Where to go on rainy days in the South West

Whether you're on holiday or just looking for somewhere to visit at the weekend, wet weather can put a serious dampener on days out. Fear not - while the South West is renowned for outdoor adventure, we've got plenty of places that are ideal for those rainy days when you just want to escape the elements. From priceless artworks to fascinating histories, many of our houses have amazing collections and intriguing stories to tell. Our cafés and restaurants are the perfect place to meet up with friends over lunch or tea, and our shops are full of ideas for gifts and treats. Here are a few ideas for weather proof days out.

    A day at Lacock

    A family visit the medieval cloisters of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire

    Rain needn't stop play at Lacock, with so much to see and do whatever the weather. At Lacock Abbey you can explore the atmospheric medieval cloisters and imagine yourself in Hogwarts - two Harry Potter movies were filmed here. In the abbey's first floor rooms, you'll discover the transformation from religious house to family home.

    The Fox Talbot Museum celebrates the achievements of former Lacock resident, William Henry Fox Talbot, famous for his contributions to the invention of photography. Regular exhibitions means there's always something new to discover.

    Dodge the showers with a stroll through the picturesque village with its charming cottages and familiar filming locations, then dry off in one of the cosy tea-rooms or gift shops.


    Shoe trees in boots

    Tyntesfield was built using profits from the production of fertiliser using guano (bird poo) shipped from South America. With spiralling turrets adorning the roof, ornate stone carvings and church-like windows, this gothic house has the feel of a fairytale mansion. There's no shortage of things to see inside - with over 50,000 objects, Tyntesfield boasts the National Trust's largest recorded collection. It's not possible to display all of them at the same time, so they're regularly rotated, ensuring there's something new to see every time you visit.

    In the creatively restored Home Farm Visitor Centre you can eat, browse in the second hand bookshop, and shop for gifts and goodies for the garden.

    Gloucestershire gems

    Snowshill Manor is home to one of the most important collections of Japanese samurai armour in the UK.

    From the outside, it's a typical Cotswold manor house, but inside Snowshill is packed with a spectacular and quirky collection of 22,000 objects from across the globe. Charles Wade spent his life amassing everything from tiny toys to Samurai armour, creating this treasure trove.

    Nearby, you'll find the Hidcote, one of the finest examples of an English country garden and home to exotic plant collections from around the world. The perfect escapism from a damp and dreary day in the UK. Once you've viewed them in the heated plant house, and explored the enchanting 'garden rooms' between downpours, you can buy plants from the plant centre and dry off in the wonderful Winthrop's Café.


    Interior of the library, Stourhead house

    Stourhead is best known for its world-famous landscape garden, but the house is rather special too. The Palladian mansion boasts a unique Regency library, Chippendale furniture and inspirational paintings. You can experience an Italian grand tour adventure.

    With an extensive shop, a farm shop and an art gallery, take the chance to stock up on gifts or buy picnic essentials ready for sunny days. If all that exploring leaves you in need of refreshment, take your pick from the award-winning restaurant or the Spread Eagle Inn.

    Hardier types can play at dodging the showers in the garden, where you'll find all manner of places to shelter, including a grotto and plenty of huge trees.

    Double Dutch

    The Dining Room at Mompesson House, Wiltshre

    Fans of Dutch design can get a double dose with a visit to two of our places. Mompesson House, in the Cathedral Close in Salisbury, was greatly influenced by the Dutch architectural styles and designs and you'll find many examples of Dutch art in the house including some Delftware from the late 17th century, the golden age of Delft ceramics.

    Dyrham Park also has a fantastic collection of Dutch art on display. William Blathwayt, a global politician and administrator, brought many items from around the world to Dyrham, including a fine collection of art and ceramics from Holland.

    Chedworth Roman Villa

    Children on one of the new walkways above the mosaics at Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire

    The Roman influence in Britain 1,600 years ago has left a great legacy, especially at Chedworth. The new conservation shelter over the Roman remains has enabled us to put even more of the mosaics on display - you can now walk directly above the impressive 35m-long corridor mosaic, protected from the elements. After marvelling at some of the amazing inventions brought to this country by the Romans - including underfloor heating - and paying a visit to the newly refurbished museum, you can treat yourself to something delicious in the new café.

    Amazing art

    Self-portrait, from the studio of Rembrandt van Rijn

    The modernist style of High Cross House provides the ideal backdrop for exhibitions by some of the finest contemporary artists, both local and more widely known. With artists in residence and a varied range of exhibitors throughout the year, there is always something new to see.

    At Kingston Lacy  you'll find works of great masters from Holland (Rubens and Van Dyck), Venice (Titian) and Spain (Valasquez). Allow your thoughts to travel down the Nile as you discover the largest private collection of Egyptian artefacts in the UK. Or head to Buckland Abbey to admire the 'lost' Rembrandt self-portrait on proud display in the dining room.

    Speaking of portraits, the Long Gallery at Montacute House is home to over 60 of the finest Tudor and Elizabethan portraits from the National Portrait Gallery collection.

    Costume drama at Killerton

    Objects of desire

    For those with an interest in the history of fashion and period costume, a visit to Killerton is a must. The impressive costume collection includes men’s, women’s and children’s clothes and accessories. They date from about 1690 to the 1970s. This year's fashion exhibition, Objects of desire, explores the timeless desirability of designer fashion. It was designed and guest curated by renowned interior designer, Russell Sage.

    But it's not just for fashion fans - Killerton has something to offer everyone, with family-friendly house trails, replica costumes to try on in the dressing up room, and exhibitions hosted throughout the year in the study. This room showcases local artists from painters to embroiderers; it's an ever-changing space with something new to see every time you visit.

    For Hardy souls

    The simply decorated but comfortable music room at Clouds Hill, retreat of T E Lawrence

    For lovers of literature, Hardy Country in Dorset is a dream destination, even in less than perfect weather. It's home to Thomas Hardy's Birthplace and his later home, Max Gate. His semi-fictional Wessex - inspired by the landscape surrounding Dorchester - was the setting for many of his novels, short stories and poetry.

    Why not visit the small cob and thatch cottage where Hardy was born and wrote his early novels, then move on to Max Gate, the home he designed and lived in from 1885 until his death in 1928. For the first time these two houses, along with Clouds Hill - home to Lawrence of Arabia, a close friend of Hardy - are open to visitors five days a week, until October 30. The three combined would make for a fascinating full day out.