I’ll be upfront with this: I’m an American. When I imagine traveling to the United Kingdom, I see city. Masquerading as a trendy socialite in London or watching a football game in Manchester. Entering the imposing Glasgow Cathedral, perhaps grabbing a pint in Belfast. The most rural place I had fantasized about visiting was Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, in hopes of glimpsing Nessie beneath the murky waters. After researching further, I came across the other side. Lands of dazzling beauty dotted with small, appealing towns, obscure activities like Isle of Skye Tours. I ask you turn your back on the big cities (for a little while) and check out these designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty throughout the UK. Unspoilt nature and unseen treasures await.
Ll?n Peninsula, Wales
The Welsh way of life is very much alive here. Climb up to one of the area’s volcanic summits of Eifl, Garn Fadrun, or Garn Boduan and take in a vista of the entire peninsula. A wonderful way of making your way along the 47 miles of coastline is by cycling through the less traveled roads flanked by patchwork fields. Reward a good day of exercise with a seaside dinner at a restaurant nestled on a sandy stretch of beach. Or visit Ll?n’s principal town of Pwllheli, where some of the best sailing in the UK can be had.
Solway Coast, Scotland/Britain
With salt pans, sand dunes, and mudflats that trail off into cool tidal waters, the Solway Coast is a celebration of nature. It’s not just a pretty view—this 200-mile stretch of rugged coastline can easily fill your days with a variety of activities. There is a wealth of picturesque towns and hidden wonders. See the remnants of the Holm Cultram Abbey, a monastery built in 1150. Walk along the waterfront in Silloth or take part in one of their many festivals on the town green. While out of town and in the middle of nature, spy on the rare birds that frequent the area or solo kayak in the deep blue waters.
Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland
Where the mountains sweep down to the sea. This area was CS Lewis’ inspiration for the mystical land of Narnia. Get close to the clouds by climbing Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard. Afterwards, slide down into the forests and walk the miles of trails in the Tollymore Forest Park (there are several organized Walking Festivals annually) or stare agape at the towering trees in the National Arboretum in Castlewellan Forest Park. On a warm summer evening set up camp and soak up the views in an oasis of tranquility.