Britain’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Jun 17, 2016

Sweeping across mile-long beaches, rolling hills and ancient remains, Britain's 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty showcase the destination's most spectacular landscapes. Here are some of the highlights.

Gower Peninsula

The very first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, just outside the Welsh city of Swansea, has been protected since 1956. Rhossili Bay is regularly voted one of the world's best beaches. The 39-mile Gower Coastal Path highlights its joys and there are several campsites within it. Adventurous types can indulge in adrenaline-filled coasteering. www.visitswanseabay.com/destinations/gower-peninsula

Cotswolds

Fifty years ago, the beauty of the Cotswolds was protected by being designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Punctuated by historic villages made from local honey-coloured stone, alongside meadows and rivers - including the start of the Thames - it's a quintessentially English landscape. There's a walking trail that covers the entire 90-mile length of the Cotswolds, starting in Chipping Camden in Oxfordshire and travelling to Bath, with plenty of pretty hotels and pubs to stay in en route. And holiday companies can transport your luggage for you as you walk. This year there are a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary. www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk

Northumberland Coast

Located just before the border with Scotland, things get rugged here. There are cliffs and sweeping beaches aplenty, studded with ancient forts such as Bamburgh. You'll also find the Farne Islands, home to thousands of grey seals, and Holy Island, which is linked to the mainland by a causeway that disappears as the tides rise. If you want to see it in comfort, you get a great view on the train between London and Edinburgh along the east coast. www.northumberlandcoastaonb.org

Isles of Scilly

These are a chain of small, almost other-worldly islands, surrounded by white sand beaches. As the most southerly part of the United Kingdom and part of Cornwall, spring arrives here first each year. There are five inhabited islands (mostly car-free) and over a hundred that aren't; you'll find a blissfully gentle way of life throughout the archipelago. Visit them via ferries from Penzance or flights from Newquay, Lands' End and Exeter.  www.visitislesofscilly.com; www.ios-aonb.info

Lincolnshire Wolds

A hidden gem in the Midlands that even many British people don't know about - and beautifully unspoilt. With so few cars, it's great cycling country. Less than three hours north east from London by train, it has a strong Viking history. Stand on top of the aptly named Wolds Top and you'll have views across salt marshes and over to Lincoln Cathedral. www.visitlincolnshire.com/content/wolds

Mendip Hills

Next to the Cotswolds and south of Bristol and Bath - but with a dramatically different landscape - the Mendips Hills in Somerset take in steep gorges with staggering views and intricate cave systems (many of which can be explored). This is the home of both Cheddar Cheese and Glastonbury Tor, near the famous festival. It can be reached by train from London in about three hours. www.mendiphillsaonb.org.uk

Arnside & Silverdale

It's hard to pick out just one area of the Lake District for its beauty, but this part located near Morecambe Bay in Lancashire is worth searching out. To fully experience its stillness and serenity, visit one of its nature reserves. In spring you'll find wild daffodils, while summer brings butterflies, autumn red deer and migrating birds in winter. You can reach it in around three and a half hours from London. www.arnsidesilverdaleaonb.org.uk

Wye Valley

Where Wales meets England, this is a 72-mile stretch of river between Chepstow and Hereford, studded with ancient woodland and wildlife. Head to Coppett Hill and you're likely to see peregrine falcons in the sky. Medieval monks built Tintern Abbey and its impressive ruins have attracted tourists from the 18th century onwards, while Wordsworth and the painter Turner came to be inspired. To get there, it takes around three hours by train from London. www.wyevalleyaonb.org.uk

Causeway Coast

The Giant's Causeway is the stuff of myth and legend. A series of dark, mostly hexagonal basalt columns, rising from the ground with the sea crashing against them - it's unlike any other landscape on earth. Caused by a volcanic eruption around 60 million years ago, the Causeway Coast is now mostly owned by the National Trust and about an hour's drive from Belfast.  www.causewaycoastaonb.ccght.org

East Devon

Lush farmland and gentle streams meandering towards the sea near Budleigh Salterton, this part of the Britain's Jurassic coastline is studded with fossils. In the West Country, around three hours by train from London, East Devon is famous for its thatched cottages and cream teas but also its small harbours and market towns. ww.eastdevonaonb.org.uk

Keyword: England,Cotswolds,Cumbria,Lake District,North East England,South West England,Northern Ireland,Causeway Coast & Glens,Wales,Pembrokeshire,Swansea Bay,Wye Valley and Vale of Usk,Countryside