The South West of England has been a popular holiday destination for many years. Whether it’s the classic resorts of Paignton and Torquay on the ‘English Riviera‘ or the rugged beauty of Exmoor and the cliffs of North Devon. It’s easy to see why Somerset, Devon and Cornwall remain so popular.
However, with the gain in popularity of the staycation, the South West can sometimes feel a little crowded. Especially during the summer months around the quaint villages of Cornwall. Not so long ago, tourism was very limited outside of the summer season. With many places closing for the winter, it was a case of “Last one out turn off the lights”.
Luckily for us, this is no longer the situation. With the rise of the area’s popularity, the season is much longer than it used to be. More and more places are actually opening all year round. Although the weather may not be as warm, the villages, bays and beaches are much quieter. There’s less traffic and parking is so much easier. Also, if you’re a surfer those winter swells can be classic!
The standard and choices of accommodation are so much better than they used to be. During the winter, there is nothing better than sitting in the warmth of a luxury coastal cottage or apartment, while the wind and sea roar outside. One of the best UK trips away we had was in St Ives during January!
Getting there can mean a long drive for many people but instead of just driving straight down to Cornwall. It may be worth breaking up the drive and stopping at some interesting places in Somerset and Devon. Or even basing yourself somewhere different such as one of our favourites, the North Devon coast.
So in no particular order, here are some of our favourite places to visit in the South West Of England.
The most famous tourist destination in Somerset is Bath and it tends to be busy all year round. If you haven’t been then it is definitely worth visiting. However, if you are looking for somewhere new to stop on the way down to the South West then why not give the little market town of Frome a try.
The historic town of Frome is only 15 miles from the centre of Bath close to the Mendip Hills. It is packed with historic buildings and independent shops as well as many crafts and art galleries.
Frome is also close to the city of Wells with its magnificent cathedral and the quirky town of Glastonbury.
On the way back to the M5 make sure you take a drive through the Mendip Hills and the incredible Cheddar Gorge. Britain’s biggest gorge and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Lynton, Lynmouth And Exmoor
We live directly across the Bristol Channel from Lynton, Lynmouth and Exmoor. It’s only 17 miles across the water and we can see them clearly when there’s no mist or low cloud. Unfortunately, we don’t have a boat so when we do visit it’s about a 3-hour drive.
The town of Lynton sits on top of the cliff and Lynmouth with its pretty harbour sits at the bottom. At the confluence of the East Lyn and West Lyn rivers. The two towns are connected by the famous Lynton & Lynmouth cliff railway built in 1888. It’s the steepest fully water-powered Victorian railway in the world.
Lynmouth can get busy during the summer period but out of season, it is much quieter, we didn’t have to wait long to catch the cliff railway back up to Lynton.
Lynton and Lynmouth are also situated on the northern edge of Exmoor National Park. This makes them a perfect base from which to explore the park. The area is especially popular with walkers of all standards as there are a wide variety of routes from the more accessible to the longer, South West Coast Path and the Coleridge Way.
While walking, don’t forget to look out for the Exmoor ponies. A native breed of hardy ponies which roam the moors of Somerset and Devon.
Instow And Appledore
Another pair of quiet little towns on the North Devon coast are Instow and Appledore. They lie opposite each other on the estuary where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet. The area is perfect if you want to get away from the stress of everyday life. Even in the quiet season when the weather may not be the best, just sit in the warmth of the pub and watch the storm rage outside.
Falmouth is another great Cornish holiday destination in summer but it’s an incredible place to visit during the winter season too. The crowds are gone and you can walk the Cornish coast and beaches in peace. If you want to do something less energetic are escape the weather. The interesting National Maritime Museum in Falmouth is just one of the attractions in Cornwall which are open all year round. They have 15 galleries exploring the influence of the sea on the history and culture of Cornwall.
As mentioned, we had one of our best UK breaks in St Ives during January. Yes, many places are closed for the winter but there is enough open to enjoy including many restaurants and cafes.
As you’ve probably seen in TV images from last summer, this part of Cornwall can get very busy. Although the G7 summit in Carbis Bay didn’t help. During the winter months, the narrow roads are free from traffic so getting around and parking is so much easier. Also, you get the beaches and bays virtually to yourself.
So if you are looking to escape the crowds, enjoy the stunning coastline and countryside and are not too fussed about the weather. Then visiting the South West counties of England is definitely for you. Whether it’s for a long weekend or a week or two.