Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

England South West Region

Straddling the southwest peninsula between the Celtic Sea to the north and the English Channel to the south, Devon’s two coastlines are known for quaint, historic seaside villages, sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs. The two national parks, Exmoor and Dartmoor, have prehistoric stone circles in remote, evocative settings. In the early 1900s fossil hunters found the earliest human remains in England, while builders constructed Castle Drogo, England’s youngest castle. The South West region includes the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and the Isles of Scilly
Ruins of the Wheal Coates Tin mine overlooking Chapel Porth beach.

Cornwall & Isles of Scilly

Located at Britain’s southwestern tip, Cornwall has a rich collection of prehistoric monuments, from the settlements of Carn Euny and Chysauster to the stone circles at Boscawen-Un and the Hurlers. Probably the county’s most famous medieval site, Tintagel Castle, is the legendary birthplace of King Arthur, with the Arthurian connection contributing to popular perceptions of Cornwall as a land of mystery and enchantment.


Part of Britain’s southwestern peninsula, Devon is the largest county in southern England. Largely rural, it is home to Dartmoor as well as much of Exmoor, both national parks in which various prehistoric structures can be found, among them the Fernworthy and Grey Wethers stone circles. Perhaps Devon’s best-surviving medieval castle is at Berry Pomeroy, while the county also possesses a wealth of medieval churches, including the largely 15th-century Exeter Cathedral. In addition, Devon is known for its large number of stately homes, many of which are open to the public.


Dorset has a truly ancient history. The cliffs along its ‘Jurassic Coast’, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contain fossil evidence for animals that died millions of years ago. Prehistoric humans also left their mark on the county, reflected at sites like the Nine Stones circle and the Maumbury Rings earthwork. Dorset’s most magnificent prehistoric landmark, however, is the largest hillfort in Britain – Maiden Castle. Just as iconic is Dorset’s Cerne Abbas Giant; while dating evidence suggests it is early medieval, this giant chalk geoglyph continues to baffle observers.


Gloucestershire has one of the finest concentrations of Early Neolithic monuments in Britain. Iron Age hillforts are also to be found, while in the Roman era, the area saw the growth of two major new towns, Corinium (Cirencester) and Glevum (Gloucester). After the collapse of the Roman administration, indigenous groups reasserted their dominance, although Anglo-Saxon groups subsequently came to power in the early middle ages. Like much of England, Gloucestershire has its share of medieval castles and churches, as well as early modern country houses. In the 19th century the iron ore under the Forest of Dean led to an expansion of industry and the railways.

Somerset & Bristol

From the heights of Exmoor and the Mendips to the watery lowlands of the Levels, Somerset has a rich prehistoric heritage, from the Early Neolithic long barrow at Stoney Littleton to the Bronze Age stone circles at Stanton Drew, and on to various Iron Age hillforts – including Cadbury Camp, often associated with King Arthur’s legendary Camelot. The Romans also settled here, with the city of Bath being home to one of England’s most famous Romano-British sites, the baths and springs of Sulis-Minerva. As well as having a medieval fortification at Nunney Castle, the county also bears evidence of medieval ecclesiastical activity, such as the ruins of Muchelney Abbey, Glastonbury Abbey, and the surviving tower atop Glastonbury Tor. 


Known for the rolling agricultural fields of Salisbury Plain, the landlocked county of Wiltshire has a rich heritage from the Stone Age to World War II and more recent. It is also home to the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites UNESCO World Heritage Site. Containing perhaps the finest assortment of prehistoric monuments in England, Wiltshire appears to have been a hub of major ceremonial activity in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages. During the Iron Age the people of the area erected a range of hill forts at prominent locations in the landscape. In the middle ages one of the grandest medieval buildings in all of Europe was erected in the market town of Salisbury, the Salisbury Cathedral.