This Archipelago Was Just Named the Most Scenic Destination in the UK
While UNESCO World Heritage sites mark the globe's most valuable landmarks for cultural and natural significance, the U.K. has its own designation — called Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and National Scenic Areas in Scotland — and one destination has risen to the top.
U.K. consumer site Which? recently polled 5,813 of its members to see which of these natural beauties it considered the most scenic. Topping the list was the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off the coast of Cornwall, which readers gave four or five stars (out of a total of five) in almost every category.
"While it's the smallest designated AONB, it offers big rewards, including opportunities to spot wildlife — from puffins to grey Atlantic seals," the site explained. "It's a serene destination where waves lap sandy beaches, and cars are rarely seen. Well-managed boats take you to the various islands and convivial harborside pubs, ancient ruins, daffodil fields, and tropical gardens."
Following behind in the poll was England's Northumberland Coast, which has both beaches and landmarks like Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh castles. It got five stars for scenery, wildlife, and tourist attractions. Island hopping is also popular here — particularly, to Lindisfarne for its castle and the Farne Islands for bird-watching.
Coming in third was Northern Ireland's top location, the Causeway Coast, known for its basalt columns at Giant's Causeway, followed by Strangford Lough, with more than 100 islands teeming with marine life.
Wales' top location was the Gower Peninsula, home to a beach loved by surfers and dog walkers alike, followed by Wye Valley, where steep cliffs meet historic relics like Tintern Abbey and Goodrich Castle. Over in Scotland, the top spot was the remote Assynt-Coigach, complete with rugged coastlines, and Kintail, noted for the dramatic peaks of the Five Sisters of Kintail.
Other sites on the list include England's Cornwall and Dorset; Northern Ireland's Antrim Coast and Glens and Mourne; Wales' Llyn and Clwydian Range and Dee Valley; and Scotland's South Lewis, Harris, and North Uist.
The survey, conducted in July 2021, included panel members who based their ratings on 13,846 collective experiences.