20 beautiful alternatives to Britain’s crowded national parks


The Lake District, Snowdonia, and our other National Parks hog all the limelight – and will likely be overwhelmed this Easter weekend (particularly with good weather predicted). So head instead to one of these 20 lesser-visited Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)…

The Quantock Hills

“Upon smooth Quantock’ airy ridge we roved Unchecked, or loitered amid her sylvan combs, Thou in bewitching words, with happy heart, Didst chaunt the vision of that Ancient Man, The bright-eyed Mariner…”

It’s just over 200 years since Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan at his cottage in nearby Nether Stowey, and it’s more than 60 years since the range of hills was designated the UK’s first AONB. Yet, despite the backing of two of our greatest poets (Wordsworth was also a fan; he wrote the lines above), and the approval of the various public bodies that hand out acronyms, we’d wager that a fair number of Britons would fail to find the Quantocks on a map of the country.

For the record, they’re in Somerset, just west of Bridgwater. And, as the picture shows, they’re pretty special. Be sure to include a morning of fossil-hunting on Kilve beach (pictured), and – if you visit in winter – head east to the Somerset Levels before dusk for the chance to watch the starling murmuration. 

Where to stay: Combe House Hotel offers hearty food and roaring fires within a characterful Grade II-listed building. 

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