Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (UK)

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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.[1]

An AONB is an area of countryside in England, Wales or Northern Ireland which has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value. Areas are designated in recognition of their national importance, by the relevant public body: Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. In place of AONB, Scotland uses the similar national scenic area (NSA) designation. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty enjoy levels of protection from development similar to those of UK National Parks, but unlike with national parks the responsible bodies do not have their own planning powers. They also differ from National Parks in their more limited opportunities for extensive outdoor recreation.

Sources for Boundary Routes


Natural England: locked up in ArgGIS Online?

Natural Resources Wales: geojson and shpfile, copyright Natural Resources Wales and OS

Northern Ireland Environment Agency geojson and shpfile, OGL


AONBs are created by a document known as Designation Order, which includes an OS map with the boundary marked on it. The boundaries may be amended by subsequent orders. We presumably can't use these maps where they are still in copyright, but the Crown Copyright only lasts for 50 years, so the designation orders for any AONBs that were created more than 50 years ago, and haven't been modified since are fine to use. Natural England probably holds copies of all the orders, so we should be able to request them using the Freedom of Information Act.

user:rjw62 successfully made a request for a copy of the Malvern Hills Designation Order [1]. It would appear that, at least in this case, the boundary tends to run along the side of roads, rather than down their centrelines.

List of AONBs

AONB Country Created Boundary Relation Complete Notes
Arnside and Silverdale England 1972
Blackdown Hills England 1991
Cannock Chase England 1958
Chichester Harbour England 1964
Chilterns England 1964
Cornwall England 1959 Includes Bodmin Moor
Cotswolds England 1966 relation 166570 100% Some sections guesswork
Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs England 1983
Dedham Vale England 1970
Dorset England 1959
East Devon AONB England 1963
Forest of Bowland England 1964
High Weald England 1983
Howardian Hills England 1987 relation 383665
Isle of Wight England 1963
Isles of Scilly England 1976
Kent Downs England 1968
Lincolnshire Wolds England 1973 relation 3317398
Malvern Hills England 1959 relation 233879 100% Designation order used to determine route
Mendip Hills England 1989
Nidderdale England 1994
Norfolk Coast England 1968
North Devon England 1960
North Pennines England 1988
North Wessex Downs England 1972
Northumberland Coast England 1958
Quantock Hills England 1956 relation 1916427 100% Designation Order used to determine route
Shropshire Hills England 1959
Solway Coast England 1964
South Devon England 1960
Suffolk Coast and Heaths England 1970
Surrey Hills England 1958
Tamar Valley England 1995
Wye Valley England 1971 relation 357729
Anglesey Wales
Clwydian Range Wales
Moel Famau Wales
Gower Peninsula Wales 1956
Llŷn Peninsula Wales
Antrim Coast and Glens Northern Ireland
Causeway Coast Northern Ireland relation 1430482 100%
Lagan Valley Northern Ireland
Lecale Coast AONB Northern Ireland
Mountains of Mourne Northern Ireland
North Derry Northern Ireland
Ring of Gullion Northern Ireland
Sperrins Northern Ireland relation 1429005 100%
Strangford & Lecale Northern Ireland relation 1428604 100%

National Scenic Areas (NSA) (Scotland only )

For now use designation=NSA.

  • Cuillins of Skye
  • Small Isles, of Invernessshire (Rum, Canna, Eigg, and Muck) relation 284135

Wikipedia link: Category:National Scenic Areas in Scotland


How to tag AONBs has been a source of some dispute. The Cotswold AONB was initially tagged as follows.

type=boundary + boundary=national_park + name=*

However this has been considered by some to be inappropriate as it fails to differentiate national parks from AONBs.

Rather than having a separate boundary=* tag for each type of protected area, we could make use of the designation=* tag record the precise legal status. So designation=national_park for National Parks and designation=area_of_outstanding_natural_beauty for AONBs. (In the tag, the full name is preferable to the abbreviation to aid interpretation by both mappers and data users.)