The Anglesey coast, the Gower Peninsula, the Llŷn Peninsula, the Clwydian Range, the Dee Valley and the Wye Valley are among the most exceptional places in Wales.

Between them, they contain some of the United Kingdom’s finest countryside: hills, valleys, coastlines and islands of distinctive beauty, character and ecological value. The very best of these are officially classed as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). And we’re proud of every one.

AONBs sound lovely! But what exactly are they?

They’re similar to National Parks in that they’re living, working areas whose landscapes, culture, flora and fauna are considered an asset to the nation. They have therefore been singled out for protection by law.

On the whole, AONBs are smaller than National Parks; just four percent of the land in Wales is classed as an AONB, whereas around 20 percent lies within a National Park. While each National Park has a dedicated National Park Authority whose task it is to conserve it and promote opportunities for the public to appreciate and enjoy it, AONBs are small enough to be effectively managed by advisory committees set up by local authorities in partnership with the communities they serve. 

How many AONBs are there?

There are 46 in the UK. Wales has five. Four of these (Anglesey AONBClwydian Range & Dee Valley AONBGower AONB and Llŷn AONB) are wholly in Wales and one (Wye Valley AONB) straddles the border between Wales and England.

Boote in Abersoch.
View of the beach with the sea and small boats in the distance.
Fishing boats in beautiful Abersoch on the Llŷn Peninsula

How does a place become an AONB?

In Wales, Natural Resources Wales designates AONBs and advises on how best to protect them and enhance them. Every AONB has unique characteristics. They’re chosen for their cultural, historical and ecological significance as well as their stunning good looks.

Why are they important?

The British countryside is in a constant state of change, shaped by the complex relationship between human activity and the processes of nature. Tourism, agriculture, industry and our demands for transport, housing and energy can all have a lasting impact on the appearance and ecology of rural areas.

AONBs remind us that some landscapes are more precious and fragile than others. It’s important to ensure that change is carefully managed so that our most special countryside is conserved for the enjoyment of future generations. It’s also important that all those who visit, live and work in these remarkable places respect each other’s interests. 

Worm's Head at sunset Rhossili.
Worm's Head at sunset, Gower Peninsula

Are the Welsh AONBs good places to visit?

Absolutely! If you enjoy sightseeing, walking, cycling, wildlife-watching and watersports, you’ll love the rolling hills, clean beaches and clear rivers of the Welsh AONBs. Each AONB offers maps and information to show you how to make the most of everything.

How can I be sure that my visit to an AONB does minimal harm to the environment?

It’s a lot to do with courtesy and common sense. The Countryside Code is a good place to start. And if you can, consider exploring on foot, by bike or by public transport instead of driving.

The River Wye surrounded by autumnal trees and fields
The Wye Valley bathed in sunlight

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William Wordsworth sighed over its “steep woods, lofty cliffs and green pastoral landscape.” JMW Turner immortalised it in his paintings. Over two centuries later, the Wye Valley is still as enchanting as ever. It’s a superb choice for an active break, exploring by kayak, on horseback or on foot.

Wye Valley and Vale of Usk