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Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

By Linda Tancs

Eighteen percent of the finest countryside in England and Wales is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or AONB. The 38 AONBs in England and Wales and eight in Northern Ireland are protected by national legislation granting them special legal status. Many are well known, like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Cotswolds. Other areas may not get as much press–hidden gems just waiting for you to explore them. Consider, for instance, the Ring of Gullion, a ring dyke in Northern Ireland not found anywhere else in the United Kingdom. One of the few lowland AONBs, the Wye Valley straddling England and Wales boasts the first major river to be designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest along its entire length. And don’t neglect the smallest of the AONBs, the granite Isles of Scilly off the coast of Land’s End. What about Scotland, you ask? The countryside acts creating AONBs do not apply to Scotland; they have National Scenic Areas instead. The 40 NSAs cover idyllic landscapes, including legendary peaks like Ben Nevis and Glencoe.

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