WEST COUNTRY

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As well as information about the area, here are some tourist attractions and places of interest to visit with direct links to their websites.  Useful websites for a full selection are:

THE NATIONAL TRUST               HISTORIC HOUSES ASSOCIATION      CORNISH ASSOCIATION OF TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

ENGLISH HERITAGE                   HERITAGE TRAIL                 THE NATIONAL GARDEN SCHEME               THE WILDLIFE TRUST

DEVON ASSOCIATION OF TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

Or for more specific places:

HISTORIC SITES/CASTLE/CATHEDRALS 

CORNWALL

Pendennis Castle – Falmouth: Heny VIII’s coastal stronghold and a secret war base

Tintagel Castle: These ruins with dramatic views are said to be the birthplace of King Arthur

Lanhydrock House – Bodmin: A perfect country house and estate with a feel of a wealthy but unpretentious family home

Mount Edgecumbe House and Gardens – Torpoint: Set in Grade I Cornish gardens within 865 acres of country park

St Michael’s Mount - Marazion: Discover an amazing island world with medieval castle and a sub-tropical paradise

Prideaux Place – Padstow: This stunningly beautiful Elizabethan manor house overlooks the picturesque fishing harbour of Padstow

DEVON

 A La Ronde – Exmouth: A unique 16 sided house with fascinating interior decoration and collections

 Buckland Abbey – Yelverton: The former home of Sir Francis Drake

 Exeter Cathedral: Built in the decorated gothic style, it has the longest uninterrupted medieval gothic vaulting in the world

 Hartland Abbey: Many ancestors have been prominent here, politicians, high sheriffs and even pirates!

 Powderham Castle – Kenton: Set in a beautiful deer park on the Exe estuary

SOMERSET

 Dunster Castle: An ancient castle and country home with dramatic vistas and subtropical gardens

 Glastonbury Abbey: Romantic ruins – once the grandest and richest Abbey in England. A great Glastonbury experience awaits you here!

Lytes Cary Manor – Somerton: This intimate manor house was the former home of medieval herbalist Henry Lyte and his famous 16th-century plant directory, Lytes Herbal

Wells Cathedral: Perhaps the most beautiful of the great English cathedrals

GARDENS

CORNWALL

Carwinion Gardens – Mawnan Smith: Victorian gardens, home to one of the most spectacular collections of bamboo

Lost Gardens of Heligan – St.Austell: Hailed ‘the garden restoration of the century’

Trebah Gardens – Mawnan Smith: A wooded sub-tropical ravine with its own beach

Trelissick Garden – Feock: A 20 acre garden, set on many levels, with fine open lawns, a superb collection of tender and exotic plants, providing year-round colour and superb views

Trengwainton Garden – nr. Penzance: Experience stunning views and an abundance of exotic trees and shrubs

ISLES OF SCILLY

 Tresco Abbey Garden: The tropical garden is home to species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa

DEVON

 Arlington Court: Gardens that nestle in the thickly wooded valley of the River Yeo

Clovelly Court Gardens: A classic example of a Victorian walled kitchen garden including magnificent glasshouses

Bicton Park Botanical Gardens – Budleigh Salterton: 60 acres of soft sweeping lawns, elegant water features & fragrant English borders

Rosemoor – Great Torrington: This enchanting RHS Garden is a unique place, set in 65 acres in the Torridge valley

Rougemont Gardens - Exeter: Includes major historic features – the Roman city wall and bank, and the bank and ditches of William the Conqueror’s Castle

SOMERSET

 Cannington Walled Gardens: Lying in the grounds of mediaeval priory, these gardens have classic and contemporary features

 Tintinhull Gardens – Yeovil: A small 20th century Arts and Crafts garden surrounding a 17th century house

 Hestercombe Gardens – Taunton: A unique collection of gardens spanning three centuries of garden history and design

FAMILY ATTRACTIONS

CORNWALL

Eden Project - St Austell: Contains the world’s largest indoor rainforest and Mediterranean garden. A gateway into the fascinating world of plants and people

Land’s End: The most South-Westerly point of the British Isles with breathtaking scenery five visitor attractions, shopping village and restaurants

Minack Theatre – Porthcurno: The famous outside theatre clinging to a cliff face, with amazing view

Monkey Sanctuary – Looe: Monkeys, wildlife gardens, playground and bats!

National Maritime Museum – Falmouth: Celebrating the sea, boats and Cornwall

 Newquay Zoo: Experience the world’s wildlife at this award-winning zoo

Poldark Mine & Heritage Complex – Helston: Follow in the footsteps of 18th century Cornish tin miners

Seal Sanctuary – Helston: Seals, Otters, Penguins, Sheep, Ponies and Goats!

Treasure Park – Redruth: One of Cornwall’s FREE attractions – unique shopping experiences and hands-on activities

DEVON

 Beer Quarry Caves – Seaton: Vast man-made complex of underground caverns created by centuries of quarrying since Roman times

 The Big Sheep – Abbotsham: Family park with sheep racing, outdoor laser games, pony rides, plant nursery, brewery and indoor play area

Dartmoor National Park: Covering an area of 368 square miles, Dartmoor is the largest and wildest area of open country in Southern England

Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boats: Enjoy one of the finest heritage steam railway journeys in Europe and glorious boat trips on the River Dart

Donkey Sanctuary - Gunnislake: Donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs to feed and pet

Milky Way Adventure Park – Clovelly: Theme park, indoor adventure play area, assault courses, live shows and bird of prey displays

Morwellham Quay: 200 acres of outstanding natural beauty where the Victorian age is brought back to life including traveling underground to experience an authentic copper mine

National Marine Aquarium – Plymouth: Britain´s biggest, Europe´s deepest and UK´s best aquarium!

Paignton Zoo: See all your favourites as well as some more unusual species

Quince Honey Farm – South Molton: The largest honey farm in the country where you can view working colonies of honeybees

South Devon Railway - Buckfastleigh: A fantastic day out with steam and diesel locomotives

Wildlife & Dinosaur Park – Combe Martin: Explore 28 acres of stunning gardens with cascading waterfalls and 100s of exotic birds and animals

SOMERSET

Cheddar Caves and Gorge: 450ft high limestone cliffs and beautiful caves, home to Peregrine falcons and rare bats

Wookey Hole Caves – Wells: Britain’s most spectacular caves and legendary home of the infamous Witch of Wookey

Noah’s Art Zoo Farm – Wraxall: 100 acre attraction – feed and stroke a variety of animals – including big zoo animals

Grand Pier – Weston-Super-Mare: Something for everyone – from the arcade machines to thrilling rides, or a relaxing traditional afternoon tea in the exquisite Edwardian-style tea rooms

Haynes Motor Musuem – Sparkford: With more than 400 vehicles displayed in stunning style, dating from 1886 to the present day with cars from all over the world, it is the largest international motor museum in Britain

The Torbay Express – Taunton: Step back in time on board the Torbay Express from Bristol to Torbay and Dartmouth, offering one of the most enchanting railway journeys in the world

INFORMATION ABOUT THE AREA

The ironbound coast of Cornwall, its granite fangs breaking the spirit of the North Atlantic rollers, points the way to an ancient land of mystery, myth and legend.  Its antiquity is borne out by a countryside from Land’s End dotted with Celtic crosses and the remains of Iron Age villages and stone circles.

Leaving the sunken skeletons of windjammers and steamers to the rocks and reefs of the north Cornish coast – one of the most stunning in England – we are drawn to Tintagel – the fabled birthplace of chivalry and the tales of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Even in these days when science debunks romance, there is an indefinable magic about Tintagel’s castle ruins and Merlin’s cave. 

Inland to the wilderness of Bodmin Moor, where its tors and the remains of the round stone huts of the farmers of 4,000 years ago set off its prehistoric past and the industrial archaeology of the copper miners and granite quarrymen. It also plays its part in the Arthurian legend of the region with Dozmary Pool.  Dark and silent, and said to be bottomless, the pool is reputed to be where a hand surfaced to receive King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur. All this in just a 10-mile square.          

          ((Parson and huntsman Jack Russell was born in Dartmouth in 1795 and gave his name to the popular terrier he bred to go down fox holes.))     

            We’ll fall to the call of the wild and move on to Dartmoor.  Splendidly desolate, its granite tors, standing stones, heather clad hills and ancient stone clapper bridges over sparkling, clear rivers and streams rise up to more than 2,000 feet.  Some mystery. At Hound Tor a devil dog is said to haunt the area searching out unbaptised children. This legend is among several that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to relate Sherlock Holmes’ encounter with the Hound of the Baskervilles.  Wistman’s Wood adds to the surreal world that is Dartmoor. Here, clumps of stunted oaks – some more than 600 years old – grow among moss and ivy clad boulders.

Exmoor straddles the Devon/Somerset border and is a world apart from Dartmoor.  From a plateau of moor and heathland and beech-hedged fields, fast-flowing streams carve their way through wooded valleys to the coast. Exmoor, with its red deer and buzzards, is the setting for another book of mystery and violence – R. D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone. The little church at Oare is the setting for the near fatal shooting of the heroine.  On the eastern edge of the moor is the fine medieval village of Dunster dominated by its Norman castle on one side and wooded slopes on the other.

                ((The first house in the world to be lit by gas is in Redruth.  In 1794, William Murdock, a mining engineer, used the gas produced by burning coal.))

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Let’sLet’s Let’s join the pilgrims of old and marvel at one of the finest cathedrals in Britain in England’s smallest city – Wells, nestling in the foot of the Mendips. Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, its west front is spectacular.  Exeter, too, boasts a magnificent cathedral, with its two great towers dating back to the 12th century.

Some superlatives – at Cheddar. Its gorge is Britain’s largest; the Cheddar Yeo, in Gough’s Cave, is its biggest underground river; the Gorge Cliffs are the country’s highest inland limestone cliffs and Britain’s oldest complete skeleton was found in the cave, all of 9,000 years old. And there’s the eponymous cheese…claimed to be Britain’s best.

More Arthurian legend.  This time at Glastonbury Tor, the site of the marshland ‘fairy isle’ of Avalon where King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are said to be buried. And it’s said Joseph of Arimathea buried the Holy Grail here.  For millions of afficianados the annual Glastonbury Festival is the holy grail of music.

The ancient fishing villages of Cornwall are well worth visiting – among them Mousehole (pronounced Mouz’l) and St Ives. They were centres of the pilchard fishing industry.  Now, St Ives is home to the Tate Gallery of the West.  Still busy ports are Newlyn, near Penzance, Looe, Polperro and Brixham, along with the great natural harbours of Plymouth and Falmouth. On the rugged north coast there are fishing villages such as Clovelly and spectacular views from Hartland Point over one of the most treacherous stretches of water in Britain.

By sharp contrast, Selworthy, with its thatched cottages set in soft Somerset woodland is the perfect picture postcard village.   

Back to the age of the dinosaurs…to the Jurassic Coast.  Eastwards from Exmouth for nearly 100 miles, the cliffs and foreshore are recognised by UNESCO as one of the wonders of the natural world.

Enjoying one of Britain’s mildest climates, the region is also a paradise for plants with countless gardens to visit. It is appropriate that the Eden Project should be based here, successfully combining horticulture, ecology, science, art and architecture.

And don’t forget…Somerset is where the cider apples grow!