Scottish Highlands area named as Britain’s top beauty spot

It is a stunning landscape of natural beauty and is home to Scotland’s longest cave, a striking coastline and spectacular mountains.

Now the national scenic area of Assynt-Coigach in Sutherland has been named Britain’s top spot of natural beauty, alongside the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall.

Consumer champion Which? polled almost 6,000 people to find out their favourite areas of outstanding natural beauty and Scotland’s national scenic areas, with Assynt-Coigach and the Isles of Scilly coming out top.

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Assynt-Coigach in Scotland is known for its beautiful landscape, complete with cliffs, sea stacks and sandy beaches, receiving five stars for scenery, peace and quiet, and four stars for walks. One visitor described the area as “wild, spectacular and unique” in the UK.

Ardvrek Castle is in the national scenic area of Assynt-Coigach.Ardvrek Castle is in the national scenic area of Assynt-Coigach.
Ardvrek Castle is in the national scenic area of Assynt-Coigach.

Unlike England, Northern Ireland and Wales, Scotland does not have area of outstanding natural beauty designations. Instead, it has 40 national scenic areas, so respondents rated these separately.

Chris Taylor, regional leadership director at VisitScotland, said: “Scotland’s great outdoors have always been popular with UK visitors and with the pandemic changing attitudes towards travel, making staycations the focus for many, their popularity has only increased during this time.

"The Assynt and Coigach region is a magnificent part of the Highlands, with its stunning coastline and many hillwalking routes, and it is encouraging to see how highly rated the rest of Scotland’s natural scenic areas are by Which? members.

"Across the country we have a fantastic range of coasts, islands, mountains and countryside to explore and we would encourage visitors to get out and about and do so in a responsible manner.”

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The Isles of Scilly are famous for their white sandy beaches and were named the top area of outstanding natural beauty for the second year in a row, receiving four or five stars across every category apart from tourist attractions.

The Causeway Coast was the highest scoring area of outstanding natural beauty in Northern Ireland, coming third in Which?’s survey. The polygonal basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway are the main attraction on this stretch of the North Antrim coast.

Meanwhile, the top scoring area of natural beauty in Wales was the Gower Peninsula. Its main attraction is the world-famous Rhossili Bay, but the area also features other sandy bays, wildlife-rich saltmarsh and mudflats and ancient sites.

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It received a four stars for scenery, walks and wildlife spotting and a respectable three stars in all other categories. Respondents had particularly high praise for its beaches and beautiful scenery.

Fleet Valley and Nith Estuary – both in South West Scotland – and the Blackdown Hills on the Somerset-Devon border all received high overall scores and three stars in several categories.

Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, 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.”

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