Looking for the best days out in South West England? There are so many brilliant attractions across all the counties in the South West just waiting to be discovered! If you want a day out in South West England to remember, have a read of our top choices right here…
South West England is packed with things to do, from historic cities to beautiful beaches to incredible natural rock formations to picturesque countryside and beyond.
South West England is home to the counties of Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Cornwall, which includes the Isles of Scilly. Within each county you’ll discover a number of cities and towns that continue to draw crowds year upon year, including Bath, Cheltenham, Bristol, Bournemouth, Gloucester, Plymouth, and more.
No matter if you enjoy an active day out or a chilled holiday, there’s something to suit every member of the family on this list of the best days out in South West England.
It’s even home to one of the top tourist attractions in the entire world, which is exactly where we’re kicking off this list…
1. Day out at Stonehenge
Stonehenge is an ancient stone circle located in Wiltshire. It’s one of the most iconic historic sites in Europe, which is why so many people flock to it from all over the world.
These stones are still standing after being erected around 2500 BC by unknown people for unknown reasons – the mystery of Stonehenge is what makes it such a great day out… there’s so much to speculate on as you wander around the site.
Nowadays there are lots of visitors enjoying this incredible place which is best seen during the daytime when the sun is shining. If you’re lucky, you might even have a sunny day with blue skies too! To avoid the crowds, go first thing when it opens or before closing in the evening, but no matter what time you go, it’s pretty special and leaves you in awe.
If you’re driving, you can follow the signposted route from the A303 and park on-site (there is a parking charge if you haven’t pre-booked, but it’s refundable when you buy a Stonehenge ticket). If you’re visiting by train you can head to Salisbury, which is the nearest station to Stonehenge, and catch a taxi or bus to the site from there.
You can view the incredible standing stones, then head to the Visitor Centre to learn more about the ancient monument through their exhibition. There, you’ll better understand the origins of Stonehenge, see artefacts such as ancient jewellery, pottery and tools, and there are even human remains there.
You can plan your trip with these 11 top tips for visiting Stonehenge to make sure this is one of your best day trips in South West England.
If you’re staying in Bath, here’s how to get from Bath to Stonehenge via car and public transport. It’s also one of the best day trips from Oxford and the best day trips from Bristol if you’re situated in either of these nearby cities.
2. Day out in the New Forest
It’s easy to have a great day out in the New Forest, as there are so many pretty villages, wide open spaces with grazing horses, quaint and cosy pubs for lunch, and much more. This is one of the most magical places in England, and it’s easy to fall in love with the area.
The New Forest in England dates back to 1079, when William the Conqueror established it as a royal hunting ground. Over the years, the New Forest has become a must-see area when visiting England from abroad, and calls many British stay-cationers each year too. It is a designated National Park, with so much natural beauty and heritage.
You can walk through the scenic forests and take in stunning views, and if you’re a fan of horses this is the perfect day out for you. The New Forest ponies are a fixture of the area and you’re bound to see more than a few on your travels as they graze in the forest. These semi-wild horses have been around for many years and they’re used to having people nearby snapping pictures. Their continued grazing on the heathlands and woodlands contributes to the area’s unique ecosystem.
During your day out in the New Forest you could explore the lovely town of Beaulieu where you’ll find the National Motor Museum and Beaulieu Abbey, or visit the New Forest Wildlife Park to see native wildlife like otters, owls and deer.
Or why not take a trip to Lyndhurst to check out the New Forest Museum and Visitor Centre (and Bolton’s Bench, if you’re interested in the most haunted places in the New Forest…), or walk part of the Solent Way to see some of the stunning coastline – you might even find some of the best beaches in the New Forest on your travels!
The New Forest is certainly one of the best days out in South West England, and if you want to just wander around and not spend any money, it’s one of the best free days out in South West England, too.
Don’t forget to end your day with a trip to one of the 18 best New Forest pubs!
3. Day out on the Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that sits on England’s southwest coast and stretches for around 95 miles. It goes all the way from East Devon to Dorset, and is well known for its stunning cliffs and landscapes. Plus, it’s a geologically significant area of the country as the coastline gives insight into 185 million years of the history of the earth.
Over the years the natural erosion of the Jurassic Coast has uncovered many fossils and unique rock formations, all from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods of history. Budding geologists and anyone who loves to learn all about prehistoric life will consider this one of the best days out in South West England!
While there, you can check out iconic landmarks such as Durdle Door (located on one of the most astonishing beaches in Dorset), and Old Harry Rocks near Swanage (a great spot for paddle boarding in Dorset), which make the shoreline so picture-perfect – do NOT forget your camera on a day out here!
The natural beauty of the Jurassic Coast continues to captivate many visitors who love to explore, so whether you’re interested in finding a dinosaur or you’re just there for the dramatic scenery, there’s something everyone will love.
4. Day out at Cheddar Gorge
Cheddar Gorge is located in the Mendip Hills of Somerset, and is another geological marvel that draws many hikers (and cheese fans!) from all over the world. Yes, it’s the home of cheddar cheese, in case you were wondering.
The limestone gorge has been carved by water over millennia, and is the country’s largest gorge. If you’re wondering what there is to do there, you can view towering cliffs and visit intricate cave systems that will keep all members of the family wide-mouthed for hours.
Cheddar Gorge is home to the world-renowned Cheddar Man, officially Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, and although you can’t see the skeleton itself you can see where it was located in Somerset.
Don’t forget to visit the Wookey Hole Caves, which is one of the 11 best caves in England. There’s lots that both adults and kids will love on a day out to the Wookey Hole Caves so don’t miss it while you’re in the Mendip Hills area.
You can also explore Gough’s Cave, take in the stunning panoramic views from the clifftops, and enjoy a fun hike around this amazing historic site to make this one of your best days out in South West England.
If you’re looking for hiking routes, here are the 7 best Cheddar Gorge walks to hike off that cheese!
5. Day out on the beaches in Cornwall
Who doesn’t love a day out at the beach?! If you want to guarantee a beautiful beach and (hopefully) great weather, there’s nowhere in the country better to go than Cornwall.
A day out on a Cornish beach is easily one of the best days out in South West England, as they are known for being pristine and full of fun summer activities.
Perranporth Beach, Watergate Bay, Porthminster Beach and Porthcurno Beach are four of the best beaches in Cornwall, hands down, but a drive along the coast will help you find a bunch of other little coves and mini-beaches to explore. Beach hopping might be one of the best free days out South West England has to offer, so grab your towel!
The county is also home to some of the most impressive waterfalls around, so you certainly won’t be bored on a beach day trip to Cornwall.
And when the sun goes down on your beach day, head to one of these 24 most unique pubs in Cornwall for a cosy evening reflecting on a great day.
6. Day out to the Isles of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly is an archipelago just 28 miles from the southwestern tip of Cornwall, and it’s pretty much the closest thing you’ll get to paradise in England. Picture it: crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, amazing tropical gardens… did we mention this is in England?!
The Isles of Scilly comprises over 140 islands, but only five are actually inhabited, so these are the ones to visit. St. Mary’s is the largest, and you’ll find lots to do there. Tresco is also absolutely beautiful, and is home to the subtropical Tresco Abbey Garden.
The unique flora and fauna on these islands make them a haven for birdwatchers and anyone who loves to learn about nature. It’s also an excellent day out if you’re interested in maritime history, since the Isles of Scilly are home to many ancient ruins and shipwrecks.
Its enjoyable climate and sense of solitude make this archipelago a perfect day out for anyone looking for a bit of an escape from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
It’s definitely one of the most unique and best days out in South West England. Check out these 22 interesting facts about the Isles of Scilly before you go, and read up about how to do a fun day trip to The Scilly Isles to make the most of your time on your chosen island.
7. Day out in Bath
Bath is a must-see city when in the South West of England, for a number of reasons. Whether you’re into historic buildings, or just want to soak in a thermal spa for the day, Bath Spa for a day trip is never a bad idea as it’s easily one of the best days out in South West England.
Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s know primarily for the ancient Roman Baths that sit here, dating back to around 65AD. The city is unique in that it is built on hot springs, and you can visit the places where the Romans would relax in the bubbling hot waters – bliss!
You can’t swim in the old ones anymore, but there are lots of modern spas available to book all around the city to enjoy the natural healing properties of the famous Bath water.
One of the best known is definitely the Thermae Spa, which firmly holds its place on our list of the 9 best spas in England. It’s a seriously luxurious collection of indoor and outdoor pools with plenty of bookable treatments on offer for ultimate relaxation. The open-air pool on the top floor is the highlight of this spa, offering rooftop views of the city which are pretty special – one of the more unusual days out South West England has to offer.
If you don’t fancy being in your bathing suit for the day, Bath is a fantastic city to simply wander around in, with lots of your favourite high street shops, independent boutiques, and unique places for a bite to eat. Plus, it’s absolutely teeming with historic buildings that will have you snapping pictures all day. One of the best photo locations has to be the Pulteney Bridge which looks down over the River Avon.
Here is your best itinerary for a day out in Bath, and if you’re visiting from London here’s how to make the most of your day trip.
8. Day out in Bristol
Bristol is a really exciting city with a unique atmosphere, and it’s definitely one of the best days out in South West England for couples becasue of its youthful energy. It’s well known as a cool, creative city, and in recent years house prices have risen due to everyone wanting to move there.
There’s lots to do in Bristol; see and walk across the Clifton Suspension Bridge, do some shopping in the city centre, visit the Science Museum and Bristol Museum, and much more. While there are lots of public transport options in Bristol (and cycling is BIG there), walking is do-able in this city and could help you take in more of the great architecture and sites.
Don’t miss a visit to the famous Cabot Tower which dates back to the 1890s – this tower commemorates the 400th anniversary of the journey of John Cabot, who travelled from Bristol to an unknown land, which we know today as Canada! You can climb the tower and see far-reaching views of the city.
Bristol Zoo Gardens is also one of the best days out in South West England, especially if you are bringing kids along. It’s actually the fifth oldest zoo in the world, and has been open since 1836. Impressively, it has saved over 175 species from extinction over the years, and you can spot red pandas, tree kangaroos and gorillas in this zoo.
9. Day out in the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is simply stunning, and a must-visit area of England whether you’re coming from abroad or you live in the UK. It’s an established Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) made up of small, quaint and very photogenic villages nestled amongst rolling hills and meadows. It’s safe to say there’s nowhere quite like it.
Cirencester is known as the capital of the Cotswolds as it’s the busiest area there, so many people like to base themselves there and explore the surrounding area. There are 787 square miles to discover though, so don’t limit yourself to Cirencester. The Cotswolds covers Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Somerset, so there’s lots to explore!
Check out Bibury, one of the most photogenic spots around, Burford, which is full of cute houses, and Stow on the Wold, which has a stunning church that you’ll be desperate to take a picture of.
There’s also Chipping Campden, which is full of boutique food and traditional English pubs, and Winchcombe, which is home to the over 1,000-year-old Sudeley Castle – well worth a visit if you love your historic sites.
This is definitely one of the best days out in South West England if you enjoy countryside rambling, English heritage and small villages, so don’t miss a day trip to the Cotswolds. You can find 8 great days out in the Cotswolds here.
10. Day out at Longleat Safari Park
Longeat Safari Park in Wiltshire is one of the most fun outdoor attractions in South West England, and one of the best safari parks in England too. In fact it’s one of Britain’s top ten visitor attractions, with over 1 million visitors each year coming to see one of over 3,000 animals and 500 species.
While you’ll see the classic lions and tigers at Longleat Safari Park, you can also spot more unique species that you don’t see in every wildlife park, like baboons and zebras. The exciting part of Longleat is that you can go on a safari drive in your own car (watch out for those monkeys!) and hear all about how the park operates.
You can also feed elephants there, or visit the fun interactive 4D cinema experience to watch movies like Born Wild or Big Cat Diary and expand your knowledge of wildlife.
This is one of the best days out in South West England for adults and kids alike, as little ones will learn lots and absolutely love the adventure drive, while adults won’t be able to contain their joy either.
It was voted by our readers as one of the 21 most popular England tourist attractions in 2022!
Are you planning to try out one of these best days out in South West England soon? We know there are SO many things to do in this part of the country, so although the above list contains some of the very best, comment below with any others you think should be on our list!
We are keen to continue updating it with brilliant attractions, and spread the joy of days out in the South West of England.
10 Best Days Out in South West England
- Day out at Stonehenge
- Day out in the New Forest
- Day out on the Jurassic Coast
- Day out at Cheddar Gorge
- Day out on the beaches in Cornwall
- Day out to the Isles of Scilly
- Day out in Bath
- Day out in Bristol
- Day out in the Cotswolds
- Day out at Longleat Safari Park