Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – The 2022 Staycation Challenge

Are you looking forward to the new year? Will you be making staycation plans to avoid the stress of travelling abroad with the unending shadow of COVID? Do you want to explore some of the most beautiful landscapes that the UK has to offer? Why not challenge yourself to visit all of the areas of outstanding natural beauty in the UK?

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Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

An area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) is land protected by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act). It protects the land to conserve and enhance its natural beauty.

UK Government

In UK there are currently 46 areas of outstanding natural beauty across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These places have been protected in the national interest for generations to enjoy. So, it would be rude not to visit!

Please note that Scotland has a separate but similar programme called ‘National Scenic Areas‘, we’ll cover these in a separate post.

Click here to see the list of the UK’s 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)



Northern Ireland:

How to plan for the challenge

To visit 46 places over 52 weeks is not impossible but can be a bit of a logistical nightmare. To help you plan, here are some questions:

  1. Do you want to take your time to explore each location? How long do you need?
  2. What is your budget for this challenge? For example, can you afford the petrol, the accommodation and the food needed for 46 weekends away?
  3. What accommodation will you choose? For example, camping in a tent or using a campervan will be much cheaper than lots of different hotels.

How we would do it

Personally speaking, I would want to see Wales and Northern Ireland between January and April, most of Southern England between May and August, and Northern England (plus the remaining South England spots) between September and December.


Starting with Wales, there are five areas of natural beauty across the country. These could be tackled in two weekends – one in the North and one in the South.

Weekend one – South Wales

We would spend Saturday in the Wye Valley, probably Symonds Yat, and the rest of the weekend exploring the Gower Peninsula. We would want to find some history and maybe even a castle!

Weekend two – North Wales

We would stay in Anglesey and use it as a base to explore Anglesey and Llŷn on Saturday and Sunday morning. On the way home we would stop for a walk through the Clwydian Valley and Dee Valley.

Northern Ireland

Next, travel over the Irish Sea to the eight areas of natural beauty in Northern Ireland. There’s far too much to see in Northern Ireland for one weekend. For that reason, we would try to cover Northern Ireland over a long weekend.

  • We would arrive in Belfast on Thursday evening and check-in/set up (depending on how we decided to sleep) for two nights.
  • On Friday, we would explore Mourne and Ring of Gullion.
  • On Saturday, we would explore Strangford Lough and Lagan Valley.
  • Saturday evening we would travel to Antrim and check-in/set up for two nights.
  • On Sunday, we would explore Causeway Coast, Antrim Coast and Binevenagh.
  • On Monday, we would go for a walk in Sperrin before heading home.


Finally, England. Some of the English AONBs require a whole weekend whereas others can be explored in a day. Of course this depends on how much you want do in each area.

Full weekend
Day trips
  • Cranborne Chase and Wiltshire Downs
  • Mendip Hills
  • North Wessex Downs
  • Chilterns
  • Malvern Hills
  • Shropshire Hills
  • Cannock Chase
  • Chichester Harbour
  • Surrey Hills
  • Kent Downs
  • High Weald
  • Dedham Vale
  • Suffolk Coast
  • Norfolk Coast
  • Lincolnshire Wolds
  • Howardian Hills
  • Nidderdale
  • Forest of Bowland
  • Arnside and Silverdale
  • North Pennines
  • Solway Coast
  • Northumberland Coast

You can find our checklist below. Please do let us know if you intend on doing the challenge, and how you plan to do it, or even if you manage it!!

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