Self-Catering Cottage Holidays in South West England
Take our tour of South West England with our holiday guide
The South West of England is pretty much perfect. Here you'll find world class food, pristine beaches, history dating back hundreds of thousands of years and incredible views. England's south west has something for everyone whether you are travelling on a shoestring budget with your kids and your dog, or pushing the boat out for a special celebration. It's the home of the cream tea, the birthplace of King Arthur, and the UK's premier holiday destination. Read our guide below, or simply browse all our cottages in South West England
Cornwall boasts Britain's longest coastline, which means that even though more than five million holidaymakers visit every year, there is ample space in the 433 miles to spread out your towel and unpack your picnic. People may visit for the beaches, but soon discover that there is so much more to enjoy.
As Cornwall is so large it's often divided into north and south. The North Cornish west coast stretches for 40 miles from Bude to Perranporth, including Padstow and Newquay. Much of the action is focused around the Atlantic Ocean, whether it's surfing, coasteering, exploring rock pools and building sandcastles, or walking along the clifftop paths.
Head inland and you'll find unspoiled countryside, with much of the area between Launceston and Bodmin being preserved as the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB). Bodmin Moor is famous for its massive granite tors, beautiful flora and fauna, wild ponies and pretty villages. Other places to visit include Tintagel, the reported birthplace of King Arthur; Boscastle Harbour; Polperro, once a smuggling hotspot; and the Camel Trail - a fantastic way to enjoy the countryside.
When people picture a typical Cornish scene of fishing boats and harbour side villages with colourful houses and stone built fishermen's cottages, it's South Cornwall they are thinking of. The coast stretches from St Agnes in the west, down to Penzance and Land's End, and up to Looe. Truro, Cornwall's only city, is conveniently central. You'll find something amazing wherever you look in South Cornwall, be it the sun rising over the ocean, or a plate full of freshly caught seafood.
Fishing is still a main source of income for some, with Mevagissey being a busy working harbour. If you want a taste of a typical fishing village, you will find it at Cadgwith, Sennen Cove, Charlestown, and Portscatho. As well as its pilchards, Cornwall was once renowned for the quality of its tin. Ten locations in South Cornwall, including Cambourne, Redruth, and Helston, make up the UNESCO Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. Add it to your itinerary, along with the Eden Project, Minack Theatre in Penzance, and the Lost Gardens of Heligan in St Austell.
It's a hotly contested honour, but the cream tea the South West of England is famed for was invented at Tavistock in South Devon. You'll want to refuel with one or two of these during your visit, as you'll need a lot of energy to explore all Devon has to offer. With two national parks (Dartmoor and Exmoor), fantastic beaches, and the busy cities of Exeter and Plymouth, you'll easily pack your days with fun. The Jurassic Coast is 95 miles of UNESCO World Heritage site, protected for its amazing geological features dating back over 200 million years, and covering both East Devon and Dorset.
If you're coming for the beaches, you certainly won't be disappointed. The English Riviera is on the east coast, and includes Torquay, Paignton, and Brixham. The North Devon Heritage Coast is in the west, near Ilfracombe, Bideford, and Saunton Sands.
Dorset's considerable appeal is sometimes overlooked in favour of its larger neighbours, but doing so means you miss out! Fantastic beaches include Weymouth, Lyme Regis, and Chesil. The latter is 18 miles long with more pebbles than you could hope to count in a lifetime, nestled into beautiful countryside with incredible views. Fossil hunt along the Jurassic Coast, build sandcastles at Burton Bradstock, or head inland and marvel at the massive chalk figure of the Cerne Giant.
Much of Dorset's lush and peaceful countryside is protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whether you enjoy it on foot, bike, or horseback, it's certainly worth experiencing. Follow a peaceful day with an unforgettable night in Bournemouth's clubs, or tuck into a meal in one of Dorchester's and Yeovil's many fabulous restaurants.
Somerset is bursting with fascinating history, and while it's not stuck in the past, it does convey an irresistible old-world charm. Part of the Roman Empire until 409, it has 11,500 listed buildings, more than 520 ancient monuments, nearly 200 conservation areas, and dozens of English Heritage and National Trust Sites. A visit to the Roman baths in Bath is a must. The Sweet Track is considered by many experts to be one of the oldest engineered roads in the world, dating back as far as 3807 BC.
You have to walk up the tor and visit the ruins of the cathedral at Glastonbury. Wells Cathedral is also worth a look. A walk along the sands of Weston-Super-Mare is either beautiful or bracing, depending on the time of year, but always fun. Walk the Quantock or Mendip Hills, then refresh yourself at the end of the day with a pint of Somerset cider brewed locally from apples grown in orchards you can see.
Stonehenge is Wiltshire's biggest tourist hotspot, but in a county that's rammed with interesting and picturesque sights, you're never short of something to do. Along with Avebury, the world's largest stone circle, Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to either the Salisbury Museum, or Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, sheds more light on these fascinating sites.
If you like your history moving rather than standing in a circle, visit the STEAM museum in Swindon, or marvel at the 29 locks on the Caen Hill stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal. STEAM is next to a great outlet shopping centre; or go into Salisbury and spend a day shopping and admiring the magnificent medieval cathedral.
No matter what your age and interests, you could visit South West England every year and never run out of things to see and do.