Nine places to visit before the South West Outdoor Festival

The South West Outdoor Festival is a little way off (September 2016), so here's a few places to visit in the mean time.

Looking for inspiration for your next day out?

Historic houses, pretty villages, impressive views, coastal climbs, wild woods are all waiting to be explored, here's our top picks.

Historic houses
The house at Arlington Court lit by early morning winter light

1. Arlington Court

Visit this neoclassical country house to see displays of model ships, costume, pewter, and shells amassed by the last owner, the eccentric and widely travelled Miss Chichester. The 3,500 acre estate includes formal Victorian and walled kitchen gardens as well as informal parkland. Don’t miss the collection of over 50 horse-drawn carriages, ranging from the humble Hansom cab to the grandiose State Coach.

 Dunster Castle, Somerset

2. Dunster Castle

Originally a motte and bailey fortress and then comfortable country home, Dunster Castle is situated on the top of a steep hill with dramatic vistas. Fortified since the late Anglo-Saxon period, the medieval walls were mostly destroyed in the English Civil War and the castle was later remodelled to fit Victorian tastes. The sub-tropical gardens hold the national plant collection of strawberry trees.

Pretty villages
Flickr Clare Cox Allerford

3. Allerford

Visit the 15th-century packhorse bridge and spot the cottages with their unusual round chimneys. The West Somerset Museum of Rural Life is housed in the old thatched school. Allerford Forge is next door to the museum and is one of the few remaining working forges in the country.

View of Rectory Cottage at Selworthy Village in the Holnicote Estate, Somerset

4. Selworthy

Selworthy is a picturesque landscape of thatched cottages, medieval church and woodland walks. It was rebuilt as a model village, to provide housing for the aged and infirm of the Holnicote estate, in 1828 by Sir Thomas Acland. Visitors can now enjoy a cream tea at the Periwinkle tea-room and pick up a gift in the National Trust shop.

Impressive views
The view from Dunkery Beacon, part of the Holnicote Estate, Somerset

5. Dunkery Beacon

Dunkery Beacon is the highest point on Exmoor. On a clear day there are stunning views across to the Bristol Channel and Wales, Exmoor and even Dartmoor. By night it's a fantastic place for stargazing. It's part of the first international Dark Sky Reserve in Europe

Coastal climbs
Map route for Potters Hill and Woolacombe Down walk
Walking trail

6. Potters Hill 

Scale Potters Hill, North Devon’s mini mountain, and hike across Woolacombe Down to spot Exmoor ponies. Just a stone’s throw away from the dunes of Woolacombe's wide, sandy bay, but a million miles away from the crowds.

The West facing cliffs of Baggy Point are a nesting place for Cormorants

7. Morte Point and Baggy Point

The tapering headland of Morte Point is renowed for both its wild beauty and treacherous sea conditions. It’s a great place to escape the crowds and watch out for wildlife, such as seals and hovering kestrels. Baggy Point, on the other end of Woolacombe beach, is a haven for thrill seekers, but for those who just want an amble, there’s also an easy access route.

Wild woods
An ancient oak tree in Horner Wood on the Holnicote Estate, Somerset
Walking trail

8. Horner Woods 

Horner Woods is a National Nature Reserve and the ancient oak trees are home to some of the country's rarest lichens, mosses and bats. A great place to explore by foot with waymarked routes as well as scope to branch out on your own.

Wooded valleys of Watersmeet

9. Watersmeet

Enjoy the challenges of the tumbling rocks and deep pools of this dramatic river gorge and ancient woodland. Canoeing and fishing both take place in the East Lyn River; or look out for otters, red deer, buzzards, dippers, heron and a variety of flowers and insects. A visit here is not complete without sampling a cream tea in the garden of Watersmeet House