Renting a cottage in Devon or Cornwall for a week or a fortnight is one of the most popular of all English holidays. The West Country is undoubtedly among the most beautiful areas of England, and this Lonely Planet guidebook to the region also takes in Dorset and Somerset (including the cities of Bath, Bristol and Bournemouth) as it guides the visitor around Southwest England in its 316 pages.
Written by two authors who have between them lived in the southwest for 37 years, Oliver Berry and Belinda Dixon, this regional guide ought to be good. According to the cover the two writers spent 1300 hours on research (who had time to count?), and ate lots of Cornish pasties.
Devon and Cornwall: Country Cottages and More
Recommending hotels and other accommodation options is an important part of any guidebook, and here the Lonely Planet guide definitely does a good job. Many people do want to rent a country cottage in Devon or Cornwall, for which there are many specialist cottage rental companies, but others prefer traditional hotels, guesthouses, b&bs and, in a lovely rural area like this, farmstays.
This LP guide includes lots of options, from inexpensive backpacker hostels to farmstays, historic pubs and coaching inns, characterful guesthouses, camping barns, cosy b&bs, and more. Don’t expect too many luxury hotels, though there are some especially in the handful of major cities like Exeter, Bath and Bristol, but their accommodation write-ups are lively and definitely give you a really good feel for all of the places in just a few words.
West Country Guide: Best Features
Near the front of the book are three lists headed Top Reads, covering fiction and poetry, history and biography, and other guidebooks. This part of England is so well-served by writers that it would be a crime to go there and not read at least one book about the region, such as something by Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier, Charles Kingsley, Henry Williamson, or TH White.
Other good features include special sections and essays on the Environment, History, Culture, Food and Drink, and the Outdoors, with lengthy practical sections at the back of the book, and several suggested itineraries depending on your tastes and the time available.
What to See and Do in the West Country
The book begins with a full-colour section picking out some of the best things to see and to do in Southwest England. The highlights, according to these local experts, are:
In Bristol, Bath and Somerset:
The Somerset Levels
Surfing at Croyde
Agatha Christie’s Devon, and her holiday home at Greenway
Beer (the fishing village, that is)
The Isles of Scilly
The Eden Project
Cornwall’s Megalithic Monuments
Bodmin Moor and Brown Willy (Cornwall’s highest point)
The Lizard Peninsula
West Country Guide: The Verdict
The inclusion of the two additional and beautiful counties of Somerset and Dorset give this book an edge over other guidebooks, most of which only cover Devon and Cornwall. All in all, it’s an excellent guide to the region, showing that these local authors really do know their turf (and surf).