South West

Places to visit and things of interest in South West England.  The South West of England is often seen as England’s holiday destination: Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, with their dramatic cliffs and family-friendly beaches; Bath and the pretty Cotswolds – top destinations for overseas visitors, along with Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral.  Dorset is home to the Jurassic coast and, in fact, there is a coastal path stretching 630 miles between Dorset and Somerset. Our prehistoric ancestors have left their mark in many places besides Stonehenge, and the region also has more than its fair share of castles, stately homes and world-class museums, including the Tank and Fleet Air Arm Museums and Tate St Ives.  There are two national parks – Dartmoor and Exmoor, upland areas consisting almost entirely of dramatic moorland.

Bourton-on-the-Water, model village


Bourton-on-the-Water is one of Britain’s honeypot villages.  Situated in the Cotswolds, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that straddles five counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire), Bourton-on-the-Water’s main claim to fame is that it is a very pretty village surrounded by lots of other very pretty villages.  Perhaps ‘honeypot’ is an archaic term […]

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Ten of the best in the west

Polperro, Cornwall

South West England has two main draw-backs: it is popular and, as it’s on the west, it can suffer from wetness – particularly at its extremities.  Other than that, it has pretty much everything, including mystery, prehistory, history, cuteness, grand vistas, impressive buildings and plenty of things to do.  For an introduction, see A Bit

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Coleridge’s Cottage

Coleridge's Cottage in Nether Stowey

We went to see Coleridge’s Cottage because it was there.  Apart from driving through Bridgwater it wasn’t a painful experience, though I can’t say it was particularly exciting either. However, it does have what the National Trust accurately describes as “a small, but perfectly formed, tearoom” – and that was splendid. Cakes and tea everywhere,

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St Cyriac and the tour party

Lacock church, St Cyriac, Wiltshire

Had I led a better life, perhaps spending more time with saints than sinners, maybe I would have heard of St Cyriac before stumbling ignorantly into his church in Lacock.  For the benefit of anyone else who has somehow managed to cope thus far without this knowledge – and I’m sure there’s at least one

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Through cloisters and gardens – a visit to Lacock Abbey

Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire

For some, Lacock Abbey will always be associated with the invention of photography; for others, it is the Tudor-Gothic-Victorian house that gets the juices flowing; for me, the real pleasure was in wandering through cloisters and gardens. It was September and a stroll beyond the inevitable National Trust shop took us past pastel-shaded cottage-garden style

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Is the Cerne Abbas Giant one of Britain’s most loved figures?

Cerne Abbas, Giant, Dorset

This is an appropriate question, since it is rumoured that couples creep up to the Cerne Abbas Giant at night in order to make babies.  As the Giant is cut into a hill with a reasonable degree of slope on it, the mechanics of their actions must be somewhat of a challenge; but each to

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Lawrence of Arabia’s bolt-hole

Clouds Hill, T E Lawrence, Dorset

A tiny cottage, close to the Dorset HQ of the Royal Tank Regiment at Bovington Camp, was once owned by one of Britain’s most fascinating and enigmatic figures, T E Lawrence – also known as Lawrence of Arabia.  The cottage is called Clouds Hill and it was built in 1808 as a forester’s or labourer’s

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Was England born in Athelney?

Sign to Alfred's monument at Athelney, Somerset

Christmas in the year 877 did not turn out as Alfred planned. One minute he was celebrating, the next his hall was overrun by screaming, violent, bloody-weaponed, pagan warriors.  He escaped with his life and a small band of followers, ending up in hiding in the swamps around Athelney, in Somerset. Today, Athelney is a

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A visit to the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm Museum

Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset

The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm Museum is situated, with startling logic, twenty miles or more from the sea.  It is a massive place and, if you haven’t already guessed, it tells the story of the Royal Navy in the air: oh, come on – you know what I mean… The museum opened in 1964

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Barrington Court: bring on the empty mansion

Barrington Court, Tudor house, National Trust, visit, Somerset

From the moment we stepped into its kitchen garden, everything about Barrington Court made me want to linger. But don’t visit to savour the great moments that took place at this beguiling Somerset estate, because, so far as I know, none did. Nor should you go to take a peek at the sumptuous interiors and

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Between Golden Cap and Charmouth

Golden Cap, beach, visit Dorset

We wanted to walk along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and hunt for fossils.  No, that’s not quite right: I wanted to walk along the Jurassic Coast and hunt for fossils; Head Office wanted to find a sun-drenched beach to lie on.  Influenced by the fact that parking in National Trust car parks is included in our

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