Clean Air Britain: The areas of the UK with the best air quality


Posted by Hannah on 12th March 2021

Clean air Britain

Ever wondered where has the cleanest air in Britain? We’ve done the hard work for you! With the help of official air pollution figures, we have analysed air pollution rates across England, Scotland and Wales to reveal the areas with the overall lowest levels. 

We’ve also created an interactive tool revealing where has the cleanest air in your area. 

Read on to uncover the UK areas with the lowest air pollution rates. Alternatively, click the button below to use our interactive tool that reveal the places with the cleanest air in your area.

Try the tool

Measuring UK air quality

We used data from IQ Air’s World Air Quality Report to compile the data.

Air pollution level is ranked by PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) data as acquired from ground-based air quality monitoring stations with high data availability, and is in units of µg. 

Each area has been given an air quality score based on the level of air pollution in the towns, cities and villages analysed in the report. 

The official ranking is as follows:

  • 0-10 µg: WHO target 
  • 10-12 µg: Good 
  • 12.1 – 35.4 µg: Moderate 
  • 35.5 – 55.4 µg: Unhealthy for sensitive groups 
  • 55.5 – 150.4 µg: Unhealthy
  • 150.5 to 250.4 µg: Very unhealthy
  • 250.5 µg +: Hazardous

What are the areas in the UK with the cleanest air?

The 5 areas with the cleanest air in Britain

Analysing our research, we are able to compile a list of the top areas with the lowest air pollution – and therefore the cleanest air in Britain. They are as below (units of µg): 

  1. Midlothian, Scotland (5.1)
  2. Wiltshire, England (5.4)
  3. Berkshire, England (5.8)
  4. Perthshire, Scotland and Gwynedd, Wales (6.1)
  5. Lanarkshire, Scotland (6.3)
  6. Pembrokeshire, Wales (6.4)
  7. Stirlingshire, Fife, Clackmannan and City of Dundee, Scotland (6.5)
  8. City of Edinburgh, Scotland (6.6)
  9. Renfrewshire, Scotland (6.7)
  10. Ayrshire, Scotland (6.8)

Looking at these locations in more depth, Midlothian in Scotland takes the top spot of having the cleanest air in Britain, at an average ranking of just 5.1µg – that’s half of the WHO target of 10µg. Midlothian is predominantly a rural county, and there’s plenty of things to do in the fresh air, such as exploring one of the county’s many countryside and woodland parks.  

And there’s plenty of clean air in Scotland if the list above is anything to go by! Of all the regions in the list above, ten Scottish towns, villages and cities are featured, making it the country with the cleanest air in Britain.

But there’s plenty more clean air across Wales and England too! In Wales, Gwynedd and Pembrokeshire are named the regions with the lowest air pollution rates in the country. Gwynedd is home to the popular Snowdonia National Park, and Pembrokeshire is a haven for walkers with the beautiful Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and National Park – so if you’re looking to get away (when we can) for some fresh air in the Welsh countryside, these areas should be top of your list!

A road winding through the mountains of Snowdonia National Park, WalesSnowdonia National Park

In England, Wiltshire and Berkshire feature in second and third place for the cleanest air in Britain. Interestingly, it was the market town of Marlborough in Wiltshire, and the large town of Slough in Berkshire, that made these figures so low – showing how the air pollution in our big towns and cities might not be as bad as we are led to believe.

What areas in the UK didn’t make the list – but could have?

Aside from the top ten list above, there are so many other parts of the UK that have incredibly clean air that just missed out on the list. Cornwall is a beautiful and popular destination for holidays on the South West coast, and the county had a 9.25µg average – within the WHO recommended target of less than 10µg.

Pedn Vounder beach in Cornwall UKPedn Vounder beach, Cornwall

The Highlands in Scotland attracts thousands of visitors each year for its natural beauty and wonderful landscapes. A walker’s paradise, the air pollution average was 8.3µg according to the report – so you know the Loch Ness monster is breathing in some very clean air!

And in Wales, the stunning Isle of Anglesey had an average air pollution level of just 7.3µg, and narrowly missed out on the top ten list in the UK.

Other areas that fit well within the WHO target of less than 10µg, are (average of all towns/cities/regions analysed):

  • East & West Dunbartonshire, Scotland (7)
  • Aberdeenshire, Scotland (7)
  • City of Glasgow, Scotland (7.1)
  • West Lothian, Scotland (7.45)
  • Wrexham, Wales (8)
  • Tyne and Wear, England (8)
  • Hertfordshire, England (8.3)
  • County Durham, England (8.8)
  • Norfolk, England (8.9)
  • Derbyshire, England (9)
  • Merseyside, England (9.1)
  • Oxfordshire, England (9.4)
  • Warwickshire, England (9.5)
  • Staffordshire, Hampshire and Cambridgeshire, England (9.6)
  • Newport, Wales (9.7)
  • Surrey, England (9.8)
  • Devon, England (9.9)

With all these areas well within the WHO’s target, it’s a very promising look at Britain’s clean air!

How does the air in the UK compare to other countries?

So, how clean is our air compared to the rest of the world? According to the IQ Air report* which was used to conduct the study, the UK has an average air pollution rating of 10.5µg, which is defined as ‘good’ – and just narrowly misses out on the WHO recommended target of less than 10µg.

Still, this means that the UK’s air pollution causes little to no harm to residents – thankfully!

In Europe, the UK ranks 12th out of 37 countries analysed, and therefore is within the top third in Europe. And on a wider scale, the UK ranks in the top quarter of air pollution rates in the whole world, ranking 21st out of 89 countries for having the cleanest air.

Green patchwork fields in the English countryside

Bangladesh has the worst air pollution levels in the world at a huge 83.3µg – for context, that’s 693% higher than the UK’s average!

Breaking the UK’s levels down even further, of the 126 towns, villages and cities in the UK analysed in the report, 75 were ranked as meeting the WHO target (59%), and a further 37 (29%) were ranked as good – that’s 88% of our towns and cities overall being marked as within target or good.

So, it can certainly be said that we have some very clean air in Britain!

And remember, if you’d like to see the areas with the cleanest air ranking in your region, just use our interactive tool.

With holidaying set to remain largely localised for the near future, it’s helpful to know which areas of the UK have the cleanest air, and where you should be keeping an eye on for your next staycation when we can. Discover your ideal cottage retreat today and plan your next UK adventure.

All UK cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.