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A brief guide to the towns and villages of the South West of England

South West


Allerford
Village with picturesque stone and thatch cottages and a packhorse bridge, set in the beautiful Vale of Porlock.

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Amesbury
Standing on the banks of the River Avon, this is the nearest town to Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. The area is rich in prehistoric sites.

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Ashburton
Formerly a thriving wool centre and important as one of Dartmoor's 4 stannary towns. Today's busy market town has many period buildings. Ancient tradition is maintained in the annual ale-tasting and bread-weighing ceremony. Good centre for exploring Dartmoor or the South Devon coast.

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Ashwater
Village 6 miles south-east of Holsworthy, with a pleasant village green dominated by its church.

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Bampton
Riverside market town, famous for its fair each October.

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Batcombe
Village tucked into a fold of the hills, close to the uppermost reaches of the River Alham, giving superb views of the countryside. The church has a splendid 15th century tower.

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Bath
Georgian spa city beside the River Avon. Important Roman site with impressive reconstructed baths, uncovered in 19th century. Bath Abbey was built on the site of the monastery where the first king of England was crowned (AD 973). Fine architecture is mellow local stone. Pump Room and museums.

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Beaminster
Old country town of mellow local stone set amid hills and rural vales. Mainly Georgian buildings; attractive almshouses dating from 1603. The 17th century church, with its ornate, pinnacled tower, was restored inside by the Victorians. Parnham, a Tudor manor house, lies 1 mile south.

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Berrynarbor
Picturesque, old-world village, winner of best-kept village awards, adjoining the lovely, wooded Sterridge Valley. On scenic route between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin.

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Bideford
The home port of Sir Richard Grenville, the town, with its 17th century merchants' houses, flourished as a shipbuilding and cloth town. The bridge of 24 arches was built in about 1460. Charles Kingsley stayed here while writing Westward Ho!

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Bigbury-on-Sea
Small resort on Bigbury Bay at the mouth of the River Avon. Wide sands, rugged cliffs. Burgh Island can be reached on foot at low tide.

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Bodmin
County town south-west of Bodmin Moor with a ruined priory and church dedicated to St Petroc. Nearby are Lanhydrock House and Pencarrow House.

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Boscastle
Small, unspoilt village in Valency Valley. Active as a port until the onset of the railway era, its natural harbour affords rare shelter on this wild coast. Attractions include spectacular blow-hole, Celtic field strips, part-Norman church. Nearby St Juliot Church was restored by Thomas Hardy.

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Bovey Tracey
Standing by the river just east of Dartmoor National Park, this old town has good moorland views. Its church, with a 14th century tower, holds one of Devon's finest medieval rood screens.

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Bradford-on-Avon
Huddled beside the river, the buildings of this former cloth-weaving town reflect continuing prosperity from the Middle Ages. There is a tiny Anglo-Saxon church, part of a monastery. The part-14th century bridge carries a medieval chapel, later used as a gaol.

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Bratton
Hamlet on the edge of the Exmoor National Park, close to the resort of Minehead.

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Brayford
Village which lies 6 miles north-west of South Molton and marks the crossing of the River Bray by one of the main roads from Exmoor to the sea.

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Brean
Caravans and holiday bungalows are situated by sand dunes on the flat shoreline south of Brean Down. This rocky promontory has exhilarating cliff walks, bird-watching and an Iron Age fort.

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Bridgwater
Former medieval port on the River Parrett, now a small industrial town with mostly 19th century or modern architecture. Georgian Castle Street leads to West Quay and the site of a 13th century castle razed to the ground by Cromwell. The birthplace of Cromwellian Admiral Robert Blake is now a museum. Arts centre.

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Bridport
Market town and chief producer of nets and ropes just inland of dramatic Dorset coast. Old, broad streets built for drying and twisting and long gardens for rope-walks. Grand arcaded Town Hall and Georgian buildings. The local-history museum has Roman relics.

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Bristol
Famous for maritime links, historic harbour, Georgian terraces and Brunel's Clifton suspension bridge. Many attractions including SS Great Britain, Bristol Zoo, museums and art galleries and top-name entertainments. Events include Balloon Fiesta and Regatta.

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Brixham
Famous for its trawling fleet in the 19th century, a steeply built fishing port overlooking the harbour and fish market. A statue of William of Orange recalls his landing here before deposing James II. There is an aquarium and museum. Good cliff views and walks.

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Buckland Newton
Village in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the edge of the Dorset Downs midway between Dorchester and Sherborne.

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Bude
Resort on dramatic Atlantic coast. High cliffs give spectacular sea and inland views. Golf course, cricket pitch, folly, surfing, coarse-fishing and boating. Mother-town Stratton was base of Royalist Sir Bevil Grenville.

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Castle Cary
One of south Somerset's most attractive market towns with a picturesque, winding high street of golden stone and thatch, market-house and famous round 18th century lock-up.

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Challacombe
Small, attractive village surrounded by stunning countryside of the Exmoor National Park. Close to the North Devon coast, a number of National Trust properties and family attractions.

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Chapel Amble
Village 2 miles north of Wadebridge and within easy reach of the Camel Estuary and the North Cornwall coast.

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Cheddar
Large village at foot of Mendips just south of the spectacular Cheddar Gorge. Close by are Roman and Saxon sites and famous show caves. Traditional Cheddar cheese is still made here.

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Chippenham
Ancient market town with modern industry. Notable early buildings include the medieval Town Hall and the gabled 15th century Yelde Hall, now a local history museum. On the outskirts, Hardenhuish has a charming hilltop church designed by the Georgian architect John Wood of Bath.

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Chipping Sodbury
Old market town, its buildings a mixture of Cotswold stone and mellowed brickwork. The 15th century church and the market cross are of interest. Horton Court (National Trust) stands 4 miles north-east and preserves a very rare Norman hall.

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Chudleigh
Small market town close to main Exeter to Plymouth road. To the south is Chudleigh Rock, a dramatic limestone outcrop containing prehistoric caves.

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Chumleigh
Small, hilly town above the Little Dart River, long since by-passed by the main road. The large 15th century church is noted for its splendid rood screen and 38 carved wooden angels on the roof.

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Colyton
Surrounded by fertile farmland, this small riverside town was an early Saxon settlement. Medieval prosperity from the wool trade built the grand church tower, with its octagonal lantern, and the church's fine west window.

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Combe Martin
On the edge of the Exmoor National Park, this seaside village is set in a long, narrow valley with its natural harbour lying between towering cliffs. The main beach is a mixture of sand, rocks and pebbles and the lack of strong currents ensures safe bathing.

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Crackington Haven
Tiny village on the North Cornwall coast, with a small sandy beach and surf bathing. The highest cliffs in Cornwall lie to the south.

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Crediton
Ancient town in fertile valley, once prosperous from wool, now active in cider-making. Said to be the birthplace of St Boniface. The 13th century Chapter House, the church governors' meeting place, holds a collection of armour from the Civil War.

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Dartmouth
Ancient port at mouth of Dart. Has fine period buildings, notably town houses near Quay and Butterwalk of 1635. Harbour castle ruin. In the 12th century Crusader fleets assembled here. Royal Naval College dominates from hill. Carnival, June; Regatta, August.

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Dawlish
Small resort, developed in Regency and Victorian periods beside Dawlish Water. The town centre has ornamental riverside gardens with black swans. One of England's most scenic stretches of railway was built by Brunel alongside jagged red cliffs between the sands and the town.

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Dawlish Warren
Popular with campers and caravanners, a sandy spit of land at the mouth of the River Exe. The sand dunes, with their golf links, are rich in plant and bird life. Brunel's atmospheric railway once ran along the dramatic line between jagged red cliffs and sandy shore.

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Devizes
Old market town standing on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Rebuilt Norman castle, good 18th century buildings. St John's church has 12th century work and a Norman tower. Museum of Wiltshire's archaeology and natural history reflects a wealth of prehistoric sites in the county.

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dulverton
Set among woods and hills of south-west Exmoor, a busy riverside town with a 13th century church. The rivers Barle and Exe are rich in salmon and trout. The information centre at the Exmoor National Park Headquarters at Dulverton is open throughout the year.

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Exeter
University city rebuilt after the 1940s around its cathedral. Attractions include 13th century cathedral with fine west front; notable waterfront buildings; Guildhall; Royal Albert Memorial Museum; underground passages; Northcott Theatre.

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Fowey
Set on steep slopes at the mouth of the Fowey River, an important clayport and fishing town. Ruined forts guarding the shore recall the days of "Fowey Gallants" who ruled the local seas. The lofty church rises above the town. Ferries to Polruan and Bodinnick; August regatta.

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Frome
Old market town with modern light industry, its medieval centre watered by River Frome. Above Cheap Street, with its flagstones and watercourse, is the church, showing work of varying periods. Interesting buildings include 18th century wool merchants' houses.

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Glastonbury
Market town associated with Joseph of Arimathea and the birth of English Christianity. Built around its 7th century abbey, said to be the site of King Arthur's burial. Glastonbury Tor, with its ancient tower, gives panoramic views over flat country and the Mendip Hills.

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Honiton
Old coaching town in undulating farmland. Formerly famous for lace-making, it is now an antiques-trade centre and market town. Small museum.

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Hope Cove
Sheltered by the 400 foot headland of Bolt Tail, Hope Cove lies close to a small resort with thatched cottages, Inner Hope. Between Bolt Tail and Bolt Head lie 6 miles of beautiful National Trust cliffs.

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Kingsbridge
Formerly important as a port, now a market town overlooking head of beautiful, wooded estuary winding deep into rural countryside. Summer art exhibitions; Cookworthy Museum.

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Lacock
Village of great charm. Medieval buildings of stone, brick or timber-frame have jutting storeys, gables and oriel windows. The magnificent church has Perpendicular fan-vaulted chapel with grand tomb to benefactor who, after Dissolution, bought Augustinian nunnery, Lacock Abbey.

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Langport
Small market town with Anglo-Saxon origins, sloping to River Parrett. Well known for glove making and, formerly, for eels. Interesting old buildings include some fine local churches.

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Launceston
Medieval "Gateway to Cornwall", county town until 1838, founded by the Normans under their hilltop castle near the original monastic settlement. This market town, overlooked by its castle ruin, has a square with Georgian houses and an elaborately carved granite church.

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Lee
Village 2 miles west of Ilfracombe, nestling in a coombe leading down to Lee Bay and sometimes called Fuchsia Valley.

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Liskeard
Former stannary town with a livestock market and light industry, at the head of a valley running to the coast. Handsome Georgian and Victorian residences and a Victorian Guildhall reflect the prosperity of the mining boom. The large church has an early 20th century tower and a Norman fort.

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Looe
Small resort developed around former fishing and smuggling ports occupying the deep estuary of the East and West Looe rivers. Narrow, winding streets, with old inns; the museum and art gallery are housed in interesting old buildings. Shark-fishing centre, boat trips; busy harbour.

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Lostwithiel
Cornwall's ancient capital which gained its Royal Charter in 1189. Tin from the mines around the town was smelted and coined in the Duchy Palace. Norman Restormel Castle, with its circular keep and deep moat, overlooks the town.

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Lynton
Hilltop resort on Exmoor coast linked to its seaside twin, Lynmouth, by a water-operated cliff railway which descends from the town hall. Spectacular surroundings of moorland cliffs with steep chasms of conifer and rocks through which rivers cascade.

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Malmesbury
Overlooking the River Avon, an old town dominated by its great church, once a Benedictine abbey. The surviving Norman nave and porch are noted for fine sculptures, 12th century arches and musicians' gallery.

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Marazion
Old town sloping to Mount's Bay with views of St Michael's Mount and a causeway to the island revealed at low tide. In medieval times it catered for pilgrims. The Mount is crowned by a 15th century castle built around the former Benedictine monastery of 1044.

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Mevagissey
Small fishing town, a favourite with holidaymakers. Earlier prosperity came from pilchard fisheries, boat-building and smuggling. By the harbour are fish cellars, some converted, and a local history museum is housed in an old boat-building shed. Handsome Methodist chapel; shark fishing, sailing.

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Minehead
Victorian resort with spreading sands developed around old fishing port on the coast below Exmoor. Former fishermen's cottages stand beside the 17th century harbour; cobbled streets climb the hill in steps to the church. Boat trips, steam railway. Hobby Horse festival 1st May.

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Minions
Village on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor with many prehistoric sites nearby. Paths lead to the Cheesewring, a stone formation where thick, oval slabs balance precariously.

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Moretonhampstead
Small market town, with a row of 17th century almshouses, standing on the Exeter Road. Surrounding moorland is scattered with ancient farmhouses and prehistoric sites.

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Mothecombe
Situated on the western side of the Erme Estuary and close to the coast of Bigbury Bay. Within easy reach of Plymouth and Kingsbridge.

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Mousehole
Old fishing port completely rebuilt after its destruction in the 16th century by Spanish raiders. Twisting lanes and granite cottages with luxuriant gardens rise steeply from the harbour; just south is a private bird sanctuary.

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Newquay
Popular resort spread over dramatic cliffs around its old fishing port. Many beaches with abundant sands, caves and rock pools; excellent surf. Pilot's gigs are still raced from the harbour, and on the headland stands the stone Huer's House from the pilchard-fishing days.

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North Molton
Village on the southern slopes of Exmoor, a centre for local copper mines in the 19th century. A 17th century monument in the church shows the effigies of a mining landlord and his family.

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Okehampton
Busy market town near the high tors of northern Dartmoor. The Victorian church, with William Morris windows and a 15th century tower, stands on the site of a Saxon church. A Norman castle ruin overlooks the river to the west of the town. Museum of Dartmoor Life in a restored mill.

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Padstow
Old town encircling its harbour on the Camel Estuary. The 15th century church has notable bench-ends. There are fine houses on North Quay and Raleigh's Court House on South Quay. Tall cliffs and golden sands along the coast, and ferry to Rock. Famous 'Obby 'Oss Festival on 1st May.

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Paignton
Lively seaside resort with a pretty harbour. Bronze Age and Saxon sites are occupied by the 15th century church, which has a Norman door and font. The beautiful Chantry Chapel was built by local landowners, the Kirkhams.

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Penzance
Resort and fishing port on Mount's Bay with mainly Victorian promenade and some fine Regency terraces. Former prosperity came from tin trade and pilchard fishing. Grand Georgian-style church by harbour. Georgian Egyptian building at head of Chapel Street and Morrab Gardens.

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Perranporth
Small seaside resort developed around a former mining village. Today's attractions include exciting surf, rocks, caves and extensive sand dunes.

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Pillaton
Peaceful village on the slopes of the River Lynher in steeply wooded country near the Devon border. Within easy reach of the coast and rugged walking country on Bodmin Moor.

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Polperro
Picturesque fishing village clinging to steep valley slopes about its harbour. A river splashes past cottages, and narrow lanes twist between. The harbour mouth, guarded by jagged rocks, is closed by heavy timbers during storms.

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Porlock
Village set between steep Exmoor hills and the sea at the head of beautiful Porlock Vale. The narrow street shows a medley of building styles. South-westward is Porlock Weir, with its old houses and tiny harbour, and further along the shore at Culbone is England's smallest church.

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Port Issac
Old fishing port of whitewashed cottages, twisting stairways and narrow alleys. A stream splashes down through the centre to the harbour. Nearby stands a 19th century folly, Doyden Castle, with a magnificent view of the coast.

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Portreath
Formerly developed as a mining port, now a small resort with some handsome 19th century buildings. Cliffs, sands and good surf.

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Ruan High Lanes
Village at the northern end of the Roseland Peninsula.

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St. Austell
Leading market town, the meeting point of old and new Cornwall. One mile from St Austell Bay with its sandy beaches, old fishing villages and attractive countryside. Ancient narrow streets, pedestrian shopping precincts. Fine church of Pentewan stone and Italianate Town Hall.

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St. Ives
Old fishing port, artists' colony and holiday town with good surfing beach. Fishermen's cottages, granite fish cellars, a sandy harbour and magnificent headlands typify a charm that has survived since the 19th century pilchard boom. Tate Gallery opened in 1993.

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St. Mawgan
Pretty village of great historic interest, on wooded slopes in the Vale of Lanherne. At its centre, an old stone bridge over the River Menahyl is overlooked by the church with its lofty, buttressed tower. Among ancient stone crosses in the churchyard is a 15th century lantern cross with carved figures.

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Salcombe
Sheltered yachting resort of whitewashed houses and narrow streets in a balmy setting on the Salcombe Estuary. Palm, myrtle and other Mediterranean plants flourish. There are sandy bays and creeks for boating.

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Seaton
Small resort lying near the mouth of the River Axe. A mile-long beach extends to the dramatic cliffs of Beer Head. Annual art exhibition in July.

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Shepton Mallet
Historic town in the Mendip foothills, important in Roman times and site of many significant archaeological finds. The cloth industry reached its peak in the 17th century, and many fine examples of cloth merchants' houses remain. Beautiful parish church, market cross, local history museum, Collett Park.

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Sherston
Village situated 5 miles south-west of Malmesbury, with 16th century to 18th century houses in the High Street. Site of a battle against the Danes in 1016.

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Sidmouth
Charming resort set amid lofty red cliffs where the River Sid meets the sea. The wealth of ornate Regency and Victorian villas recalls the time when this was one of the south coast's most exclusive resorts. Museum; August International Festival of Folk Arts.

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Somerton
Old market town, important in Saxon times, situated at a gap in the hills south-east of Sedgemoor. Attractive red-roofed stone houses surround the 17th century octagonal market cross, and among other handsome buildings are the Town Hall and almshouses of about the same period.

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Taunton
County town, well known for its public schools, sheltered by gentle hill-ranges on the River Tone. Medieval prosperity from wool has continued in marketing and manufacturing, and the town retains many fine period buildings. Museum.

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Tavistock
Old market town beside the River Tavy on the western edge of Dartmoor. Developed around its 10th century abbey, of which some fragments still remain, it became a stannary town in 1305 when tin-streaming thrived on the moors. Tavistock Goose Fair, October.

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Tintagel
Coastal village near the legendary home of King Arthur. There is a lofty headland with the ruin of a Norman castle, and traces of a Celtic monastery are still visible in the turf.

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Torquay
Devon's grandest resort, developed from a fishing village. Smart apartments and terraces rise from the seafront, and Marine Drive along the headland gives views of beaches and colourful cliffs.

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Torrington
Perched high above the River Torridge, with a charming market square, Georgian Town Hall and a museum. The famous Dartington Crystal Factory, Rosemoor Gardens and Plough Arts Centre are all located in the town.

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Totnes
Old market town steeply built near the head of the Dart Estuary. The remains of a motte and bailey castle, medieval gateways, a noble church, 16th century Guildhall and medley of period houses recall former wealth from cloth and shipping, continued in rural and water industries.

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Trowbridge
Wiltshire's administrative centre, a handsome market and manufacturing town with a wealth of merchants' houses and other Georgian buildings.

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Waderbridge
Old market town with Cornwall's finest medieval bridge, spanning the Camel at its highest navigable point. Twice widened, the bridge is said to have been built on woolpacks sunk in the unstable sands of the riverbed.

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Watchet
Small port on Bridgwater Bay, sheltered by the Quantocks and the Brendon Hills. A thriving paper industry keeps the harbour busy; in the 19th century it handled iron from the Brendon Hills. Cleeve Abbey, a ruined Cistercian monastery, is 3 miles to the south-west.

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Wells
Small city set beneath the southern slopes of the Mendips. Built between 1180 and 1424, the magnificent cathedral is preserved in much of its original glory and, with its ancient precincts, forms one of our loveliest and most unified groups of medieval buildings.

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West Bay
Picturesque resort with a busy harbour, the perfect base for exploring this spectacular stretch of coastline.

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West Bexington
Village on the stretch of Dorset coast known as Chesil Beach. Close to the famous Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens and Swannery.

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Weston-Super-Mare
Large, friendly resort developed in the 19th century. Traditional seaside attractions include theatres and a dance hall. The museum has a Victorian seaside gallery and Iron Age finds from a hill fort on Worlebury Hill in Weston Woods.

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Weymouth
Ancient port and one of the south's earliest resorts. Curving beside a long, sandy beach, the elegant Georgian esplanade is graced with a statue of George III and a cheerful Victorian Jubilee clock tower. Museum, Sea Life Centre.

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Withypool
Pretty village high on Exmoor near the beautiful River Barle. On Winsford Hill (National Trust) are Bronze Age barrows known as the Wambarrows.

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