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Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

A.O.N.B.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

As well as the 10 National Parks we have in the UK, we are blessed with the not so well known 38 areas of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales.  Many of our writers and poets knew how splendid they were and used their own experience of living and exploring them in many of their writings.

Given the opportunity, we all like to travel elsewhere in the world if we can, but while this isn’t possible due to Covid-19 it is worth remembering the words of T.S. Elliott in the Four Quartets:

‘When the last of earth left to discover is that which was the beginning’

Don’t waste time and leave it too late to find the wonders on our own doorstep. It is worth considering exploring them yourself.


ARNSIDE AND SILVERDALE

Arnside and Silverdale is a special place. Sitting on the Cumbria and Lancashire borders, overlooking the shimmering sands of Morecambe Bay, its landscapes and wildlife are awe-inspiring. From the heights of Arnside Knott see the Lakeland Fells, the Yorkshire Dales and, on a clear day, Blackpool Tower. The limestone hills lead down to villages, including Silverdale and Arnside itself, on the shores of Morecambe Bay, where the tidal bore roars in “at the speed of a galloping horse”. At the village of Beetham, walk down the Fairy Steps without touching the sides and the fairies will grant your wish. Warton Crag, Leighton Moss and Eaves Wood reserves showcase the wildlife. At the end of the day, take tea at the iconic Carnforth station’s refreshment rooms and wallow in the nostalgia of David Lean’s classic film Brief Encounter.

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BLACKDOWN HILLS

For many, the Blackdown Hills epitomise the English countryside. Set on the Devon/Somerset border, its steep wooded ridges, river valleys, meadows and mires are rich in wildlife and heritage.

Hembury is a Neolithic settlement, Brown Down takes us into the Bronze Age, there’s the Roman villa at Whitestaunton and medieval discoveries to make at Castle Neroche and Dunkeswell Abbey.

Take wildlife walks through Thurlbear Wood and Quants and the rivers Yarty, Culm and Otter, home to beavers…and otters. There are great views from Staple Hill, across the vale of Taunton, and Culmstock Beacon, site of Elizabethan warning beacons.

Dunkeswell Aircraft Heritage Centre brings us to the Second World War, and the 175-foot Wellington Monument, on the edge of the hills, reminds us of the Battle of Waterloo.

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Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Blackdown Hills.

CANNOCK CHASE

They call it the Jewel of the West Midlands. Cannock Chase, England’s smallest AONB, lives up to the title with ancient woodland, river valleys, wetlands and heaths contained in just 26 square miles. The Iron Age Castle Ring hill fort has fine panoramas, then it’s on to the 18th century and the splendours of Shugborough Hall and its 900 acres of parkland. A forest, known as the Chase because of its hunting history, lies between them. It’s home to a large herd of roe deer, ancient oaks, snakes and lizards, nightjars and woodlarks. Great walks. Look out for the rare Cannock Chase Berry – a cross between the bilberry and the cowberry.  The area is criss-crossed by the Trent and Sow rivers and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, which helped develop the iron and glass works and coal mines. During the First World War, the area had one of the country’s largest military training camps. The legacy of world conflict is maintained in the Cannock Chase War Cemetery, containing Commonwealth and German graves. The Birches Valley Forest Centre rounds off a day in the Chase. A little gem.

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CHICHESTER HARBOUR

For Chichester Harbour read Land and Sea. Set against a backdrop of the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex, the harbour’s tidal channels lead to a maze of inlets and creeks that criss-cross the saltmarsh and mudflats. These are visited by many thousands of waders and wildfowl and a colony of harbour seals. Boat trips let you explore this watery wilderness, 60 miles of footpaths take you inland. Shingle beach and sand dunes are edged with wind-blasted oaks in ancient woodland including Old Park Wood and Salters Copse. Many of the creeks lead to villages such as Bosham, said to be the prettiest of the harbour villages, and reputed to be the site of King Canute’s attempt to stop the tide. Some of the settlements date back to Roman times, including Fishbourne with its Roman palace and fascinating museum. West Wittering is popular for its sandy beaches. So to the city of Chichester, with its 900-year-old cathedral, world renowned Festival Theatre and the stately homes of Uppark and Parham and, of course, ‘Glorious Goodwood’.  A small but fascinating part of England

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CHILTERNS

Like battlements defending London’s north west flank, the rounded chalk hills of the Chilterns are a treasure house of walks, views, history and fun. With its beech woods and bluebells, the Chilterns inspired artists and writers such as Jerome K. Jerome, Stanley Spencer and Roald Dahl, whose children’s work is celebrated at a story centre in Great Missenden.

Near London but “far away in the hills” the nobility built fine houses. Hughenden Manor, West Wycombe Park and Cliveden all have stories to tell. Pitstone Windmill and the Chilterns Open Air Museum help front the area’s heritage, with a miniature glimpse of the 1930s at the Bekonscot Model Village and Railway.

And we mustn’t forget Jumbo, waiting to welcome you to Whipsnade Zoo, set on Dunstable Downs.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Chilterns

CLWYDIAN RANGE AND DEE VALLEY

Hills and mountains, moorland and cliffs, steep river valleys and ancient woodland. With its fascinating heritage, this AONB  lives up to its brief.  A chain of Iron Age hillforts looks down on the medieval beauty, Crucis Abbey, with its rose window and vaulted chapter house. Chirk Castle is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I.  This imposing Marcher fortress has views over nine counties. Into the Industrial Revolution and ‘canal mania’. The amazing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct takes the Llangollen Canal across the Dee valley – 126 feet up.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Clywdian Range and Dee Valley

CORNWALL

Cornwall is unique in that nearly a third of the county is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – made  up of spectacular coastlines, rugged uplands, stunning beaches and tranquil wooded river valleys. Twelve separate areas make up this AONB. Let’s take a quick tour, starting in the north east…

HARTLAND

Features superb coastal scenery with heathland and granite cliffs. The forested Coombe Valley with its hamlet and nature reserve leads down to Duckpool Beach. Just on from Morwenstow, with its Norman church and 13th century inn, is Hawker’s Hut, the National Trust’s smallest property – a driftwood viewing hut built by an eccentric vicar.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Hartland area.

 

PENTIRE POINT to WIDEMOUTH

You will find Cornwall’s highest cliffs, at Trevigue, and steep-sided wooded valleys to Boscastle and Crackington Haven. Cross the new Tintagel Castle Bridge to the mystical world of King Arthur. Stroll Millook Woods and Trebarwith nature reserve before looking in on Port Isaac or Port Gaverne.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Pentire Point to Widemouth area.

THE CAMEL ESTUARY

Runs from the fishing port of Padstow to Wadebridge and round to Rock. It’s a broad, tidal river valley flanked by small woods and creeks. Prideaux Place and its deer park overlook the estuary. Fabulous walks and cycle rides on the Camel Trail include the Tregunna bird watching hide.

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 CARNEWAS to STEPPER POINT

This boasts Trevose Head, a stunning viewing point, on the South West Coast Path. Classic Cornish beaches include Trevone Bay and the sand dunes of Constantine Bay. Tackle the giants’ stepping stones of Victorian myth, at Bedruthan, then relax in the beautiful Downhill Meadow wildlife reserve.

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AGNES

High cliffs and headlands dominated, inland, by St Agnes Beacon. A Cornish Mining World Heritage Site with the Wheal Coates and Blue Hills tin mines. Beaches include Chapel Porth and Trevellas Porth with Porthtowan at the western end. Much of the area is rich coastal heathland run by the National Trust.

GODREAVY to PORTREATH

This has rocky shores and small coves – among them Hell’s Mouth – with large seal colonies off Godreavy Point. The cliffs slope downward to the Red River and secluded woodland and the popular Tehidy Woods Country Park.  Godreavy Towans is a network of prehistoric sites looking down on the iconic Godreavy lighthouse.

WEST PENWITH
Home of Land’s End and Cape Cornwall. Stretching from St Ives round to Mousehole, it rises to rocky moorland at its centre. Plenty of beaches – the largest at Sennen Cove. The area has more ancient monuments and sites than any other place in Britain.  Visit tin mines at Geevor and Levant and don’t miss ‘curtain up’ at the Minack Theatre, built into the cliffs near Porthcurno.

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RAME HEAD

This  is the smallest of Cornwall’s AONBs, a headland at the mouth of Plymouth Sound. It takes in the renowned Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park, Penlee Point and the quiet villages of Cawsand and Kingsand. There’s a medieval chapel at the top of Rame Head, overlooking an Iron Age fort, all part of the fascinating Rame Heritage Site.

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SOUTH COAST WESTERN

From St Michael’s Mount to The Lizard and on to the Helford River, the area has amazing surfing beaches – Praa Sands and Perran Sands – and sandy coves – Piskies Cove and Poldhu Cove. Rounding Lizard Point, find Kennack Sands and Coverack Beach. Travel through time from Bronze Age settlements to the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station and admire the gardens of Glendurgan and Trebah.

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SOUTH COAST CENTRAL

This stretches from Falmouth and the Carrick Roads and River Fal, with their amazing network of rivers and creeks, to Mevagissey and the world-renowned Lost Gardens of Heligan. There are fine views across the estuary from the tip of the Roseland Peninsula, at St Anthony Head. Visit the castles at St. Mawes and Pendennis, admire the 13th century gardens at Emys and the Trelissick Garden and walk the Coast and Clay Trail.

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SOUTH COAST EASTERN

From Gribben Head and the beautiful valley of the River Fowey to Looe, it’s a coastline of low cliffs and small beaches. The magnificent, densely wooded Menabilly Valley stretches deep inland. On its headland, close to St Catherine’s Castle, is the 16th century house and gardens of Menabilly, former home of novelist Daphne du Maurier.  Enjoy the scenic ports of Fowey and Polperro and stride out on The Saints’ Way.

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BODMIN MOOR

Finally, inland to the awesome granite uplands of Bodmin Moor with its wonderful walks taking in the tors, peat bogs, waterfalls and shallow valleys. It’s a deeply historic place. Visit the Hurlers and the Trippet Stones ancient monuments. You can explore the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site then it’s off for a drink at the Jamaica Inn, which inspired Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name. Cheers!

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COTSWOLDS

Mention the Cotswolds and most potential visitors think of the tourist honeypots of Bibury, Castle Combe and Bourton-on-the-Water. The Cotswolds are, in fact, the gentle hills nestling on the steep slopes running down the western edge of Gloucestershire.

Away from the crowds, the Cotswold Way takes you to many stunning views across the River Severn to Wales. History litters the path with highlights including the Neolithic burial sites of Belas Knap and Uley, also known as Hetty Pegler’s Tump, and the highest castle in the Cotswolds, Broadway Tower.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Cotswolds area.

CRANBORNE CHASE

Chalk is the foundation of the gentle Cranborne Chase. Overlapping the boundaries of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset, its grassland, ancient woodland, chalk slopes and downland hillsides drop down to precious chalk river valleys. From the steep slope of Winklebury Hill, above the village of Berwick St John, you’re surveying farmland of the Bronze Age. There’s Old Wardour Castle, the Bradbury Rings hill fort, Sixpenny Handley woods and Martin Down and Bokerley Dyke, all showcasing this understated landscape.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Cranborne Chase area.

DEDHAM VALE

The Dedham Vale is the jewel in the crown in the classic English landscape of the River Stour. Snaking its boundary way between Suffolk and Essex, the Stour Valley has lanes and byways perfect for walkers and cyclists.

All roads lead to Dedham and its valley that inspired the landscape painter, John Constable, to give us The Haywain along with Willy Lott’s Cottage, Flatford Mill and Dedham Lock, which can still be seen.

DORSET

Zoom through time in Dorset. Your journey starts 185 million years ago on the fossil strewn beaches of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, including Kimmeridge Bay. Then it’s on to the Iron Age and the haunting hilltop settlement of Maiden Castle, outside Dorchester.

To the Middle Ages and the teetering ruins of Corfe Castle before visiting the sites of Hardy’s Wessex that found their way into the great writer’s works. The South West Coast Path beckons with some of its most spectacular and demanding stretches – the Purbeck Peninsula and Golden Cap – in Dorset.

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EAST DEVON

East Devon quietly gets on with giving us a fascinatingly beautiful view of life during the past 250,000 years. Running from Exmouth to just before Lyme Regis, the area’s beaches and cliffs are part of the Jurassic Coast, taking geologists and holiday explorers back 185 million years.

Just off the beach is the National Trust village of Branscombe, then it’s onto the coastal path to Beer, with its smuggling history and underground quarry. Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton round off the coast.  Inland, the East Devon Way is a signpost to Bronze Age settlements, Iron Age hillforts, Roman heritage and ancient wooded river valleys. If you’re a bit of a rebel, there’s the Colyton Heritage Centre, or there’s Axminster, showing off, you guessed it, carpets.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, East Devon.

FOREST OF BOWLAND

Speeding up the M6, in Lancashire, it’s too easy to miss the magical Forest of Bowland, with its steep, wooded valleys,  high moorland and grit stone fells. It’s wild. From Beacon Fell Country Park, see across Morecambe Bay, then marvel at the Trough of Bowland, the most iconic stretch of countryside in Lancashire. Visit the ancient castles of the Lune Valley on your way to the grand houses of Browsholme and Leagram. The wilderness wins during the day. At night, navigate the galaxy from one of five Dark Sky Discovery Sites.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Forest of Bowland.

GOWER PENINSULA

In 1956, the Gower Peninsula became the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Bristol Channel, it has some of the richest wildlife habitats in Wales.

The village of Oxwich has a national nature reserve. It also boasts a 6th century church, a castle and more than two miles of sandy beach and dunes. Beaches, cliffs and wildlife make Rhossili Bay a popular spot, along with Three Cliffs Bay and Horton for the bucket and spade brigade.

The Gower Heritage Centre whets the appetite for more history, from the Stone Age through the millennia. At the far end of the peninsula, Worms Head raises and lowers its head with the tide. The old Whiteford Lighthouse looks over its national nature reserve and on a moonlit night.

 

HIGH WEALD

Kent, Sussex and Surrey share the ancient wooded hills and sandstone outcrops of the High Weald. It wraps itself around busy towns such as Tunbridge Wells and Hastings and soon takes you into its rural idyll of castles, manor houses, parks and gardens. There’s Bedgebury Forest, with miles of walks and cycle tracks, Bewl Water for the angler, Harrison’s Rocks for the climber and a trio of treats for the steam railway enthusiast, the Bluebell Railway, the Spa Valley Railway and the Kent and East Essex Railway.

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HOWARDIAN HILLS

The intriguingly named Howardian Hills are a treasure house of scenic villages, classic parkland and history set between the North York Moors National Park, the Yorkshire Wolds and the Vale of York.  Wooded rolling countryside has the majestic Castle Howard, Nunnington Hall and Ampleforth Abbey. Peace reigns in the ruins of Kirkham Abbey, overlooking the River Derwent, and the Yorkshire Arboretum. And there are the classic market towns of Malton, Pickering, Helmsley and Easingwold.

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ISLE OF ANGLESEY

Immersed as it is in ancient history, the Isle of Anglesey was once known as the Mother of Wales. Its AONB covers most of the island’s 125-mile coastline, including Holyhead Mountain and Bodafon Mountain. In fact, the AONB makes up a third of the island.

The Anglesey Coast Path is a great way to explore, taking in the Benllech and Rhosneigr beaches. Into Beaumaris with its pier and views to Snowdonia and its magnificent 13th century castle. Then there’s the 18th century Plas Newydd House and Garden overlooking the Menai Strait and its two iconic Victorian bridges. Amlwch and its harbour reflect the island’s mining heritage. Visit the Copper Kingdom centre.

In the far west, Holyhead is the island’s largest town – and the springboard to Ireland.​ Catch the train to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, the village with the longest place name in Europe. What does it mean in English? Visit and find out.

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ISLE OF WIGHT

Well known for The Needles – jagged white chalk stacks reaching out into the Solent – the Isle of Wight is an island of contrasts. Famous for its beaches and the seafront promenades of Shanklin and Ventnor, and its sailing centres of Cowes and Yarmouth, it is mainly farmland with sheep grazing the downs and heaths and dairy herds the lower land.

The AONB protects the Hamstead Heritage Coast in the north and Tennyson Heritage coast in the south. Dinosaur remains can be seen in Compton Bay and Yaverland Beach.

Osborne House, once one of Queen Victoria’s favourite retreats, is open to the public and a favourite with visitors.

ISLES OF SCILLY

The Isles of Scilly are a string of 140 islands 25 miles south of Cornwall that boast the mildest, warmest and sunniest climate in the UK…thanks to the Gulf Stream. The islands are covered in heathland fringed by beautiful white sandy beaches.

The five inhabited islands – St Mary’s, Tresco, St Martin’s, St Agnes and Bryher – have a unique character, offering something different for visitors of all ages and interests. 

Tresco is dominated by the remains of Oliver Cromwell’s castle and hosts the renowned Tresco  Abbey Gardens, with its subtropical plants. Visit the Valhalla Museum, displaying figureheads from the many shipwrecks around the islands. 

KENT DOWNS

Woodlands and wetlands; historical and cultural heritage; tranquillity and remoteness: the Kent Downs. Stretching from the Surrey border to the White Cliffs of Dover, the classic chalk landscape of streams and rolling hills is one of the UK’s most wooded. Perry Wood is a gem.

Enjoy an action-packed day at Dover Castle then the peace of the ruined 12th century fortress at Thurnham. Make the most of the scenery from viewpoints at Ide Hill, Lympne and the spectacular Devil’s Kneading Trough, considered Kent’s top beauty spot.

Blend land and sea with the Stour Valley Walk from Lenham to Canterbury, the Canterbury pilgrims’ North Downs Way and the Chalk and Channel Way along the iconic White Cliffs from Dover to Folkestone.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Kent Downs.

LINCOLNSHIRE WOLDS

Described as the forgotten corner of England, the Lincolnshire Wolds lie between Lincoln and the coast, rising up from the fens and coastal marshes. The rolling hills have amazing views to the Pennines and the North Sea, and shelter the chalk stream valleys. Red Hill Nature Reserve lets you in on the wolds’ amazing wildlife which can also be seen from the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway. Bolingbroke Castle takes you back to medieval times along with the eerily deserted villages of North Elkington and Biscathorpe. The Viking Way and the Lincolnshire Wolds Way take you to the heart of the area, along with the classic market towns of Horncastle, Market Rasen and Spilsby. Finally, one of the greatest Victorian poets, Alfred Lord Tennyson, was born, brought up and inspired in the wolds. Join his spirit on the Tennyson Trail.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Lincolnshire Wolds.

LLYN PENINSULA

Llyn Peninsula reaching 30 miles into the Irish Sea, is also known as Snowdon’s Arm. The cosy, seaside towns of Criccieth, with its castle, and Pwllheli and Abersoch are springboards into a land that’s steeped in Welsh culture, with stunning, sandy beaches and fascinating wildlife.

The Wales Coast Path runs round the peninsula passing forts and churches pointing the way to Bardsey Island. Boat trips take you to this sacred centre of pilgrimage and internationally renowned nature reserve. Learn the heritage and legend of Llyn at Nant Gwrtheyrn – “the forgotten village” – and visit the 16th century manor house and gardens at Plas yn Rhiw.

Work up a thirst by walking – no cars allowed – to the Ty Coch pub, in the village of Porthdinllaen. It’s right on the beach, literally.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Llyn Peninsula.

MALVERN HILLS

The flatlands and the floodplains of the Vale of Evesham have thrown up the inspirational Malvern Hills. Some see the outline of a sleeping dragon in the four ranges of hills with their views south, across the Severn estuary, to Devon, and north to Shropshire and even north Wales.

The hilltops – a walkers’ and horse riders’ paradise – with their drovers’ trails, ancient hill forts and Victorian carriageways,  lead down to traditional orchards and farmland and their special wildlife. It’s no wonder the area moved authors such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and composer, Edward Elgar.

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MENDIP HILLS

Rising like a rampart a thousand feet above the Somerset Levels, the Mendip Hills AONB is a land of crags, gorges and valleys. Centrepiece is the Cheddar Gorge, England’s largest, and its caves and dramatic cliff top walk. Then there’s Wookey Hole, taking deep underground to a colourful spectacular – watch out for the witch!

Black Down, the high point of the Mendips, has stunning views across to Wales, and with Burrington Ham has amazing wildlife and archaeological treasures. Deer Leap is another viewpoint, overlooking the ancient Kings Wood, just off the Mendip Way.

Ebbor Gorge is a national nature reserve with woodland, rocks, caves and streams. Wander round the ancient hamlets of Priddy, with its Neolithic forts, and Charterhouse, with its Roman lead mines. Dolebury Warrren is another Iron Age hill fort. Then it’s down the hills to the Chew Valley lakes for some birdwatching and fishing.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Mendip Hills.

NIDDERDALE

Set on the eastern flanks of the Pennines, in the heart of Yorkshire, the Nidderdale AONB is a land of wild moorland, secluded dales, spectacular wildlife and cultural heritage. Go back 320 million years to appreciate the bizarre Brimham Rocks.

Then underground into the Stumps Cross Caverns with their colourful stalactite and stalagmite formations before plenty of fresh air at Yorke’s Folly, with its amazing views over Pateley Bridge and Lower Nidderdale. More fine views at Coldstones Cut and ‘The Ruin’ at Hackfall.

The jewel in Nidderdale’s cultural crown is the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal world heritage site of Cistercian abbey, Georgian water garden and medieval deer park.

The area has always been in birdwatchers’ sights and the exciting Studfold Discovery Trail opens the youngsters’ eyes to nature and the countryside.

Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, Nidderdale.

  • NORFOLK COAST

    Wild and vulnerable, the Norfolk Coast AONB has it all – stretching from the Wash through coastal marshes, cliffs and magnificent beaches to the vast sand dunes of Winterton.

    The traditional seaside towns of Hunstanton, the only east coast resort that faces west, and Cromer, with the last end-of-the-pier theatre, are great family bases.

    Then it’s on to Lord Nelson’s birthplace at Burnham Thorpe, and the 18th century grandeur of Holkham Hall. Take the train to the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea then a boat to the seals at Blakeney Point.

    Birdwatching too, at the renowned Titchwell, Cley-next-the-Sea and Holme reserves. Walk Peddar’s Way and the Norfolk Coast Path or travel in style on the North Norfolk Steam Railway, known as the Poppy Line. And if seafood’s your thing…welcome home.

  • NORTH DEVON COAST

    The North Devon Coast AONB is also an ‘area of special places’ – from traditional family friendly resorts to rugged headlands to sandy beaches and rolling dunes.

    There’s Ilfracombe, with its harbour, grand villas and cottages and the more cosy Woolacombe and its renowned beaches. To the stunningly beautiful Hartland Peninsula, with views of Lundy Island, and on to nearby Speke’s Mill and Welcome Mouth, where waterfalls gush from the cliffs.

    Walkers-only at Clovelly, another village with its own waterfall.  The South West Coastal Path keeps you on foot and on course to Saunton Sands which front the more than three miles of sand dunes that make up Braunton Burrows, a UNESCO Biosphere reserve.

    Devon Red cattle share this wonderland with countless butterflies, birds, flowers and reptiles.

    Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available near the North Devon Coast

    NORTH PENNINES

    Step this way to High Force, at 75 feet England’s highest waterfall…and centrepiece of the North Pennines AONB. It’s a stunning landscape of moors and dales, rivers and woods, wildlife and heritage. Explore Hamsterley Forest, County Durham’s largest, on foot, cycle or horseback then navigate the Milky Way at one of the Dark Sky Discovery Sites. Relax at Garden Station, woods and gardens set around a Victorian railway station. Then it’s “all aboard” for trips into the heart of the Pennines on the Weardale and South Tynedale railways. Marvel at the mines and waterwheel and get ‘hands-on’ at Killhope Lead Mining Museum, then watch and wonder at the natural history of this amazing part of the world at the vast Moorhouse – Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve.

    Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the North Pennines.

    NORTHUMBERLAND COAST

    Sweeping sandy beaches, rocky headlands, flower rich dunes and wild islands, steeped in 7,000 years of human history.

    The Holy Island of Lindisfarne – to give it its full name – is the jewel in the crown of this part of the world.

    Visit the Castle and Priory and explore the national nature reserve, home to 50,000 birds. Bamburgh has a stunning castle overlooking family friendly sands, while Warkworth’s ancient fortress stands guard over the beautiful River Coquet estuary. The pretty harbour of Seahouses has boat trips to the Farne Islands and their seabirds and seals. Walk the ‘prom’ at the Victorian resort of Spittal, across the river from Berwick-upon-Tweed, England’s northernmost town, set behind its Elizabethan walls.

    Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Northumberland Coast.

    NORTH WESSEX DOWNS

    For North Wessex Downs AONB read ‘spoiled for choice’. A horseshoe of rolling chalk hills covering the Berkshire Downs, the Hampshire Downs, the White Horse Hills, the Lambourn Downs, the Marlborough Downs, the Vale of Pewsey and the ancient Savernake Forest…all magnificent in their own way.

    To pre-history, and Avebury, Europe’s largest Neolithic stone circle then saddle up for the Uffington White Horse, carved in the chalk hillside 3,000 years ago. Visit Highclere Castle – Downton Abbey to millions – and Bowood House, just two of the downs’ stately homes.

    Stroll the Kennet and Avon Canal and the many footpaths and national trails, including Britain’s oldest ‘road’ the Ridgeway. Join author Richard Adams’ rabbits on Watership Down, near Whitchurch, then relax aboard the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway before an old-fashioned tea at the station.

    Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the North Wessex Downs.

    QUANTOCK HILLS

    The wild and tranquil Quantock Hills were England’s first AONB, set up in 1956.  Just west of Bridgwater, they run from the Somerset Levels to the Bristol Channel… and a fossil hunters’ paradise, to say nothing of the rockpools. Red deer and Quantock ponies roam the heathland, valleys and woods where the Great Wood is watched over by Lydeard Hill, Staple Plain and Beacon Hill.

    No towns in the Quantocks, just charming villages like Triscombe, Holford and Kingston St Mary, where the church dates from the 13th century. Fabulous walks include the Coleridge Way, named after the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived and wrote at Nether Stowey. Visit his home.

    There’s also the West Somerset Path and a fascinating stroll along the Jurassic coastline from Kilve to East Quantoxhead.

    Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Quantock Hills.

    SHROPSHIRE HILLS

    The Shropshire Hills covers almost a quarter of Shropshire. Its 50 hills extend from the Wrekin to the Clun Forest and from Sliperstones across to the Clee Hills.

    The hills are a landscape of contrast – hills and crags, rivers and streams – fought over for centuries. Iron Age hill forts look down on the remains of medieval castles and the ditch and ramparts of the 8th century Offa’s Dyke, on the Welsh/English border. Stokesay Castle is one of England’s finest 13th century fortified manor houses, not far from the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, in Craven Arms.

    The hills’ mining heritage features at the Snailbeach Lead Mine. Walk back to Saxon times on the Clun Heritage Trail then join the ramblers who use Church Stretton as a base.

    Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available in, or near, the Shropshire Hills.

    SOLWAY COAST

  • The Solway Coast is a mosaic of habitats and history set on 40 miles of low-lying Cumbrian coastline. The England Coast Path takes you past the spectacular dunes and salt marsh to seaward and grazing pastures and peatbogs inland. Explore one of the ten nature reserves, including the Solway Wetlands Centre with boardwalks to keep your feet dry.The Senhouse Roman Museum has one of the most important Roman collections in the UK, reminding us that the Hadrian’s Wall Path runs through the north of the area. Don’t miss the Roman fort, Milefortlet 21, overlooking the historic salt pans.The  Maryport Maritime Museum shows off town’s seafaring past, with the Siloth Discovery Centre taking us from the Ice Age to the present day.

       SOUTH DEVON

  • Some numbers…the South Devon AONB has around 100 miles of coastline, 200 miles of footpaths in 40 walks, five river estuaries and 70 beaches. Extending from Brixham to Plymouth and inland to Totnes. South Devon is a land of coves and cliffs fronting pastoral landscapes with wooded valleys and sunken lanes. Dartmouth reflects the rich history. Its magnificent river takes you deep inland to author Agatha Christie’s home, Greenway House. Burgh Island features in one of her books.Blackpool Sands and Bantham Beach are wide and family fun, Soar Mill Cove and Sugary Cove are remote and special. Beesands is steeped in fishing history
  • STRANGFORD LOUGH AND LECALE

    An almost landlocked inlet of the Irish Sea, Strangford Lough and Lecale, is an amazing mix of sandy beaches, rocky shoreline, rolling countryside and hundreds of small wooded islands.

    Strangford and Portaferry keep guard over the Narrows that lead to the lough – 17 miles long and 4 miles wide.  The lough’s old Irish name means ‘lough of the harbours’ – it lives up to it.

    The Exploris aquarium takes you into the underwater home of the seals, porpoises and otters, while the Kircubben Heritage Trail is just one that shows off the area’s dramatic history.

    Sailing, canoeing and diving are popular, along with walking and cycling and wildlife watching. Visit the 17th century Mount Stewart and Castle Ward estates and stroll through the Scrabo and Delamont country parks.

    SUFFOLK COAST AND HEATHS

    The Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB has recently grown! It’s been enlarged to include the Stour Estuary, in Essex, and ‘Constable Country’ between Brantham and East Bergholt.

    The AONB is a unique blend of shingle beaches, crumbling cliffs, marshes, estuaries, heathland, forests and farmland…quite a list, but then quite a place. Its rich history includes the Anglo-Saxon royal burial site at Sutton Hoo and Henry II’s Orford Castle.

    Aldeburgh and the world-famous Snape Maltings are central to the arts scene, with artist Grayson Perry’s fairy tale ‘A House for Essex’ on the Stour. The hugely diverse wildlife is shown off at the renowned Minsmere and Wrabness nature reserves.

    Kessingland at the northern end, is a favourite with families. Then there’s Southwold, with its pier, Walberswick, for peace and quiet, and traditional Felixstowe.

    Click on the town name to see which Bed and Breakfasts are available near the Suffolk Coast and Heaths.

SURREY HILLS

The Surrey Hills are a kaleidoscope of countryside. From rolling chalk downs of yew and box woodland, and flower-rich grassland to heaths and woods that rise to the hills.

Climb Leith Hill, with its 18th century tower, and Box Hill which, to many is the Surrey Hills. The Winkworth Arboretum puts trees in the spotlight – a thousand species in its 95 acres.

Visit gracious times past at the Edwardian Polesden Lacey house and estate, the Tudor Loseley Park and the Georgian Hatchlands Park before walking the 18th century Painshill landscape park.

Watch wildlife at Newlands Corner Reserve then take in the floral fantasia at Wisley, the world-renowned RHS gardens. End your day with a stroll along the peaceful Basingstoke Canal and a boat trip from the historic Dapdune Wharf.

TAMAR VALLEY

The history rich and wooded Tamar Valley is centred on the rivers Tamar, Tavy and Lynher, straddling the Devon and Cornwall border.

It’s marked out by four towns – Launceston, with its Norman castle and steam railway, Tavistock, known as the Gateway to Dartmoor, Callington with its mural trail, and Saltash, with Brunel’s amazing Royal Albert Bridge.

This part of the world was shaped by its mining heritage – silver and tin and later, copper. Ride the copper mine train at Morwellham Quay, an authentic working village, mine and craft centre.

Discovery, tranquillity and history sum up Buckland Abbey, one time home of Sir Francis Drake. Then it’s on to the rugged, granite hilltop of Kit Hill and its fabulous views and wildlife then down to the river again and the working mill and historic quay at Tudor Cothele House.

WYE VALLEY

It’s said British tourism was born in the Wye Valley. Eighteenth century writers, artists and poets were inspired by it and put the river from Ross-on-Wye to Chepstow firmly ‘on the map’. History and the river are one.

Iron Age hill forts look down on the hauntingly beautiful remains of Tintern Abbey and the valley’s almost hidden industrial heritage. The Angidy Trail walk brings this to life. Stunning viewpoints include the Eagle’s Nest, the Devil’s Pulpit and the iconic Symond’s Yat Rock.

Take a boat trip here, through the Wye gorge or take a canoe and spot an otter or leaping salmon.  And there are beavers about. The Wye Valley Walk – 136 miles – runs from Chepstow Castle to the river’s source in the Mid Wales mountains and passes Monmouth, Hereford cathedral, Goodrich Castle and through ancient woodland and open moorland.

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