From the Isles of Scilly to the Northumberland Coast and Scotland’s Assynt-Coigach, the most beautiful scenic areas in the UK named by Which?

  • Members of the consumer group Which? were asked to rate the UK’s favourite scenic destinations
  • The Isles of Scilly came out on top and were named the top AONB in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Assynt-Coigach and Kintail topped the list of 40 scenic national areas in Scotland, which doesn’t have AONBs

Cornwall’s Isles of Scilly and north-west Scotland’s Assynt-Coigach are the UK’s favourite scenic destinations, according to a survey.

Some 5,800 members of the consumer group Which? were asked about their staycation travel experiences.

And it is the second year in a row that they voted the Isles of Scilly – renowned for their white sandy beaches – the top area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Pictured is Porth Conger on the Isles of Scilly, which have been named the top scenic destination in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by Which? 

The Northumberland Coast was voted the second most popular Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Pictured is Bamburgh Castle, which features along the coastline 

The archipelago received five stars for scenery, walks, wildlife spotting, peace and quiet, food and drink, and accommodation, with an overall score of 91 per cent.

Scotland does not have AONBs, so respondents were questioned about its 40 national scenic areas, resulting in Assynt-Coigach being ranked in first place.

Its stunning landscape features cliffs, sea stacks and wild moorlands.

The area was given an overall score of 92 per cent, with five stars for scenery, and peace and quiet, and four stars for walks.

The Causeway Coast, which came third in the AONB ranking, is home to the polygonal basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway (pictured) 

Survey respondents named Assynt-Coigach as the most beautiful scenic area in Scotland. Pictured is the area’s Loch Lurgainn 

Over 5,800 members of the consumer group Which? were asked about their experiences of the UK’s AONBs

One visitor described it as ‘wild, spectacular and unique’.

The Causeway Coast was the highest-scoring AONB in Northern Ireland, with 84 per cent. The main attraction on this stretch of the Antrim coast is the polygonal basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway. 

According to Which?, the area received good scores across the board apart from for ‘peace and quiet’, as the Giant’s Causeway ‘can get busy at peak times’.

One respondent to the poll said: ‘A visit to the Giant’s Causeway alone is reason enough to visit. Combine this with the Causeway coastal path and the other attractions of the area to ice the cake.’ 

Wales’s top-scoring AONB was the Gower Peninsula (82 per cent), where visitors flock to Rhossili Bay (pictured above) 

Pictured is Strangford Lough in County Down, which came fourth in the England, Wales and Northern Ireland ranking with 84 per cent of the vote 

The historic fishing port of Polperro in Cornwall, which was voted the fifth most popular AONB

Which? said that even the destinations ranked at the lower end of its tables received ‘respectable scores’

Overall, Northern Ireland had a total of four areas of outstanding natural beauty in the top ten – as well as the Causeway Coast, Strangford Lough, Mourne, and Antrim Coast and Glens also figured.

Wales’s top-scoring AONB was the Gower Peninsula (82 per cent), where visitors flock to Rhossili Bay. 

Which? notes that the area ‘also features other sandy bays, wildlife-rich saltmarsh and mudflats and ancient sites’. Respondents had particularly high praise for its ‘beaches and beautiful scenery’.

Pictured is the Five Sisters of Kintail, a ridge in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland. Kintail was voted the second most beautiful scenic area in the country 

Seilebost Beach on the west side of the Isle of Harris, which is within the South Lewis, Harris, and North Uist national scenic area in Scotland. The area came third in the Which? ranking for Scotland

Pictured is the vista from the Glen Docherty viewpoint in Wester Ross, which landed fourth in the Scotland ranking (89 per cent)

Pictured is St Ninian’s Beach on the Shetland Islands, which was fifth in the Scotland table. Respondents awarded the area five stars for ‘scenery’ and ‘peace and quiet’

Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said: ‘During the pandemic, many of us discovered the joys of a British holiday and our survey findings show that areas of outstanding natural beauty and national scenic areas have plenty to offer, with stiff competition between the nation’s favourites.

‘The best news from the survey is just how many highly rated destinations we have to choose from, including many little-known destinations that you’ll be able to enjoy without crowds.’

Which? said that even the destinations ranked at the lower end of its tables received ‘respectable scores’.

A statement from Which? adds: ‘The Blackdown Hills on the Somerset-Devon border and Fleet Valley and Nith Estuary – both in South West Scotland – all received high overall scores and three stars in several categories.’  

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