Having now taken brief visits to the majority of the National Parks and a few Heritage Coasts this time I am taking you to some of the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty(England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and National Scenic Areas(Scotland). There are 46 AONB’s and 40 NSA’s so plenty to consider but only so much space and certainly insufficient to cover all of them in this one post. But don’t fret we can always take other visits at some time in the future. Unfortunately, I have never visited Northern Ireland but it is certainly on my bucket list so at the moment I can’t include any of their 7 AONB’s. So I have decided that on this occasion we will take in two in England, two in Scotland and one in Wales.
To start with I have selected South Devon, an area I visited a couple of years back. As well as an AONB it also has a Heritage Coast. It stretches from Torbay on England’s south coast to Plymouth. It ranges from sheltered hidden coves to the jagged pre-Cambrian cliffs of Bolt Head and from the long golden expanses of Slapton Sands to the cool, tree-shaded serenity of the Dart and Kingsbridge estuaries, some of Britain’s finest ria coastline. Inland, the AONB protects the fertile, sheltered South Hams peninsula. This is ‘deepest Devon’ country, a pastoral landscape of flowering hedgerows and ancient sunken lanes, carved into by the richly wooded valleys of the Avon and Dart. The AONB’s built environment of thatched, white, pink and ochre cottages and picturesque fishing ports such as Dartmouth and Salcombe is intrinsic to its quality.
The image above shows Burgh Island, a small tidal island off the coast near to the small seaside village of Bigbury on Sea. There are several buildings on the island, the largest being the Art Deco Burgh Island Hotel. The other buildings are three private houses, and a public house, The Pilchard Inn, run by the hotel.
Now we are off to Scotland and the Isle of Mull and in particular the Loch na Keal National Scenic Area. Loch na Keal, meaning Loch of the Kyle, or Narrows, also Loch of the Cliffs, is the principal sea loch on the western, or Atlantic coastline. Loch na Keal is a large loch which extends far inland, almost bisecting Mull and extending within 3 miles of the eastern shore. On the far northern coastline of the area in Outer Loch na Keal lies the Loch Tuath. Consisting of a large number of small bays, overlooked by gentle slopes including the Eas Fors waterfall, one of the most spectacular on Mull. Access to the base of the waterfall where the image below was captured is extremely difficult as there is no proper path or track just a scramble through the trees, rocks and small watercourses. It was easier getting back up, thank goodness.
Our whistle stop tour now takes us to Wales and the Isle of Anglesey AONB. Almost the entire coastline of Ynys Mon, the Isle of Anglesey, is designated as an AONB. The island contains a great variety of fine coastal landscapes and coincides with three stretches of Heritage Coast. Some of the oldest rocks in Britain form the low ridges and shallow valleys of Anglesey’s sea-planed plateau. Holyhead Mountain is its highest point with superb distant views to Snowdonia. Low cliffs, alternating with coves, pebble beaches and tucked-away villages, line the island’s northern shores. The east coast’s sheer limestone cliffs, interspersed with fine sandy beaches, contrast with the south’s wilderness of sand dunes that roll away down to Aberffraw Bay. The image below was captured on the estuary leading from Aberffraw Bay to the village of Aberffraw.
Back now to Scotland and the Isle of Skye, part of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast and in particular the Trotternish NSA in the north of the island. Trotternish is the most northerly of Skye’s peninsulas, extending north from Portree to its eventual end at Rubha Hunish. It is one of the most spectacular landscapes in Britain. The great ridge which forms its backbone is the longest on Skye, and its unique eastern escarpment has been broken by Europe’s largest landslides into a remarkable landscape. The Quiraing, partly seen in the image below, comes from the Norse kvi and rand and means the round fold – in Gaelic Cuith-raing. Within the fold is The Table, an elevated plateau hidden amongst the pillars. It’s said that the fold was used to conceal cattle from Viking raiders. Other landmarks to look out for are The Needle(left), The Prison(right) which can be clearly seen below.
Finally, for this trip, we return to England and the southeastern coast and the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB. It is a low-lying coastal landscape of astonishing variety, stretching from the Stour estuary in the South to Kessingland in the North. Its unique mixture of shingle beaches, crumbling cliffs, marshes, estuaries, heathland, forests and farmland makes it a very special place to live, work and visit. A source of inspiration for countless artists, writers and musicians, it is a landscape rich in history and largely spared from modern development. Its picturesque countryside, towns and villages have an unspoilt and tranquil atmosphere, with a very distinctive ‘Suffolk’ character.
However, the area that is of most interest to myself is the coastline which is changing all the time and always has done. This is a landscape undergoing dramatic change as a result of rapid coastal erosion where significant areas of coast can be lost within a single storm. Within 30/40 years it is likely that the hamlet of Covehithe, only a few yards behind the coastline shown above will be lost. This is one of the fastest eroding stretches of coastline in Britain.
Unfortunately, I have run out of time and space for this feature so if you want to see more of the British landscape please join me next time. If there is anywhere, in particular, you would like me to share with you then, by all means, let me know by replying to this post or by contacting me.