The AONB covers an area of 171 square kilometres ranging from the lowest point on dry land at Northam Burrows, protected from the sea by its Pebble Ridge, to the highest point of 269 metres at Berry Down near Combe Martin, across from the Hangman cliffs of Exmoor. The coastal boundary of the AONB varies from low water mark to high water mark at different sites and extends out to the South Tail sandbank in the mouth of the Taw Torridge estuary. The inland designation line is based on the catchments of the coastal streams of Hartland and North Devon, resulting in a long narrow AONB area for which the setting, whether ocean or inland downs, is highly influential.
The coastal setting of the AONB and its landscape features provide a very high visual quality through the panoramic views both inland and out to sea. The predominantly undeveloped Heritage Coast retains its historic legacy of ancient earthworks and agricultural features combining with the coastal heritage of lime kilns, tourism and fishing villages. A high level of public access within the AONB reflects its special features such as beaches and dunes, land ownership through the National Trust, a network of rights of way and the South West Coast Path running along its entire length. All these features result in a feeling of timelessness, closeness to nature and wilderness with infinite skies, expansive sandy beaches and sheltered woodland combes.
The character of the AONB’s landscape is inextricably linked to the geology, climate, heritage, land management, wildlife and economy of the area. The interaction of man, climate and geology has produced the characteristic features and special qualities of this landscape which contribute to its natural beauty. To find out more about the different elements that contribute to our AONB, follow the links below for policies, descriptions, events and resources on each theme.
Find out more
Landscape & Seascape
Charting North Devon and Exmoor’s unique seascape.
Biodiversity & Geodiversity
The North Devon AONB is enhanced by its rich and varied wildlife.
Historic Environment & Culture
In the last five years, our knowledge of the historic landscape has increased considerably.
Community, Action, Learning & Understanding
To support more people to learn about, understand and take action to conserve the AONB
Farming & Land Management
The landscape within the AONB is largely because of historic and current farming forestry.
Sustainable Rural & Visitor Economy
Tourism and recreation have historically been important to the North Devon economy.
Access, Health & Wellbeing
To ensure sustainable access to the AONB for the benefit of the health and wellbeing of local people and visitors, consistent with the designation
Environmental Quality & Climate Change
The coast is a vital asset for North Devon’s economy and sense of identity and for its residents,