The Prettiest Towns in England That Will Steal Your Heart

The Cotswolds is a great day trip from London - a very English experience with some of the prettiest villages in the country. There is so much to see and do.

England, with its picturesque countryside and charming villages and towns, is a treasure trove of magical hangouts. From quaint thatched cottages amidst rolling hills, to cobblestone streets of bygone eras, there are so many fairytale places in Beautiful England for the traveller.

It’s only natural that many tourists are pulled immediately to The Cotswolds when they’re searching for the rural idyllic. In fact, if you google ‘prettiest towns in England’, half of them would be in this vicinity. But we think that’s a little short-sighted and does the rest of this verdant land a disservice. So, with our collective 90 years of exploring, we’d like to propose our top 10 list encompassing the whole country. The prettiest English villages you really need to put on your bucket list.

The Prettiest Towns In England

Let us take you on a virtual road trip, exploring the most beautiful English towns and villages that hold such timeless allure. Encounter verdant landscapes that you’ve seen before in The National Gallery encapsulated by the likes of Turner and Constable. Or, cream teas in quaint tearooms, and well-preserved architecture in towns that serve as living postcards of yesteryear. All of our chosen places offer a glimpse into the country’s rich history and idyllic way of life. 10 of the most beautiful villages in England.

So whether you’re packing a picnic for a day trip, or an overnight bag for a cheeky weekend away, we know you’re going to love these magical places to visit.

1. Lavenham, Suffolk

Nestled in the heart of Suffolk, England, the village of Lavenham stands as a timeless testament to medieval England’s prosperity and architectural splendor. With its stunning timber-framed buildings, many dating back to the 15th century, Lavenham is often hailed as one of the best-preserved medieval villages in England.

Wander along its winding streets, between wonky houses that defy gravity, and you’ll be transported back in time. The village’s history as a wealthy thriving wool town during the Middle Ages is more than evident in the grandeur of the buildings. The church of St Peter and St Paul’s is especially impressive, with its lofty Gothic tower that dominates the skyline.

If you visit Lavenham for a day trip, make sure to see the Guildhall Museum for a fascinating insight into Lavenham’s medieval past. And explore the village’s picturesque streets, browsing the artisan shops and boutiques. Book yourself in for afternoon tea at one of the quaint little cafes or sample some local hospitality at one of the town’s old pubs.

Or, if you fancy making a weekend of it, The Great House Hotel has been included in The Sunday Times’ top 100 restaurants since 2011 and is a fabulous hotel to enjoy a gastronomic treat. We think Suffolk is very underrated and often overlooked for weekend breaks and yet the area is a joy to explore!

Read More: The Perfect Short Break In Suffolk

2. Rye, East Sussex

On a gentle hill overlooking the English Channel, the ancient town of Rye in East Sussex has been beckoning visitors for centuries. Including King George I, although it was shipwreck that prompted the need for refuge, not choice. But I’m sure if he’d have had the chance the king would have still chosen Rye as a retreat!

Its timeless charm has beckoned many a film producer, and countless TV programmes have presented Rye as the elegant Medieval town that it is. Especially the famous Mermaid Street. The town also has a fascinating maritime history which some of the local museums portray very well.

Mermaid Street & Ypres Tower, Rye.

The thing we loved most about Rye though is its vibrant arts and culture scene. Galleries, boutiques, and antique shops line its quaint streets, and artisans and craftsmen ply their trade in traditional workshops. Then, come evening, some of the friendliest pubs we’ve ever entered have entertained us with live music and cosy atmospheres.

Whether you are in Rye for the day or you’re spending a bit of time exploring East Sussex, make sure you take advantage of the town’s seafood eateries. Local joints like The Globe Inn on the outskirts of town, and William The Conqueror down at the harbour, are well worth seeking out for their top nosh.

It is possible to stay at The Mermaid Inn on the famous Mermaid Street in Rye. Previous guests to this 15th century inn include Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Prince Edward, as well as a handful of celebrities. For the best deals at The Mermaid Inn click here.

3. Helmsley, North Yorkshire

In our opinion, the market town of Helmsley is the prettiest town in the Yorkshire Moors – a corner of England that’s equally as delightful. It’s a regular stop-off for us on our way to visit family. And whilst we are usually taking advantage of the incredibly complex cake selection at Mannion & Co on Castlegate, and then on with our journey, we think Helmsley would make a great base for exploring the rest of the Yorkshire Moors.

Surrounded by a vast expanse of both rugged and extremely attractive scenery, Helmsley is an important part of medieval history. In a successful attempt to protect the local population and the region’s strategic and fruitful landscape, Helmsley Castle played a crucial role. The town’s market square, which is still a focal point today, is a testament to the rich produce the Yorkshire Moors are accountable for. Helmsley triumphantly guarded the Yorkshire Moors for centuries from invading enemies.

Helmsley Castle is a popular tourist attraction in the town, and well worth a visit, as is nearby 12th century Rievaulx Abbey. Plus, you have your choice of tearooms and traditional pubs to choose from. Market day is Friday but there are a whole host of gift shops, book shops, and posh housey shops to choose from any day of the week. And if you love a good charity shop like me, Helmsley is blessed with them!

We love The Royal Oak pub for a great Sunday Roast and you can also stay in one of their cosy guest rooms if you’re planning to explore the area. For the best deals, click here.

4. Fowey, Cornwall

Our favourite place in Cornwall for pleasing aesthetics and charming views has to be the little coastal town of Fowey. Pronounced ‘Foy’ by locals, this historical maritime town is a mixed scene of bobbing boats on the estuary and elegant Georgian townhouses exposing its wealthy past.

The stunning waterfront location holds the attention of visitors for at least a bag of chips and there aren’t enough benches in the world to suffice. But a more distant view of Fowey from adjacent Polruan is just as sweet where it’s framed in impressively tall trees and centered by the castellations of Place House and the Parish Church. It’s a picture postcard and definitely one of the most beautiful villages in this area of England.

Explore the town that inspired famous literary local, Daphne Du Maurier, and see for yourself the landscapes that motivated her. Then there’s St. Catherine’s Castle and also a couple of beauty spots on this patch of the SouthWest Coastal Path – Readymoney Cove and Allday’s Fields. Or, catch the Polruan Ferry for a couple of pounds and see Fowey from another angle, and another sweet Cornish harbour – Polruan.

Staying in Fowey…

There are a few hotels and guesthouses in Fowey that contribute to the charm and character of the place. The Galleon Inn, a pub with rooms, is one of Fowey’s oldest establishments, and popular with visitors. Or you can stay at The Old Quay House – a boutique hotel with a rich history as a traditional merchants house. Located just outside the town centre is the Fowey Hall Hotel – a magnificent mansion with elegant architecture and surrounded by beautiful gardens.

5. Edensor in Derbyshire

Whilst every overseas tourist and his dog has visited the impressively regal Chatsworth House down the lane… Edensor often goes unnoticed. It’s easy to see why, as from some aspects only the tips of the roofs peek through. But Edensor, with its breathtaking views over the Derwent Valley, should not be ignored and is definitely in the running as one of the most prettiest villages in England.

As part of the Estate to Chatsworth, Edensor is a combination of quaint stone cottages (homes to the workers of Chatsworth) and grandiose Georgian mansions – holiday homes to the Societal elite hoping for an invite to some Chatsworth bash. It’s a Pride and Prejudice dream wrapped up with a whiff of window boxes and a pinch of picnics on the village green.

Photo’s by Allan Harris and DarrenKW

At the heart of the village is St. Peter’s Church, a magnificent Grade I listed building dating back to the 12th century. It has a striking Gothic tower and houses the final resting place of many notable members of Chatsworth’s Cavendish family.

Edensor is 99% residential, with a friendly community of neighbours willing to tell you about their pretty village if you happen upon them in their gardens. And whilst there are almost no accommodation options to make this a weekend break choice, you can still enjoy a cream cake and a local pint of Chatsworth Gold at the little Edensor Tea Cottage.

Read More: 5 Weekend Breaks In The Peak District

6. Clovelly, Devon

Whilst TV and movies such as The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes and The New Avengers have propelled Clovelly into the limelight, this Devonian harbour town has been around for a very long time! It was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and has been a thriving fishing community ever since.

Clovelly has been owned by the same family, the Hamlyns, for over 800 years until it was sold in 1738 to the Cary family, who still own it today. They’ve done their best to preserve this old village and as a result it’s an absolute joy and pleasure to visit.

One of the most distinctive features of Clovelly, and a reason to make it on to our ‘Best English Villages’ list, is its steep, cobbled streets that wind down to the harbour. These streets are traffic-free, and goods are still transported by sledges and donkeys. The village has such a timeless charm, with whitewashed cottages and colourful window-boxes, and the absence of cars sends you back a hundred years!

It’s a fantastic place to stay, especially if you can secure a room at The Red Lion Hotel and book into their restaurant for some upscale dining. But even if you’re just here for the day a visit to the Clovelly Court Gardens should definitely be put on your to-do list. The Clovelly Visitor Centre is the best place to learn more about Clovelly’s maritime heritage and really get to know the place.

A weekend in this area should definitely include a boat-ride to the remote, yet beautiful Lundy Island for a spot of bird-watching and seal spotting. And, the local villages of Hartland and Stoke are worth a mention as starting posts for hikes to waterfalls and coastal views. This area of Devon truly has a lot to offer in terms of stunning scenery.

7. Durham

Durham is technically a city, not a town. However, we wanted to add it to our list because we feel it often gets overlooked and for no good reason. Plus it’s really small for a city!

It’s not hard to see why half of Durham was used in the Harry Potter series when you clap your eyes on the cathedral and castle in all of their Norman glory. However, towers and turrets, arches and carvings, can be spotted all over Durham and you’re always half expecting a Knight on his steed to come galloping by. And even though it’s a university town, this prestigious institution is one more of gowns and bicycles than Jager Bombs and pub crawls.

Spend the morning brunching it up at the Flat White Cafe, then wander through the cobbled streets and explore the castle and its grounds. A worthwhile afternoon can be passed boating on the River Wear and there’s always plenty going on in the evenings, whether it’s over to Millenium Square for a spot of theatre or sampling some of Durham’s fine dining. We love The Cellar Door, Barrio Comida and Michelin starred Coarse. Sunday’s are made for the Botanical Gardens and a roast dinner at Whitechurch pub.

Book into the Boutique hotel 40Winks for an elegant and refined weekend in one of the most fairytale places in England.

8. Castle Combe, The Cotswolds

Once a significant market town in the Middle Ages, and now a significant highlight on Instagram, Castle Combe in The Cotswolds is definitely one of the most beautiful English villages. The honey-coloured Medieval cottages, the calming Brook that flows through the middle, and the surrounding rolling hills off in the distance all play a part in its pleasing aesthetics. And there’s more than the occasional classic car gliding through from the nearby racetrack, making it very Toad of Toad Hall!

This was a wool town famed for its high-quality cloth, the profits of which have garnished this village beautifully. Stroll through The Steet taking in the window boxes and hanging baskets, visit St Andrews Church, and catch a glimpse of the 12th century castle remains from various vantage points.

Castle Combe hosts a monthly market from March – August and offers visitors the opportunity to explore a variety of stalls selling local produce, crafts, and other goods.

Elongate your visit by booking yourself a night at The Manor House (above) for a 5 star luxury experience. Play Lord of the Manor within its 14th-century walls, explore the attached 365 acres of parkland, and dine in the Michelin-starred Bybrook Restaurant. For the best deals, click here.

9. Shaftesbury

Located right in the middle of the most powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, Shaftesbury is one of the most beautiful towns in England engulfed in ancient history. It was a fortified hill-fort town and contributed massively to the success over Viking invasions. If it wasn’t for Shaftesbury we’d all be hairy helmet-wearing hard cases.

And, as a result of its geographical and strategic location, Shaftesbury attracted Kings and other wealthy noblemen, and their fortunes carved out one of the prettiest towns in England.

Perhaps you’re old enough to recall one of the most iconic British TV commercials of all time – the Hovis Bread advert. Where a young boy pushes a bike up a really steep hill to deliver a loaf of bread? Well, that is Shaftesbury’s famous Gold Hill – a cottage-lined hill with stunning views over the nearby countryside.

However, Shaftesbury didn’t remain in the past. Turnpike roads, local canals, and industrialisation helped the town continue with grace well into the Georgian era. Today’s town centre is more reminiscent of cities like Bath and Cheltenham, with a classic and symetrical elegance. So, it’s a town of two era’s and both are wonderfully beautiful!

10. Broadway, Worcestershire

The ‘prettiest village in England’ award has repeatedly gone to this Cotswold gem, often referred to as The Show Village of England. Broadway was probably the inspiration for Walt Disney at Epcot Centre’s representation of the U.K. – a quintessentially British picture postcard.

The 16th Century village has a distinctive Cotswold appearance and is completely built with yellow limestone for authentic appeal. It’s an artist’s dream and an architectural masterpiece! Bring in the floral displays, ornate wood detailing, and waterside vistas and you end up with the most picturesque scene of a beautiful English village you could possibly dream of.

If you were fancying a mini-break to the Cotswolds then Broadway would be a base recommendation for sure. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants and it’s the prefect gateway to other gorgeous villages such as Snowshill, Stanton and Stow-on-the Wold. The high street has plenty of tearooms, art galleries, and gift shops for any visitor and there are several great pubs with the obligatory open fire and gastro delights.

Russell’s Hotel has always been a firm favourite of ours for a special romantic treat. It’s a 5 star Boutique Hotel with all the extras we love, like a spa bath, award-winning food, and an outside patio for a spot of people-watching. After a day exploring the Cotswolds it’s the perfect place to enjoy the evening. For the best deals click here.

So there you have it – a whole bunch of places waiting to be discovered and hopefully some that you may never have come across before. Start planning your next adventure of cobblestone streets, picturesque countryside vista’s and hidden treasures. And ,don’t forget to let us know which one you think is the most beautiful village in England!

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our readers for any bookings they make through links on our site. These affiliate links provide us a small commission for any hotels booked at no extra cost to you. We’re very grateful though and this all goes towards the upkeep of this blog.

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