As you might be able to guess from the name of this blog, I’m obsessed with all things West Country.
I’ve lived in Bristol, Bath and now reside in Devon, not too far from Dorset, and half of my family are from Cornwall. I’ve also worked in Wiltshire and Somerset.
So you could say I’m a bit biased – but I am actually originally from London, the rest of my family hail from the Midlands and I’ve spent a great deal of time travelling around the UK.
And for me, there’s nothing quite like the West Country.
Nature, beaches and culture converge to create a compelling landscape that’s constantly whispering stories – from the Hairy Hands in Dartmoor or the Mermaid of Zennor in West Cornwall.
The food scene is rich and hearty and cider is aplenty.
So, here’s exactly why I think South West England is the best part of the UK (if you disagree, gentle debate is of course welcome!).
Reasons to visit South West England
From beaches to community spirit, here are some reasons why I think South West England is the best in the country!
Unmatched Coastal Beauty
If there’s a hill I will die on, it’s that Cornish beaches are not overrated, they are the best in the UK and there’s a reason why they’re so popular.
But that said, many of my favourite beaches in Cornwall aren’t the most popular ones. Poly Joke, Nanjizal, Gwithian, to name a few.
Brilliantly blue crashing Atlantic waves collide with golden sands in the north and in the south, elegant bays sprawl lazily along the calmer coastline, dotted with palm trees.
There are many, many Cornish beaches that make me think I’m somewhere much more tropical.
But Devon has plenty to offer when it comes to beaches too – in fact, it’s the only UK county with two coastlines.
Like Cornwall, the North has the more dramatic coves and rugged coastline, whereas the South is more sheltered, with exotic plants and larger bays.
Exmouth Beach (where I live, lucky me!) has a wonderful combination of epic scenery and plenty of activities. Plus, it’s the official start of the Jurassic Coast.
The Jurassic Coast is the only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in England and yes, it’s in the South West too! It spans 95 miles from Orcombe Point near Exmouth to Studland Bay in Dorset.
The coastline is 60 – 250 million years old, consisting of layers from the Triassic, Jurassic and Mesozoic eras.
You’ll find fossils aplenty, but also beautiful orange, white and brown cliffs and sandy and pebbled beaches. Take a look at my full Jurassic Coast guide for more information.
While we’ve got enough beaches to last you all year, there’s a tremendous amount of other nature in the West Country too.
I’m talking moorland, hills, waterfalls, rivers, lakes… every inch of this part of the UK just beckons outdoor explorers.
The South West Coast Path is the largest national trail in the country – 630 miles of cliffs, beaches and glorious, glorious coastline – and then there’s Dartmoor (the largest National Park in England) which is home to lush temperate rainforest, Exmoor which peters down to the sea, the Mendip Hills, the glorious Quantocks (inspiration for Coleridge) and the ominous Salisbury Plain over in Wiltshire.
Go surfing on the beaches in Cornwall, paddleboard in South Devon’s calmer waters, SCUBA dive in Plymouth or Falmouth, cycle on its network of trails or go wild camping on Dartmoor – it’s the only place in England and Wales that it’s permitted.
It’s easy to get lost in the West Country’s nature, but there’s strong culture and heritage here too.
It’s most present in Cornwall, where the black and white St Piran’s Cross flags fly proudly and Celtic culture thrives, with a revival of its ancient language and traditions like hurling and the ‘Obby ‘Oss Festival in Padstow.
But there’s plenty of culture to relish in further east in the West Country too. In Devon, we have the bizarre Ottery St Mary Tar Barrels tradition, Gloucester has cheese rolling and Somerset has the quirky town of Glastonbury (there’s so much more there than just the festival!).
Wonderful Historical Sites
While the South West has always been a more rural place, that’s not to say that there’s no history here.
In fact, quite the contrary. There’s the aforementioned Celtic history, Roman stories, ancient stone circles (you’ve heard of Stonehenge, right?), elegant cathedrals, stories of smugglers and plenty of pirates!
Some of the UK’s most famous historical tourist attractions are in the South West – Stonehenge, the fabled stone circle that nobody’s really sure how it got there and the Roman Baths in the Somerset city of Bath, to name a couple.
Head down into Cornwall, and tuck into a meal at an inn that was once famous for being a smuggling haunt, or explore huge stately homes like Lanhydrock.
Visit Exeter Cathedral, one of the most beautiful in the country, or learn about Plymouth’s Naval History, plus its connections to the Mayflower Ship and the Spanish Armarda!
British food hasn’t got the best reputation all over the world, and I must say, I much prefer the flavours of Mexican, Thai or Lebanese. However, there are plenty of British dishes that hail right from here, South West England!
Take scones for example. A baked good sliced in half, and served with cream first if you’re in Devon, jam first if you’re in Cornwall (make sure you get that right!).
Of course, the Cornish pasty hails from Cornwall – it can only be called “Cornish” if it was actually made in the Duchy – and it consists of beef, turnip, potato and onion. There are debated amongst Devonites about where the original pasty actually came from, though! (As a Devon local with a long line of Cornish ancestry, I have to stay out of these disputes).
Of course, those epic beaches mean that seafood’s in abundance, particularly in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.
Drinks-wise, nowhere does cider like Somerset and South West England’s wine scene has been thriving in recent years. I love Lily Farm Vineyard near Budleigh Salterton in East Devon.
Sunny, Mild Weather
Now, I’m not saying that the South West is tropical or anything, but it’s generally a lot milder than the rest of the country!
We don’t have the freezing temperatures of the Scottish Highlands or the icy chill that often grips London in the winter.
In the summer, we don’t get as many heatwaves as elsewhere in the South of England (due to our maritime climate), but we often have bright, sunny days (if not on one coastline, on the other!).
We do get our fair share of storms, wind and rain too… but they have their beauty as well!
One of the reasons I love living in Devon is the strong community vibes. People are proud of their town and keen to chat with other locals and visitors.
I’ll often stop to have a 10-minute conversation with cafe owners and bartenders, which just doesn’t happen in London.
There are so many community events, festivals and things to do, including beach cleans, walking groups and outdoor activities!
While this is best for those living in the West Country, there’s no reason why visitors can’t engage in our friendly community too!
Attractions and things to do for all ages
Thanks to South West England’s tourist scene, there are tonnes of attractions here – whether you’re a local or visitor, young or old, you’ll find something to do.
In Cornwall we have the Eden Project, home to the world’s largest captive rainforest, the epic St Michael’s Mount and, of course, Land’s End Landmark Attraction which is the furthest South West point of the UK.
In Devon, you’ll find plenty of family-friendly things to do in Torbay (including Bygones Museum, Babbacombe Model Village and Splashdown Quaywest Waterpark), the Seaton Tramway and the glorious Dartmouth Steam Railway.
Whatever your tastes, you’ll never be bored in South West England.
So that’s why I love the West Country!
Of course, while I’m a proud South West England-er, there are plenty of draws to other parts of the UK too – but for me, the combination of all these factors makes it the best place to be in the country.
What do you think? Feel free to join the discussion (respectfully, please) on Facebook!