England‘s West Country is hard to define. While it is the perfect mix of city exploration and rural retreat, exactly what slice of the South West it covers is open to debate.
Purists tend to agree that the West Country covers the counties of Devon and Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, and England’s second-largest city, Bristol. Others would add Wiltshire and Gloucestershire to the mix, and with it the lush and rolling hills of the Cotswolds.
Whatever your beliefs, one thing you can be sure about on a visit to the West Country is a trip of contrasts.
The port city of Bristol has long been a centre of bustling trade and commerce, revitalised by its architectural feats and now enjoying a cultural renaissance thanks to a mix of musicians and artists who call it home.
Look out for graffiti artist Banksy’s wall art on a walk around the city – named the first Green Capital of Europe for 2015 - or even take one of the many tours.
If it’s great restaurants you are after Bristol offers culinary delights from around the globe, and make sure you check out its annual Foodies Festival in June.
Devon & Cornwall
Once famous for fishing and farming, today the neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall rely more on tourism. Devon‘s cities of Exeter and Plymouth draw visitors keen on exploring the areas‘ historical heritage while its coastal walks and gardens are popular with families, making for a great place for some rural reflection.
The bustling Cornish town of Newquay is a Mecca for younger visitors keen to take advantage of the favourable surf and nightlife, while it also regularly records the warmest coastline temperatures in Cornwall.
The Eden Project showcases many plant species which couldn’t otherwise grow here; citrus trees and exotic cacti are on show underneath the site’s biomes.
Somerset & Dorset
Once the nation’s cider capital, Somerset has retained many of its apple orchards and continues to thrive as a centre of agriculture.
The Quantocks and the Mendip Hills provide many visitors with the scenic drives they crave; both officially-designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty dominated by the majestic oak and limestone hill.
The seaside resort of Bournemouth is a Dorset highlight as a traditional seaside destination for British families, while a 90-minute drive up the A350 to Frome provides many an artistic experience particularly during festival season, when the town’s galleries and theatres open their doors to more mainstream activity.
Whatever your reason for visiting the West Country, you’ll find the best way to explore is by car so you can take in the contrasting cityscapes, glorious British countryside and close-knit communities. We have locations across the region, including at Bristol Airport.