The West Country: Places to Explore


  • Beer

    Beer, just outside Seaton, was once a favorite smugglers' haunt, and this fishing village has remained fairly unchanged. It was the source of the white stone used for numerous Devon churches, Exeter Cathedral... Read more

  • Bodmin

    Bodmin was the only Cornish town recorded in the 11th-century Domesday Book, William the Conqueror's census. During World War I, the Domesday Book and the Crown Jewels were sent to Bodmin Prison for safekeeping... Read more

  • Boscastle

    In tranquil Boscastle, some of the stone-and-slate cottages at the foot of the steep valley date from the 1300s. A good place to relax and walk, the town is centered on a little harbor and set snug within... Read more

  • Bristol

    The West Country's biggest city (population 430,000), Bristol has in recent years become one of the country's most vibrant centers, with a thriving cultural scene encompassing some of the best contemporary... Read more

  • Chagford

    Once a tin-weighing station, Chagford was an area of fierce fighting between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers during the English Civil War. Although officially a "town" since 1305, Chagford is more of... Read more

  • Clovelly

    Lovely Clovelly always seems to have the sun shining on its flower-lined cottages and stepped and cobbled streets. Alas, its beauty is well known, and day-trippers can overrun the village in summer. Perched... Read more

  • Dartmoor National Park

  • Dartmouth

    An important port in the Middle Ages, Dartmouth is today a favorite haunt of yacht owners. Traces of its past include the old houses in Bayard's Cove at the bottom of Lower Street, where the Mayflower made... Read more

  • Dunster

    Lying between the Somerset coast and the edge of Exmoor National Park, Dunster is a picture-book village with a broad main street. The eight-sided yarn-market building on High Street dates from 1589.... Read more

  • Exeter

    Exeter has been the capital of the region since the Romans established a fortress here 2,000 years ago. Evidence of the Roman occupation remains in the city walls. Although it was heavily bombed in 1942... Read more

  • Exmoor National Park

    When you're headed to Exmoor National Park, stop by the visitor information centers at Dulverton, Dunster, and Lynmouth for information and maps. Guided walks, many of which have themes (archaeology, for... Read more

  • Falmouth

    The bustle of this resort town's fishing harbor, yachting center, and commercial port only adds to its charm. In the 18th century Falmouth was the main mail-boat port for North America, and in Flushing... Read more

  • Fowey

    Nestled in the mouth of a wooded estuary, Fowey (pronounced Foy) is still very much a working china-clay port as well as a focal point for the sailing fraternity. Increasingly, it's also a favored home... Read more

  • Glastonbury

    A town steeped in history, myth, and legend, Glastonbury lies in the lea of Glastonbury Tor, a grassy hill rising 520 feet above the drained marshes known as the Somerset Levels. The Tor is supposedly... Read more

  • Land's End

    The coastal road, B3306, ends at the western tip of Britain at what is, quite literally, Land's End.... Read more

  • Launceston

    Cornwall's ancient capital, Launceston, on the eastern side of Bodmin Moor, retains parts of its medieval walls, including the South Gate.... Read more

  • Lizard Peninsula

    The southernmost point on mainland Britain, this peninsula is a government-designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, named so for the rocky, dramatic coast rather than the flat and boring interior... Read more

  • Lydford Gorge

  • Lynton and Lynmouth

    A steep hill separates this pretty pair of Devonshire villages, which are linked by a Victorian cliff railway you can still ride. Lynmouth, a fishing village at the bottom of the hill, crouches below 1,000-foot-high... Read more

  • Mousehole

    Between Land's End and Penzance, Mousehole (pronounced mow-zel, the first syllable rhyming with "cow") merits a stop—and plenty of people do stop—to see this archetypal Cornish fishing village of tiny... Read more

  • Newquay

    The biggest, most developed resort on the north Cornwall coast is a fairly large town established in 1439. It was once the center of the trade in pilchards (a small herringlike fish), and on the headland... Read more

  • Okehampton

    This town at the confluence of the rivers East and West Okement is a good base for exploring north Dartmoor. It has a fascinating museum dedicated to the moor, as well as a helpful tourist office.... Read more

  • Padstow

    A small fishing port at the mouth of the River Camel, Padstow attracts attention and visitors as a center of culinary excellence, largely because of the presence here since 1975 of pioneering seafood chef... Read more

  • Penzance

    Superb views over Mount's Bay are one lure of this popular, unpretentious seaside resort. Even though it does get very crowded in summer, Penzance makes a good base for exploring the area. The town's isolated... Read more

  • Perranporth

    Past the sandy shores of Perran Bay, Perranporth is one of Cornwall's most popular seaside spots and becomes extremely busy in high season, though it's easier to escape the crowds here than in Newquay... Read more

  • Plymouth

    Devon's largest city has long been linked with England's commercial and maritime history. The Pilgrims sailed from here to the New World in the Mayflower in 1620. Although much of the city center was destroyed... Read more

  • Porlock

    Buried at the bottom of a valley, with the slopes of Exmoor all about, the small, unspoiled town of Porlock lies near "Doone Country," the setting for R. D. Blackmore's swashbuckling saga Lorna Doone.... Read more

  • Port Isaac

    A mixture of granite, slate, and whitewashed cottages tumbles precipitously down the cliff to the tiny harbor at Port Isaac, still dedicated to the crab-and-lobster trade. Low tide reveals a pebbly beach... Read more

  • St. Ives

    James McNeill Whistler came here to paint his landscapes, Barbara Hepworth to fashion her modernist sculptures, and Virginia Woolf to write her novels. Today sand, sun, and superb art continue to attract... Read more

  • St. Mawes

    At the tip of the Roseland Peninsula is the quiet, unspoiled village of St. Mawes, where subtropical plants thrive. The peninsula itself is a lovely backwater with old churches, a lighthouse, and good... Read more

  • Tavistock and Environs

    On the River Tavy, the ancient town of Tavistock historically owed its importance to its Benedictine abbey (dissolved by Henry VIII in the 16th century) and to its status as a stannary town, where tin... Read more

  • Tintagel

    The romance of Arthurian legend thrives around Tintagel's ruined castle on the coast. Ever since the somewhat unreliable 12th-century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth identified Tintagel as the home of... Read more

  • Topsham

    This small town, full of narrow streets and hidden courtyards, was once a bustling river port, and it remains rich in 18th-century houses and inns.... Read more

  • Torquay

    The most important resort area in South Devon, Torquay envisions itself as the center of the "English Riviera." Since 1968 the towns of Paignton and Torquay (pronounced tor-kee) have been amalgamated under... Read more

  • Totnes

    This busy market town on the banks of the River Dart preserves plenty of its medieval past, and on summer Tuesdays vendors dress in period costume for the Elizabethan Market. Market days are Friday and... Read more

  • Trelissick

    Trelissick is known for the colorful Trelissick Garden, owned by the National Trust.... Read more

  • Truro

    The county seat and Cornwall's only real city, Truro is a good option mostly for food and shopping, and for cathedral and museum buffs. For an overview of the Georgian houses, take a stroll down steep... Read more

  • Wells

    England's smallest cathedral city, with a population of 10,000, lies at the foot of the Mendip Hills. Although set in what feels like a quiet country town, the great cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic... Read more