Cycling the southwest is a superb, if strenuous, way to experience England's great outdoors. The region's National Cycle Network (NCN) routes include the West Country Way (NCN Route 3), a 240-mile jaunt from Bristol to Padstow via Glastonbury, Taunton and Barnstaple, and the 103-mile Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route between Ilfracombe and Plymouth.
The 160-mile, circular Wiltshire Cycleway skirts the county's borders. In Hampshire, the New Forest's hundreds of miles of cycle paths snake through a wildlife-rich environment, while the Isle of Wight boasts 62 miles of bike-friendly routes and its very own cycling festival.
Off-road mountain-biking highlights include the North Wessex Downs, Exmoor National Park and Dartmoor National Park. Many cycle trails trace the routes of old railway lines, including Devon's 11-mile Granite Way between Okehampton and Lydford, and Cornwall's popular 18-mile Camel Trail linking Padstow with Bodmin Moor.
For more information contact Sustrans (www.sustrans.org.uk) and local tourist offices.
Often called the 630-mile adventure, the South West Coast Path is Britain's longest national walking trail (until the England Coast Path is completed in 2020). It stretches from Minehead in Somerset via Land's End to Poole in Dorset. You can pick it up along the coast for short and spectacular day hikes or tackle longer stretches. The South West Coast Path Association (www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk) has a detailed website and publishes an annual guide.
For wilderness hikes, the national parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor are hard to beat. Dartmoor is bigger and more remote; Exmoor's ace in the pack is a cracking 34 miles of precipitous coast. The region's third national park, the New Forest, is an altogether gentler affair, offering hundreds of miles of heritage trails.
Other hiking highlights are Exmoor's 51-mile Coleridge Way (www.coleridgeway.co.uk), the Isle of Wight and Bodmin Moor, while Wiltshire's 87-mile Ridgeway National Trail (www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway) starts near Avebury and winds through chalk downland and the wooded Chiltern hills.
Surfing & Boating
North Cornwall, and to a lesser extent north Devon, serves up the best surf in England. Party town Newquay is the epicentre; other top spots are Bude in Cornwall and Croyde in Devon. Region-wide surf conditions can be found at www.magicseaweed.com.
For sailing, highlights includes Britain's 2012 Olympic sailing venues at Weymouth and Portland, and the yachting havens of the Isle of Wight, Falmouth, Dartmouth and Poole.
The southwest is prime territory for kitesurfing, windsurfing, diving, sea kayaking, white-water kayaking and wakeboarding. The sport of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) continues to grow in popularity, especially in calm water spots.
Plenty of firms also offer caving, coasteering, mountainboarding, climbing and kite-buggying. Check out www.visitsouthwest.co.uk for links to the region's counties and activity operators.