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English Countryside Itinerary


2 Weeks in England's West Country

England’s West Country is a lovely and timeless region, chiefly composed of rolling and wooded countryside where tiny stone villages are tucked into folds in the land. However, in central Devon, the high moorland of Dartmoor can change from benign to forbidding in seconds, while the dramatic cliffs of Cornwall’s Penwith coastline take the full force of the North Atlantic swell. 

Bath is the area’s most remarkable city, with its legacy of Imperial Rome as well as ravishing 18th-century crescents and squares constructed from honey-colored limestone. 

Exeter and Wells are justly famous for their medieval cathedrals, while farther south you will find romantic fishing ports such as Fowey, Portloe and St. Mawes. 

This two-week English countryside itinerary lets you discover all of these picturesque and historical destinations and more.

Our itineraries are for your inspiration. If you do not see specific departure dates listed, please contact Andrew Harper Travel to customize this itinerary to fit your needs.
Highlights

    • Explore exquisite cathedrals, mansions and abbeys
    • Walk through quaint, covered markets selling fruit, vegetables and art
    • Take in the scenic landscapes of England's West Country
    • Discover ancient Roman baths


Day 1 - 2 : Salisbury & Wareham

From London it is a two-hour drive down the M3 motorway to the city of Salisbury.

Upon arrival, make a pilgrimage to Cathedral Close, perhaps the most distinctive of the country’s great cathedrals, with a delicate 404-foot spire that rises from the surrounding water meadows, exactly as it does in Constable’s famous paintings from the 1820s.

Continue on to Wareham in west Dorset. Check in at The Priory, a traditional, independently owned property in an idyllic and secluded setting beneath the tower of Lady St. Mary Church (founded in A.D. 800) and amid colorful cottage gardens. 

Spend the remainder of the evening at your leisure, perhaps enjoying dinner at The Priory's restaurant after strolling the grounds.

On your second day, explore the unspoiled market town of Wareham. Be sure to visit one of the two Saxon churches, St. Martin on the Wall, which dates from 1030. Much of the structure is original; the north wall of the chancel has 12th-century frescoes. You can also explore Clouds Hill, the tiny cottage that was the last retreat of T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia, just six miles west.

Day 3 : Lyme

Head to Lyme, which features in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” and John Fowles’ “The French Lieutenant’s Woman.” Hix Oyster & Fish House provides a fine place for lunch overlooking the sea. Alternatively, The Anchor Inn in the nearby coastal hamlet of Seatown serves excellent fresh shellfish in a simple pub setting. Other notable pubs on the Jurassic Coast include The Smugglers Inn at Osmington Mills (halfway between Wareham and Lyme Regis) and the wonderful Square & Compass, high on the limestone cliffs at Worth Matravers eight miles south of Wareham.

A mandatory stop for most travelers is the Swannery at Abbotsbury, which dates from 1393 and contains more than 600 mute swans. Or you can relish the windswept solitude to be found on nearby Chesil Beach, an 18-mile spit of shingle running parallel to the coast that is renowned for its seabirds and migratory wildfowl.

Day 4 - 5 : Dorset

After breakfast depart for Summer Lodge, 31 miles northwest. The 18th-century house is set within the tiny (and exquisitely pretty) village of Evershot, surrounded by four acres of gardens.

Summer Lodge is an ideal place from which to tour rural Dorset for the next couple of days. The magnificent English Renaissance mansion Montacute House lies 13 miles north, while the romantic Jacobean manor of Mapperton, with its famous sunken garden, is just seven miles southwest. And 12 miles northwest, Sherborne Abbey is regarded by some as the finest church in England. The original eighth-century Saxon cathedral was largely replaced by a 12th-century Norman abbey. But it is the astonishing 15th-century fan vaulting that brings visitors from all over the world.

Day 6 - 7 : Chagford & Dartmouth

A 71-mile drive from Evershot to Chagford in Devon brings you to Gidleigh Park at the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park, the last remaining wilderness area in southern England. Much of Dartmoor is high and exposed moorland; Gidleigh, however, is located amid woodland at the end of a long, narrow driveway lined by high stone walls. From Gidleigh, it is possible to hike or ride amid the inspiring landscape of Dartmoor. Arthur Conan Doyle chose it as the setting for his famous Sherlock Holmes story “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” 

Devon has dozens of charming villages to explore, such as Chagford, which is so beautiful that you wonder at times whether it is actually real or merely a huge movie set, and Exeter, the administrative center of Devon. There, the lovely 12th-century Norman cathedral has a splendid vaulted nave.

Forty miles south, the attractive city of Dartmouth is home to the Britannia Royal Naval College and Dartmouth Castle. The latter comprises a pair of fortresses that have guarded the mouth of the Dart River since the 15th century and were even used for gun emplacements in World War II to safeguard preparations for the D-Day landings. The Seahorse in Dartmouth is a delightful place for lunch.

Day 8 - 9 : Tavistock

Thirty-three miles southwest, on the opposite side of Dartmoor, the 16-room Hotel Endsleigh is housed by a former 19th-century fishing lodge surrounded by 108 acres of gardens and rose terraces that slope down to the Tamar River, the boundary between Devon and Cornwall. Tucked into a steep valley, the Regency house has an idyllic setting.

Just 15 minutes away, Tavistock is a lovely market town with a growing reputation for food shops. There is a covered fruit and vegetable market each week, and also a farmers market and art market each month. Restaurants in the vicinity include The Dartmoor Inn in Lydford, 10 miles northwest, and The Treby Arms in Plympton — a gastropub that recently acquired a Michelin star — 23 miles south. (The nearby city and naval base of Plymouth was heavily bombed in World War II, and today it is a utilitarian and unattractive place.) Halfway between Hotel Endsleigh and Plympton lies Buckland Abbey, a 700-year-old house once owned by the explorer, privateer and English naval hero Sir Francis Drake. Buckland also contains a notable Rembrandt self-portrait.

Day 10 - 11 : Cornwall

Make your way to Hotel Tresanton in St. Mawes, an enchanting village on the exquisite Roseland Peninsula of the southern Channel coast of Cornwall. Aside from bright, comfortable rooms and a memorable seaview terrace, Tresanton offers exceptional seafood (including delicious local Cornish crab) in its justly acclaimed restaurant. The hotel provides a perfect base from which to explore other coastal towns and villages, notably the sailing center of Fowey and the postcard-perfect hamlet of Portloe (where The Lugger Hotel is an excellent place for a lobster or shellfish lunch). 

The scenic and timeless Roseland Peninsula is noted by Mr. Harper as one of his favorite places in England, not least because it contains some of the loveliest stretches of the South West Coast Path, the 630-mile footpath that runs along the coasts of Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.

Cornwall is famous for its gardens, which benefit from the county’s mild winter climate, the result of the warm Gulf Stream transatlantic current. Mr. Harper suggests Trewithen, Trelissick and Glendurgan, all of which are within easy reach of Tresanton.

The north coast of Cornwall offers spectacular walks along the coastline of Penwith, where the cliffs receive the full impact of the uninterrupted North Atlantic swells. Out of season, St. Ives is a pretty town, long a favorite of painters, with a branch of London’s Tate Gallery, plus a fascinating museum dedicated to the work of the English Modernist sculptor Barbara Hepworth.

Forty-three miles north (and 33 miles from Tresanton), the attractive town of Padstow is situated at the mouth of the Camel River. One of its chief claims to fame is The Seafood Restaurant, a Cornish institution run by chef, hotelier, author and TV host Rick Stein. The quality of the local oysters and langoustines is superb. 

Day 12 - 15 : Bath

The 200-mile drive from St. Mawes to the glorious city of Bath takes at least three and a half hours by the most direct route. Nonetheless, it is possible to use Bath as a base from which to explore Somerset, including the medieval city of Wells, with its lovely cathedral. Certainly, its 13th-century west front is a sublime synthesis of architecture, decoration and figurative sculpture, and the stained glass in the Lady Chapel is exquisite. 

Seven miles south, the enigmatic Glastonbury Tor rises abruptly from the Somerset Levels. A conical hill, the tor is believed by some to be the Avalon of Arthurian legend. (Avalon is said to be the place where Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, was forged and where as king he recovered from his wounds after fighting the traitor Mordred at the Battle of Camlann.)

Bath itself merits several days’ exploration. Arguably the most beautiful city in England, it is famous for its Roman Baths, its abbey (where Edgar was crowned first king of England in A.D. 973) and its neoclassical crescents, terraces and squares.

During your time in Bath, enjoy a stay at the beautiful English country house hotel Lucknam Park, nine miles northwest of the city.

From Bath, it is an easy 100-mile, two-hour drive along the M4 motorway to London’s Heathrow Airport.

Day 1 - 2 : Salisbury & Wareham

From London it is a two-hour drive down the M3 motorway to the city of Salisbury.

Upon arrival, make a pilgrimage to Cathedral Close, perhaps the most distinctive of the country’s great cathedrals, with a delicate 404-foot spire that rises from the surrounding water meadows, exactly as it does in Constable’s famous paintings from the 1820s.

Continue on to Wareham in west Dorset. Check in at The Priory, a traditional, independently owned property in an idyllic and secluded setting beneath the tower of Lady St. Mary Church (founded in A.D. 800) and amid colorful cottage gardens. 

Spend the remainder of the evening at your leisure, perhaps enjoying dinner at The Priory's restaurant after strolling the grounds.

On your second day, explore the unspoiled market town of Wareham. Be sure to visit one of the two Saxon churches, St. Martin on the Wall, which dates from 1030. Much of the structure is original; the north wall of the chancel has 12th-century frescoes. You can also explore Clouds Hill, the tiny cottage that was the last retreat of T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia, just six miles west.

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English Countryside Itinerary

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