Beautiful beaches, dramatic moorlands and some of the best weather in the UK, the South West of England is an understandably popular choice for family holidays.
Venture through underground caves at Cheddar Gorge, walk in Roman footsteps in Bath, or Bronze Age steps at Stonehenge, and catch some waves on a beautiful Cornish beach.
In the South West of England, there’s so much to see and do — the trouble is fitting it all in!
If you’re looking at a family staycation in the West Country and around, these are the highlights...
4 must-see sights in the South West of England
1. Cheddar Gorge
On the outskirts of Cheddar (which gave its name to the cheese), you’ll find Cheddar Gorge, the largest gorge in the UK. Climb Jacob’s Ladder and scale the lookout tower to get spectacular Somerset views.
And for little ones less likely to be wowed by the scenery, there’s adventure to be found underground. The atmospheric caverns and chambers of Gough’s Cave, along with stories of its Stone Age inhabitants, make this an exciting South West destination for all ages.
2. The Roman city of Bath
The elegant spa town of Bath, with its honey-coloured Georgian architecture, is well worth a family visit. Stroll the streets, take a punt down the river or delve into ancient history at the Roman Baths — complete with characters in traditional costume, ready to tell kids the grizzly truth of life in Roman Britain!
Whatever you choose to do, you’ll find beautiful buildings and historic vistas at every turn.
3. Dartmoor National Park
The wild heathlands of Dartmoor National Park — where you might catch a glimpse of wild Dartmoor ponies — are an experience not to be missed. Mountain biking, climbing and white water kayaking are all on the menu for outdoor adventurers.
And if you prefer to take things at a slower pace, there are moderate hiking trails that reveal Bronze Age stone circles and ruined medieval farmhouses, along with legends about Dartmoor ghosts, pixies and witchcraft.
4. St Michael’s Mount
Visit the legendary home of Cornish giant, Cormoran, and take the magical walk across the causeway at low tide to reach St Michael’s Mount. Once you’ve explored the castle on the mount and learnt all about its history (assisted by kid-friendly activity sheets), head to the shore for a spot of rock pooling.
Finish up the day at a nearby pub, with a pint of local “cyder” — and a non-alcoholic version for the little ones — and enjoy the delicious taste of homegrown quality.
5 must-do family activities in the South West of England
1. Surf crystal clear seas, and epic waves, in Cornwall
Cornwall has over 300 beaches and some of the best surf in the country. With plenty of day schools offering classes for both beginners and seasoned wave riders, there’s no excuse not to give it a try.
Widemouth Bay, in Bude, North Cornwall, is a great spot for newbie surfers. While those with a few year’s experience will find Porthtowan Beach more of an exciting challenge.
Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, too!
2. Meet the monkeys
At Monkey World - Ape Rescue Centre in Dorset, you’ll find lots of different primate species. Chimpanzees, orangutans, capuchins and lemurs are just some of the creatures who call this place home.
Get up close to our closest animal relatives and join daily keepers’ talks to get insight into life at the monkey sanctuary. Then head to the Great Ape Adventure Play Area to let your own little monkeys let off some steam.
If the little ones get really attached, you can even adopt a monkey as a long-term travel souvenir!
3. Ride England’s longest zip wire
The huge greenhouse domes of Cornwall’s Eden Project make for a great family day out in the South West of England. There are thousands of different plant species, an interactive science zone, a rainforest canopy walkway and, of course, zip wire fun for any family daredevils.
Whether you make education, or action and adventure, the focus of your trip, a day spent at the Eden Project is one families will remember for a while.
4. Explore the history of Stonehenge
Steep yourself in England’s ancient history at the world-famous Stonehenge. The prehistoric stone circle is a breath-taking sight to behold, but there’s more to a visit than just the monument.
You can picnic in the beautiful grounds, wander around Neolithic Houses or explore the spectacular Wiltshire countryside. And if you’re in the mood for even more archaeological discoveries, head to the site’s sister museums in Wiltshire and Salisbury.
5. Indulge in a Devon cream tea (and a Cornish pasty!)
What trip to the south west would be complete without a Devonshire cream tea?
However you pronounce the word “scone” — and in whichever order you pile on the clotted cream and jam — head to a traditional tearoom and indulge in this iconic sweet treat.
And if you’re travelling through both Devon and Cornwall on your trip, why not taste test the best of both counties? Head to head, cream tea versus Cornish pasty — which one gets your vote?
The best time to visit the South West of England?
The South West of England is a popular destination during the school summer holidays; the sun is likely to be shining, and the region’s attractions are likely to be very busy.
If you want to enjoy the great outdoors, but avoid some of the tourist crowds, then aim for a spring or autumn trip to the region.
What to pack for the South West of England?
You’ll need sturdy shoes if you’re planning on exploring national parks like Exmoor or Dartmoor, or the caves of Cheddar Gorge. The moorlands are also some of the rainiest places in the UK so pack your waterproofs!
Hitting the waves? Most surf schools provide wetsuits so just stick a swimsuit in your suitcase and you’ll be good to go.
Getting around the South West of England
Trains and buses run between most major towns and cities in the South West of England, but to really get to the heart of the region, you need to travel by car.
Having your own set of wheels means you can travel to further flung attractions and see more of this beautiful corner of England — and who wouldn’t want that?