What is an AONB?

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an area with a distinctive character and national importance designated - under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order - for the quality of its landscape.  The purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance natural beauty. ‘Natural beauty’, however, is much more than just the landscape; it includes the specific shape of the land, the features of the landscape, the geology, plants and animals, as well as the rich human history and associated culture. These valuable features do not occur in isolation, but rather depend on each other. To conserve natural beauty it is, therefore, vital that the needs of agriculture, forestry, rural industry and the economic and social needs of local communities are taken into account. 

In Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is responsible for the designation of AONBs and facilitates their management by putting in place management plans and mechanisms. However, in practice, communities, landowners, public bodies and conservation organisations all work together in the AONBs to care for and protect the landscape and provide local facilities and services that help people to explore and enjoy the countryside. Mourne Heritage Trust coordinates much of this effort in the Mourne AONB. 

It is vital that the Mourne AONB is postively managed to safeguard, enhance and celebrate its intrinsic landscape and related characteristics.  For more information on some of the ways in which we try to do this click here for the Caring For section of our website.