Horace Greeley may have made the phrase “Go West, young man” famous, but he was referring to travelers on this side of the Atlantic. If he could look at England’s West Country, which includes Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, Wiltshire, and Somerset, he might note that while the region draws scores of Londoners seeking to get out of Dodge, there are also plenty of tantalizing offerings for tourist types.
EAT AND DRINK
Many people think of fish-and-chips as a boring English staple. Staple yes, boring no. Rick Stein opened a quayside fish-and-chips shop and restaurant (www.rickstein.com) in Padstow, an area where celebs such as Edward Woodward and Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues have been spotted regularly. The fish come from local Cornish waters and, in addition to the traditional cod, haddock, and plaice, customers can select a less-well-known fillet like gurnard from a fish counter and then decide how they’d like it cooked.
Controversial modern artist Damien Hirst has opened a restaurant/bar in quiet North Devon. Number 11 the Quay (www.11thequay.co.uk) offers plentiful seafood, tapas, and mezze options and includes one room shaped like an overturned boat, as well as the less-formal White Hart Bar, which overlooks Ilfracombe harbor.
As regional cuisine makes a comeback, so, too, does the once-popular gin. With its own geographical designation, Plymouth Gin (www.plymouthgin.com) offers visitors a tour of the ancient distillery, insight into the history of gin, and the opportunity to sample drinks in the new Refectory Bar.
In Bath, upscale locals and celebs head to Margaret’s Buildings and the award-winning JAQ (011-44-1225-447975) — known for the best in women’s couture — then go right next door to Liz Cox (www.lizcox.com), a shopper’s mecca for beautiful bags and luggage.
Bedding down presents many options, not the least of which is the former Norman fortress Castle Hotel in Somerset (www.the-castle-hotel.com), which has been welcoming travelers since the 12th century. More recently, it has seen the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Oasis, the Corrs, and Kim Wilde.