Things to Do in South West England
This first-century Roman bathhouse complex was a meeting point for patricians who came to bathe, drink the curative waters, and socialize. The baths fell out of use with the Roman exodus from Britain but were rediscovered and excavated in the late-19th century. Explore the Great Bath, which is filled with steaming, mineral-rich water from Bath’s hot springs.
Poole Harbour serves as the gateway to Brownsea Island and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jurassic Coast, home to natural wonders such as Studland Bay and Old Harry Rocks. The natural harbor—which is one of Europe’s largest—is a hotspot for water sports such as windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddleboarding, while Poole Quay is home to a promenade lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants.
Now permanently docked in Bristol, the SS Great Britain showcases the industrial prowess of 19th-century Britain. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, this 321-foot (98-meter long steamship was one of the largest vessels of the era, as well as being technologically trailblazing, drawing upon both steam and sail power simultaneously.
Smoke & Mirrors offers a one-of-a-kind Bristol experience. Enjoy an evening of comedy and magic at this atmospheric pub and 1920s-style performance venue, which hosts a cast of house magicians performing masterful feats and illusions. With seating for only 44 people, the theater offers a cozy, intimate atmosphere.
With ancient woodlands, windswept heathlands, and freshwater lakes hemmed in by grassy sea cliffs and sandy beaches, Brownsea Island crams a startling variety of scenery into its small landmass. The mostly uninhabited island, which is run by the National Trust, is the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour.
At 404 feet (123 meters, Salisbury Cathedral boasts Britain’s highest church spire. In addition to the spire, the cathedral harbors the 1215 Magna Carta—a document that remains a cornerstone of British law—and wows with its 13th-century Gothic facade and elaborate stained-glass windows.
Lavish both inside and out, the Grade II–listed Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum offers an insight into the eclectic tastes of world travelers Lady Annie and Sir Merton Russell-Cotes. Here, admire the striking art nouveau architecture, permanent collection of European and Japanese artefacts, sloping English gardens, and more.
One of Bath’s most sought-after residential streets, Royal Crescent is a semicircular sweep of colonnaded Georgian terrace houses overlooking Royal Victoria Park. Of the 30 houses here, most are still privately owned though No. 1—restored to peak Georgian-era splendor—serves as a museum, showcasing upper-class life in 18th-century Bath.
Dating from between 2900 and 2600 BC, Avebury is the world’s largest Neolithic stone circle. Originally composed of three stone circles—the largest of which comprised 98 standing stones (though only 27 now remain)—Avebury is truly immense. Though the function of Avebury is not fully understood, it was likely used for pagan ceremonies.
World famous for its eponymous music festival, Glastonbury has a creative spirit that burns all year round. Steeped in history, the small town is known for its medieval abbey and links to King Arthur, as well as its lively markets, artisan boutiques, and thriving arts scene.
More Things to Do in South West England
Dominated by two giant, bubble-shaped biomes—the world's largest greenhouses—the Eden Project is one of Cornwall's most famous landmarks. The biomes maintain miniature ecosystems that enable all kinds of plants to flourish: orchids, palms, and cacao trees in the Rainforest Biome and proteas, cacti, and huge aloe veras in the Mediterranean Biome.
Among the loveliest and most historical enclaves in the Cotswolds—an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty located west of London—Lacock is also one of England’s oldest villages. Renowned for the 13th-century Lacock Abbey and 14th-century St. Cyriac’s Church, Lacock is celebrated for its classically English beauty.
One of the largest prehistoric structures of its kind in Europe, the purpose of Silbury Hill—a man-made chalk mound which is comparable to the size of a small Egyptian pyramid—remains a mystery. Marvel over the 100-foot-high (30-meter-high) grassy slopes of Silbury Hill from a distance before continuing your exploration of Avebury.
Home to some of the UK’s most impressive archaeological collections, the award-winning Salisbury Museum is impressive both inside and out. Admire a 30,000-year-old meteorite, some of the country’s oldest gold artefacts, Victorian-era ceramics, and more in the Grade I Listed King’s House.
Exhibits illuminate the local history of Wiltshire, a county jam-packed with historic sites, from the prehistoric monuments of Avebury and Stonehenge to Salisbury Cathedral, a medieval Gothic masterpiece. See gold and amber artifacts dating back to the time of Stonehenge, as well as displays covering Roman, Saxon, and medieval history.
Characterized by jagged cliffs and green valleys, Cheddar Gorge is England’s largest gorge and one of southern England most impressive natural sights. Formed during the last Ice Age, the gorge cocoons the now-underground Cheddar Yeo River and winds its way through the Mendip Hills.
The distinctive blue Bombay Sapphire bottle has been a staple of bar shelves since the gin was first produced more than 25 years ago. Since 2011, the company has based its production in this historic mill at the edge of the River Test, which has been transformed into a state-of-the-art production and visitor facility.
Part of a well-known chain of British seaside resorts founded in the 1930s, Butlin’s Minehead offers all-inclusive family vacations and easy access to both the beach and to Exmoor National Park. The resort also provides an assortment of entertainment offerings—from a traditional fairground to live shows—and has ample dining facilities.
More than 250 birds of prey—representing about 75 different species—can be found at this long-standing bird of prey center, which has been in operation since 1967. Walk through the center’s gardens, peer into aviaries, and observe flying demonstrations during which staff educate visitors on the behaviors and habits of raptors.
Since 1964, Somerset’s Fleet Air Arm Museum has immersed guests in the history of British naval aviation. Four main exhibition spaces showcase a range of historic aircraft, while interactive displays provide plenty for visitors of all ages to see and do—including an award-winning aircraft carrier experience and an outdoor play area.
Torquay’s Babbacombe Model Village is a fun and charming destination that’s suitable for the whole family. It's a representation of English village life in miniature—complete with cottages, gardens, and transport—alongside well-known landmarks such as Stonehenge and Windsor Castle. With more than 400 models and approximately 13,000 miniature people, there’s plenty to see here.
Unique among SEA LIFE® centers due to its mix of tank and outdoor exhibits, Weymouth SEA LIFE Adventure Park encapsulates the global diversity of water-based life. From sharks to fairy penguins, sea turtles to otters, more than 1,000 species live in the 14-acre park, where you’ll also find play areas, cafés, and a mini-golf course.