If you’re looking for places to visit in South West England, here are over 30 suggestions!
This day trips in South West England guide will show you some of the best days out in the region. Mainly focusing on Bristol, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, there should be a range of places that are accessible from wherever you are based.
Whether you’re looking for cheap day trips, things to do with the family or days out in the South West for couples, we hope you’ll find some inspiration in this blog post!
Cheap days out in South West England
You don’t have to spend much money to enjoy cheap days out in South West England! Here are some of the best places to visit in this area of the country, many of them are free!
To the beach!
Going to the beach is one of the best South West England day trip ideas. What’s more, it’s usually free! South West England has some of the best beaches in the country.
From the dramatic cliffs of the Jurassic Coast, ending in Exmouth, to the crashing waves of North Devon and Cornwall, to idyllic beaches in South Cornwall, to the family-orientated beaches of Somerset – there’s an expanse of sand for everyone in South West England.
These beaches do get busy in the summer – especially during school holidays – so try to start your beach day early if you are in peak season. My favourite beaches are Widemouth Bay in North Cornwall, Woolacombe in North Devon, Lulworth Cove in Dorset and Exmouth in South Devon.
If you’re living in Bristol, you could visit Portishead or Weston-Super-Mare, which are a short drive away. And there are hundreds more!
If you’re into hiking, why not try tackling some – or all – of the South West Coast path? This is a 630 mile journey travelling from Minehead in Somerset, around Cornwall’s peninsula, to Poole in Dorset.
Trails leave every beach along the way, and you’ll get some epic views even with just a day hike.
Bristol’s free museums
Bristol has a variety of fun and educational free museums, so if you’re visiting the city in the rain and are looking for cheap things to do, here are some ideas!
The M Shed is a museum focusing on Bristol’s distinct culture, its many neighbourhoods, and interesting characters who have made the city what it is. Arnolfini is an art gallery focusing on contemporary art.
Then you’ve got the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, and the Georgian House Museum, which is a depiction of a typical Bristol house in the Georgian period, as well as the awful involvement that Bristol had in the slave trade (difficult to learn about, but important to be aware of).
John Wesley’s Chapel is the oldest Methodist building in the world, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge has a small museum detailing the history of the bridge.
The Palestinian Museum and Cultural Centre seeks to educate visitors about Palestinian history and the deep issues that the country still faces today.
Let’s not forget Bristol’s outdoor art gallery too – you can do a self-guided Banksy tour to explore his artwork, or simply walk around Stokes Croft or Southville and enjoy the street art!
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath
Just down the road from Bristol is the famous city of Bath. There are plenty of things to do in Bath, a lot of them expensive – but you can see a lot of the city for free as well.
Explore Bath by merely walking around and gazing at the buildings. Check out the Circus, a perfect circle of houses, and the Crescent – these were designed by the same person and are very symbolic of Bath. You should also check out Pulteney Bridge and Bath Weir.
Bath Abbey was the site of coronation for the first King of all of England, Edgar, and has some interesting historical features going back to its construction in 1499.
On a clear day, walk up to the Bath Skyline and enjoy a beautiful view of Bath’s many iconic crescents and historic houses below. Also, enjoy the many parks, like Sydney Gardens and the Royal Victoria Park.
Most museums in Bath are quite expensive, but the Victoria Art Gallery is free to peruse.
Hike on Exmoor, Bodmin, or Dartmoor
South West England has some of the best moorlands in the country. Exmoor is a coastal national park with some epic cliff views, including the famous Valley of Rocks. You can also enjoy picturesque villages in the national park, like Porlock and Lynton and Lynmouth.
Dartmoor is close to Plymouth, and is one of the most spectacular national parks in the UK. Look out for Dartmoor ponies, do many of the epic hikes, and visit the charming villages of the area.
If you’re looking for things to do in Cornwall, check out Bodmin Moor. This wild moor has been the subject of mystical stories for centuries, and now offers a range of waterfalls, expansive moorland and the two highest peaks in Cornwall. Bodmin town has some interesting attractions as well.
Explore the Mendip or Quantock Hills
As well as moors, the South West has hills! The Mendip Hills are one of the easiest day trips from Bristol, sitting at just 7 miles from the southern edge of the city.
You can do a range of hikes in the Mendips, including a hike to Blackdown (the highest spot in the area) and the charming Three Priddy Droves walk.
The Quantock Hills are located in Somerset, next to Exmoor National Park. There are a range of short and long walks that you can do in the Quantocks, as well as enjoy this portion of Somerset’s own Jurassic Coast.
Road Tripping Cornwall
If you have your own vehicle, taking a road trip in Cornwall is one of the best cheap days out in South West England. There are different spots to visit all over Cornwall, so where you drive to will depend on where you are based!
If you’re driving from South Devon, check out Fowey, Looe, and St Austell. From North Devon, you could visit Bude, Boscastle, Tintagel and Port Isaac.
Free Attractions in Exeter
If you’re looking for more urban places to visit in South West England, Exeter is a great spot. It has plenty of free and cheap attractions, so it’s perfect for budget travellers!
Things to do in Exeter include the free Red Coat walking tours which explore different aspects of Exeter’s history, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (also free!), hanging out at the Quayside.
You can also look out for little quirky attractions, including Parliament Street (the narrowest street in Europe) and the House that Moved – a Tudor building that literally moved on train tracks.
Explore Wells and Glastonbury
Wells and Glastonbury are easy to reach from Bristol, Bath, and destinations in Devon and Dorset. Glastonbury has the famous Glastonbury Tor and the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, and the quirky shops of Glastonbury High Street.
Wells is the smallest city in the country, and has a majestic Abbey, Vicars Close which is the oldest residential street in the country, as well as local farmer’s markets.
Birdwatching at the Exe Estuary
If you’re living in west Dorset or east Devon, or anywhere on the M5, it’s relatively easy to reach the Exe Estuary.
This part of the river traverses down from Exeter to Exmouth on one side and Dawlish Warren on the other side.
It’s an easy walk along the estuary – it has a great boardwalk as well as lovely beach views. There are ample birdwatching opportunities, as well as the option to visit Powderham Castle and the Exminster Marshes.
Castles (with English heritage membership)
If you have English heritage membership, the castles are some of the best places to go in the Southwest.
Pendennis Castle is near Falmouth in Cornwall and was constructed by Henry VIII. Tintagel Castle, also in Cornwall, has Arthurian legend links.
Totnes Castle is the ruins of a historic motte and bailey fortress, and Dartmouth Castle sits in beautiful settings.
Closer to Bristol is Nunney Castle which dates back from 1370 and St Briavels Castle was built by Edward I and is located in Gloucestershire. In Dorset, enjoy Portland Castle which was also built by Henry VIII.
Days out in South West for couples
If you’re looking for places to visit in South West England with your other half, you’ll love these romantic days out in Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall.
Hiking Cheddar Gorge
If you’re a couple who love the outdoors, try visiting Cheddar.
As well as enjoying the charming town and sampling local Cheddar cheese, you can climb up to the top of the gorge on one of the ladders and hike the paths around the gorge. It’s an easy day out from Bath or Bristol.
Exploring Cotswold villages
There’s nowhere quite as romantic as the Cotswolds. If you’re looking for date ideas near Bristol, take a drive around the charming villages, stopping off at any that take your fancy.
Bourton on the Water is possibly the most popular, with the River Windrush running through. It’s known as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ due to its picturesque location.
Stow on the Wold is a small but beautiful market town with historic buildings and dotted with antique shops. It’s largely thought of as one of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds.
Bibury is a must-visit; with weaver’s cottages lining the streets and the River Coln meandering through, it’s a photographer’s dream.
Castle Combe is also relatively easy to reach on a day trip from Bristol, especially if you have a car (it’s close to the M4, but feels world’s away!). This storybook village will blow you away.
I also love the tiny but stunning Upper Slaughter and nearby Lower Slaughter.
Bradford on Avon, close to Bath, also deserves a special mention. This village is in Wiltshire, close to the Somerset border – so it’s one of the best places to go in South West England if you’re coming from further west.
Bradford on Avon has the Bridge Tea Rooms, located in a ‘building that looks like it’s falling down’ (the words of the owner, not mine!) serving up very traditional tea and cake.
The River Avon also runs through, and there are various historical points of interest around the town, which you can learn about more in the Bradford on Avon Museum.
Bath thermae spa and pump house afternoon tea
We’ve covered some free things to do in Bath above; but if you’re looking for Bath date ideas, there’s nothing quite like the wonderful Bath thermae spa.
This spa is the only natural thermal spa in the country; it uses the same hot springs that the Romans discovered.
As well as two pools, there are a range of different steam rooms, and the option for many treatments (some which you can have as a couple).
The rooftop heated pool is probably the best part of the Bath thermae spa – it is kept at a warm temperature throughout the year, meaning that although it is outdoors, it is perfectly comfortable during winter.
After enjoying Bath Spa, you could venture to the nearby Pump House, where you can see the old Roman pump for the baths, try some spring water, and enjoy a traditional afternoon tea (vegetarian and gluten-free options available).
If you’re putting together a Bath itinerary, or just fancy a day out for a spa experience, visiting the Bath Thermae spa is a must!
Plymouth Gin Tour and Tamar Cruise
Are you a couple who like a drink? Plymouth Gin is one of the most interesting gin brands in the country, and you can learn all about it at the gin distillery!
A tour includes the history of Plymouth Gin – it is the oldest continuously running gin brand in the country – an explanation of the distilling process, samples of different gins and a complimentary drink in their gin bar.
You could also opt for a special gin experience, which includes making gin yourself!
Exploring the Tamar is another one of the best things to do in Plymouth. This river separates Cornwall and Devon and has been historically significant throughout the centuries. You can take a Tamar cruise to see the sites of the river and learn about its history.
Stand Up Paddleboarding date in Bristol, Plymouth, Exmouth – and lots of other places!
There are plenty of places where you can go stand up paddleboarding in South West England – and you don’t even need to be close to the sea! If you’re putting together a Bristol itinerary for a day, you could take a lesson paddleboarding on the River Avon.
There are also stand up paddleboarding opportunities at the end of the River Exe in Exmouth, various places in Plymouth, and some of the calmer waters in North Devon and on the Jurassic Coast.
Paddleboarding is a really fun activity that you can do as a couple, especially if you’re adventurous types!
Lundy Island is a rugged island off the shore of North Devon. It is one of the most unique day trips in South West England; you can do a boat day trip to Lundy Island from Ilfracombe or Bideford.
There’s a range of unique wildlife on Lundy Island; you can go snorkelling with seals, spot puffins and other birdlife, and take a look for wild ponies while you’re hiking!
It’s also got a distinct history and a rather tumultuous past – you can take a ranger tour to learn about this.
Are you an outdoorsy couple? Why not learn how to forage? Foreadventure do various foraging tours in Dorset.
You can choose a variety of other activities too, including kayaking, bushcraft, and snorkelling.
Foraging includes hiking along the coast and learning about edible seaweeds and other sea products, as well as exploring the forest and learning about edible leaves and fungi.
Hike or Cycle from Bath to Bristol or Bradford on Avon
If you live near Bath, Bristol, or Bradford on Avon, you can explore the cycle path between them.
This stretch is 26 miles (13 miles between Bristol and Bath, and 13 miles between Bath and Bradford on Avon), and as you hike or cycle along, you’ll enjoy the jolly canal boats, pubs dotting the trail, and beautiful flora and fauna.
It’s one of the cheapest days out in South West for couples, and is a wonderful way to spend a spring or summer’s day!
Lands End Attractions
One of the best places to visit in South West England is without a doubt west Cornwall. You’ll only be able to enjoy this as a day trip if you’re already in Cornwall (Lands End is still around 2 hours drive from Plymouth), but it’s an epic spot.
Lands End is the southernmost point of the UK, and nearby you can enjoy the coastal Minack Theatre, the epic island St Micheal’s Mount, the Levant Mine, the picturesque visit of Mousehole and the popular tourist town of St Ives.
If you have a car, you can travel to all of these destinations in a day and enjoy one of the most unique parts of the country.
Hot Air Balloon Ride in Bristol
Riding in a hot air balloon is one of the most unique things to do in Bristol. The Bristol balloon fiesta occurs in August each year, when the sky is dotted with various hot air balloons.
You can also take to the skies in them yourself, and this is one of the most romantic things to do in the South West.
Bristol Balloons have several group flights a week from Ashton Court, with shared balloons costing £135 and exclusive baskets costing from £325 – it’s obviously not cheap, but it’s definitely one of the best things to do in South West England!
Family days out in South West England
If you’re visiting with little ones, there are plenty of options for family days out in South West England.
From theme parks to sports to educational museums, there are lots of activities that families will enjoy in this part of the country. Here are some of the best places to visit in South West England with kids!
Fossil Hunting on the Jurassic Coast
As the name suggests, the Jurassic Coast dates back from the Jurassic era, due to the ancient rocks that that have been found along the coast. However, there are also fossils from. the Triassic and Cretaceous periods.
Fossil hunting along this coastline is a wonderful family friendly activity. Charmouth and Lyme Regis are some of the easiest places to go fossil hunting in Dorset.
However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to go with a guide first. Visit the Lyme Regis Museum or the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, which offer regular guided walks along the coast.
The Wookey Hole Show Caves are one of the best days out in South West England for families.
With one ticket, you can explore the caves and 20 other attractions, including the Dinosaur Valley, Pirates of the River Axe and the Wizard’s Play Castle.
There is something at Wookey Hole for all ages, but it is particularly suitable for younger children.
Weston Super Mare Attractions
While not the best beach in the region, Weston Super Mare reigns supreme when it comes to family-friendly activities.
Its famous pier has everything from fairground rides to candyfloss stalls, all with the backdrop of the Somerset coastline. There’s often live music from local and nationally famous musicians too.
Weston Super Mare is one of the longest naturally occuring beaches in the UK, so there’s plenty of sand for other beachy activities!
We the curious and SS Great Britain in Bristol
Bristol has some excellent museums that are great for people of all ages, including kids. We The Curious is Bristol’s science museum, with some fantastic interactive exhibits.
The SS Great Britain is great for older kids – as well as a museum about the boat itself and its engineer Brunel, the ship has been renovated to replicate it as a migrant clipper.
If you’re looking for more family-orientated museums, Bath is just a 13 minute train ride from Bristol (see my post on how to get to Bath for more information!) and has the world-class Roman Baths, which is one of the best ways to learn about Roman history in the country.
Surfing on the northern coast of Devon or Cornwall
There are plenty of beautiful places to visit in North Devon and Cornwall, including dozens of striking beaches.
The waters on these beaches are excellent for surfing – which is one of the best things to do in South West England if you have older, sporty kids!
From Woolacombe in North Devon to Newquay in Cornwall, there are plenty of surf schools with lesson suitable for children and adults.
Visit the English Riviera and its range of attractions
The English Riviera, which is also called Torbay and consists of the towns of Torquay, Paignton, Babbacombe and Brixham, has some of the best family attractions in the South West.
If your kids are adventurous, they might want to try some of the rides on the historic Paignton Pier. There’s also Kents Cavern, which are a network of Prehistoric caves.
In Babbacombe, there is the Babbacombe Cliff Railway and Babbacombe Model Village. In Torquay there are some beautiful gardens, and of course there are plenty of beaches throughout the whole area, with lots of watersports opportunities.
The Eden Project
The Eden Project is one of the best day trips South West England has to offer. It consists of two large biomes, one which replicates a tropical rainforest inside and one which replicates a Mediterranean climate.
At the Eden Project, you’ll be able to walk through the jungle, enjoy Mediterranean flora and explore a Cornish garden.
There’s lots of information about all of the climates at the Eden Project, so it’s great for walking around slowly to absorb all of the information.
If you’re looking for places to visit in South West England with kids (although it’s great for adults too!), it’s a great option that is day tripp-able from Cornwall destinations, Plymouth, and Exeter.
Cornish Seal Sanctuary
In the small village of Gweek is the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. Gweek is quite far west in Cornwall, but if you are on a holiday in Cornwall it is an excellent option.
The seal sanctuary rescues injured seals and nurses them back to health, before releasing them into the wild. Occasionally, the seals are too sick or injured to be released, but they are offered a permanent home at the sanctuary.
Sometimes, you can see rescued seals at the hospital and you can also go to the pools to see the seals who live there. There are also penguins and sea lions, who have been offered a home here after being injured elsewhere.
It’s one of the best day trips in South West England if you have kids, but it’s great for adults too!
Devon and Cornwall Adventure Parks
Because Devon and Cornwall are popular with tourists, there are a variety of small theme parks in the counties.
The Milky Way Adventure Park is the largest theme park in North Devon, located near Clovelly, all with a galactic theme. On the Cosmic Typhoon Rollercoaster there are spectacular views of both Exmoor and Dartmoor.
In South Devon, there’s Crealy. This theme park has the most rides in Devon, and it’s especially good for younger children.
Helston in Cornwall has Flambards Adventure Park, which has plenty of rides and rollercoasters suitable for all ages!
Visiting Stonehenge is a unique experience in the UK for both children and adults. Close to Bath and Bristol, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a great place to learn about Britain’s ancient history.
There’s a small exhibition close to the stone circle, which is great to help children get an education in the topic. During school holidays, they have special activities and events for children.
Best things to do in South West England
Whether you’re looking for cheap places to visit in South West England, attractions with kids, or things to do in South West England as a couple, this comprehensive list should have given you some inspiration!
I have plenty of posts about all of these places on the blog, so do stay and browse for more information, and feel free to follow my Facebook page for daily South West England travel updates!