WALES

1 The Gower

Three Cliffs Bay, The Gower Peninsula in South Wales

Where better to start our tour of the UK’s most precious landscapes? Back in 1956, the Gower in South Wales was the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to be designated in the UK.

Here, the diverse scenery ranges from impressive hills to wooded valleys and a variety of marshes, but it’s the utterly gorgeous beaches and coastline that most attract visitors to this exquisite corner of Wales.

Enjoy the sweeping three-mile stretch of Rhossili Bay, where you can venture out onto Worm’s Head, a promontory with a causeway exposed for a couple of hours before and after low tide, or perhaps visit the natural amphitheatre that is Three Cliffs Bay. If there’s such a thing as the perfect beach, this might just be it.

Where to stay

With its glorious pitches overlooking the bay, Three Cliffs is a winning choice.

2 Isle of Anglesey

Sign for the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path

This year has been designated the Year of Outdoors by Visit Wales, and it’s easy to get out and enjoy Anglesey.

Its 125-mile coastline offers everything from scuba diving on local shipwrecks and offshore pinnacles, to horseriding near the fabulous Menai Strait. This is also the location of Britain’s longest place name, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which is well worth a visit, if only to get a selfie beside the famous village sign!

Where to stay

Last year’s regional winner for Wales in our Top 100 Sites Guide, Tyddyn Isaf Camping and Caravan Park, has gorgeous views across Lligwy Beach.

NORTHERN IRELAND

3 Binevenagh

Binevenagh Mountain, in Co Londonderry has an epic feel to it – fitting, because it was used as a location for the Dothraki Sea in season five of Game of Thrones.

Dramatic cliffs define the AONB, marking the western limit of the Antrim Plateau, and visitors come for the wonderful walks on the peak, which offer amazing views.

Activities include cycling, orienteering, angling and gliding. Nearby Castlerock Beach, with its white sand dunes, makes for another enjoyable day out.

Where to stay

At a distance of some 25 miles, you’re within reach of Ballyness Caravan Park, regional winner in our Top 100 Sites Guide.

4 Strangford Lough

Wild geese fly over Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland

The vast sea inlet of Strangford Lough is peppered with small islands and makes a famous refuge for wintering wildfowl, with some 70,000 birds visiting each year.

It’s also home to populations of grey and common seals, and one of the best ways to see them is to take to the water via the Canoe Trail.

The seals can be spotted basking in the sun at Bortree Island and you might also see porpoise in these waters.

On land, near the lough’s northern edge is Scrabo Tower, a 19th-century stone folly some 40m high, which sits on Scrabo Hill overlooking the area. Towns of interest include Comber, birthplace of Thomas Andrews, builder of RMS Titanic.

Where to stay

Near the south-west corner of the lough, Delamont Country Park has previously featured in our Top 100 Sites Guide.

ENGLAND

5 Shropshire Hills

Between Snowdonia National Park and the Cotswolds AONB, with the Brecon Beacons to the south, the Shropshire Hills have much to offer.

Long Mynd and Stiperstones Ridge are famous for their rich heathland. Walking, running and cycling are popular pastimes, and at Long Mynd you can take to the air with para- and hang-gliding.

If you prefer to stay on the ground, there are fine walks at Wenlock Edge and the magnificent Offa’s Dyke, which signals the border between England and Wales. Bishop’s Castle, Ludlow and Shrewsbury are all well worth a visit.

Where to stay

Try our Top 100 Sites Guide regional winner, Cartref Caravan and Camping.

6 Lincolnshire Wolds

The Wolds, the highest point in eastern England, combine chalk uplands, extensive woods and wild grassland, all important habitats for local flora and fauna.

Farming has shaped the landscape and the lives of its occupants, and the Wolds are surrounded by pretty villages and a number of market towns.

Walkers will love the 235km Viking Way and there are also excellent cycle routes. Lincoln, with its historic cathedral, is a popular destination, as is the Georgian market town of Louth, which has the highest parish church spire in England.

Where to stay

Woodhall Country Park is a great base for visiting the Wolds, Skegness and Boston.

7 Norfolk Coast

Norfolk Coast AONB is rightly popular with caravanners seeking superb beaches, top-quality sailing and fine landscapes. Norfolk is known for important habitats, including Winterton Dunes and the bird reserves at Titchwell and Cley Marshes.

It’s also home to England’s largest seal colony, at Blakeney Point. The reserve and beaches at Holkham and Wells-next-the-Sea are among the best in the UK.

Where to stay

Kelling Heath, in the heart of the Norfolk Coast AONB, is a natural choice.

8 Quantock Hills

The Quantock Hills is a range of hills west of Bridgwater in Somerset

Somerset’s Quantock Hills are neatly cushioned between Exmoor to the west and the Mendip Hills to the north-east.

This 19km ridge stretches north to the Bristol Channel and combines heathland, sessile oak woods and fossil-filled coast. Red deer, Quantock ponies and Britain’s only venomous snake, the adder, are just some examples of wildlife you can see.

Lydeard Hill to Wills Neck is a scenic walk, or try the Great Wood, Kilve and East Quantoxhead for fossil-hunting.

Where to stay

Moorhouse Campsite sits at the foot of the Quantock Hills.

9 North Wessex Downs

Wansdyke, Avebury, the Uffington White Horse – there’s something mystical about this ancient chalk downland traversing Berkshire, North Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.

Avebury World Heritage Site is one of the principal ceremonial sites of Neolithic Britain. Other highlights include Highclere Castle, location of the TV series Downton Abbey, and Crofton Beam Engines, on the Kennet and Avon Canal, home to some of the world’s oldest steam engines.

Where to stay

Postern Hill Campsite is just a 20-minute walk from the town of Marlborough.

10 Cornwall

Kynance Cove on The Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall

We’ve tried to select AONBs great and small, and this one, which covers more than a quarter of the country, is one of the biggest and most popular.

The area covered is mostly coastal, although the inland Bodmin Moor is included, and stretches around the county’s north and south coasts.

The AONB is divided into 12 sectors, taking in popular tourist areas such as the Lizard and Tintagel, then encompassing England’s far west from St Ives, around Land’s End and through to Mousehole.

So much to see, so many places to visit – our pick would be the north coast at St Agnes, Sennen Cove near Land’s End and the fishing village of Mevagissey on the south coast.

Where to stay

The award-winning Silver Sands Holiday Park puts you at the heart of the Lizard.

11 North Pennines

The northernmost part of the Pennines is not only an AONB, but also a UNESCO Global Geopark – a site of international geological significance.

It’s also the second largest AONB (only the Cotswolds is bigger) and home to England’s biggest waterfall (in terms of volume of water), High Force in Teesdale.

A stargazer’s dream, it has 16 Dark Sky Discovery sites, and meadows, heathland and peatland sheltering many rare species, such as red squirrels and otters. Walking, cycling, horseriding and canoeing are just some of the activities on offer.

Allendale Caravan Park is only 10 miles from Hexham and Hadrian’s Wall.

12 Northumberland Coast

Rockpools, castles, seabirds – all within easy reach of Northumberland National Park and the Kielder Forest.

It’s amazing this sliver of coastline isn’t permanently packed, but regular visitors will know it’s undeveloped and beautiful.

Birdwatchers gravitate to Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve and the Farne Islands, also famous for its populations of grey seals. This is puffin country, so pack your binoculars, and be sure to visit the castle at Lindisfarne – a great day out.

Boat trips are available from Seahouses Harbour, where you are quite likely to see the occasional harbour seal popping its head out of the water.

Where to stay

Eyemouth Holiday Park is positioned on a dramatic headlnad with views out to sea.

SCOTLAND

Sites listed in Scotland form part of its National Scenic Area scheme, which is administered by Scottish Natural Heritage and seeks to protect exceptional scenery.

13 Loch Lomond

Breathtaking views are all part of the allure of Scotland, but where to begin? We’ve chosen Lock Lomond because of its easy access from the south, its status as the largest lake in Great Britain, and of course, the fact that it’s stunning.

Fans of watersports will enjoy the range on offer at this 24-miles stretch of water, with windsurfing, sailing, paddleboarding, swimming, canoeing and kayaking.

There are also many good angling spots and the loch has 22 islands and 27 islets, including Inchmurrin, Great Britain’s largest freshwater lock island, which has a fabulous ruined castle and can easily be reached by the local waterbus service.

Where to stay

Lomond Woods on the loch’s southern tip has a range of accommodation options.

14 Cairngorm Mountains

Landscape of Cairngorms National Park with Stirling Castle in view

Located in the eastern Highlands, this scenic area forms part of the Cairngorms National Park. Skiers will head to Aviemore, the most popular centre for skiing in the UK and an excellent base for exploring this gorgeous region. However, it’s not just the winter sports that draw visitors here – climbing, hillwalking and mountain biking are all on offer.

You’re also within easy reach of the island castle at Loch an Eilein, while those with a taste for fine whisky might consider a trip to Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands, from where you can also visit the famous Glenlivet Estate.

Where to stay

Regional winner in our Top 100 Sites Guide, Grantown-on-Spey, on the northern tip of the National Park, is a great location.

15 Ben Nevis and Glencoe

Cycling downhill from the Cic Hut on the north face of Ben Nevis in the Highlands of Scotland.

For many, this region epitomises Scotland – its history, landscapes, castles and culture. Glencoe is surrounded by dramatic peaks and was the scene of the massacre of Clan Macdonald in 1692.

The Pass of Glencoe, where the valley cuts through the mountains, is an iconic view, as is nearby Glen Etive, location for several Hollywood films, including Skyfall.

Climbers will enjoy the access to eight Munros, a suitable warm-up for the mighty Ben Nevis – highest mountain in the UK at 1345cm. The route to the summit and back – a demanding uphill trek – takes around seven to nine hours.

Where to stay

Caolasnacon Caravan & Camping Park is just a few miles away from Glencoe, on the banks of Loch Leven.

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