The British Isles are awash with beautiful countryside, ancient forests, rolling hills, babbling streams and other such clichés common in describing this predominantly green part of the world. However over time we humans have slowly turned more and more of the country from the green Eden it once was into a soggy grey, with cities, towns and motorways creeping out over the countryside. Who can stop this violation of mother earth? The NAAONB that’s who!
The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty was formed in 1949 with the aim of preserving the countryside and areas of which the natural beauty is…well outstanding. The association places the care of 38 areas in England and Wales as well as 8 in Northern Ireland (while Scotland has a separate trust) into the hands of local authorities, organisations, community groups and the individuals who live and work within them or who value them, ensuring that people can still venture into parts of the British countryside that are free of concrete, congestion and Starbucks.
Here are just come of the of Britain’s AONBs to get you in the mood for some serious escape form the towns and refreshing adventure.
Let’s start right in the deep-end with the North Pennines one of the most remote places in all of the UK and the area has a wealth of great hiking and cycling trails for visitors to explore. The North Pennines are renowned for their ecological value with dense heather and herb meadows as well as plenty of wildlife with parts of the AONB falling under a National Nature Reserve. Visitors may even stumble upon some relics of the areas’ industrial heritage in the form of abandoned lead mines and historical buildings.
Isles of Scilly:
Britain’s smallest AONB this collection of tiny granite islands lies 45km off the coast of Land’s End and is home to and incredible range of migrating birds and aquatic wildlife. Only five of these islands are inhabited with the others providing remote escapes where visitors can see all kinds birds not found on the mainland as well as seals and porpoises amid shimmering lagoons that might make sillier (sorry had to be done!) visitors question exactly which country they’re in.
Ynys Mon AoHNE (Anglesey AONB):
With over 200km of protected coastline surrounding Anglesey Island exhibits striking features from limestone cliffs and mudflats, to pebble shores and sand dunes. As well as hosting National Nature Reserves that showcase wildlife that is as diverse as the landscape, the area is also home to ancient Bronze Ages burial chambers and the medieval Beaumaris both of which are registered as areas of Outstanding Historic Interest.
Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage this 18 mile stretch of dramatic coastline encompasses huge cliffs and headlands as well as the iconic geographical landmark of the Giant’s Causeway. Legendarily built by local giant Finn MacCool in as an attempt to reach Scotland for a fight, the unique octagonal stone were more likely formed by volcanic discharge. More daring visitors can venture across Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and gaze down at the 30meter ocean drop below.
The narrow, curved ridge of the Quantock Hills runs for 19km from Vale of Taunton Deane to the Bristol Channel coast and rewards those who make it to the top with impressive views, famed for encompassing nine different counties in them. Despite covering a relatively small area the landscape offers some dramatic features which create a real sense of wilderness and peaceful solitude. The landscape offers a great opportunity for those who want to see the countryside without straying too far from civilisation.
Gwyr AoHNE (Gower AONB):
The first designated AONB, Gwyr was chosen for its classic coastline, unique geology and the flora rich grasslands. This secluded valley is scattered with woodlands and is considered an area of great historical importance. The western end of the peninsula has a high concentration of ancient sites, dating from Neolithic times, the Bronze Age and the medieval period, it would seem centuries of people have enjoyed this luscious area.
The Mourne Mountains:
One of Ireland’s most picturesque regions these this scenic mountain range rises from the Irish Sea up to the highest point in Ulster on top of Slieve Donard. The 12 peaks make for excellent hiking through protected woodland, moors and fields of heather. The area also has plenty of camping locations for those willing to brave the Northern Irish summer.
it’s hard to believe that this 70km expanse of epic country side lies just outside of the heaving metropolis of London running from the Thames at Goring Gap northeast to Hitchin. The landscape offers weary city dwellers a chance to experience the dramatic scenery of cliffs and wide gaps offering breath taking panoramic views across the Vale of Aylesbury that will be sure to blow away the cobwebs of the office.
this expansive coastline that sweeps down England’s north eastern coast is home to some of Britain’s best beaches, with sandstone and limestone cliffs sloping down to wide open sandy beaches. The dramatic ocean views with coves and rocky headlands make a fantastical setting for Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh Castles.
These are just a few of Britain’s recognised areas of outstanding natural beauty and all are guaranteed to give visitors a sense of escape and freedom outside of the usual streets of towns and cities.