The West Country is an unofficial name for southwest region of England - although Cornwall is a distinct entity in its own right and one of the modern day Celtic nations. Its main draws for travellers are its countryside and coastlines, though it is home to the vibrant yet mellow, laid back city of Bristol, the charming town of Bath and the stunning village of Holcombe.
The following counties are generally considered to form the West Country:
Cities and towns
The exact boundary of the West Country is unclear and often a source of heated debate between the different counties, many of which have strong identities. However, a good definition of the West Country is that it is the coastline directly south of Wales across the Bristol Channel (on a clear day Wales can be seen from most of Somerset, North Devon and even the Bude area around Cornwall) - Somerset, North Devon and North Cornwall - and the coastline directly north of Brittany and Normandy - South Cornwall, South Devon and West Dorset. What can be said is that it is an area that shares many interesting cultural similarities. Most noticeably the dialect - in the West Country, valleys are called combes or nants and plimsolls are called daps or dappers (similar to its neighbour in Wales). The West Country historically had strong immediate trading links with Wales, Brittany, Ireland and the Basque Country and shares many similarities with these areas (i.e cider production, pastry snacks, a love of fish dinners, smuggling, wrecking).
West Country dialects can vary but share many similarities, most noticeably the strong rhotic pronunciation and 'drawled' manner of speech, often stereotyped as rural or pirate speech. These dialects can also be found in neighbouring counties, but are more uncommon due to the influence of large population shifts out of London.
West Country people are often portrayed as warm, welcoming, forgiving and easy going folk and certainly this reputation has helped enhance the tourist industry. Other aspects of the culture include an almost religious obsession with rough farm produced scrumpy cider. Many folk songs about the juice of the apple are widely known and will be readily preformed by the locals.
West Country people are often portrayed in the British media as simple country folk, however be aware that people are not comfortable with this London centric regionalist view and might well find such comparisons extremely offensive to the point of declaring independence.
By Coach Probably the cheapest way of getting to the South West - National Express and Megabus operate many services into the region, including routes from airports.
By Rail First Great Western operates most services into and around the region along with South West Trains (who mainly cover the east of the region) and CrossCountry who provide long distance services from the north.
By Road The M5, M4, A303 and A31 provide motorway and trunk road access to South West England.
By Air Bournemouth, Bristol, Exeter, Newquay and Plymouth all have airports with services from The UK and abroad.
Get around - Summer months only
By Boat Throughout the summer months - weather permitting! - there is a ferry service from Penarth (near Cardiff) and Swansea in Wales to the likes of Minehead, Ilfracombe and Lundy Island aboard the Waverly and Balmoral paddle steamers. Ideal for a day out in the West Country, and a good chance to get a "Viking perspective" of the awesome hog backed cliffs of Exmoor (culminating at the Great Hangman, at 1043ft the West Country's highest cliff) and the magnificent curved and surf washed white sand beaches of Bideford Bay. Sailing to West Somerset and North Devon beats driving down the awful, congested and polluted M5 anyday!
Stonehenge, One of the world's most famous prehistoric monuments, located in the county of Wiltshire
Roman Baths (Bath), a Roman spa complex constructed on hot springs, now a museum