Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Meagan Lopez from the fabulous blog The Lady Who Lunches. Meagan has kindly done a write up of the must see’s in Southwest England, where she recently moved to with her British boyfriend. Check out her blog here.
I love England.
I love the South West.
I also love discovering the South West from my very American point of view – after all, we do have quite a unique view point, don’t we? And, let’s face it, the English may know England better than I do, but they don’t really understand what we Americans find fascinating – for instance, castles and cathedrals, or locally sourced food in medieval restaurants.
To most of the English (or at least to my boyfriend), castles and cathedrals are just another part of the landscape – much like a cow or a rolling hill. It’s something they’ve grown up with, been around their entire life, and so don’t understand when an American comes along, and stares in awe and intrigue. These buildings are amazing pieces of historical architecture and fantasy – a place where knights worshipped, kings and queens got married, or refugees of war camped out.
While the English might find our gigantic malls and huge roads captivating, we find their history and â€œlandscapeâ€ enchanting. Even the local pub around the corner can hide magical pieces of folk legend that completely escapes the local citizen. Or, the cobble stone alley way, to them, looks like a place where the homeless reside, but to us, creates images of Shakespearian lovers entangled in a clandestine affair.
If you’re American, and are visiting anywhere near Bath, Bristol, Cornwall or the Cotswolds, here are my top five recommendations of entertaining, charming and fun attractions, restaurants or day-trips.
Visiting Longleat House and Safari Park – The Safari Park is exceptional. It was the first of its kind to be built outside of Africa. Although I wouldn’t consider it a typically South West day out to view African animals, the Longleat House on the premises is definitely more than worth taking a look at. It promises an incredible English heritage experience.
The house and grounds have been in the Thynn family for over 450 years, and was the first stately home to become open to the public. I found the home remarkable mainly because it is still in the same family that built it, and also because the Marquess of Bath (Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath) still occupies the penthouse with his family.
Not only is the house grand and vast, the artifacts inside it date back to the 1500′s. There are antique doll houses, table settings, paintings and swords. Plus, the 7th Marquess of Bath is himself a painter, and thus there is a room completely dedicated to his own drawings and murals. There are also pictures and current paintings of the present family, and an interesting Family Tree tapestry hanging in the basement. It’s not normal to find such a mixture of past and present in one home.
Don’t miss out on the homemade cakes in the Cellar Cafe!
The Towns of Tetbury and Tewkesbury – Both are small towns in the Cotswolds, and both give you a great history and feel of times gone by.
Tetbury was a 17th Century market town for wool and yarn. Many of the old signage and postings reflect this era. Most of the stores are antique stores, but there’s a local market and a neat old town clock.
The Priory Inn is a restaurant just on the outskirt of Tetbury that buys only local food. Literally, everything on their menu is made from ingredients no more than 30 miles away. There is a big wood burning stove in the center of the restaurant that makes for a warm and comforting environment.
Tewkesbury is a town known to both Shakespeare and Dickens. This is one of the best examples of a Medieval township that England has to offer. The location of the Severn and Avon Rivers meeting has prevented this town from becoming an urban sprawl, thus preserving its authenticity. Make sure to check out the oldest Baptist Chapel in England while you’re here, and find out if there are any festivals while you’re in town. They are known for their festivals.
Drinking Cider in Bristol – If you want the best cider in all of England, come to the West Country. Other parts of England produce it, but it is here that you will find the most flavorsome drinks, and the authentic, small farm-produced variety. I’m not talking apple cider (although it is made out of apples). I’m talking hard cider in the form of an alcoholic beverage.
Bristol is particularly known for its cider brews, and it’s here that we will find the best pubs to go to. Most pubs in Bristol serve cider. The key is to ask for the â€œguest cidersâ€ on tap. These types of ciders would have been brewed by a local farm, and are often organic and for a limited time only.
Another type to ask for if you’re feeling particularly brave is a â€œrough cider.â€ These often contain chunks of apple floating around, and are normally served from a big jug or plastic container. They generally have handwritten lettering on the front. (Warning! – these ciders tend to be very strong! Drink slowly and with caution.)
The most famous Bristol cider pub is called the Coronation Tap (or the Cori Tap to the locals) in Clifton. It’s here that you find a half pint that will knock you off your toes it’s so strong, and the pub itself dates back to the mid-1700′s. Just be careful not to drink too much!
The Apple Cider Boat delivers some of the most exceptional ciders in Bristol, and does so along the river. It has a quayside terrace and deck that is great in the summer time.
Croyde Beach House Rental – If you can’t afford an entire beach house, try to book a cheap hotel room. Dorset (and particularly Croyde) is absolutely gorgeous with its high cliffs, rolling, wild grass and farmland and stormy beaches. I found this place magical. If you want a quaint beach town, this is where I recommend going.
There is also the local pub called the Thatch where it gets so crowded you can barely move. Luckily, the patio is refreshing, and you can’t beat the smell of the salt air.
And, if you can find a party on the beach with a fire pit in the middle of the night, it’s even better!
Stonehenge – I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t gone yet, but I am so much looking forward to it. Not only does it seem like it should be magical with its pagan background, but I can’t help but feel it will also be spiritual. Some say these are just a bunch of rocks in the middle of the countryside. All I know is that I want to find out.
And, why not one more for good luck?
Roman Baths – Didn’t think I would forget this one, did you? The idea of cleansing in water that hundreds of other people have bathed in was not my idea of appealing. In fact, it grossed me out. However, the entire point is that it is a constantly flowing natural hot spring.
Plus, if you prefer to avoid the thermal waters, there are lots of spa-related activities to partake in. If anything, it’s a fascinating piece of history to experience.