Bri­tish beau­ties to make your heart beat faster

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE - Bri­tain, Wild About

con­sists of six square miles of daf­fodil fields and talc-soft beaches. The largest, the Cotswolds, cov­ers 790 sq miles of rolling hills and mel­low stone vil­lages be­tween Bath and Chipping Cam­p­den. Wales has five, in­clud­ing An­gle­sey and the Wye Val­ley, Ul­ster has nine and Scot­land has its own ver­sion known as Na­tional Scenic Ar­eas (NSAs), with Loch Lomond, Glen Af­fric and Ard­na­mur­chan prom­i­nent.

The in­ten­tion of an AONB was to af­ford the same sta­tus and pro­tec­tion as our Na­tional Parks. Sadly, it has not al­ways pre­vented the ex­ploita­tion of these crown jew­els of the Bri­tish coun­try­side. But now and for a while yet, they re­main not just beau­ti­ful but out­stand­ingly so, and there are more than enough to last you a life­time of vis­its. Here are my 10 favourites. This is the big­gest AONB in Wales, cov­er­ing most of the is­land’s 125-mile coast­line and also in­clud­ing Holy­head Moun­tain and Mynydd Boda­fon, at 584ft its high­est point. As well as sand dunes, coves and breezy cliff-tops it is holy ground, lit­tered with burial mounds and stand­ing stones. Charles Tun­ni­cliffe, the cel­e­brated wildlife artist, lived at Mall­traeth on the Afon Cefni es­tu­ary un­til his death in 1979 (vis­i­tan­gle­sey. Just one hour from Lon­don lies the epi­cen­tre of Con­sta­ble Coun­try, strad­dling the wil­lows and wa­ter­mead­ows of the Stour river on the Es­sex-Suf­folk bor­der. To visit Flat­ford Mill is to step into The Hay Wain, im­mor­talised in 1821 by John Con­sta­ble’s most fa­mous paint­ing. Ex­plore on foot, fol­low­ing the Stour Val­ley Path, or by bike on the 70-mile Stour Val­ley cy­cle route (ded­ham­vales­tour­val­ The wildest of Scot­land’s 40 NSAs; a range of dark and brood­ing moun­tains with Glen Sli­gachan di­vid­ing the jagged gab­bro peaks and cor­ries of the Black Cuillin from the more rounded gran­ite sum­mits of the Red Cuillin. The area of­fers the finest moun­tain climb­ing and walk­ing in Bri­tain, with 12 Mun­ros (sum­mits higher than 3,000ft) in the Black Cuillin ( For­est’s pre-Con­quest wood­lands and all around are vivid re­minders of the long ago, such as Ave­bury’s stone cir­cle. A walk along The Ridge­way will re­veal the best of it, a pre­his­toric track that starts at Over­ton Hill (north­wes­sex­ and ospreys fre­quent the lochs and the pine forests are home to red squir­rels (scot­ glen-af­fric). Unique in hav­ing 12 separate ar­eas man­aged as a sin­gle AONB. Con­sist­ing of Bod­min Moor and 11 stretches of Corn­wall’s in­com­pa­ra­ble coast­line, it cov­ers nearly a third of the county, in­clud­ing the ra­zor­back cliffs of Hart­land Point, the sands and surf­ing beaches of the Camel es­tu­ary around Rock and Pad­stow and the gaunt gran­ite head­lands of West Pen­with so fa­mil­iar to Poldark fans (corn­wal­ Fol­low the Pen­nine Way as its snakes across UK’s sec­ond largest AONB from the York­shire Dales Na­tional Park to the Northum­ber­land Na­tional Park. Within its 770 sq miles of heather moors, deep dales, rush­ing rivers and old-fash­ioned hay mead­ows lives a wealth of wildlife, in­clud­ing black grouse, short-eared owls and rare arc­tic alpine plants. All this plus Eng­land’s big­gest wa­ter­falls – High Force and Caul­dron Snout (north­pen­

For more about Bri­tain’s AONBs see land­scapes­for­

a se­lec­tion of Brian Jack­man’s lyri­cal na­ture writ­ing, has re­cently been pub­lished by Bradt at £9.99.

Glen Af­fric in the Scot­tish High­lands, left, and the Giant’s Cause­way, North­ern Ire­land

El­gol beach in the High­lands with a snow-cov­ered Cuillin in the back­ground, be­low; left fal­low deer pause in an an­cient for­est

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