The largest-expanding region of the nine official regions of England, the South West extends from the counties of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Often called the West Country, the region includes the counties of Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Devon, Dorset, and Cornwall.

Well known for its production of Cheddar cheese (named after the village of the same name in the Mendip Hills of Somerset), Devon cream teas, and Somerset cider, in modern times the area is better known for being homes to the Eden Project, Aardman Animations studios in Bristol, the Glastonbury Music Festival, trip-hop music, Cornish seafood restaurants and surfing beaches.

The most recent census recorded the South West region’s population to be at 4,928,458.

The majority of the South West occupies a peninsula between the English Channel and the Bristol Channel, with the longest coastline of any region in England (1,130 kilometers), and contributes greatly to the region’s attractiveness to residents and tourists. A largely rural area, the South West has many small towns and villages that are home to the highest amount of residents than any other region in England. The largest cities are Bristol, Plymouth, Bournemouth, and Poole. 

Tourism is important for the region, especially in Cornwall, where certain areas have some of the lowest average incomes in the UK. The most economically productive areas of the South West include Bristol and south east Dorset, as well as the district surrounding the M4 corridor, due to their easy transport links to London. The Great Western Main Line runs from London to Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance (in the most western region of Cornwall), and the South Western Main Line runs from London and Southampton to Bournemouth, Poole, and Weymouth in Dorset. Other railways include the West of England Main Line (running from London to south Wiltshire, north Dorset and south Somerset) and the Wessex Main Line (running from Bristol to Salisbury and then on to Southampton).

The natural beauty of the region and coastlines of Cornwall has long been admired by its residents and visitors. As of 2005, the population of the county has reached 519,400, one of the lowest amounts of citizens residing in any UK region. The population is 99.0% white, with a very small multiethnic community.

Five million tourists visit the county every year, with the area being a popular destination for surfers, while the Celtic music-themed festivals also play large parts in drawing in tourists. Most visitors come to Cornwall from within the UK. Despite being rather far-away from many of the main tourism centres in the UK, the mild weather, gorgeous landscape and unique, ancient culture make Cornwall a prevalent tourist destination. Surrounded by the English Channel and the Celtic Sea, there is a vast amount of beaches and seaside cliffs in the region, and other tourist attractions include moorland, country gardens and wooded valleys.

The Eden Project, which was opened to the public in March 2001 in the Cornish town of St. Austell, has become a major financial success for the region. The display is a significant environmental complex that imitates a biome sheltering plant life from around the world. Each of the two domes emulates either a tropical environment or a Mediterranean-like environment.

In the past twenty years, the creative industries of Cornwall have undergone considerable growth, which includes businesses such as graphic design, product design, web design, environmental design, architecture, photography, and the arts. Since the 19th century, Cornwall’s well-preserved scenery has provided a substantial visual art scene, centred mostly on the artistic colony of Newlyn (once the residence of authors D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf). There is also an art gallery, the Tate in St. Ives, and an online blog called, which is linked with the Newlyn Society of Artists.

Amidst fertile fishing grounds from three sides, Cornwall famed for its exceptional cuisine often made with naturally fresh seafood. One of the region’s famous dishes is Star-Gazy Pie, a fish-based pie in which the heads and tails of the fish stick out through the crust of the pasty. However, Cornwall is perhaps best known throughout the UK for its production of Cornish pasties.

Transport for Cornwall is based on the major motorways and a small airport in Newquay, which serves passengers with direct flights from London Gatwick Airport, London Stansted Airport, Bristol, Manchester, Dublin, and Durham Tees Valley. The Isles of Scilly are served by ferry from Penzance (western Cornwall), helicopter (through the Penzance Heliport) and fixed wing aeroplane via the Land’s End Aerodrome near St. Just. Other flights to the Isles of Scilly are available to take from Exeter International Airport in Devon. 


Out of every 1,000 people (on average):
 953 are White British
 24 are White non-British  
 8 are Asian
 7 are of Mixed Race
 4 are Black
 3 are Chinese
Source: Office for National Statistics

Despite having a low diversity population by national UK standards, there was an increase in the number of foreign-born residents in the South West of England since the 1991 census, from 3.5% to 4.4% in 2001. In terms of national statistics, only the north east of England has a lower proportion of resident ethnic groups than the South West.

The ethnic minority groups of the rural South West are distinguished by the residents of the area living as individuals and families, not as clustered communities. Many of those who are ethnic minorities, therefore, are not present in great numbers or to provide cultural goods and services (such as halal or kosher food). The White Other group forms the largest ethnic minority in the region, with more than 81,000 residents (1.6% of the population). The South West is also the only UK region to have a proportion of those in the Mixed Race category than black or Asian populations, despite the number still being quite low.

Bristol is the most diverse city in the South West region, with the St Paul’s district being a centre for the city’s prominent black Caribbean community. The Asian and black communities of Bristol form 2.8% and 2.3% of the population respectively, and there are also smaller communities of Chinese and Somali residents. About 350 Dutch people reside within the city. The south Asian population of Pakistanis and Indians each make up about 40% of the city’s residents, and mainly live in the Eastville and Easton districts.

The black group makes up 0.4% of the population, which – compared to the national average – is a far lower percentage than most other regions in England.  

Total South West Population: 4,928,434 

 Local Area/UK National Average  
Ethnic group/sub-groupPopulationProportion compared to national average
White 4,815,31697.7%
Mixed 37,3710.75%
 White and Black Caribbean13,3430.27%
 White and Black African3,9170.07%
 White and Asian11,1980.22%
 Other mixed8,9130.18%
Asian 32,8000.66%
 Other Asian4,8610.09%
Black 20,9200.42%
 Other Black2,3440.04%
Chinese 12,7220.25%
Other ethnic group 9,3050.18%

Source: Census 2001, Office for National Statistics

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