Choose from 12 Fun Things to Do in South West England
ShowingFilter 1-12 of 12 listings.
A large natural harbor along the coast of Dorset, Poole Harbour is the centerpiece of its namesake town, flowing into Poole Quay and Upton Lake. With miles of rugged coastline and beaches, the harbor is a hotspot for water sports like windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddleboarding, while Poole Quay is home to an atmospheric promenade, lined with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Poole Harbour is also the starting point for ferries to nearby Brownsea Island, as well as boat cruises along England's UNESCO-listed Jurassic Coast, affording spectacular views of natural wonders such as Old Harry Rocks, Studland Bay and Swanage bay along the way. For the full experience, you can even combine a cruise to Swanage Bay, with a ride on the Swanage Railway heritage steam train and explore the dramatic Dorset coastline from both land and sea.
Poole Harbour is located on the south coast of Poole on England's south coast.
Address: Poole, England
From $ 13
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.
The Roman Baths are the headline attraction in Bath, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Being just 115 miles (185 kilometers) from central London and within day-tripping distance of Oxford, Brighton, Bournemouth, and Southampton, Bath is a very popular day-tour destination for visitors to South England.
Organized day tours often combine a trip to Bath and the Roman Baths with a visit to the prehistoric Stonehenge monument, the picturesque Cotswolds village of Lacock, Windsor Castle, or the cathedral town of Salisbury. If you want to begin your tour in Bath itself, try a guided walking tour of the Georgian city that includes other top attractions such as the Royal Crescent, the Circus, and Gothic Bath Abbey. Hop-on hop-off tour buses also stop at the Roman Baths.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The hot water that flows throughout the Roman Baths complex, via the Sacred Spring, is untreated, hence bathing is not allowed.
- Wear sturdy shoes as the stone floors are uneven.
- Audio guides are provided, and free tours take place hourly.
- The complex is below street level, and features narrow walkways that may trigger claustrophobia.
How to Get There
Bath-bound Great Western Railway trains depart from London’s Paddington station and take about 90 minutes. The Roman Baths are about a 10-minute walk from Bath Spa train station.
When to Get There
The Roman Baths are the city’s showpiece attraction and, as such, draw big crowds, particularly during July and August weekends. If you are visiting at this time, arrive before 10am or during the evening. In summer, it’s possible to visit at night, when the baths are lit by torches.
Drinking the Thermal Waters
Within the same complex as the Roman Baths is the elaborate Pump Room, a lavish 18th-century construction that served as a socializing spot for Bath’s Georgian elite. The Pump Room now houses a restaurant as well as the King’s Spa fountain, which spouts mineral water directly from the springs. Visitors can try the warm thermal waters, which are said to have curative properties. Be warned: The sulfur-tinged flavor is not to everyone’s taste.
Address: Stall St, Bath, United Kingdom BA1 1LZ, England
Hours: Varies by season
Admission: Adult £16.50, Child £10.25
From $ 10
Wiltshire’s most important museum is the perfect complement to a visit to nearby Stonehenge, home to some of England’s most impressive archaeological finds. The museum takes visitors on a journey through the region’s fascinating history of human occupation, from the Neolithic era to the Bronze and Iron Age, through to Roman, Saxon, and medieval times.
As well as items excavated from the UNESCO-listed sites of Stonehenge and Avebury, highlights include the ruins of Bush Barrow, a Bronze Age burial mound; priceless gold and amber items that date back over 4,000 years; and a sizable collection of historic art.
The Wiltshire Museum is located on Long Street in central Devizes and is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am-5pm. Adult admission is £5.50.
Address: 41 Long St, Devizes SN10 1NS, England
Hours: Tues-Sat 10am-5pm
Admission: Adults: £5.50, Children (under 16): Free
From $ 8
With its castle-like faÃƒÂ§ade perched on the East Cliff and idyllic leafy gardens sloping down to the seafront, it's impossible to miss the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. The Grade II-listed heritage building was built in 1901 for Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes to house their growing private collection of art and artifacts. The remarkably preserved Art Nouveau mansion, along with its contents, was gifted to the city of Bournemouth in 1908 and formally opened as the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in 1922.
Today, the striking Art Nouveau building is as celebrated for its unique architecture and attractive gardens, as it is for its lavish interiors and sizable art collection. The gallery's permanent exhibitions include a significant collection of European and Japanese works, dating mostly from the 19th- and early 20th-century, while the museum hosts a magnificent array of souvenirs collected by the Russell-Cotes on their world travels. As well as visiting the galleries and museum, visitors can explore the beautiful grounds and gardens, or take in the views from the on-site cafe.
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum is located on the East Cliff Promenade on Bournemouth's waterfront and is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 5pm. Adult admission is £6.
Address: East Cliff Promenade, Bournemouth BH1 3AA, England
Hours: Tues-Sun: 10am-5pm
Admission: Adult £6, Child £4
From $ 16
Looming 30 meters (98 feet) over the Avebury countryside, the steep grassy slopes of Silbury Hill are an incongruous sight against the backdrop of gently rolling farmlands. This is no ordinary hill, however – the fascinating man-made structure dates back to around 2400BC and is the largest prehistoric monument of its kind in Europe.
Experts have long debated the significance of Silbury Hill, but while there are few indications of its actual purpose, its size (comparable to the Egyptian pyramids) and careful construction are none-the-less impressive. The mysterious hill also makes an intriguing addition to England’s UNESCO-listed Neolithic monuments, which include the Avebury Ring, the West Kennet Long Barrow and Stonehenge.
Silbury Hill is located just south of Avebury in Wiltshire, southwest England.
Address: Silbury Hill, Avebury SN8 1QT, England
From $ 110
Located in the grand King’s House, in the shadows of the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral, the Salisbury Museum is as impressive from the outside as it is on the inside. The award-winning museum is home to one of the UK’s most treasured archaeological collections, the Stonehenge Gallery, which displays items excavated from the iconic stone circle. Many visitors choose to complement their visit with a tour of nearby Stonehenge, just five miles (eight km) from Salisbury.
It’s not just Stonehenge that takes center stage—the fascinating Wessex Gallery exhibition chronicles more than 500,000 years of human history in the region and includes some of the oldest gold objects ever found in Britain. The Costume Gallery displays a colorful collection of clothing and accessories dating back from the 1750s, while the Ceramics Gallery includes rare and unusual items from the Victorian era.
Visit Salisbury Museum on a day trip from London that includes additional stops in Stonehenge and Windsor.
The Salisbury Museum is located by the West Front of Salisbury Cathedral in central Salisbury. It is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sundays from 12pm to 5pm. Adult admission is £8.
Did you know? One of the most unique items on display at the Salisbury Museum is the ‘Lake House Meteorite’, the largest known meteorite ever to have fallen in Britain. It weighs 198 lbs (90 kg) and is now over 30,000 years old.
Address: The Kings House, 65 The Close, Salisbury, South West England, England
Hours: Mon–Sat: 10am–5pm, Sun 12–5pm
Admission: Adult £8, Child £4
From $ 10
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.
The most popular way to explore Brownsea Island is on a day trip from Poole—it’s a short ferry ride from the mainland. Alternatively, a sightseeing cruise around Poole Harbour affords spectacular views of Brownsea Island, as well as the surrounding islands and mainland attractions such as the Sandbanks, Old Harry Rocks, Corfe Castle, and the Purbeck Hills.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The weather on Brownsea Island can be wet and windy even in summer, so wear layers and bring a raincoat.
- Getting around the island is only possible on foot—vehicles and bikes are not permitted on the ferries.
- The Brownsea Island Visitor Centre, a short walk from the ferry port, has restrooms, a café, and a shop.
- Wheelchair-accessible ferries are available, and you can rent all-terrain wheelchairs on the island.
How to Get to There
Brownsea Island is only reachable by boat. Regular passenger ferries set sail from Poole Quay or the Sandbanks and take around 20 minutes to reach the island. From Poole, buses and taxis run from Poole train station to Poole Harbour.
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When to Get There
Brownsea Island is open to the public from March to October and on selected winter weekends, depending on the weather. In peak summer season (July and August), book your ferry tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
Exploring Brownsea Island
The Brownsea Island Nature Reserve covers the whole island and offers nature trails and wildlife such rare red squirrels, sika deer, wild peacocks, and birds (avocets, black-tailed godwits, and wildfowl). Additional highlights include the beachfront Brownsea Castle, which dates back to the 16th century; the Brownsea Open-Air Theatre, which hosts performances throughout summer; and electric buggy tours, which traverse all the island’s most scenic viewpoints.
Address: Brownsea Island, England
From $ 13
At the heart of the Dartmoor National Park, the ancient oak forest of Wistman’s Wood is one of few woods left in England that date back to prehistoric times, and it’s an eerily beautiful sight. With its dramatically twisted oak trees climbing with lichen, giant moss-blanketed boulders and a backdrop of heather-dappled moors, it’s an enchanting landscape and a favorite among hikers, dog walkers and naturalists. The unique setting of Wistman’s Wood has also given rise to a number of myths and legends surrounding the woods. Depending which tale you believe, the woods are inhabited by a pack of ferocious Yeth hounds, haunted by the devil or home to a troop of mischievous fairies.
Wistman’s Wood is a nature reserve located within the Dartmoor National Park.
Address: Yelverton, Devon, England
From $ 772
With its dramatically jagged cliffs towering 450 feet over lush green valleys and limestone rock face pocked with caves, the Cheddar Gorge is not only England’s largest gorge, but one of the country’s most impressive natural wonders. Formed during the last ice age and cocooning the now-underground Cheddar Yeo River, the striking gorge winds its way through the Mendip Hills for almost three miles and makes a popular site for hiking and rock climbing.
The Cheddar Gorge has also become known for its collection of limestone caves and underground caverns, which made headlines back in 1903, when England’s oldest complete human skeleton was found there – a specimen nicknamed the ‘Cheddar Man’ and now kept at London’s Natural History Museum. The most famous of the caves include Gough’s Cave, with its spectacular stalactites; Cox’s Cave, with its unique calcite sculptures and mirror pools; and the adjoining Crystal Quest, where the caves are filled with JRR Tolkien-inspired fantasy figures.
The Cheddar Gorge is located in Somerset, southwest England, approximately 14 miles north of Glastonbury.
Address: Somerset, United Kingdom, England
From $ 68
Since the now-legendary Glastonbury Festival began making headlines back in the 1970s, the small Somerset town of Glastonbury has become synonymous with its self-named music festival, now the world’s biggest greenfield festival, drawing more than 175,000 revellers to the small town each year. The new-age festivities aren’t the town’s only draw, though – Glastonbury remains a lively place to visit at all times of the year, with a cluster of historic buildings and a traditional weekly market.
Glastonbury’s star attraction is the historic Glastonbury Abbey, founded in the 7th-century and becoming one of England’s most important monasteries in the Middle Ages, as well as allegedly being the burial site of King Arthur. Additional highlights include the 525-foot sacred hill of Glastonbury Tor, home to the ruins of St Michael’s church; the ancient Chalice Well and the fascinating Somerset Rural Life Museum.
Glastonbury is located in Somerset in southwest England, approximately 130 miles from London.
Address: Glastonbury, United Kingdom, England
From $ 52
With its dramatic Gothic facade and Britain’s highest church spire at an impressive 404 feet (123 m), the Salisbury Cathedral is one of the country’s most visited religious monuments, drawing some 250,000 visitors each year. As well as admiring the cathedral’s remarkable 13th-century architecture and exquisite stained-glass windows, visitors can climb the 332 steps to the top of the tower for a magnificent view of Salisbury.
The cathedral’s star attraction is an original copy of the 1215 Magna Carta, one of the world’s most famous and significant documents that remains a cornerstone of British law. An interactive Magna Carta exhibition walks visitors through the historic events of its legacy of social justice. The cathedral also holds the world’s oldest working mechanical clock, which dates back to 1386, and afternoon tea in the Bell Tower Tearooms.
The best way to discover the cathedral is on a 90-minute guided tour of Salisbury, with entrance included. Many visitors opt to visit on a day trip from London, often combined with a visit to nearby Stonehenge or Avebury stone circle.
Salisbury Cathedral is located in central Salisbury, and is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Adult admission is £7.50 and £3 for youth.
Did you know? The Magna Carta on display in Salisbury Cathedral is one of only four surviving original copies in the world, and is listed on UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ Heritage list.
Address: 6 The Close, Salisbury, England
Admission: Adult £7.50, Child £3
From $ 103
A dramatic reminder of Bath’s Georgian heritage and one of the city’s most photographed historic landmarks, the Royal Crescent is aptly named, with its crescent-shaped row of terraced townhouses and regal architecture. Built between 1767 and 1775 by architect John Wood the Younger, the Royal Crescent features a row of magnificent terraced townhouses, looking out over a vast expanse of manicured lawns.
There are 30 houses along the crescent, each looming 47-foot (14-meters) high, fronted by gigantic Ionic columns and renowned for their beautifully preserved Georgian facades. Many of the houses are still private homes, but No. 1 Royal Crescent is now a museum, offering visitors a glimpse into life in Georgian-era Bath, while No. 16 is home to the luxurious Royal Crescent Hotel.
The Royal Crescent is located at the north end of Victoria Park in central Bath, around a 15-minute walk from the Roman Baths.
Address: Royal Crescent, Bath BA1 2LR, England
From $ 32