and heritage in southwest England
no great surprise that the West of England, from Gloucestershire and
Dorset to Cornwall, should be the most popular tourist region of
England. There is just so much to see and do.
The south west of England has hundreds of
miles of England's finest and most varied
coastline, some of
England's most beautiful and unspoilt countryside –
national parks that offer great opportunities for walkers and hikers
– many of its prettiest villages, and some of
great historic castles and cathedrals.
In addition the
south west has plenty of active and interesting tourist attractions,
historic steam heritage railways running through beautiful countryside,
mines, some of England's finest and most interesting caves to explore,
and some of the finest gardens in
Apart from Bristol Bath and Plymouth, the southwest is an
essentially rural region, with many small towns proud of their historic
heritage. It is an area much appreciated for its natural environment,
its many pretty villages with their old traditional inns and pubs
and its pace of life. In summer, its magnificent beaches and secluded
visitors of all ages; and throughout the year, its coastline is popular
with retired people and walkers.
along the protected Jurassic coast in Dorset
It is no great surprise therefore that the south
west of England should be the country's most popular region for tourism.
The lists below are by no means
just include about fifry of the best visitor attractions in the south
west of England, selected by category. The south west being a large
region, About-Britain.com has chosen to list these sites by county -
ordered from north east to southwest - rather than by theme:
Gloucestershire, Dorset, Avon and Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall
Best sites areas to visit and attractions in
south west England - listed by county
Places to see and visit in
|Finest historic monuments in
between Gloucester and Bristol
|Mediaeval castle that has belonged to the
Berkeley family since the
12th century, and 24 generations of the same family have lived here.
The buildings date essentially from the 14th century, with
modifications. King Edward II was murdered in the castle in 1327.
Open April to October Sunday to Wednesday only.
North of Cheltenham
|A beautiful 15th century early Renaissance
castle standing in a
1200 acre estate with attractive gardens, at the edge of the Cotswolds.
The chapel contains the tomb of Catherine Parr, wife of King
Open mid March to early November
North of Gloucester
|Former Benedictine abbey, and one of the
churches in England. Built between the twelfth and fourteenth
centuries, in the romanesque / Norman and gothic styles.
||One of the finest cathedrals in
illustrating the evolution of mediaeval architecture. The nave is a
fine example of Norman romanesque style, while 4th and 15th
century transepts and the choir are beautiful examples of
perpendicular Gothic and fan vaulting. Gloucester cathedral's
cloisters are also the earliest example of English gothic fan
|Outdoors and countryside
- southwest through Gloucestershire, the Cotswolds are rolling hills,
dotted with small stone-built villages. Among the most attractive
villages are Stanton and Stanway, Bourton on the Water, Compton Abdale,
Lower Slaughter and Painswick, Bisley. Hiking: the Cotswold Way is a
long distance hiking trail running along the western scarp.
Cotswold Farm Park, near Cheltenham, is a major centre for the survival
of domestic rare breeds.
|Forest of Dean
of the Severn, the Forest of Dean is a large forested area, with plenty
of hiking trails. The forest is renowned for its wildlife, which now
includes wild boars, reintroduced in the past 20 years. The western
edge of the forest is the very attractive Wye valley which is, for part
of its course, the border between England and Wales.
|Towns and villages
||The "Capital of the Cotswolds", Cheltenham,
formerly well known as
a spa town, has a fine early-nineteenth century centre, with many
parks. The Rotunda, the Promenade and the Pitville pump room are fine
pieces of neoclassical architecture. Cheltenham has many attractions in
the vicinity, including the Cotswolds, Gloucester, Tewkesbury and
plenty more. It also has one of England's most famous racecourses.
Cotswold town, with both the
Gloucestershire and Warwickshire heritage railway, and Sudeley
Nearby are Belas Knap, a prehistoric long barrow, and Cleeve Hill, a
noted beauty spot with great views over the Severn valley
|Bourton on the Water
||Classic large Cotswold village, with the
small river Windrush
running through the middle. Birdland wildlife centre. Model village.
|Attractions - things to
|The Wildfowl and Wetlands centre
pioneering sites of wildlife conservation, the Wildfowl Trust at
Slimbridge was founded by naturalist Peter Scott (son of Antarctic
explorer Captain Scott) way back in 1946. It is a major wetland area in
the Severn estuary, and a key location on the migratory routes of many
waterfowl. The centre has played a major role in preserving a number of
threatened species of wildfowl, most notably the Hawaiian goose.
by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, a farm centre dedicated to the
survival and conservation of traditional breeds of domestic animals,
notably pigs, sheep, cattle and horses.
and Worcestershire railway
|The GWR is a 19 km preserved railway,
running from the outskirts of Cheltenham (Gloucestershire) to near
Broadway (Warwickshire), along the edge of the Cotswolds (see above).
A choice of the best places to see and
||The dramatic ruins of what was one of the
finest mediaeval fortresses in England – destroyed during the
English Civil War. Accessible on foot from Corfe village
station on the Swanage steam
|Outdoors and countryside
||Dorset and east
world heritage site.
Extensively preserved stretch of coastline on the Dorset coast.
Highlights include Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door - the
Bill peninsula, the Chesil Beach, a long shingle barrier beach just off
the coast, enclosing a coastal lagoon, the Abbotsbury swannery.
|Towns and villages
||A late 18th
century planned village, consisting of a street flanked by traditional
famous of all of England's giant chalk figures, carved into a hillside.
Long thought to be prehistoric, it is now estimated that the Cerne
Abbas giant dates from the seventeenth century.
of the Roman city that once stood here, apart from the archaeological
site of a Roman town house (entrance free). But Dorchester is an
attractive small town, the model for Thomas Hardy's "Casterbridge", and
the heart of "Hardy country". Outside Dorchester is Poundbury, the
model "urban village", an award-winning and architecturally interesting
modern housing development, spearheaded by Prince Charles, that
attracts architects and planners from all over the world.
Dorset village, with thatched
cottages; it is also known for its swannery, where swans have been bred
since the middle ages in a lagoon behind the Chesil beach
popular seaside resort, with good beaches and a historic
nineteenth-century sea front. Weymouth also has an active fishing
harbour, and visitors can go out on deep-sea fishing trips.
|Attractions - things to
||10 km steam
heritage railway which will eventually link Swanage and Wantage. With
the small seaside resort of Swanage at the south end, and the dramatic
ruins of Corfe Castle near the other end, this is a popular outing for
A selection of the best places to see and
visit in Avon and
Avon, formerly part of Somerset, is the area around Bristol and Bath.
It has nothing to do with Stratford on Avon, which is on a different
||There is plenty to see in Bristol, and it's
fairly accessible. The SS Great Britain (see below), a science museum,
the Britstol Aquarium, museums and art galleries, the Bristol Zoo, plus
regency quarter of Clifton, with the Clifton Gorge suspension bridge
||The whole city
is designated as a UNESCO
world heritage site. A remarkable ensemble of
neoclassical architecture, from the eighteenth century; also
the famous Roman baths
South of Bath
|One of the finest cathedrals in
England, renowned for its pure
gothic nave, its unique scissors vault, and its beautiful fan vaulted
chapter house. Wells being a very small city, the cathedral with its
close and accompanying bishop's palace and school, have changed little
over recent centuries.
|Roman baths and pump room, Bath
||The most visited tourist attraction
in England outside the London area. After Hadrian's Wall, the
Roman baths at
Bath are the most famous
Roman remains in Britain. Parts of the original Roman baths are now
included in the 18th century neoclassical baths; there is a museum with
mosaics and other Roman artefacts. Bath's baths were "Thermae", i.e.
hot mineral springs. While it is no loger possible to bathe in the
Roman baths, visitors can sample a hot mineral bath in modern thermal
centre close by.
|Glastonbury Abbey & tor
||Somerset, south of Bath
||Glastonbury Tor is one of the great
mythical sites in England. The
tor is a small round hillock, rising up beside the flat land of the
Somerset Levels. It is crowned by a square tower, but there
never a church attached. Glastonbury is strongly linked to legends of
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It may have been the
fabled Avalon. Glastonbury abbey, which stands below the tor,
was destroyed in the 16th century at the Dissolution of the
Monasteries, and is today a romantic ruin. One of the Glastonbury myths
claims that King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are buried here.
of the finest early English renaissance houses, built in the reign of
Queen Elizabeth 1st. Montacute has the longest "long gallery"
any English stately home. Located in the heartland of south Somerset,
away from the coast and big cities, Montacute tends to be less crowded
with tourists than some other great stately homes
||A castle has stood on a small hill just
outside the village of
Dunster since the Middle Ages; the castle that stands today was largely
renovated in the nineteenth century. The village of Dunster,
nestling at the edge of Exmoor, is also very attractive.
|Outdoors and countryside
range of limestone hills on
the northern edge of the Somerset Levels. The Mendips are
known as the birthplace of Cheddar cheese. Close to the small town of
Cheddar is Cheddar Gorge, one of the finest limestone gorges
England. The area was home to some of the earliest humans in Britain,
and prehistoric remains have been found in some of the caves which can
be visited. (See below)
||These were the
first area in Britain to be
designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), back in 1956.
With their wooded or arable lower slopes and their open heather-clad
peaks, the Quantocks are ideal walking country, and less visited than
many other areas. the poet Coleridge lived in the village of Nether
Stowey, where he wrote the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
|Exmoor National Park
||Almost 700 sq.
km, much of it open grazing land for sheep and wild ponies; a landscape
of grass bracken or heather-clad hilltops and valleys, Exmoor is
wonderful walking country. Highlights include Doone Valley, and the
summits of Porlock Hill and Dunkery beacon, with their great panoramic
views to the Bristol Channel, Devon, Somerset and South Wales. Exmoor
has 55 km of rugged coastline. Tarr Steps, near Dulverton, is a
prehistoric "clapper bridge"
|Attractions - Places to
first iron ocean-going passenger liner, launched in 1843. Designed by
Brunel, this was the first large ship to use both an iron structure and
propellor propulsion. She served until 1885, when she was abandoned in
the Falkland Islands. Brought back to Bristol, where she was made, in
1970, she has since been carefully renovated to her former glory.
European Industrial museum of the year 2008. Official website
and Gough's cave
Cave and Wookey Hole, near Cheddar, are two of the finest
visitable caves in the UK,
with underground rivers, stalactites and stalacmites.
near Taunton, to Minehead
||The longest preserved steam railway in
Britain, about 30 km in length.
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