There are 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the UK which cover almost 1/5 of the landmass. These areas of land are protected for a number of reasons including for scientific interest but primarily because of the high quality of landscape and opportunities for recreational activity. We select our top 5 self guided walking and cycling trips that are set in AONB.
1. Antrim Glens and Causeway Coast
The Antrim Coast and Glens AONB is one of eight AONBs in Northern Ireland, the area includes Rathin Island, the Glens of Antrim and a stretch of coast between Larne and Ballycastle. This week long walking tour packs in Northern Ireland's beautiful and dramatic scenery including the spectacular basalt formations of the Giant's Causeway, the rugged but beautiful Rathlin Island (it's Northern Ireland's only inhabited offshore island for a reason) as well as a helping of the famous Irish hospitality.
2. The Pennine Way
Thanks to Gavin Andrew for this shot along the Pennine Way[/caption] Designated as Britain's first National Trail in 1965, the Pennine Way is a magnificent long distance trail that passes through three national parks (Peak District, Yorkshire Dales & Northumberland National parks) and the North Pennines AONB. If it is a challenge that you are looking for, look no further. Our complete itinerary sees you walking 256 miles / 412 km over the course of 3 weeks through some of England's most dramatic landscapes. None more so than the North Pennines AONB: a remote and unspoilt place that is home to deep valleys, unique alpine plants not found in other parts of the UK and the largest waterfall in England - High Force.
3. Cycling in the Heart of the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a nationally important area due to the rare, Jurassic limestone landscape, home to ancient beechwood trees and a wide variety of flora. The largest of the AONB, the Cotswolds are quintessential English countryside and our self guided cycling tour takes riders on a journey through the heart of it! Expect beautiful gardens in historic towns such as The Bard's birthplace, rolling farmland, traditional English pubs (and ales!) and, of course, 'honey pot' villages built from local stone.
4. Somerset & the Mendip Hills
The Mendips stretch eastward from the Bristol channel, rising high above the flat Somerset Levels. The crags, gorges and dry valleys are a suitable setting for a county that is home to legendary tales and a rich history. Consisting of peaceful trails through rural idylls, peaceful towns and sleepy villages the Somerset and Mendip hills self guided walking tour is a relaxing adventure in the southwest of England. The Mendip Hills AONB is best known as the site of Britain's largest gorge, the famous Cheddar Gorge which runs for 3 miles and is also home to deep caves. Take the chance to enjoy the Somerset ales and the local scrumpy cider before taking in one of the UK's most impressive natural sights.
5. WALKING IN THE WYE VALLEY
The Wye Valley straddles the border between England and Wales as the River Wye winds its way down from Hereford to Chepstow, it is one of the finest lowland river landscapes in the UK. Our walking tour incorporates sections of the Wye Valley trail and Offa's Dyke footpath on a gentle walk through rolling pastures and farmland, it is these landscapes that were the main inspiration for the famous landscape painter J.M. Turner. As a border region the Wye Valley has an intriguing history, the area is dotted with hill forts that date back to the Iron Age and a number of castles including Chepstow which was commisioned by William the Conqueror after the battle of Hastings. As well as beautiful scenery you can expect traditional pubs full of character serving hearty, well earned dishes.