Special qualities of the Cotswolds – A National Treasure
The Cotswolds was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966 in recognition of its rich, diverse and high quality landscape. It is the largest of 46 AONBs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the second largest protected landscape in England after the Lake District National Park. Covering 790 sq miles, the Cotswolds stretches from Bath and Wiltshire in the south through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire to Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the north.
Its central feature are the Cotswolds Hills which rise gently from the broad, green meadows of the upper Thames to crest in a dramatic escarpment above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale. Rural England at its most mellow, the landscape draws a unique warmth and richness from the famous limestone beauty of its buildings.
Areas of Outstanding National Beauty are part of a family of protected areas recognised and classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) throughout the world. AONBs and National Parks in England and Wales fall into Category V – Protected Landscapes. There are 46 AONBs in Britain (38 in England and Wales and eight in Northern Ireland) and together with the 15 National Parks cover around 25% of our countryside. AONBs are designated in recognition of their national importance and to ensure that their character and qualities are protected for all to enjoy.