We’ve trawled the coastlines of National Parks and Areas of Natural Beauty to find perfect stays for our nature-loving readers. Words: Madeleine Barber
THE CROWN AND CASTLE HOTEL
Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Suffolk
Photo: Tony Pick for SCH AONBs
WHY HERE? Imagine peaceful wetlands, shingle shores, wildlife-rich saltmarshes and picturesque seaside villages. This area is so important for biodiversity that the AONB contains numerous nature reserves, including RSPB Minsmere and the National Trust’s Orford Ness. Nature-lovers can expect to see everything from sea kale and yellow horned poppies to terns and sand martins.
WHERE CAN I STAY? The Crown and Castle Hotel is situated in the heart of Orford, separated from its twelfth-century castle by a narrow lane. Modern rooms with crisp white linen and pops of bright colour juxtapose nicely with its country house exterior.
WHERE’S THE NEAREST BEACH? A golden sandy beach runs the whole length of this beautiful natural wilderness. To get to it, take the ferry across the River Alde and cross the nature reserve.
WHAT DOES IT COST? Prices start at £130 per night, based on two people sharing and including breakfast.
HOW DO I BOOK? Find out more at visitsuffolk.com. To book, call 01394 450205 or visit crownandcastle.co.uk.
Snowdonia National Park, North Wales
WHY HERE? Peppered with Stone Age burial chambers, Roman forts, churches, castles and slate quarries, Snowdonia is steeped in ancient history. These archaeological sites are intermingled with some of nature’s finest mountains, rivers and lakes, as well as 37 miles of rugged coastline. Most climb-seekers head for Mount Snowdon, but for a quieter incline, try Cadair Idris near Dolgellau.
WHERE CAN I STAY? Self-catering holiday accommodation with Graig Wen includes yurts, a large, tent-like dwelling surrounded by silver birches (above), and a ‘Caban in the Glade’, which is a cool, eco-pavillion inspired by the yurt design. All include shaggy rugs, woolly blankets and wood-burning stoves for a toasty stay.
WHERE’S THE NEAREST BEACH? Graig Wen boasts direct access to and sweeping views of the Mawddach Estuary, which leads straight out to Barmouth Bay. Coastal cycle trails run nearby for keen cyclists, too.
WHAT DOES IT COST? Prices start at £160 for a two-night break in a small yurt.
HOW DO I BOOK? Call 01341 250482 or visit graigwen.co.uk.
Pembrokeshire National Park, South Wales
WHY HERE? Britain’s only truly coastal national park is perfect for watersports: try diving in a marine nature reserve, kayaking or windsurfing. If you want to keep dry, there’s 186 miles of Coast Path to discover.
WHERE CAN I STAY? The Villa, a traditional stone cottage with a patio for alfresco dining.
WHERE’S THE NEAREST BEACH? At Abereiddy and the famous Blue Lagoon.
WHAT DOES IT COST? Prices start at £551 for a week’s stay. Sleeps six.
HOW DO I BOOK? Call 01437 765765 or visit coastalcottages.co.uk.
THE OLD SCHOOLHOUSE
St Agnes AONB, Cornwall
Photo: Layton Bennett
WHY HERE? Dominated by the granite tor of St Agnes Beacon, this is just one of many AONBs in Cornwall. It stretches from Porthtowan to Cligga Head and forms part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, so there’s loads to investigate. The South West Coast Path also runs through this area, so keen ramblers won’t be short of a route.
WHERE CAN I STAY? The Old Schoolhouse is a Grade II-listed building with gorgeous period details and rustic wooden beds.
WHERE’S THE NEAREST BEACH? Trevaunance Cove – a small, sandy enclosure and well-known surf spot.
WHAT DOES IT COST? For one week, prices start at £615. Sleeps eight.
HOW DO I BOOK? Call 01637 861005 or visit beachretreats.co.uk.
Northumberland Coast AONB, Northumberland
WHY HERE? This 39-mile stretch of coast is known for its sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and islands offshore, including the Farne Islands – an archipelago that’s home to 4,000 grey seals. The area has lots of history, too, with Bamburgh, Warkworth, Dunstanburgh and Lindisfarne Castles lining the seafront.
WHERE CAN I STAY? Pegasus Cottage sits in the harbour of Craster Village. Recently renovated, it oozes modern-day charm.
WHERE’S THE NEAREST BEACH? Head north past the castle to Embleton Bay.
WHAT DOES IT COST? Prices start at £525 for a four-night stay this season. Sleeps six.
HOW DO I BOOK? Call 01665 721332 or visit gracedarlingholidays.com.
Culbin Sands, Forest and Findhorn Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Scotland
Photo: Jan Holm/Shutterstock
WHY HERE? This SSSI stretches along the southern shore of the Moray Firth, where wildlife and plants flourish.
WHERE CAN I STAY? Boath House is a luxury mansion with Michelin-starred cuisine.
WHERE’S THE NEAREST BEACH? It’s just under three miles to Culbin Sands.
WHAT DOES IT COST? Prices for two people start at £280 per room, per night, including dinner and breakfast this winter.
HOW DO I BOOK? Call 01667 454896 or visit boath-house.com.
THE BUSHMILLS INN
The Causeway Coast AONB, Northern Ireland
WHY HERE? For the iconic Giant’s Causeway. This area of 40,000 basalt columns formed by an ancient volcanic eruption was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, and is one of Northern Ireland’s most popular attractions.
WHERE CAN I STAY? In the historic village of Bushmills you’ll find The Bushmills Inn, a boutique hotel famous for its open peat fires, hidden nooks and crannies and private cinema.
WHERE’S THE NEAREST BEACH? It’s a mile to the sandy crescent cove of Portballintrae, and two miles to the Giant’s Causeway.
WHAT DOES IT COST? This month, a two-night break starts at £130 per person for two nights’ bed and breakfast with one dinner.
HOW DO I BOOK? Call 028 2073 3000 or visit bushmillsinn.com.