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St Michael's Mount at night
you'll hear this region called by many names - The West
Country, or simply, The South West - by any name it is
an area that is well worth taking the time to explore.
In the south of Devon
the high plateau of Dartmoor
is dotted with prehistoric remains, while wild ponies still
graze the moors. Within the bounds of Dartmoor National
is Castle Drogo
, a Victorian stately home built as
a mock castle.
is nothing "mock" about St Michael's Mount
medieval fortress perches on a rocky island in Mount's Bay
near Penzance, Cornwall, and can be reached by a causeway
from the mainland only at certain times of day - or by boat
for the less adventurous visitor. Penzance itself is a pretty
town, made famous by the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The
Pirates of Penzance", and beloved of artists who have
flocked to the area for centuries, drawn by the warm light
and mild climate.
West Country is a place of dramatic contrasts; the south
coast is mild, warmed by the Gulf Stream, and popular as
a boating centre. The south is blessed with a number of
superb gardens, among them Trewithen
where the unusually warm climate has allowed subtropical
and rainforest plants to thrive.
Land's End, Cornwall
contrast, the rugged north coast of Cornwall is a haven
for surfers drawn by the wind and waves, and the sandy beaches
of the south give way to rock-strewn headlands and lonely
cliff-top walks. The South West Coast National Trail
the coast from the borders of Devon to Somerset in the north,
providing superb walking and excellent views. In many places
your only companions on the trail will be swirling flocks
the way, the path passes Tintagel,
where the ruins of a medieval castle cling to rocks above
the crashing waves. Legends tell that Tintagel was the location
of King Arthur's Camelot, or that it was the place of his
birth. Further south is St. Ives, another artist's haven,
where a mile of golden sand and clear waters could make
you think you're on a South Sea island rather than England.
Thatched cottage in Selworthy, Somerset
of the premier attractions in the West Country is Land's
End, which is the most westerly point of mainland England.
But enterprising visitors will not stop there; a short boat
or plane trip brings you to the Isles of Scilly, a bit of
tropical paradise transported to English waters. The islands
are blessed with the mildest climate in Britain, and boast
superb beaches and water sport opportunities.
on the mainland, another National Park graces the north
coast of Devon; Exmoor
is excellent walking country, with high plateaus split by
steep valleys and dotted with pretty villages like Selworthy
beloved of calendar photographers.
verges on the county of Somerset, a pastoral place, where
the rural lifestyle still rules, despite the encroachment
of seaside resorts. At Glastonbury, the striking Tor
its ruined tower looks out over the Somerset Levels, low
fields which were once below water. The Tor is reputed to
be the Isle of Avalon, the last resting place of King Arthur
and Arthurian legends abound in the area. The ruin of Glastonbury
hold a grave claimed by medieval monks to be that
of Arthur and his queen, Guinivere.
a few miles away on the edge of the Mendip Hills is Wells,
the smallest city in England, where the magnificent Cathedral
is supported by unusual scissor-arches and a 14th century
clock still strikes the hours as clockwork knights do battle.
Beyond Wells is the delightfully-named Wookey Hole, natural
showcaves which were once inhabited by prehistoric settlers.
A more famous underground cousin of Wookey Hole is Cheddar,
which gave its name to the cheese which was once stored
in its cool caverns.