The Special Lure of the West Country.
Disclosure: Paid feature written in conjunction with Hotels.Com
Looking to escape to the country this summer? Head west – to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall for stunning beaches, pretty villages, great pubs and restaurants and amazing walks
Where would we recommend starting?
Of the three famous coastal counties, Dorset is the closest to London. With great beaches and a stunning Jurassic coastline, head for famous spots like Durdle Door or Lulworth Cove. if you want to try searching for fossils yourself. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to the outstanding geology – the rock formations date back 185 million years. There are charming seaside towns – Poole, Weymouth, Swanage and Bournemouth all have their own sandy beaches too so it’s easy enough to find somewhere to stay where you can walk to the beach for the day and enjoy the bars, restaurants and nightlife later on.
Inland Dorset is particularly beautiful. The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 40% of the county and the charming historic market towns include Dorchester, Blandford Forum, Shaftesbury, Sherborne and Wimborne Minster. This is Thomas Hardy land and you may just feel that you stepped into the set of Far From The Madding Crowd. Many of the places you’ll come across appear in Hardy’s novels, albeit with new names.
It’s definitely worth staying for a while in Dorset before you carry on exploring the West Country
Continue on to Devon. We particularly love the South Devon coastline, the area known as the English Riviera thanks to a unique microclimate that means this part of Devon gets more sunshine and is often warmer. Torquay, Paignton and Brixham are traditional seaside towns around an east-facing natural harbour, Torbay, it’s a popular tourist destination. Brixham is also home to England’s largest fish market – and you’ll find a wealth of excellent seafood restaurants in and around the area.
Agatha Christie grew up and spent much of her adult life in this part of the Country. You can visit her holiday home, Greenways, on the Dart estuary for a real insight into her life. There’s a heritage railway line that runs along the coast through Torquay, Paignton, Brixham and Dartmouth and the same company offers trips on a paddle steamer and by boat across the River Dart. Torquay itself has plenty of other fascinating insights into how the young Agatha’s mind was formed – from a poison garden to secluded coves where you can still bathe today while real Agatha fans will make their way to Burgh island, the location for two of her novels and home to the beach house which she used as a writers retreat.
Visiting Devon somehow evokes the perfect childhood seaside holiday. From sandy beaches to some of the best fish and chips in England, it’s definitely worth spending time staying in Devon in the West Country.
The southernmost tip of England, Cornwall is a peninsula with hundreds of sandy beaches, wild moorland and picturesque fishing villages. The North Cornish Coast runs from the pretty seaside town of Bude through to Tintagel, the seat of Cornish kings, dating back to the 5th century AD. It’s a beautiful spot and named by Geoffry of Monmouth as the place where King Arthur was conceived. Further along the coast, you’ll find famous surfing beaches – Polzeath, Fistral at Newquay and Porthmeor at St Ives for example. And, there are plenty of pretty fishing villages, including Port Isaac, perhaps best known for the TV series Doc Martin and Padstow, the home of TV chef Rick Stein whose restaurants are scattered across the county.
Once you reach the tip of the peninsula, you’ll have found Lands End – the furthest south you can go on mainland Britain. Though, across the water, you might just be able to spot the Scilly Isles. Back along the southern coastline, you’ll find a plethora of quaint villages and harbours. Stop awhile in Fowey and watch time go by.
A few miles inland you’ll find the famous Eden Project. There are two biomes, the larger covers 3.9 acres and is 55m high. It’s used for tropical plants including banana, coffee, rubber and bamboo. The smaller biome is 35 m high and covers 1.6 acres – it houses Mediterranean plants – olives and vines for example, together with various sculptures. The Eden Project is also home to the longest zip wire in the UK. In fact, the microclimate of Cornwall has resulted in some stunning gardens that are open to the public, like the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trewidden and Tresco Abbey Gardens. And, of course, if you prefer a wilder open space, Bodmin Moor beckons.
Once you’ve started to explore Cornwall you may never want to leave.
Spoilt for choice, this is just a brief overview of three stunning West Country counties worth exploring this summer. En route, you’ll find plenty more to do – check out our feature about day trips to the West Country for a few ideas. Make sure you take your swimming costume and plenty of sunscreen. And, prepare to fall in love with England’s wonderful West Country