If you are itching to explore some of the UK’s most beautiful countryside but prefer to take a pushchair or are looking for walks more suitable for little legs – don’t despair! The 15 UK National Park authorities are increasingly aware of the needs of young families looking to venture out and many have published lists of short walks on good surfaces. Below are listed a few walks suggestions and these and other links to baby friendly walks are listed on the links page. Alternatively check out ‘The Walks’ page for Baby Routes tried and tested family walks.
- Brecon Becons – The national park has compiled a list of easier access routes, a large amount of whose walks are suitable for pushchairs. They have also provided a list of suggested shorter walking routes. Whilst these are not necessarily super-accessible and can be up to a couple of hours long they do provide inspiration for walking with younger hikers looking to explore the wilds of the national park for the first time.
- Broads – The Norfolk Broads and their many waterways are a tempting location for those wishing to avoid too many hills on their walks and makes this the perfect location for those trying out walking longer routes with a baby carrier for the first time. Some suggest routes and walks for pushchairs can be found here although you will need to telephone to receive full details as they are not available online.
- Cairngorms – This mountainous national park is fairly scant on suggested walking routes suitable for little ones – hardly surprising when you consider that this area is home to some of Scotland’s highest peaks and most unpredictable and changeable weather. However it is a spectacular area and visiting with baby and getting out for some walks is still possible if you are sensible. If you’d like to take in the views without the walking, why not take a trip on the CairnGorm Funicular Railway? Alternatively, in good weather pop baby in a good carrier, pack lots of extra layers and rain protection for you both just in case and select a suitable walk from the list of moderate walks (up to 5 miles) on the Walking Scotland website. N.b. Please be aware that these routes have not been selected with children in mind so read up carefully before setting off.
- Dartmoor – Easy Going Dartmoor suggests a series of walks suitable for those with limited mobility (or pushchair wheels!) and provides maps and terrain descriptions of the different routes listed. All routes have car parks located at their start.
- Exmoor National Park provides details of 4 suggested routes for buggies or those needing good level surfaces and short walks. Alternatively, if your little one is old enough to go in a baby bike seat or in a trailer, why not try out the Tarka Trail which offers over 30 miles of reclaimed railway which has been converted into cycle track through beautiful Devon countryside.
- Lake District – the Miles without Stiles page offers a fantastic selection of 41 different routes and walks throughout the lakes suitable for families with pushchairs or little legs, or for less exposed paths on wetter or windier days. Now you can visit the land of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter with your walking shoes on!
- Loch Lomond – the national park authority has provided a short list of recommended routes and walks for buggies although maps and full details are not provided. A list of recommended short walks, some of which are suitable for baby carriers, can be found here.
- New Forest – The New Forest offers great options for baby friendly walking, with sheltered woodland walks as well as stunning views on more rugged terrain on offer. A list of accessible routes and walks can be found here or pop your carrier on and head into the woods on the many woodland trails. You could also try joining a guided walk? A list of walks, some of which welcome children can be found here. If cycling is more your thing then the New Forest offers over 100 miles of dedicated cycling routes – so grab your baby bike carrier and go.
- Northumberland – the national park here offers a variety of different landscapes, although the national park itself has a very limited offering of pushchair walks – this one at Reavely Farm being one of a few.
- North Yorkshire Moors – a selection of trails suitable for pushchair users can be found on the Accessible Trails page as well as listings of some of the best viewpoints accessible to those with little ones on wheels!
- Peak District – If you are thinking of visiting the Peak District and will be taking your pushchair, consider watching the Access Peak videos, provided free of charge on the national park’s website here. Although primarily aimed at disabled people, the videos also contain information on activities, access and facilities information for those using prams and pushchairs across the Peak District. They also have a superb list of free ranger guided walks, many of which are suitable for families and some for pushchairs. Why not check out the 2012 walks schedule or the guided walks home page for more general information. Want to hit the hills on wheels independently? You can download the ‘You’re welcome’ booklet of accessible walks and carparks here.
- Pembrokeshire Coast – the Enjoy Pembrokeshire site offers a selection of easy and more adventurous walks suitable for pushchairs and young children in this stunning part of Wales.
- Snowdonia – The national park home to the UK’s third highest peak has paths to accommodate every level of walker. If you are heading to the region with a pushchair, try this list of six accessible walks and two accessible but more adventurous walks for inspiration. Or if you are after hands free walking but still manageable for all the family, check out the suggestions for easy and moderate leisure walks in the area. Don’t forget that you needn’t challenge the elements nor be a mountain goat to visit the summit of the UK’s second highest peak – you can hitch a ride on the Snowdon Mountain Railway and take in the views at the top from the visitors’ centre.
- South Downs – the countryside of the South Downs offers everything from bluebell filled woods to open meadows and dramatic cliffs and views. The South Downs NPA has compiled 11 suggested walks suitable for pushchairs in the national park which can be downloaded free of charge here. The website doesn’t separate these walks out from other downloadable trails so to make it easier, the accessible walks are: Beachy Head walk, Burton Pond walk. Centurion Way, Devil’s Dyke walk, Dyke Railway walk, High and Over walk, Hollingbury Woodland Trail, Kingley Vale walk, Lynchmere Common walk, Mill Hill walk and the Seven Sisters Trail.
- Yorkshire Dales – the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has a comprehensive website with lots of suggestions and walks for exploring this beautiful area by foot. For those with pushchairs, why not try one of the suggested accessible trails (including a route that takes you to the Wensleydale creamery for those of you with Wallace and Gromit fans amongst your family)? There is even suggested accessible view points for those of you not wanting to miss out. If baby is going in the sling but you want to avoid being caught out in the elements or just fancy a shorter route, you can choose from the selection of short walks. It is also worth checking out the accessibility map on the Miles without Stiles page, as the Dales NPA has audited routes and walks across the national park and graded them according to the accessibility of both the trails and infrastructure along the route, providing a helpful guide for those with pushchairs or avoiding stiles.
Remember, all of the UK’s National Parks are in wild and rugged terrain. This enhances their natural beauty but also means they can be inhospitable and subject to fast changes in weather and conditions. Please be extra careful heading out for walks with young children and babies – make sure to check the weather before you start your walk and take a proper ordanance survey map, adequate provisions and plenty of spare clothes and kit for cold and wet conditions, no matter what the forecast. Small children, especially when being carried, can cool down fast and be particularly vulnerable to the elements on walks.