UK National Park bosses consider car ban

Inside view of a couple driving in the lake district
Tourist cars may be banned from some of the most popular parts of the UK’s Lake and Peak Districts next summer (Image credit: Dean Hindmarch)

Tourist cars may be banned from some of the most popular parts of the UK’s Lake and Peak Districts next summer as National Park officials balance the demands of increased visitation with their commitment to climate change. 

The Lake District sees 19 million visitors arrive by car each year who are eager to breathe the fresh air and cover some of the best walks in the country, but in doing so are inadvertently contributing to congestion and pollution. This is at odds with National Parks UK’s October 2021 statement (opens in new tab) announcing their intention to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. 

Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park, told the Guardian (opens in new tab) that the situation there is reaching a tipping point, with domestic visitation surging during the pandemic, and they are considering closing access to tourist cars to spots such as Great Langdale and Wasdale, where free shuttle buses were trialled last summer. Access would remain open to locals, buses, bikes and, of course, people travelling on foot.

A car driving in the lake district

The Lake District sees 19 million visitors arrive by car each year (Image credit: fotoVoyager)

Unlike in the US, UK National Parks are unable to limit visitation via gated entryways, which complicates the situation, according to Leafe.

“The UK’s National Parks are very unusual in that they are living, working landscapes – people’s homes and workplaces.”

However, solutions are being considered including enforcing premium pricing for parking close to popular spots, as has already been implemented in Wales for those who wish to hike Snowdon. In the Peak District, proposals include a hail-a-ride bus service and bike carriages on local rail services, which proponents say will also make the area more accessible to those who don’t own cars. 

“National Parks are cherished in the UK, they’re part of our cultural identity.  If we can inspire even a small percentage of our visitors to think about some of their lifestyle choices while they are enjoying the benefits of being in our amazing landscape it will make a difference,” says Leafe.

Elsewhere in the UK, a free shuttle bus service is being piloted next year in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park in Scotland, where parking price increases are also being considered. 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.