Yes, This Is England... The South West at Its Best

When people think of the West Country, they think of funny accents, cider and farmers. With good reason. But there’s also a load of reasons why the South West of England is the nation’s favourite holiday destination and one of the most beautiful places to live.

Life’s a beach. Heaven is a Cornish beach.

Having spent a lot of my youth on Cornish beaches I may be a bit biased here, but they are without a doubt the best beaches in the world. Hidden coves with turquoise waters and long expanses of golden sand stretching for miles. Top surf spots draw pros and enthusiasts from all over the world. Some of my personal favourite beaches are: Trebarwith strand, Polly Joke, Sennen cove and Pentire Steps. Got to be said though, the weather doesn’t always compare with the Caribbean. 

The Eden Project

In what used to be an old china clay pit, are now thousands and thousands of species of plants both outside and housed in the two massive biomes. One a tropical climate, the other a Mediterranean climate. It is one of the main tourist attractions in the Southwest as well as being a popular trip for local schools. 

Dartmoor

An area of moorland in Devon, famous for its beautiful landscapes and tors. A tor is basically a big hill with an outcrop of granite boulders on the top. The Dartmoor pony is a breed of horse native to the area, hardy animals that roam wild on the open land. Dartmoor is a great place for all sorts of outdoor activities; hiking, mountain biking, running (see below video), potholing, you can even go wild camping.


Run boy run! Train on Dartmoor with Immersion Fitness

Cheddar gorge

Set in the Mendip Hills near the village of Cheddar, Somerset is Cheddar gorge. A popular tourist destination with stunning cliffs and caves where prehistoric findings such as 9000 year old Cheddar Man have been discovered.

Land’s end

The most westerly point of England. 874 miles from John o’Groats, which is the most north-easterly point in Britain. Land’s End to John o’Groats is a popular route for races and charity fundraisers. I must admit I’ve never actually been there because apparently it’s turned into a bit of a tourist trap. £6 to park, £10 to get your photo taken at the sign. But if you’ve just cycled 874 miles to get there, it might be worth splashing out on a photo so you have some proof. 

land's end signpost

And which way to the nearest cash machine?

The Minack theatre

Just a few miles down the road from Land’s End is one of the world’s most spectacular theatres. It’s an open-air theatre (so be wary of the weather), perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It looks like something from Ancient Greece. 

Pasties and Cream teas

If you’re in the region, you won’t be able to escape these two local specialities. Firstly the Cream tea. This can either be a Devonshire cream tea, or a Cornish cream tea. A cream tea consists of tea, scones, clotted cream and jam. The Devon method is to cut the scone in half, spread the cream on each side and add a dollop of jam on top of the cream. The Cornish method is to cut the scone in half, spread the jam on each side and add a dollop of clotted cream on top. I’m from Devon, but I always do it the Cornish way. Controversial. Now the pasty. The Cornish pasty. A baked pastry filled with beef, potato, swede and onion. Centuries ago, pasties became popular with tin miners because they were a meal that could be carried down the mines easily and eaten without needing cutlery. The crimped side could be held and thrown away afterwards so their arsenic covered fingers didn’t touch what they were eating.

I’m from Devon, but I always do it the Cornish way.

Getting there and getting around

Country lanes weave their way across the Southwest, narrow and windy with tall hedges on either side, be careful of oncoming vehicles as there probably won’t be any room to pass. And you’ll have to be patient too; traffic in the summer when all the tourists are down can be a nightmare, and you’ll get stuck behind tractors, or even herds of sheep or Dartmoor ponies that wander on to the road and stand there like statues. Trains are generally quite expensive, but if you’re coming from London, the train to Penzance is worth taking. It’s a lovely scenic route especially the section after Exeter, make sure you get a seat on the right side of the train so you can fully enjoy it. The right side being the left side. The main airports in the region are Bristol, Exeter, Bournemouth and Newquay. There are also ferry links from Santander to Plymouth and Roscoff to Plymouth (£35 one way, you won't need a return). 

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About the author

Joseph

Leaving rainy Plymouth to move to cold and rainy Hamburg, Joseph has been trying to pronounce ridiculously long German words ever since. If he’s not drinking a cool Weizenbier he spends his time on his bike or reading books by the river. Now working as an intern at bab.la.