Landscape and UNESCO designations

Devon's protected landscape image
Devon has an outstanding natural environment with a range of nationally protected landscapes and internationally important UNESCO designated sites.

National Parks

National Parks are areas of protected countryside where everyone can experience the beautiful scenery, tranquillity, wildlife, history and other special qualities these working landscapes provide. Within Devon’s boundaries are Dartmoor National Park and a third of Exmoor National Park. Each is managed by its own National Park Authority that looks after the landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage for people to enjoy and learn about the area.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, along with National Parks, are the nation’s finest landscapes, given statutory protection by Government. There are five AONBs in Devon, three wholly within the County ie North Devon Coasts, East Devon and South Devon and two are cross-boundary with neighbouring authorities, Tamar Valley and Blackdown Hills. Taken with Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, these “protected landscapes” cover 35% of Devon.

The statutory purpose of AONBs is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape. They have the same landscape value as National Parks. Each of the 5 AONBs is managed by a local partnership. They bring together rural and landscape management initiatives that assist the delivery of the sustainable development agenda for the County. The distinct and unique qualities of each AONB need care and attention. Action is co-ordinated in each AONB by a small local team guided by a wider community partnership.

All the AONBs receive core funding support from the County Council and it also hosts two of the AONB teams, Blackdown Hills and North Devon Coasts.

World Heritage sites

Additionally, Devon has parts of two World Heritage Sites, which have been inscribed as being of outstanding universal value and of global importance by UNESCO. The Dorset and East Devon Coast natural site, popularly known as the Jurassic Coast, was inscribed for its geology, geomorphology and fossil interest. The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape cultural site, known as Cornish Mining includes the Tavistock and Tamar Valley areas in Devon and relates to the cultural landscapes created by the tin mining industry and associated activity in the nineteenth century.

Both these Sites are managed through a Partnership and Team based in Dorset and Cornwall respectively, who work together to protect, conserve, present and transmit these places for future generations. Inscription can help promote tourism and increased focus on the conservation of a site, as well as engagement with the local community.

Both Partnerships are actively supported and joint funded for core and project activities by Devon County Council.

Biosphere Reserves

Devon also has a third UNESCO designated area, the Northern Devon Biosphere Reserve. This covers much of northern Devon from Dartmoor and Exmoor and the Bristol Channel to Lundy. Designated through the “Man and the Biosphere” programme, this is one of the first of six such areas in the UK. Work is focused around developing partnerships and managing projects for a sustainable future.

The Biosphere Team is part of the County Council, with funding from North Devon and Torridge District Councils. It works to maintain the world class environment and high quality of life in the area.

Devon’s Protected Landscapes Exmoor National Park Blackdown Hills AONB East Devon AONB Dartmoor National Park Tamar Valley AONB Tamar Valley AONB South Devon AONB North Devon AONB North Devon AONBNorth Devon AONBSouth Devon AONB East Devon AONB Blackdown Hills AONB Tamar Valley AONB

Contact Us

Environment, Economy
& Culture
Devon County Council
Lucombe House
County Hall
Exeter EX2 4QW


01392 382135

Key Publications / Downloads

Protected landscape image