochs, extensive forests and dramatic mountain ranges. Its dramatic splendour has shaped a wealth of cultural heritage, myth and folklore and larger than life characters throughout the ages.

For over 1500 years a church has stood on the banks of Loch Lomond. Luss is home to around 250 people but receives some 750,000 visitors each year, many of them wanting to visit the church. With the loch and Ben Lomond right on our doorstep, it boasts one of the most scenic locations for a church.

Luss Prish Church
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New Forest National Park

Marvel at the endless woodlands, wild heathlands and roaming ponies, cattle and sheep of this truly unique landscape. But you can also explore pretty villages in the heart of the forest or bustling seaside towns, there's something for everyone.

St Michael & All Angels, Lyndhurst is recognised as housing a world class collection of art including the Leighton fresco stained glass by Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Kempe, Clayton & Bell, and William Morris. It is also famous for being the final resting place of Alice Hargreaves, better known as Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

St Michael & All Angels, Lyndhurst
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Northumberland National Park

Enjoy fascinating ancient monuments, tranquil rolling moorland and the beautiful uplands of the Cheviot Hills. History buffs will feel right at home here in Northumberland National Park. Will you delve into our Roman or Reiver past?

People have lived in the vicinity of Simonburn since prehistoric times, there are rock carvings nearby. St Mungo is a 13th century church on the site of an earlier 8th century one, with strong associations with Saint Mungo (also known as Kentigern). In medieval times the parish covered the largest area in England.

St Mungo, Simonburn
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North York Moors National Park

A place of extraordinary surprises, from wide open moorland and swathes of purple heather to dazzling dark skies and a glorious coastline. Forged by nature, shaped over generations; where peace and beauty rub shoulders with a rich history and a warm welcome

Whitby Abbey has been inspiring visitors for nearly 1500 years; now it’s your turn. Follow in the footsteps of artists, writers and religious leaders to explore the soaring gothic ruins and to take in the stunning sea views.

Whitby Abbey
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Peak District National Park

Discover breathtaking views of stunning limestone valleys, rugged gritstone landscapes and magnificent stately homes. A world of contrasting natural beauty, with moors and dales, rivers, springs and caverns and at the heart of it all glorious churches.

St Lawrence sits on a gentle hill Eyam, noted for the historical reality of the plague in 1665-66. The church's stained glass windows include one that tells the story of the plague with a 'ring of roses', a reminder that the nursery rhyme had a deadly origin. Eyam Well Dressing takes place at the end of August.

St Lawrence, Eyam
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Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Towering limestone cliffs, golden beaches and hilly volcanic headlands make up the UKs only fully coastal National Park. Set off on a voyage of discovery, seek our scenery, sands and ancient churches and chapels hidden amongst the cliffs and crags.

Heading down to the magical St Govan's Chapel, Bosherston is a truly unique experience. This is a place to connect with the ancients and the elemental; a medieval pilgrimage chapel in a dramatic setting, perched on a cliff face above the Atlantic sea, approached down a flight of worn stone steps.

St Govan Chapel, Bosherston
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Snowdonia National Park

Dominated by the impressive Snowdonia mountain range, discover picturesque villages, fast flowing waterfalls and a coastline of fine sandy beaches. Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales. There is well as a wealth of picturesque villages in an area steeped in culture and local history, where more than half its population speak Welsh.

The ancient church of St Tanwg is situated in the sand dunes at Llandanwg, it is reputed to have been founded in the 5th century and is one of the oldest Christian foundations in Britain. It has been frequently dug out of the sand, as it constantly encroaches and buries it. From inside the simple stone walls you can hear the waves on the beach even on the stillest day.

St Tanwg, Llandanwg
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South Downs National Park

Discover the world famous white cliffs, rolling green and gold hills, ancient woodland and lowland heaths. The chalk downland is covered with swathes of distinctive beech and yew hangers clinging to the slopes. The open hilltops give widescreen views over vast fields, with churches popping up from within the green.

'The Little Church in a Field' is open every day. St Hubert, Idsworth is remarkable for its solitary position and for unusual wall paintings from the 1330s which were mistakenly believed to depict a scene from the conversion of St Hubert but actually reveal the Hairy Anchorite or wherewolf from a central European legend.

St Hubert, Idsworth
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Yorkshire Dales National Park

An area rich in farming heritage, discover heather blanketed uplands and rolling green valleys scattered with traditional field barns and drystone walls. The Yorkshire Dales has many moods; it can be wild and windswept or quietly tranquil with valleys full of hay meadows, drystone walls and barns.

In 1132, 13 monks came here from York, to start a simpler life. The founded Fountains Abbey. Over 400 years later, when Henry VIII demanded the closure of the Abbey, the monks left behind the most complete Cistercian abbey remains in the country.

Fountains Abbey, Ripon

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