The West Country is an informal term for the area of south western England roughly corresponding to the modern South West England government region. It is often defined to encompass the historic counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset, and the City and County of Bristol, while the counties of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire are also often included. Some usages of the term include wider areas, while others are more specific, though with little consistency of definition.
The area covered by the various definitions of West Country is mostly rural, with only a few sizeable towns and cities. Tourism and agriculture, especially dairy farming, play a significant role in the economy. The landscape is principally granite moorland in the west, and chalk and limestone downland and clay vales in the east. Historically, tin mining and the fishery were sources of income and employment in the west of the area, but less so today, although the latter still contributes to the economy. The region is traditionally famous for its production of cider, clotted cream, and pasties, but now at least equally well known for the Glastonbury Festival and other attractions.
Apart from the Bristol Channel and English Channel, as with any informal area, the West Country's boundaries are difficult to define and as a consequence there are a number of different definitions used.
Some groups use the term as roughly synonymous with the South West Region, while others use it more specifically to refer to either the northern part of the region, or more commonly just the southwestern part. The term is also used, for example, to refer to sports matches between such cities as Bristol and Bath or Gloucester and Bath. West Country Carnival events take place in Somerset, Devon, Wiltshire and Dorset.
Westcountry Television is an ITV franchisee covering Devon, Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and areas of Somerset and Dorset. Local news and sport website This is the Westcountry.co.uk, part of the Newsquest group, similarly covers Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
"West Country Lamb" and "West Country Beef" have EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status which can only apply to lamb and beef products from animals born and reared in Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset or Gloucestershire.
"West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) that can only be applied to Cheddar cheese made in the traditional way in the four counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.
The DCMS-supported website Icons of England defines the West Country as including Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, and the former Avon area, but excluding Gloucestershire (defined as part of the "West Midlands") and Dorset (in "South England").
The "West Country" edition of the 2005 BBC TV series Seven Natural Wonders featured "wonders" in Wiltshire, Somerset, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshire (Symonds Yat), but not those in Devon or Cornwall which were the subject of a separate programme on the "South West", nor Dorset which was covered in a programme on "The South".
The West Country Clothing District was an area that made woollen cloth, but only part of the region described above. It covered east Somerset and parts of the counties of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire and at some periods extended into Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The clothing district around Tiverton and Exeter in Devon and west Somerset tended to make different kinds of cloth and is best regarded as distinct.
- South West Peninsula
- West of England
- West Country dialects
- Westcountry Derby
- Scrumpy and Western music
- "BBC - "ITV West Country staff to be axed", referring to Bristol and Plymouth". BBC News. 2008-09-30. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
- "Blue Badge Tourist Guides - The West Country". Blue-badge-guides.com. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
- "The West Country". Pictures of England. 2007-08-02. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
- "BBC - "Major flooding in Wiltshire has affected train services across the West Country"". BBC News. 2006-11-25. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
- "Derby match excites Hill & Meehan". BBC News. 2008-07-04.
- The Times - "Gloucester rough and ready for West Country derby"
- This is the Westcountry.co.uk. Accessed 20 November 2012
- "PDO - our provenance". West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- "West Country - Icons of England". Icons.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-05-22.