South West Englandis one of nine officialregions of England. It consists of the counties ofBristol,Cornwall(including theIsles of Scilly),Dorset,Devon,Gloucestershire,SomersetandWiltshire. Large cities and towns in the region includeBristol,Bournemouth,Cheltenham,Exeter,Gloucester,PlymouthandSwindon. It is geographically the largest of the nine regions of England covering 9,200 square miles (23,800 km2),but the third least-populous, with approximately five million residents.
The region includes theWest Countryand much of the ancient kingdom ofWessex. It includes two entirenational parks,DartmoorandExmoor(a small part of theNew Forestis also within the region); and fourWorld Heritage Sites:Stonehenge, theCornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, theJurassic Coastand theCity of Bath. The northern part of Gloucestershire, nearChipping Campden, is as close to the Scottish border as it is to the tip of Cornwall.The region has by far the longest coastline of any English region.
The region is at thefirst levelofNUTSforEurostatpurposes. Key data and facts about the region are produced by theSouth West Observatory. Following the abolition of theSouth West Regional AssemblyandGovernment Office, local government coordination across the region is now undertaken bySouth West Councils.
The region is known for its richfolklore, including the legend ofKing ArthurandGlastonbury Tor, as well as its traditions and customs. Cornwall has its own language,Cornish, and some regard it as aCeltic nation. The South West is known forCheddar cheese, which originated in theSomersetvillage ofCheddar; Devoncream teas,crabs,Cornish pasties, andcider. It is home to theEden Project,Aardman Animations, theGlastonbury Festival, theBristol International Balloon Fiesta,trip hopmusic and Cornwall'ssurfingbeaches. The region has also been home to some of Britain's most renowned writers, includingDaphne du Maurier,Agatha ChristieandEnid Blyton, all of whom set many of their works here, and the South West is also the location ofThomas Hardy's Wessex, the setting for many of his best-known novels.