Close this search box.

What is an AONB

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

An ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, often abbreviated to AONB, is a precious landscape with such a distinctive character and natural beauty that it is in the nation’s interest to safeguard it.

AONB landscapes range from rugged coastline, dunes, salt marshes, peatlands, woodlands and estuaries to water meadows, gentle downland and upland moors. The Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated in December 1964 in recognition of the quality of its landscape and its significant historic and scientific interest.

There are 38 AONBs across England and Wales, created by the legislation of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. There are also 8 AONBs in Northern Ireland.

The care of these very special places has been entrusted to the local authorities, organisations, community groups and the individuals who live and work within them, and who value them. Alongside the Government Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), they are also responsible for helping to fund the work of the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team, and sourcing additional income where required.

The primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area. Social and economic development which contributes to the natural beauty of the AONB is encouraged so that communities are strengthened, and the experiences for locals and visitors alike are improved.

AONBs are designated because of their individual qualities. These include their flora, fauna, historical and cultural associations as well as scenic views. They are living and working landscapes that have been, and continue to be, shaped by nature and human activity.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the ‘CRoW’ Act, added further regulation and protection, ensuring the future of AONBs as important national resources.

The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) was formed in 1998 as an independent organisation to act on behalf of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales.

Visit for more information about AONBs across the UK.