South West England is blessed with beautiful beaches and warm weather, and lovely countryside as you go further inland. It’s home to two national parks (Dartmoor and Exmoor, known for their wild ponies), Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly. An area of contrasts, you could go sailing at an elegant seaside resort, or join alternative travellers to celebrate the summer solstice.
2 Beautiful (yet different) Cities
- Bath is often named one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It features beautiful honey-coloured buildings (Royal Crescent that overlooks Victoria Park – often used in BBC period dramas) and Roman spa baths, art galleries and museums. Linked to Bristol by an old railway path.
- Bristol is a busier vibrant city with an ancient maritime history, and regularly voted the greenest city in England. It is home to the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, which dominates the skyline.
The South West Coast
- Cornwall takes you from the only city of Truro to the warmer Scilly Isles (just across the water, home to unique flora and fauna). This creative county is known for its music and artists and has its own language. The high influx of second-home owners has meant many locals find it difficult to buy homes.
- Dorset is a county of contrasts. The Jurassic Coast houses ancient dinosaur fossils. Brownsea Island is opposite the resort of Sandbanks – yet a few miles away, Bournemouth has homeless people. Inland is Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess county’ and the New Forest (with wild ponies).
- Devon is a large county that has seaside resorts, national parks, busy busy cities (Plymouth & Exeter) and the world’s first transition town of Totnes. This county is also home to the first town that saw off McDonald’s!
- Somerset is all about coast & countryside. Weston-Super-Mare has one of the longest tidal reaches, so take care with sinking mud (dangerous for people and dogs). Somerset is also known for its scrumpy cider – ‘ooh aar!
Inland South West Counties
- Gloucestershire is home to the beautiful floral spa town of Cheltenham, just a short hop from The Cotswolds; a series of rolling hills that start in the Thames. Many burned-out rock stars choose to spend their millions on honey-coloured mansions, hidden away in pretty villages.
- Herefordshire is one of our least populated counties. A beautiful rural corner of England – if you prefer sheep to people, this is for you! Bordering Wales, even the main city of Hereford is quiet: stop by for some cider.
- Shropshire is another quiet rural county, set amid the blue rolling hills, again on the border with Wales. Very peaceful and quiet, one journalist was sent around England to discover its most beautiful county. Northumberland almost won – but he didn’t like the wind and cold, so this county came out top! One of the few towns here is Ludlow.
- Wiltshire is home to Salisbury Cathedral (American writer Bill Bryson calls this ‘the most beautiful building in England’) and Stonehenge (an ancient burial site near Glastonbury, known for its annual music festival). This county also has most of our chalk ‘white horses’, carved into the hills.