The Best Places to Visit in South West England
Table of contents
It’s 2020. International travel is off the cards for now, so when I returned to England after getting a repatriation flight home from Mexico, I moved back to the West Country. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life here – living in Bristol and Bath in my late teens/ early twenties and taking numerous trips to see family in Devon and Cornwall over the years. My dad is a very proud Cornishman and I’ve always been meaning to get in touch with that side of my heritage.
And now is the time. I’m spending the next year back in Bristol, but I will be taking numerous trips around the region in the meantime. I want to both help people plan trips to this part of the world but also document my cultural and historical findings here, and I decided this would be too big a project for this blog, where I still intend on (finally!) writing up my posts from my Bali to London adventure last year.
So, I’ve created a new website. It’s called Go South West, and I’d love for you to check it out. If I haven’t convinced you yet, have a read of the following to see some of the amazing places to visit in South West England…
This obviously comes at the top of the list, for so many reasons. I went to university in Bristol, did an extra year partially because I didn’t want to leave, and when I did reluctantly leave, I vowed to return one day.
Now, I have. And, if that previous passage wasn’t enough of an incentive to make you want to visit Bristol, here are some more reasons.
Bristol is a diverse, multicultural city filled with inspirational people. There are several different regions, and all has its own charm. They include…
- Clifton which is home to beautiful Georgian architecture and the world-famous suspension bridge
- Stokes Croft which is adorned with street art
- Gloucester Road which is home to the longest line of independent shops in the world
- The Old City which still has its own medieval layout
- The Harbourside with waterfront cafes and bars, boats, and picturesque vistas of coloured houses.
When I was dragged from Bristol, I moved an entire 13 miles down the road to Bath. Bath didn’t capture me quite the same way that Bristol did, but it is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in South West England.
Bath is named so due to its famous natural phenomenon; it was home to Roman Baths back when they conquered England and has the only hot springs in the UK. The city rose to fame once again in 973, when Edgar was crowned as the first King of all of England (before then the regions in the nation had been ruled separately).
Architects loved the city, and it’s also home to some beautiful Georgian buildings. Jane Austen lived in the city back in the day, and while she apparently didn’t like the city, the houses that were built in her time have made it one of the country’s most loved tourist cities.
If you want a camping trip in the South West, but have no money, head to Dartmoor – it’s the only place in the UK where you can free camp anywhere. Of course, if you do this, please respect the place and take all of your rubbish with you.
Dartmoor is also famous for scenic villages, cream teas and friendly hospitality. Its moors are a fantastic place to go hiking, where you can look out for wild ponies, and there are plenty of trails to waterfalls and through woodland. There are millenniums of years of history in Dartmoor – including woodland that is rumoured to have been around since 7000 BC – and plenty of legends and fables to learn about.
It’s incredibly difficult to find just one Cornish seaside villages to put on this list of the best places to visit in South West England, so I’d highly recommend you go to them all – maybe by doing a road trip along the Cornish coastline.
However, Port Isaac is pretty delightful. It’s the filming location for TV show Doc Martin, and while it is packed in the summer, brisk winter days are lovely for walking around the village’s historic houses. The beaches in Cornwall are remarkable, and Port Isaac’s is no exception.
Like Cornwall, it was hard to just find one destination that’s worth visiting in the Cotswolds. This hilly area is dotted with historic villages and is a firm favourite for international tourists to the UK. It’s not visited so much by domestic tourists though; and it definitely should be.
Known as ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’ because of the river meandering through, Bourton-on-the-Water is home to historic buildings housing cafes, restaurants, and pubs, as well as ancient churches. It is often voted ‘the prettiest village in the UK’, and it’s easy to see why.
You can do a day trip to the area, but I would recommend spending a bit longer – maybe doing a road trip around the Cotswolds to see all of it. Or you could base in a particular town or village, such as Bourton on the Water. There are so many wonderful Airbnbs in the Cotswolds to enjoy country life for a while!
The Quantock Hills are an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) in Somerset. They are a very small range of 12×4 miles, but from the highest points they offer spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. They are mainly heathland, ideal for trekking and mountain biking, and are home to lots of small country villages.
Isles of Scilly
Off of the British mainland are the Isles of Scilly. Located in their own micro-climate, the archipelago offers island life which is unmatchable elsewhere in the country. Life moves at a slower pace here, and there are gorgeous beaches, rugged cliffs, and azure waters just waiting to explore. Not to mention the uninhabited islands, which are left untouched for birds and wildlife. It’s a British holiday like no other.
Exmouth was somewhere I visited a lot when growing up (my gran lived here) and I recently spent some more time in. Only when I returned did I appreciate its beauty and fortunate position, and how many things there are to do in Exmouth.
It is at the meeting place of the Jurassic Coast – a 92 mile stretch that takes in some of the country’s best coastal views – and the Exe estuary, where the beach turns into river, the sides of which are home to a lot of unique flora and fauna. Exmouth is also close to the East Devon moorland, which provides ample hiking opportunities and in and around local villages.
See you in the South West!
There are so many amazing places to visit in South West England, from bustling cities to small villages to the most spectacular countryside. Check out my new blog for more information about this region!