GREAT (BRITISH) NATURE ESCAPES

The towns and cities with an escape into nature right on their doorstep…

woman smiling

Let’s paint a picture. Imagine you’re out on a walk or a run and you stop, just for a second, to look up at the sky, feel the sun on your face, hear the wind through the trees, and you feel nothing other than pure bliss and a connection to your natural environment.

Where are you in this daydream? On a past holiday from years gone by? In a remote forest in the countryside?

It’s easy to think that you can only find such bliss when you’re in the middle of nowhere, far from the hustle and bustle of your usual life. But nature and wilderness are closer to home than you might think.

While we’re looking to discover new places to escape to and get some fresh air, we’ve analysed urban greenspace per person, air quality, noise pollution, and the number of forests and walking trails across Great Britain, to reveal the top towns and cities with a great nature escape right on their doorstep.

So, grab those trainers and get outside to dedicate even just 30 minutes for self-love, via a discovery of new and nearby nature-filled places.

The top 20 towns and cities to escape into nature

Top cities for escaping into nature

According to our index, Plymouth is the best city for escaping into nature, followed by the lustrous south-western towns of Torbay, Exeter and Bournemouth.

While the air quality on the south coast is actually higher than some areas in the North of England, these four towns are near to over 30 walking trails and 50 parks or forests in their respective counties, pushing them to the top of our index.

Top cities for escaping into nature

Blackpool, Derby, Northampton and Leeds also place in the top 20 cities for providing their residents with nearby nature getaways, and Aberdeen and Swansea lead the way for Scotland and Wales.

To measure one city above the next, we analysed five key factors that play a part in helping us feel immersed in nature, then combined them into a weighted rank to reveal our top 20. You can find more detail on each factor below.

Air quality

FOR A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

With its vast mountainous landscapes and famous lochs, it’s no surprise that Scotland is home to the cities with the cleanest air. Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow had the best air quality on average throughout 2020.

The air quality around Milton Keynes, Hastings and Oxford was the poorest around Great Britain. Those spending time in higher polluted areas may be exposed to pollutants like industrial smog and smoke.

This is not only harmful to our planet, but the effects of pollution can be seen on our skin too, leading to skin problems like blemishes, ageing and sensitivity.

Breathing in clean air is one important part of living in a healthy environment. So if you’re planning to travel to a new place and explore nature, add Scotland to your bucket list for a breath of fresh air.

UK Green Space

MOST GREENSPACE PER PERSON

Public parks and urban greenspace are very popular in cities and large towns since they offer a nature haven for highly populated areas. But they can feel crowded with families, dog walkers and runners everywhere you look, making it seem like you’re not as secluded as you might like.

With this in mind, we’ve found the cities that offer the largest amount of greenspace per person, and we can reveal Swansea, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee as the top five areas, each offering over 100 square meters of greenspace for every city-goer.

Unsurprisingly, the super populated cities of London and Manchester have the lowest amount of greenspace per city resident, followed by Wolverhampton and Coventry.

noise pollution

QUIETEST CITY ESCAPES

Hearing urban noise pollution like road traffic, passing trains and industrial noise can impact how immersed we feel in nature.

Just 30% of residents living in Kingston Upon Hull, Milton Keynes and Cardiff are impacted by such disturbances. If you’re luckily enough to reside here, continue to enjoy the peace and quiet. Namaste.

At the other end of the scale, Glasgow, Slough, Edinburgh, London and Aberdeen are the noisiest cities, with industrial noise pollution impacting the entire population that lives within the city perimeters.

But don’t let this put you off. Come rain or shine, time spent amongst nature can help to soothe our minds but it can be damaging to our skin, so help protect your skin from the sun before heading off.

UK forest and parks

MOST NEARBY FORESTS OR PARKS

After an extensive analysis of over 2,500 forests and parks listed on Trip Advisor, our research reveals Medway and Thanet, both located in Kent, and Southampton and Portsmouth, in the county of Hampshire, have the highest number of forests and parks just a short journey away.

In the southeastern county of Kent, Sandwich Wildlife Park is the top 5* rated park to visit, followed by Orlestone Forest Nature Reserve.

Further along the south coast, Southampton Common and Wildgrounds Nature Reserve are the top rated amongst Trip Advisor reviewers.

UK Walking Trails

TOP WALKING TRAILS

Lastly, our Trip Advisor analysis extended to review over 450 walking trails listings to find the cities in the UK with the highest number of walking trails in their respective counties.

Exeter, Torbay, Bournemouth, Plymouth and York offer the most walking trails for you to enjoy as part of your self-love routine.

The South West Coast Path is among the top 5* rated walking trails to visit in the south west of England, as well as Durdle Door and the White Nothe Circular Walk.

woman with hair band

We know that you know how important it is to wear SPF every day. Yes, that’s right, even when the British weather is cloudy and gloomy. Discover our moisturisers with SPF that will not only hydrate your skin, but also help reduce exposure to UVA and UVB rays.

For the times when the sun makes you feel warm and giddy, spray a face mist to feel instantly refreshed on your walk, then when you’re back home give your body a big dollop of love with one of our enriching body butters.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance

Please enjoy public spaces, such as those listed, responsibly and in line with government rules and advice. Stay 2m apart from people outside of your household, wash your hands frequently with hand soap for at least 20 seconds, and wear face coverings over your mouth and nose in enclosed spaces.

Methodology and Sources

We looked at Trip Advisor rating and review data to find the total number of forests, parks and walking trails. Ordnance Survey Greenspace, StatsWales, Environment.gov.scot overlaid with ONS population data. DEFRA AQ Daily Index 2020 to calculate the annual average air quality. Urban noise pollution was taken from StatsWales, Gov.uk and Environment.gov.scot.

These factors were combined into a weighted rank using min to max normalisation to provide us with an overall ranking. View the full dataset here.