England is divided into counties and collective regions. The Cotswold Hills area includes parts of six counties, Bristol and Bath are cities in the county of Somerset which, together with Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Wiltshire are counties of the wider South West region.
The rolling hills of the Cotswolds are home to a network of historic market towns including Cirencester, Stroud, Tetbury and Tewkesbury. Larger centres are Gloucester, the horse-racing capital of Cheltenham and the city of Bath.
Standouts include photogenic Bibury, Broadway, Chipping Campden, Castle Combe and Northleach, while Sudeley Castle, Berkeley Castle, Longleat, Kelmscott Manor (home of William Morris) and Buscot Park are some places of note to visit.
Famous gardens include Hidcote, Kiftsgate Court, Barnsley House Garden, Bourton House Garden, Painswick Rococo Garden, Highgrove House Garden (home of Prince Charles) and Stourhead.
Balancing Victorian architecture, green spaces and the lively cultural and bar/dining scene that a university brings, Bristol is a city best discovered on foot.
At its heart is Harbourside with cobbled streets, converted warehouses, bars, waterside restaurants and the Watershed, a cinema and digital media complex. Independent shops and traders feature prominently in Bristol from the historic St. Nicholas Market to Park Street in Clifton, which leads to the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Art spaces abound and The Guild offers arts and crafts by local designers while At-Bristol is an interactive science centre.
This stylish city is a designated World Heritage Site (one of a kind in the UK), chosen by the Romans for its natural springs and loved by all, including novelist Jane Austen, for its setting and imposing architecture.
Must-sees include the Roman Baths, the Georgian splendour of The Circus and The Royal Crescent, the neoclassical architecture of Pulteney Bridge and Bath Abbey.
Visit the Assembly Rooms, home to an impressive Fashion Museum, the Jane Austen Centre and the fascinating Holbourne Museum. The modern spin on ‘taking the waters’ is a spa session at Thermae Bath Spa.
One of the UKs top holiday spots, with seaside destinations including dynamic St Ives, Padstow, Bude and many surf beaches on the northern Atlantic coast.
Around rugged Lands End, the south coast faces the Bristol Channel with turquoise bays, tiny fishing villages, harbours and estuaries such as Falmouth, Fowey, St Austell Bay and Penzance on Mount’s Bay, home of St Michael’s Mount.
There are some wonderful gardens – the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the futuristic Eden Project with plants from around the world, Lanhydrock House and Garden and medieval Cothele, Calstock.
Devon, Dorset & Wiltshire
There’s a wild side to Devon, villages to escape to down tiny side roads with high hedges, the spectacular moorlands of Dartmoor and Exmoor.
There’s arty Totnes, the central city hub of Exeter, the market towns of Bideford, Barnstaple and Tavistock, gorgeous Dartmouth and resorts on both Devon coasts.
Neighbouring Dorset offers rural bliss and the intrigue of the Jurassic Coast, historic Lyme Regis and Dorchester, plus plentiful seafood offerings and seasonal oysters, farmed or fresh.
Wiltshire harbours iconic Stonehenge, Salibury Cathedral, Lacock Abbey, Old Sarum and the rolling chalk downs.