Welsh national park slips down rankings because of 'issue' others apparently do better

The incomparable Nant Gwynant in Eryri
The incomparable Nant Gwynant in Eryri -Credit:Getty Images

Here in Wales we all know the glory of Eryri. However, a recent survey has seen its status as a top tier UK national park put at risk. National parks are often hailed as the heart of Britain, encapsulating natural beauty and heritage while offering a gateway to outdoor adventures. Yet recent assessments indicate that Eryri might be losing touch with what once made it so revered.

While surveys may not always be scientific, they consistently place Eryri high on the list of the UK's favourite national parks. In the past, respected outlets like TimeOut, Conde Nast Traveller and The Telegraph have all placed Eryri in their top two, praising its rich culture and adventurous spirit.

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Eryri isn't just about its dramatically beautiful mountains; it boasts 60 miles of breathtaking coastline and vast expanses of dark skies ideal for stargazing. Its Unesco-recognised slate landscape tells the tale of the industry that once thrived there, and with 359 scheduled monuments, six castles and seven Roman sites, it's clear this has always been a land full of life and history. The eight heritage railway lines are a nod to the area's industrial heritage, reports North Wales Live.

However, recent surveys suggest that Eryri's esteemed reputation is at risk. Which? magazine last year ranked Eryri seventh out of the UK's national parks, commending its scenery but noting a lack of "peace and quiet". This week, another study demoted the park to 10th place, citing parking issues as its primary weakness. A recent survey commissioned by Cinch has revealed that Eryri has only one-twentieth of the parking provision offered by England's New Forest, ranking it as the worst out of all 15 national parks in this regard.

Further analysis suggests that it also falls below average when it comes to cafes and restaurants. However, it is the issue of parking, a topic of much debate in recent years, that stands out the most. Despite being home to Yr Wyddfa, the UK's most visited mountain, Eryri does not attract as many visitors as South Downs, the Lake District, the Peak District or North York Moors. Therefore, the need for parking is relative and preserving the natural beauty of the area has always been a priority.

As we approach the May Bank Holiday, there are expectations of a surge in parking ticket receipts due to irresponsible drivers blocking roads. Online complaints from frustrated visitors and images of cars being towed suggest a deficiency in parking provision.

There has been a long-standing argument that Eryri needs to address this issue to maintain its appeal to tourists. The National Park Authority has indeed taken steps to tackle the problem, although not necessarily in a way that pleases all visitors. The authority took the long view, favouring sustainability over concrete and creating a model park-and-ride network that is widely admired, despite its imperfections. Fewer car parks may dot Eryri but in prime areas like Yr Wyddfa, a fleet of buses and minibuses provide ample service.

Other national parks might just find themselves following suit in the future. Cinch's survey criteria - along with another from Tripplo - further cement Eryri's position as the UK's fourth most "Instagrammable" national park destination. It trails significantly behind the Lake District though which sports 4.3m Insta hashtags to date - more than triple Eryri's. When you look at TikTok videos, the gap even widens considerably. Peak District has raked in a stunning 363.3m views, dwarfing Eryri's numbers by over 12 times.

Vehicle recovery trucks line up to tow away cars parked illegally on the A5 in the Ogwen Valley
Vehicle recovery trucks wait to be directed by police to tow away cars parked illegally on the A5 in the Ogwen Valley, Eryri (Snowdonia), over the Bank Holiday weekend. -Credit:Gwalia Garage

These statistics though aren't enough on their own. For one, parks with higher foot traffic will certainly need more amenities and naturally drive more online chatter. Demographics also play a key role: Lake District pulls in double the visitors, yet Eryri trumps it by two-thirds in TikTok views, quite likely indicative of the age distribution of park-goers.

As such, those findings that rely on feedback and individual perceptions, placing Eryri right up there, likely hit the nail on the head. With its boundless lakes and waterfalls, this national park continues to captivate. For those seeking tranquillity, the lesser-visited southern half of Eryri is a great option. If you're bracing yourself for the queues at Yr Wyddfa, can't stretch to the Penypass car park fees and want to avoid a parking ticket, the Sherpa'r Wyddfa bus service is often your best bet.