The southwest region of England is picture-perfect, conforming to the stereotype many have of the English countryside with its rolling green hills, wild moors, quaint historic towns and rugged coastlines. It is no wonder that Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge drew inspiration from the area.
Devon and Cornwall, on the tip of Southwest England, boast some of the most spectacular and unspoilt scenery in the country. The south coast of Devon is known as the English Riviera, and in its major town, Plymouth, the famous naval docks are still home to the Royal Navy. It was here in 1588 that Sir Francis Drake finished his game of bowls before setting off to defeat the Spanish Armada. A few years later, in 1620, the Mayflower embarked from Plymouth to the New World carrying the original pilgrim settlers.
On the border with Cornwall, visitors will discover the rugged wilderness of Dartmoor National Park, where wild ponies and hikers roam freely across a dramatic landscape dotted with 'tors' and prehistoric remains. England's most south westerly county, Cornwall is a popular destination for British tourists drawn by the beautiful countryside and a craggy coastline pitted with small fishing villages and glorious white sandy beaches.
Southwest England is filled with fascinating sights and sounds, from small towns to vibrant cities, and from stately cathedrals to Neolithic sites, all set in the lush English countryside. The region is a must on any trip to the UK and visitors will not be disappointed.
No other site in England presents the viewer with such grandeur and mystery, nor sparks the imagination so much as this iconic circle of stones in Wiltshire, southwest England. Writers, adventurers, historians and conquerors have all tried to answer the question, 'Who built Stonehenge?', resulting in tales and fables of Druids, Merlin and King Arthur, ancient giants roaming the countryside, and a highly evolved prehistoric race of men. Yet the question of who, or indeed what, managed to drag several 20-ton stones more than 240 miles (386km) from North Wales across steep hills to be aligned with mathematical and astronomical precision 5,000 years ago remains unanswered. Stonehenge has recently had a huge revamp and now lures tourists with a magnificent Visitor's Centre. A must-see tourist sight in England, budget a full day to see Stonehenge properly. The stone circle is located just off the A303, 20 minutes' drive from Salisbury.
The Eden Project's aim is to examine the ways in which human beings interact with their environment, with a special focus on the plant world, in order to develop new ways of sustainable development by spearheading new conservation methods. Owned by a charity called the Eden Trust, the project consists of several specially-created conservatories - the largest in the world - built into a giant crater in Cornwall. The Eden Project is more than a theme park, as it presents visitors with an opportunity to explore the plant kingdom, and to examine our dependence on it. The park also hosts concerts during the summer, with top international acts regularly featuring on the bill. The Eden Project is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK, outside of London, and is well worth a visit.
The city of Salisbury is dominated by the spire of its famous cathedral, the tallest in England at 404 feet (123m). Started in 1220, the cathedral was completed in 1258, and the Spire added a few years later. Built to reflect the glory of God in stone and glass, this majestic and awe-inspiring church has been a setting for many great occasions in its 775-year history. The grounds of the cathedral contain many notable houses, which are open to the public. Mompesson House is a perfectly-preserved 18th-century home, and Malmesbury House was once the sanctuary of King Charles II, fleeing the Battle of Worcester in the 17th century. Salisbury Cathedral is one of England's greatest old churches and historic pilgrimage sites and is well worth a visit for tourists.
Penzance is home to much more than Gilbert and Sullivan's famous pirates, though it has a long association with the arts and continues to be a centre for art and music in Cornwall. Originally a market and fishing town, Penzance has a bustling harbour area with a Victorian promenade that features an art deco open-air swimming pool. Although many of the historic buildings in Penzance have been pulled down, there are still worthwhile sights like the Egyptian House, St Mary's Church, and the Union Hotel. Morrab Gardens are a pleasant setting to spend an afternoon in good weather. Penzance is also beautifully situated in a region with bucket-loads of natural charm.
Attracting about 500,000 visitors a year, southwest England's spectacular Cheddar Gorge makes a wonderful daytrip destination, guaranteed to delight lovers of the great outdoors. The limestone gorge, located at the southern end of the Mendip Hills, near the village of Cheddar in Somerset, has been named Britain's 'second-greatest natural wonder' (after the Dan yr Ogof caves in Wales), and plays host to a variety of attractions and activities.
For the cost of admission, visitors gain access to the exciting Cliff-Top Gorge Walk; the spellbinding Gough's Cave, full of stalactites and stalagmites; and the Museum of Prehistory, where the oldest skeleton in Britain - the 'Cheddar Man', who is believed to be about 9,000 years old - can be viewed. There's also a thrilling Crystal Quest feature, which is sure to delight the young ones, consisting of a cave filled with models of mythical and magical beings. A highly recommended tourist attraction, Cheddar Gorge makes a wonderful day excursion for visitors to southwest England.
The largest festival of music in the United Kingdom, and one of the most famous music festivals in the world, Glastonbury sees well over 175,000 people in attendance each year. The biggest names in music attract weekenders and day visitors to the notoriously muddy fields outside the town of Glastonbury. The festival has a rich heritage and much to see and do aside from the excellent live acts, with arts and crafts, comedy and cabaret. The festivities usually take place over the last weekend in June. Past performers at Glastonbury include a stunning array of famous acts and the line-up is guaranteed to be impressive every year. For more information check out the official website listed below.
The gorgeous natural scenery ensures that visitors to Southwest England are often content to ramble along rugged cliff walks on the coast or explore the wild moors of the region for the majority of their holiday. This appreciation of some of the country's most breathtaking and beloved landscapes is best interspersed with visits to quaint coastal villages and cosy pubs, especially in Devon and Cornwall.
Southwest England is also home to some fascinating historical sites, including the legendary Stonehenge and the mysterious Avebury Stone Circle, both in Wiltshire, as well as dozens of slightly younger abbeys and cathedrals, including the beautiful Salisbury Cathedral. The dramatic cliff-top castle ruin of Tintagel also draws many visitors, at least partly because popular legend decrees that it is the birthplace of King Arthur.
Since 1970, the Glastonbury Festival has drawn thousands of music lovers to a farm just outside the town of Glastonbury in Somerset to enjoy hundreds of top artists, as well as theatre, comedy, artwork and more. While best known for its music festivals and cheddar cheese, Somerset also boasts sites such as the Exmoor National Park and Cheddar Gorge with its myriad caves. The region supplies visitors with numerous opportunities for cultural, historic, gastronomic and outdoor activities and experiences to suit a multitude of interests.
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