South-west England stretches from Gloucestershire and Wiltshire to Somerset then south to Dorset, then westward through Devon to Landís End in Cornwall.
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It includes the national parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor and the cities of Bristol, Bournemouth, Exeter and Plymouth.
Most of the area borders on the coasts of the English and Bristol channels and the Atlantic ocean. Along the coast are historic fishing villages and seaside resorts, once the haunt of pirates and smugglers.
Englandís most famous prehistoric monument, Stonehenge, is in the county of Wiltshire. Avebury Stone Circle is another of many of the countyís prehistoric sites. Salisbury cathedralís spire attracts admirers. Historic homes include Longleat and Wilton House and the landscaped grounds of Stourhead. The perfectly preserved 18th century village of Lacock along with its abbey attracts visitors by the hordes so go early.
Gloucestershire lies partly in the Cotswolds, partly in the Royal Forest of Dean, and also in the Severn valley. You can spend a week just roaming around the villages of the Cotswolds and their churches. Scenes from Harry Potter were filmed at Gloucester cityís cathedral. Gardens, Roman remains, and grand homes add to the countyís mix of attractions. Unusual attractions in the county are Sezincote, Snowshill Manor, and Woodchester mansion.
Glastonbury, in Somerset has interesting abbey ruins. Donít miss the historic town of Dunster, complete with castle and priory church and the unique Wells cathedral.
Part of Exmoor National Park lies in the county. Probably the most famous town in the county is Bath with its World Heritage Site, the Roman Spa.
Dorset provides walks along its heritage coast, scenic beaches, and a castle high on a hilltop in the historic village of Corfe. Two other interesting historic towns are Shaftesbury and Sherborne, both with abbeys. Sherborne has two castles to visit. Abbotsbury Swannery is a unique attraction. Go when itís swan hatching time.
Devon is home to Dartmoor National Park and part of Exmoor National Park. Thus it has much to offer in the way of stunning scenery from Dartmoorís lonely moors and tucked away villages to Exmoorís dramatic coast. The villages of Lynton and Lynmouth, and Clovelly are must visits. Garden lovers will want to visit the Royal Horticultural Societyís garden at Great Torrington. Seaside resorts are popular. The county has a number of historic homes and castles. Exeter has a cathedral.
Cornwall is a county of literature and legend, from Daphne du Maurierís Jamaica Inn to Tintagel castle. Here are prehistoric sites, the Lizard peninsula and Landís End. The milder coastal climate allows a proliferation of gardens including Trevarno, Trewithen, Trebah, and the Eden Project. You wonít want to miss the Minack Theatre and its dramatic cliffside site or St Michaelís Mount on its own island.
Photos by Barbara Ballard. Reminder: all photos on the website are copyright and may not be used without written permission.