Geology and landscape
Most of the region is located on the
South West Peninsula, between the
English Channel and
Bristol Channel. It has the longest coastline of all the English regions, totalling over 700 miles (1,130 km).
 Much of the coast is now protected from further substantial development because of its environmental importance, which contributes to the region's attractiveness to tourists and residents.
Geologically the region is divided into the largely
metamorphic west and
sedimentary east, the dividing line slightly to the west of the
 Cornwall and West Devon's landscape is of rocky coastline and high moorland, notably at
Bodmin Moor and
Dartmoor. These are due to the
slate that underlie the area. The highest point of the region is
High Willhays, at 2,038 feet (621 m), on
 In North Devon the slates of the west and limestones of the east meet at
Exmoor National Park. The variety of rocks of similar ages seen here have led to the county's name being lent to that of the
The east of the region is characterised by wide, flat clay
downland. The vales, with good irrigation, are home to the region's dairy agriculture. The
Blackmore Vale was
Thomas Hardy's "Vale of the Little Dairies";
 another, the
Somerset Levels was created by reclaiming wetlands.
Southern England Chalk Formation extends into the region, creating a series of high, sparsely populated and archaeologically rich downs, most famously
Salisbury Plain, but also
Cranborne Chase, the
Dorset Downs and the
Purbeck Hills. These downs are the principal area of
arable agriculture in the region. Limestone is also found in the region, at the
Quantock Hills and
Mendip Hills, where they support sheep farming.
 All of the principal rock types can be seen on the
Jurassic Coast of Dorset and East Devon, where they document the entire
Mesozoic era from west to east.
The climate of South West England is classed as
oceanic (Cfb) according to the
Köppen climate classification. The oceanic climate typically experiences cool winters with warmer summers and precipitation all year round, with more experienced in winter. Annual rainfall is about 1,000 millimetres (39 in) and up to 2,000 millimetres (79 in) on higher ground.
 Summer maxima averages range from 18 °C (64 °F) to 22 °C (72 °F) and winter minimum averages range from 1 °C (34 °F) to 4 °C (39 °F) across the south-west.
 It is the second windiest area of the United Kingdom, the majority of winds coming from the south-west and north-east.
 Government organisations predict the region to rise in temperature and become the hottest region in the United Kingdom.
Inland areas of low altitude experience the least amount of precipitation. They experience the highest summer maxima temperatures, but winter minima are colder than the coast. Snowfalls are more frequent in comparison to the coast, but less so in comparison to higher ground.
 It experiences the lowest wind speeds and sunshine total in between that of the coast and the moors. The climate of inland areas is more noticeable the further north-east into the region.
In comparison to inland areas, the coast experiences high minimum temperatures, especially in winter, and it experiences slightly lower maximum temperatures during the summer. Rainfall is the lowest at the coast and snowfall is rarer than the rest of the region. Coastal areas are the windiest parts of the peninsula and they receive the most sunshine. The general coastal climate is more typical the further south-west into the region.
moorland inland such as:
Exmoor experience lower temperatures and more precipitation than the rest of the south west (approximately twice as much rainfall as lowland areas), because of their high altitude. Both of these factors also cause it to experience the highest levels of snowfall and the lowest levels of sunshine. Exposed areas of the moors are windier than lowlands and can be almost as windy as the coast.
The boundaries of the South West region are based upon those devised by central government in the 1930s for civil defence administration, and subsequently used for various statistical analyses. The region is also similar to that used in the 17th-century
Rule of the Major-Generals under
Cromwell. (For further information, see
Historical and alternative regions of England). By the 1960s, the South West region (including Dorset, which for some previous purposes had been included in a Southern region), was widely recognised for government administration and statistics. The boundaries were carried forward into the 1990s, when regional administrations were formally established as Government Office Regions. A
regional assembly and
regional development agency were created in 1999, then abolished in 2008 and 2012 respectively.
It has been argued that the official South West region does not possess a cultural and historic unity or identity of itself, which has led to criticism of it as an "artificial" construct. The large area of the region, stretching as it does from the Isles of Scilly to Gloucestershire, encompasses diverse areas which have little more in common with each other than they do with other areas of England. The region has several TV stations and newspapers based in different areas, and no single acknowledged regional "capital". Many people of the region have some level of a 'South West', or 'West Country' regional identity, although this may not necessarily correspond to an identification with the official government-defined
region. It is common for people in the region to identify at a national level (whether
Cornish, and/or a county or city/town level). Identifying as being from 'the Westcountry', amorphous though it is, tends to be more predominant further into the peninsula where the status of being from the region is less equivocal.
Cornwall's inclusion in the region is disputed by Cornish nationalists.
 The cross-party
Cornish Constitutional Convention and Cornish nationalist party
Mebyon Kernow have campaigned for a
Cornish Assembly ever since the idea of regional devolution was put forward.
in Bath, Somerset: the entire city is a World Heritage Site.
The South West region is largely rural, with small towns and villages; a higher proportion of people live in such areas than in any other English region. The largest cities and towns are
Poole (which together with
Christchurch make up the
South East Dorset conurbation),
Weymouth. The population of the South West is about five million.
The region lies on
several main line railways. The
Great Western Main Line runs from London to Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth and
Penzance in the far west of Cornwall. The
South Western Main Line runs from London and Southampton to Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth in Dorset. The
West of England Main Line runs from London to Exeter via south Wiltshire, north Dorset and south Somerset. The
Wessex Main Line runs from Bristol to Salisbury and on to Southampton. The
Heart of Wessex Line runs from
Bristol in the north of the region to Weymouth on the south
Dorset coast via
Castle Cary and
Yeovil, with most services starting at
The vast majority of trains in the region are operated by
South Western Railway,
Great Western Railway and
CrossCountry. GWR is the key operator for all counties in the region except Dorset (the key operator for Dorset is South Western Railway). South West Trains operate services to and from
London Waterloo and serves every county in the region except Gloucestershire and Cornwall (they no longer operate west of Exeter as of 2009). Great Western Railway serves all counties in the region and operate diesel high-speed trains to various destinations, some of which run to South Wales and the West Midlands, though almost all intercity trains operated by GWR run through the region. CrossCountry operates services to Manchester Piccadilly and the Scottish Lowlands. Dorset is currently the only county in the region where there are electric trains, though there are official plans to electrify the Great Western Main Line and the South Wales Main Line in Wiltshire, Somerset, Greater Bristol and Gloucestershire.
Arriva Trains Wales also operates services between
Cheltenham Spa and
London Midland operates a parliamentary train between
Worcester Shrub Hill and
Gloucester (there was once a regular service on the route, but this was withdrawn in 2009).
Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR needs to be reopened to connect
Plymouth to the rest of the UK railway system on an all weather basis. There are proposals to reopen the line from Tavistock to Bere Alston for a through service to Plymouth.
 On the night of 4 February 2014, amid high winds and extremely rough seas, part of the
sea wall at Dawlish was breached washing away around 40 metres (130 ft) of the wall and the ballast under the railway immediately behind. The line was closed.
Network Rail began repair work
 and the line reopened on 4 April 2014.
 In the wake of widespread disruption caused by damage to the mainline track at
Dawlish by coastal storms in February 2014,
Network Rail are considering reopening the Tavistock to Okehampton and Exeter section of the line as an alternative to the coastal route.
Three major roads enter the region from the east. The
M4 motorway from London to South Wales via Bristol is the busiest. The
A303 cuts through the centre of the region from Salisbury to
Honiton, where it merges with the
A30 to continue past Exeter to the west of Cornwall. The
A31, an extension of the
M27, serves Poole and Bournemouth and the Dorset coast. The
M5 runs from the
West Midlands through Gloucestershire, Bristol and Somerset to Exeter. The
A38 serves as a western extension to Plymouth. There are three other smaller motorways in the region, all
in the Bristol area.
Passenger airports in the region include
Within the region the local transport authorities carry out transport planning through the use of a
Local Transport Plan (LTP) which outlines their strategies, policies and implementation programme.
 The most recent LTP is that for the period 2006–11. In the South West region the following transport authorities have published their LTP online:
Swindon U. A.,
Torbay U. A.
Wiltshire unitary authority.
 The transport authorities of
Bath and North East Somerset U. A.,
Bristol U. A.,
North Somerset U. A. and
South Gloucestershire U. A. publish a single Joint Local Transport Plan as part of the
West of England Partnership.