Dotted across the lush English countryside lie quaint, timeless relics of an era gone by. In a time when travel is challenging and the new normal feels so uncertain, what could be better than exploring the prettiest English villages and getting lost in Britain’s rich history?
We’ve reached out to some of the best travel bloggers in the industry to bring you this definitive list of the most picturesque villages in all of England. Complete with cobbled streets, cosy traditional pubs and thatched cottages, these villages can be enjoyed on a day trip or serve as a charming base for a longer English holiday.
Whether you’re looking to relax in a country pub, hunt for gems at local shops, uncover some English history or hike through the rolling countryside; these postcard-perfect villages will have something for everyone.
**DISCLOSURE: Some of the links in this blog are affiliate links. This means that at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are a small way that we are compensated for the time invested in providing this free resource.**
The Prettiest English Villages
It would’ve been impossible to create any kind of hierarchy when it comes to the prettiest English villages. They’re all so unique and spectacular in their own ways, how could we ever pick a favourite?! Instead, we’ve listed them *very* roughly geographically – from north to south. We say very roughly as they don’t fit neatly into regions! However, hopefully, this will help you plan a trip to see more than one village at a time!
We’ve even included a very useful map of all the prettiest villages in England at the bottom to make planning even easier 🙂
Beautiful English Villages in the North
Text contributed by Rose from Where Goes Rose.
By far one of the prettiest English villages to visit in the Lake District, if not England as a whole, is Coniston. This village is located in the south of the Lake District near Coniston Water, the third-longest lake in the Lake District. The charm of Coniston is its countryside scenery, nearby walking trails and quaint tea rooms.
One of the best things to do in Coniston is to take a boat ride upon Coniston Water. The Coniston Launch Cruise runs throughout the year with different cruise options available depending on your budget and how far you want to explore. The Red Route takes 45 minutes while the Green Route takes 90 minutes. In the summer months, you can opt to take the more scenic Steam Yacht Gondola and even take afternoon tea aboard the boat. Whichever way you choose to explore the lake, make sure you squeeze it into your Lake District weekend.
Another option is to take one of the Lake District’s most popular hikes, the Old Man of Coniston walk. This walk reaches an elevated lake with spectacular views. You can also head to nearby Tarn Hows to take the Tarn Hows Circular Walk which takes around 1 hour.
Afterwards, reward yourself at the Bluebird Cafe where you can sit with window views and look out over the lake. The hot chocolates and toasted cheese sandwiches are delicious.
The Lake District is a beautiful place for an English holiday or staycation. There’s a number of different accommodation options depending on your budget and preferences.
Contributed by Pauline from Bee Loved City.
When it comes to pretty villages in England, nothing can beat the ones in Yorkshire! Malham is located near Skipton, about 1.5 hours away from Manchester by car. It’s quite a secluded place and you will need to have your own vehicle to get there.
The village features beautiful limestone walls and idyllic houses. It’s such an authentic and relaxing place!
You will find a few local delis and pubs, perfect to grab a drink looking out on the English countryside! If you’d like to taste local products, you can head to one of the farms. They will show you how they work and produce wool (yes, there is a lot of sheep in Yorkshire!).
But that’s not all! Malham is particularly famous for its walking trails. Located in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Malham is a paradise for hikers! From the village, you can head to Malham Cove, Malham Tarn, Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss.
Last but not least, the village is also very famous for being home to a Harry Potter filming location! Malham Cove was featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1! If you are a true Potterhead, make sure to go up to the top so you can re-live the scene!
READ MORE: Ultimate Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
Contributed by Tammy from Travelling Tam.
Helmsley is the only historic market town in the North Yorkshire National Park. Its medieval charm and surrounding protected countryside results in Helmsley being one of the prettiest English villages.
Quaint tea rooms, beautiful award-winning small shops and boutique galleries surround the market square in a traditional formation, with a grand statue of the 2nd Baron Feversham taking centre stage.
Towering over the town are the ruins of 900-year-old Helmsley Castle, now cared for by the English Heritage. Just beyond that are the ruins of breathtaking Rievaulx Abbey. You may wish to consider the York Explorer Pass which includes access to both these attractions and more.
During a visit, you can also explore the beautiful Helmsley Walled Gardens which brims with incredible flora in the spring and summer. There’s also the Birds of Prey Centre – a fantastic activity to do come rain or shine (and suitable for the whole family).
You’ll never be lost for things to do around Helmsley! You need only potter around, have afternoon tea and walk along the very pretty River Rye to enjoy the stone buildings, open pastures and the tranquil rural lifestyle that the lucky locals get to experience daily.
As the start of the Cleveland Way National Trail, you can be sure that there are some fantastic hikes to be experienced in the area as well. If you’re in North Yorkshire, Helmsley makes a fantastic day trip to enjoy the atmosphere, explore the countryside and visit the historic places of interest in this extremely pretty English village.
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY: Best Things to Do in York
Contributed by Maja from Away With Maja.
Thornton-le-Dale is a beautiful English village in North Yorkshire, located on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. One of the best things to do in Thornton-le-Dale is to wander around the charming streets and admire the houses. On a nice day, you can go wading in Thornton Beck to cool your feet off. The Thatched Cottage (or Beck Isle Cottage) is probably the prettiest cottage in the village – it really is postcard-perfect with its beautiful garden and thatched roof!
There are two pubs in the centre of town, and several other cafes, tea rooms, and shops in the village. For car lovers, there’s the small North Yorkshire Motor Museum. You can also see the historic stocks on the village square, which were last used in 1874.
The area around Thornton-le-Dale is gorgeous too. There is an easy walk out to Ellerburn and Dalby Forest which loops back to Thornton-le-Dale. It follows the road along out to Ellerburn, and through fields to Dalby Forest. You can follow the stream back to Thornton-le-Dale through various fields as well. Depending on how much you explore in Dalby Forest, the walk will take about 2.5 hours.
Thornton-le-Dale is accessible by the Coastliner bus from Leeds or York, however, driving is much quicker. There is a large car park (pay and display) operated by the North York Moors National Park. Thornton-le-Dale is one of the prettiest villages in England and certainly worth a visit!
Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire
Contributed by Sinead from Best in York Guide.
The atmospheric, coastal village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the windswept North Yorkshire Coast is undoubtedly one of England’s prettiest and most unique villages.
The village can be reached by a long public bus journey from the city of York or from nearby Whitby. If you visit Robin Hood’s Bay by car, you must leave your car outside the village as the historic and charming village is car-free. In fact, nearly every cobbled lane in Robin Hood’s Bay is too narrow for even one car to pass through.
The tranquil English village clings to the side of a steep hill that sweeps down to an expansive sandy beach which is littered with fossils. The pebbled alleys and back lanes of Robin Hood’s Bay are lined with tightly packed cottages. Most of the individually styled cottages date back over 200 years. Visitors can spend hours getting pleasantly lost in the maze of lanes admiring the local architecture and colourful window boxes.
Alternatively, hike some of the North Yorks Coastal Path that runs through the village, search for fossils on the beach or visit the Coastguards Station to learn about the history and geology of the area. The village has a couple of friendly pubs and restaurants, and for a room with an incredible view, choose to stay at The Bay Hotel perched on the edge of the beach.
Contributed by Anna from My Travel Scrapbook.
Flamborough village is a delightful English village on the Yorkshire coast. While the village itself is idyllic, most people come for the incredible wildlife, the lighthouses, pretty beaches, wonderful sea arches and beautiful white cliffs.
Historians believe Flamborough started life as a Scandinavian strong hold over a thousand years ago. It was referred to as Fleneburg in the Domesday Book. Fishing was a very important industry, and still is, however now this English village relies mainly on tourism. Flamborough has been a popular place with tourists for a long time. It is easy to see why as there are many things to do in Flamborough Head.
Flamborough village is on Flamborough Head which is a rocky outcrop in the North Sea. Home to some of the tallest sea cliffs in England, these white cliffs are a magnet for sea birds such as puffins! Many people do not realise that you can see puffins in Yorkshire! Yet between the months of May and July, they leave their nests and can be seen at Bempton Cliffs or at Flamborough Head. Seabirds are not the only wildlife here as you look down into the blue waters you can spot seals bobbing their heads! Apart from wildlife spotting, you can enjoy long coastal walks or history lovers will like the Flamborough lighthouses.
Flamborough village is an English village which is truly blessed to be surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty.
Find a place to stay in Yorkshire and take time to explore this beautiful part of England.
The Prettiest English Villages in the Peak District
Castleton Village, Derbyshire
Contributed by Roshni from The Wanderlust Within.
The picture-perfect stone buildings surrounded by tall hills make Castleton village one of the prettiest places in the Peak District. The village is popular amongst hikers and nature lovers as it’s so close to Mam Tor, one of the best walks in the Peak District. From the top of Mam Tor, you can see the whole of Hope Valley and even Manchester if it’s a clear day.
There is plenty to see and do in Castleton village, such as visit the ruins of the 11th century Peveril Castle, one of the first Norman fortresses in England. You can also explore one of the three show caves and caverns (Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern) that are often rated the best in England. No trip to Castleton village is complete without a wander around the pretty village centre where you can tuck into the quaint shops, pubs and tea rooms for a traditional English afternoon tea.
Castleton is one of the most accessible villages in the Peak District and can be reached in only half an hour from Sheffield by train. If you plan to stay the night, the YHA Castleton Losehill Hall is a must, it is a newly renovated gothic mansion that provides affordable accommodation just a few minutes walk from the village centre.
Contributed by Jenny from Peak District with Kids.
Picturesque Eyam may be one of the prettiest villages in the Peak District National Park, but it has a dark history.
In 1665 a flea-infested bundle of cloth arrived from London for the local tailor of Eyam. These fleas led to the spread of the bubonic plague throughout the village. To prevent the spread of the disease, the entire village was quarantined (a rather apt topic considering the events of 2020). The plague ran its course over 14 months and at least 260 villagers died, with only 83 surviving out of a population of 350. However, the plan worked and the plague was contained.
The tragic history of this village has not been forgotten. Plaques by houses and gravesites dotted around the village are a stark reminder of those who lost their lives. Inside Eyam Parish Church of St Lawrence, there is a book on display with all the names of those deceased from the plague. Eyam Museum is a good place to visit to learn more about this tragic time, and there’s also a small free information centre next to the village stocks.
Eyam is also a lovely base for some walks. This Eyam Moor walk takes in the epic views across to Hathersage and Stanage Edge. Then return back to the village for tea and cake at Eyam Tea Rooms, or if you need something stronger, head across the road to The Miner’s Arms for a pint of Peak Ale.
Contributed by Tracy from UK Travel Planning.
The pretty market town of Bakewell is located in the Peak District in Derbyshire. The area is known for its outstanding natural beauty and is the perfect destination for a weekend break.
There are lots of things to do and see in Bakewell and the surrounding area. For walkers, I suggest taking one of the numerous walking trails in and around Bakewell. The scenic 7 mile return hike to nearby Chatsworth House is particularly popular.
If shopping is of interest, market day is held in Bakewell every Monday. On the third Saturday of the month, the farmer’s market (with an excellent selection of local produce for sale) is perfect for picnic supplies. The town is particularly busy on farmer’s market day, so get there early or you may struggle to park.
For those with a sweet tooth, I recommend a visit to the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. Bakewell is of course home to the delicious Bakewell Pudding and you will find puddings of all sizes for sale in most bakeries and cafes in the town. After extensive sampling, the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop is our favourite and with an excellent café upstairs why not stop off for lunch or afternoon tea.
Find somewhere to stay in the Peak District and spend longer exploring this beautiful region.
READ MORE: Most Beautiful Places in Snowdonia
Most Beautiful Villages in Central England
Contributed by Izzy from The Gap Decaders.
Blakeney is a charming coastal village which lies in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the north Norfolk coast, a perfect UK holiday destination. The whole coast is wild and unspoilt – think vast beaches, big skies and steel blue seas.
The village of Blakeney itself was a medieval commercial port known for the transportation of spices. You can see this reflected in the elegant 15th-century guildhall and beautifully built flint sailors cottages, now gift shops and restaurants.
Visit the pretty quay, where you can practice your crabbing skills, wander the small village and browse the independent boutiques and art galleries. Then stop for lunch in one of the renowned restaurants – samphire and Cromer crab are the must-try dishes in this area.
The nature reserve at Blakeney is a fantastic spacious landscape with flat salt marshes, shingle spits and horizons stretching far out to sea. Take a boat trip out to Blakeney Point from the village quay to see the Common and Grey seals that breed there in winter and enjoy the views back to the village across the stunning seascape.
Stay at the White Horse, a stone’s throw from the quay, for outstanding modern pub food with a twist and cosy, coastal themed rooms.
Contributed by Stacy from What Stacy Did.
Nestled in the sleepy countryside of Rutland, the UK’s smallest county, you’ll find the idyllic village of Exton. Located in an undisturbed part of the country that sees very little tourism, you’ll find this village an absolute delight to explore.
With a population of just over 600, a wander around Exton often feels as though you have it all to yourself. The village is brimming with chocolate box thatched cottages, built around the green at its centre. The green is lined by trees on all sides, providing the perfect spot for a picnic during summer months!
You can take refuge at the Fox and Hounds pub which you will find overlooking the green. This former 17th-century coaching inn is fantastic in the winter months when you can perch next to an open fire whilst enjoying a drink or two. They also serve award-winning food so make sure to treat yourself to a meal.
Exton is surrounded by picturesque countryside and the area is extremely popular for walks. There are a number around the village itself or you can head to Rutland Water, just a 5-minute drive away, where you can walk or cycle around the reservoir. If you do, make sure to pop into the gorgeous village of Hambleton which you will find on the peninsula jutting into the reservoir. You will be sure to spot even more pretty cottages and can even stop at Hambleton Hall for a cup of tea with incredible views out over the reservoir. However you spend your time here, you are sure to fall in love with it and return refreshed.
If you’re looking for more to see in the area, check out my post How To Spend 24 Hours In Rutland.
Contributed by Dave from Silver Backpacker.
Braunston is a small village just under three miles southwest of Oakham, in Englands smallest county, Rutland. The village is full of old Northamptonshire ironstone houses and centred around a quaint village green.
Braunston is a farming community with several working farms. Some of them have opened AirBnb and rooms for self-catering holidays.
There are two pubs in the village. The Old Plough also offers accommodation. The Blue Ball is the county’s oldest pub dating from the 17th century. It is located opposite the All Saints Church and serves a good Sunday lunch using local ingredients.
All Saints Church dates back to the 12th century. Inside the church are still visible signs of medieval wall paintings and a few “Brasses” of the Cheseldyne family which are popular with brass rubbers. Outside the Church, you can find a sculptured stone known as the “Goddess” or “Sheela na Gig” which is thought to be a Pagan Fertility Goddess.
The river Gwash passes through the pretty village with a small picturesque bridge, near the 100-year-old village hall, where you can have a game of “Pooh Sticks”.
If you are a hiker, leave your car near the Blue Ball, cross the stile at the back of the church and enjoy a good 4-mile circular walk across sheep fields lined with hawthorn hedges.
You can have a taste of the real rural England that hasn’t changed much in centuries.
Contributed by Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster.
Sat on the River Avon in the English county of Warwickshire, the medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the prettiest villages in England. Internationally known as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is a great day out for all the family, with plenty of sights and over 800 years of history to discover.
No visit to Stratford would be complete without visiting some of the sites linked to the English poet and playwright. Even 400 years after his death, Shakespeare’s presence still dominates this humble small town which welcomes over 4 million tourists a year.
You can visit his birthplace and find out all about his early years. Trace his footsteps to Anne Hathaway’s cottage, where his love for his wife blossomed. Then explore Shakespeare’s New Place, his family home for 19 years until his death in 1616. If that wasn’t enough, you can even visit his grave at the Holy Trinity Church where he and his wife Anne Hathaway are buried.
Aside from Shakespeare, there are a number of historic streets to explore and a host of fantastic restaurants, bars and coffee shops. You’ll find these built in the pretty half-timbered, pillared Tudor style that makes this town so charming to visit.
If you plan to stay overnight, book yourself into the 4 Masons Court, a beautiful 5th century Grade II* listed retreat that perfectly complements your stay in Stratford. And don’t forget to book a ticket to see one of Shakespeare’s works brought to life on stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Prettiest English Villages in (and around) the Cotswolds
Ideally located only around 2 hours from London, the Cotswolds make for a great day trip or a longer holiday. Set within an area of outstanding natural beauty, there’s plenty to see and do – including a number of beautiful villages.
In fact, the area is so chock full of gorgeous villages that we have an entire blog post about the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds! However, we’ve also included a few of our favourites from the area in this post.
When you imagine the prettiest English villages, it’s likely you’re picturing something that resembles Snowshill! This quaint little village is postcard-perfect, nestled amongst rolling hills.
It is most famed for appearing in the Bridget Jones’ Diary movie as the home of Bridget’s parents. During filming, the whole village was covered in fake snow and Christmas decorations – in the middle of summer!
Snowshill Manor is the only real “attraction” in the village. The building was owned during the early 20th century by Charles Wade. During his lifetime he collected many eclectic treasures that are now on display. It is currently maintained by the National Trust.
It is only a short drive from many of the other pretty Cotswold villages and is worth the small detour!
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire
Contributed by Sophie from We Dream of Travel.
Despite its ominous name, Lower Slaughter is a beautiful English village in the Cotswolds. Its name is derived from the Old English word ‘slough’ or ‘slothre’, meaning ‘wet land’ or ‘muddy place’. In other words, it has nothing to do with the present English meaning of slaughter!
The River Eye traverses the village with honey-hued homes straddling its banks and reflecting in its waters. It is much less visited than other Cotswold villages, making it a relaxing place to stroll through.
The 19th century watermill at the western end of the village is the only real ‘attraction’ here. Its contrasting red bricks amidst the golden cottages create the perfect photo composition. Here you can also find the Old Mill gift shop and Riverside Cafe. They are definitely worth stopping by for a delicious cream tea!
If you’re looking for a peaceful, luxury getaway then you should consider staying at The Slaughters Manor House.
Contributed by Sophie from We Dream of Travel.
Painswick is the epitome of an English village. With its labyrinth of streets and alleyways lined with houses made from honey-hued Cotswold stone and spectacular valley views, Painswick is a top contender for the most beautiful village in England.
Meander through the little village and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views and idyllic homes around each turn.
You may notice plaques on many of the buildings detailing their original use. Additionally, there are a couple of information boards with further information regarding Painswick’s long and interesting history.
The Painswick Church is famed for its garden containing 99 yew trees. Legend had it that the hundredth yew tree planted would be destroyed by the devil. However, in 2000, the hundredth yew tree was in fact planted to commemorate the new millennium. Despite the legend, the tree is thriving!
The oldest building that houses a Post Office in England can be found in Painswick. It is the only half-timbered property in Painswick and dates back to the late 15th century.
Painswick was once home to 17 inns and alehouse, including the Golden Heart in from the 18th century. It is now a residential building but the sign remains as part of the Grade II listed historical building. Today, Painswick is still renowned for its excellent food.
Contributed by Sophie from We Dream of Travel.
Bibury is a quintessentially-traditional English village. It oozes with rural charm and the cottages that make up Arlington Row are some of the most photographed cottages in England!
These stone cottages date back to 1380 and were originally built as a monastic wool store. However, they were later converted into weavers cottages in the 17th century and remain occupied today.
Rack Isle occupies the centre of Bibury. This boggy water meadow is an important habitat for a number of animals. These include water voles, kingfishers, grass snakes and dragonflies, in addition to many plant species. The small isle was originally used to hang wool to dry after it had been washed in Arlington Row – hence the name “Rack Isle”.
Bibury is easily one of the prettiest English villages – a statement supported by the UK government printing a photo of this picturesque Cotswold village within all UK passports!
Those of you interested in something a little different should consider fishing for your own dinner at Bibury trout farm (one of Britain’s oldest trout farms)!
Castle Combe, Wiltshire
Contributed by Sophie from We Dream of Travel.
Castle Combe, tucked away in the southern Cotswolds, has often been described as the prettiest village in England. And it’s easy to see why.
This fairytale English village is divided into two parts; the narrow valley of the By Brook and Upper Castle Combe on higher ground to the east. Its a place where time really has stood still. Since the 1600s, no new houses have been built, and to this day there are no street lights or TV aerials.
There are plenty of shops and tea rooms aligning its high street and many meandering side streets. Castle Combe is one of the most photogenic villages in England and as such is a great place to just wander around, camera in hand!
The bridge at the southern end of the village provides for the perfect photo opportunity. Here you’ll be able to capture traditional weavers’ cottages with the Bybrook River flowing beneath the bridge. All of this stunning scenery is immersed in unspoilt British countryside, creating an awe-inspiring image that perfectly reflects the essence of this English village.
For a bit of luxury, stay the night at The Manor House Hotel. Set amidst 365 acres, this 14th century building is made up of 50 unique rooms, each with their own charm.
READ MORE: Prettiest Villages in the Cotswolds
Contributed by Faith from XYU And Beyond.
Bampton is a small chocolate box village that sees few tourists. This pretty village sits in the Oxfordshire countryside about 20 miles west of Oxford. It’s famed for being the filming location for Downton Village in the popular series Downton Abbey.
Settled since the Iron Age, Bampton is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and since the Norman conquest, there has been a market in Bampton. Bampton’s village church, St. Mary’s, dates back to the Saxon era and was updated in the 16th century with Gothic additions.
Church View town square sits behind the main street of Bampton and offers a lovely quiet place to rest under the oak trees. If you are a Downton fan, you will recognize the church and the library, used in the filming of the TV series.
There is a permanent exhibition, the Bampton Community Archive, within the Old Grammar School Building. This building served as Downton’s Cottage Hospital in the TV series. It houses an impressive collection of old photographs of Bampton and its people, as well as a selection of Downton Abbey memorabilia for sale.
From here, wander down the streets of one of the prettiest English villages to the main shopping street. Treat yourself to afternoon tea at the Bampton Coffee House or grab a pint and pub lunch at the Horseshoe Inn. Various art exhibitions can be seen at the West Ox Arts Gallery on the first floor of the town hall. And, if you’re lucky, you might be in the village for the Bampton Day of Dance, which celebrates all things Morris Dancing.
You can also visit Bampton on a Downton Abbey tour from London, stopping at Oxford and Highclere Castle to visit other filming locations.
Contributed by Sophie from We Dream of Travel.
Nearby Castle Combe, just outside the Cotswolds, lies the gorgeous little village of Lacock. The entire village is owned and maintained by the National Trust.
Lacock dates back to the 13th century and, like many other English villages nearby, was once a classic wool village. The external appearance of the village has been beautifully preserved and changed little over the centuries.
The medieval village has been used as a film location numerous times over the years. Its many half-timbered and stone houses have provided an authentic backdrop for several productions, including Downton Abbey. Most recently, it has seen an increase in popularity thanks to Lacock Abbey’s appearance in Harry Potter. Situated in the heart of the village, Lacock Abbey was founded in 1232 and is one of few remaining intact abbeys in England.
Take time to wander around the village and admire all the pretty buildings. You may find baskets of fresh produce, baked goods and plants on people’s doorsteps. These are sold with an honesty policy – take what you want and leave the money. Please help keep this tradition alive and don’t abuse this trust and kindness!
If you’re looking for gifts or souvenirs, stop by Quintessentially English. It’s run by a lovely couple and they have a variety of handmade, organic products. They also make their own gin onsite, which I’d highly recommend trying! Additionally, they have accommodation, Snoozums at No. 11, which I can’t recommend first hand but has excellent reviews.
Picture Perfect Villages in South East England
Rye, East Sussex
Contributed by Sarah from In Search of Sarah.
Rye, East Sussex is an ancient medieval town that looks as though it’s straight out of a storybook. With a labyrinth of cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings, this charming town is easily one of the prettiest villages in England.
Only around 2 hours from London and near the coast, Rye is easily accessible by train and car and is rich with history dating back to the mid-1200s. There’s no shortage of sites to see during one’s visit to Rye. These include the Ypres Castle, Rye Model, and Rye Museum, offering interesting bits of history about how this town was used as a coastal defence during the 11th century.
On clear days, climb the church tower at St Mary’s to get sweeping views of the rooftops of Rye and beyond.
Enjoy an afternoon tea at one of many quaint tea rooms dotting the town. The Cobbles is a great option, sitting down a tiny alleyway adorned with flowers and charming decor. Or have lunch at the haunted Mermaid Inn, rebuilt in 1420!
Rye is a happening place so be sure to book accommodations early. There are endless options for Airbnbs or Bed & Breakfasts, including Haydens, The Hope Anchor, or the cozy Jeakes House, perched on Mermaid Street, the prettiest street in Rye.
There is always some type of event every month in Rye to enjoy – from gastronomy to art festivals – appealing to people of all ages. You’ll leave here feeling enchanted and yearning to return.
READ MORE: Day Trip to the White Cliffs of Dover
Rottingdean, East Sussex
Contributed by Ellie and Ravi from Soul Travel Blog.
Just a few minutes outside of Brighton is the small, historic village of Rottingdean. It boasts quaint Sussex cottages and tea rooms blending into fish and chip shops and its very own beach (that’s much quieter than Brighton). Plus, it even has a windmill.
The windmill, located just out of town on the hill overlooking Rottingdean, was instrumental in Rottingdean’s history too. The town gathered a reputation for smuggling as traditional Sussex industries fell into decline in the mid 1700’s and given the town’s strategic location close to Brighton and the sea. The sails of the windmill were used to signal to those waiting in the channel with contraband that the coast was clear.
Rottingdean is also celebrated for its beautiful location where the South Downs meet the sea. There are many beautiful walks that you can take – either just around the town, up on to the Downs, or along the coast to Brighton or eastwards towards the Seven Sisters (which could rival the White Cliffs of Dover).
In the town itself, you can have a high tea at the Sweetie Pie cake shop on the High Street, or treat yourself to a traditional pub lunch at The Plough which backs on to the pond in the centre of Rottingdean village.
To get to Rottingdean by public transport, you can take one of the many buses from outside the Sealife Centre in Brighton to Rottingdean, the journey is about 20 minutes.
Contributed by Ting from My Travel Monkey.
Nestled in the Tillingbourne valley, Shere in Guilford Surrey has a chocolate box tranquillity that has earned the quaint village worldwide recognition. Not only has it featured in many big Hollywood films including romantic comedy Bridget Jones and The Holiday, but it draws in visitors from all around the world because it’s very, very pretty.
Think rows of charming 16th-17th century houses adorned with hanging wisteria, ducks floating in a small stream and winding streets full of independent shops.
The William Bray Pub or The White Horse are fantastic places for a bite to eat – or if you’re looking for a something a bit fancier, Kinghams is the perfect spot for a slap-up supper. And close by you can enjoy the sweeping views and countryside walks in Newlands Corner.
Prettiest English Villages in South-West England
Contributed by Emily from Dorset Travel Guide.
Cranborne Chase is an Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) in Dorset and Wiltshire which could give the Cotswolds a run for their money! Think rolling countryside, cute pubs, and lots of picture-perfect English villages. The best part is that very few people have heard of it, so this gorgeous rural area is fairly empty.
Cranborne village sits right on the edge of the Chase. This is one of the prettiest villages in Dorset, filled with red brick cottages and old-fashioned cob houses. The River Crane runs through the centre of the village and is a lovely spot for a walk. A must-visit is the 12th-century Norman priory church, whose peaceful churchyard is filled with colourful flowers during spring and summer.
There’s a lot of history to this picturesque village! Today there are less than 800 residents. However, in the Middle Ages, Cranborne was a large town with a population similar to London at the time. King John often visited to hunt on the Chase. His troops were garrisoned in the town, while the King stayed at Cranborne Manor. This Grade-1 listed country house dates back to the 13th century and still stands today! The stunning manor gardens are considered some of the best in the country and are open to the public.
Visitors can stay at either of the two pubs in the village, which are also both excellent places to eat. Alternatively, the Chase is filled with accommodation options to suit all budgets, from campsites to converted country manors.
Corfe Castle, Dorset
Contributed by Helen from Helen on her Holidays.
Corfe Castle is a picture-perfect village on the Isle of Purbeck, not far from the Dorset coast. If you were trying to imagine the quintessential English village then you’d probably come up with something like Corfe Castle; a steam railway to transport you there, a pretty market square ringed with honey-coloured stone buildings, and a ruined Norman castle watching over it all. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s surrounded by rolling green hills and the beaches of the Jurassic Coast are just five miles away.
The castle at Corfe Castle is owned by the National Trust and is open to visitors. The castle started out as a Saxon fortress and was rebuilt by the Normans. It was partially demolished in 1646 by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. It’s a wonderfully romantic ruin, packed with secret places to explore and absolutely fantastic for kids
The Swanage Heritage Railway has a station at Corfe Castle and with parking in the village at a premium, arriving by steam train is convenient and fun.
When you visit Corfe Castle, don’t miss the Corfe Castle Model Village. The Model Village shows what Corfe Castle would have looked like before it was destroyed. There’s a croquet lawn so you can try your hand at croquet, a pretty Fairy Garden and a fossil corner where you can see fossils that’ve been dug up on the Jurassic Coast. Make sure you behave yourself though; there’s a set of working stocks and pillories for punishing misbehaving scoundrels!
Contributed by Sophie from We Dream of Travel.
Tucked away two miles southeast of Dorchester is the tiny village of Whitcombe. It truly is small, with a population of only around 20 people.
It has no real attractions. However, it is located on the main road between Dorchester and Broadmayne and is well worth pulling over to admire its beauty. Comprised of a small redundant 12th-century church and a handful of thatched cottages, it is a quintessential rural English village.
Whitcombe Church is a Grade I listed building and is managed by the Churches Conservation Trust. It was used for worship during the Saxon era and fragments of two Saxon crosses still remain. You may also meet some fluffy locals grazing on the pastures surrounding the church!
Contributed by Anna from Would Be Traveller.
Though not strictly one of the prettiest villages in England, Wells is certainly one of England’s prettiest cities! With a population of just 12,000 people and a total size of 3.4 square kilometres, it’s widely said to be England’s smallest city which is why we’ve snuck it onto this list.
Located in Somerset, Wells is a great place to visit on the way to Devon or Cornwall, or worthy of a day trip on its own. You can spend hours wandering through the city’s quaint streets, visiting the magnificent Wells Cathedral or Bishops Palace. However, the most popular sight in Wells is Vicars’ Close – a picturesque, cobbled street lined with cottages dating back to the 1400s. The close is often filled with locals and tourists all vying for the perfect photo of this beautiful residential street.
Slightly further afield, the spectacular Mendip Hills offers beautiful views across Somerset in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Nearby Wookey Hole is also a popular place for visitors wanting to see the limestone caves as well as other on-site attractions.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Wells. These range from sustainable glamping to cute B&Bs and from self-catering cottages to boutique hotels. Rooms at the Swan Hotel are clean and simple, but in a fantastic location just steps from Wells’ High Street and the Cathedral Green. The food here is also delicious, though you’ll be spoilt for choice with the excellent restaurants and cafes Wells has to offer.
Contributed by Darek from Darek and Gosia.
Everybody has heard of cheddar cheese, but did you know that Cheddar is also one of the prettiest villages in England?
With a population of only around 6000, this tiny village attracts many more thousands every month. Due to its location, in the beautiful county of Somerset, Cheddar village is a very popular family weekend destination in this part of Great Britain.
There are a few parking spots in and just outside of the village. But it is advisable to arrive a bit earlier as most of the parking spaces are already full after 11am at the weekend.
The Mendip Hills also provide many stunning hiking opportunities including the famous Cheddar Gorge hike. This limestone gorge is known for being the largest gorge in the UK. Hiking Cheddar Gorge is the second most popular thing to do in Cheddar – with trying cheddar cheese being the number one!
There are also a few great pubs, where you can chill out and have traditional British food and many small shops selling local souvenirs and products.
This might sound a bit cheesy, but Cheddar village really is one of the prettiest English villages!
Dunster Village, Somerset
Contributed by Lou from Wandering Welsh Girl.
Dunster is a medieval village located near Exmoor National Park in Somerset. It is famed for its 11th century Castle and Old Yam Market. This pretty little English village is home to over 200 listed buildings, making it a great place to simply wander around and enjoy some English heritage.
A trip to Dunster is not complete without visiting Dunster Castle and Watermill. The Castle was originally built in Norman times. However, it was remodelled into a country manor in the 1800s and is now owned by the National Trust.
Great panoramic views of the castle can be gained by crossing the river Avill and walking up the hill to the south. Cross the river via Gallox Bridge, which is an old picturesque packhorse bridge.
In the village itself, Yam Market is found on the main High Street and showcases the village’s Exmoor wool trading past. Close to the market you may also want to explore the Dunster Doll Museum, which houses a collection of rare dolls and the 11th century St George’s Church.
Dunster is also a great base for exploring more of the surrounding areas, either by foot or by bike. After enjoying the history of Dunster itself, wander the rolling hills of Exmoor National Park, and marvel at the beautiful cliffs and beaches along Somerset’s coastline.
Contributed by Tara from Silly Little Kiwi.
Beer is a quaint little coastal village in Devon. The pebbled beaches and jagged coastline are a stark contrast to more traditional English villages, but the streets are lined with the quintessential cottages of your dreams. It makes for a unique day trip from London.
Beer constantly ranks as one of the most beautiful villages in England and, after you see for yourself, you’ll likely agree.
Some of the best things to see and do in Beer are the walks along the rugged Jurassic Coast to other nearby villages. These walks vary in distance, but they are all well-marked and relatively easy – families and dogs are welcome to enjoy the paths.
You can’t beat a dinner at Gina’s (they serve up legendary Thai and Italian dishes) or grab a pint at the Anchor Inn pub. There’s also a more budget-friendly fish and chips shop if the weather calls for dinner on the beach. Along the main road are a number of boutiques to shop at selling local art and homeware.
For eco-focused travelers, a stop at the Beer Fine Foundation Centre near the head of the beach is both educational and interesting. The small wooden hut houses mini-exhibits that detail the aquatic life in the area and outline the steps locals have taken to protect the environment. You can actually grab a “stick” to pick up beach litter you might find on a walk – they’re free to borrow on an honour system.
Contributed by Tracy from Let’s Travel UK.
Croyde has one of the UK’s best surfing beaches, so this is a village that’s very popular with bodyboarders and surfers as well as families. If you want guaranteed surf, the broad sandy beach in Croyde will deliver. Backed by sand dunes and flanked by cliffs, it’s a scenic spot too.
The village centre is small, but very pretty. Think traditional thatched cottages, white stone walls and lots of colourful flowers in summer. Croyde has a couple of laid-back pubs, where locals and visitors rub along together nicely. Otherwise on the eatery and retail front there are surf and ice cream shops and a couple of interesting markets – one by the beach and one in the village centre.
Croyde also makes a great base for exploring North Devon. The huge, golden sandy beach at Woolacombe is just along the coast, with the Victorian resort of Ilfracombe a little further on. Nearby Braunton has more surf stores, cafes, a fish and chip shop and the Museum of British Surfing. Between Croyde and Braunton is Saunton Sands and Braunton Burrows, providing breathtaking views as you travel along the elevated, twisting coast road.
Ruda Holiday Park has panoramic views over the ocean and is really close to the beach – just cross the road and you’re there. If you love the coastal lifestyle, then Croyde is simply the best village in England.
Contributed by Suzanne from The Travel Bunny.
Clovelly village in north Devon is prettier than you could possibly imagine. The tiny fishing village is perched on a ridiculously steep cliff which leads down to a 14th-century harbour and quayside. The narrow cobbled High Street is so steep that no cars are allowed – donkeys and hand-made wooden sledges are used to transport goods and shopping up and down.
Quaint fishermen’s cottages line the lane, their gardens overflowing with flowers and pretty planting. Children will love to stop and visit the donkeys at the top of the hill and in summer they can enjoy a donkey ride.
Pay a visit to the Fisherman’s House, one of two small museums in the village. The cottage is laid out to show how a family would have lived in the village in the 1930s. The other, the Kingsley Museum, tells of the life of writer Charles Kingsley whose works include The Water Babies and Westward Ho!
When you’ve meandered to the bottom of the hill you’ll arrive at the ancient harbour. The Red Lion sits on the quayside and will serve you up a well-earned drink and lunch. If you’re looking for accommodation, they also have rooms.
Of course, for every downward stroll, there’s an uphill return journey and Clovelly is sure to test your legs. If you can’t make it back to the top under your own steam, then you can pay £10 for a lift back up to the top. As the village is privately owned there’s an admission charge. This includes parking, admission to the village and the two museums. Check up to date information on the Clovelly website.
Text contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird.
If you’re looking for a pretty English village, look no further than Boscastle, Cornwall. This beautiful village has several reasons why you should visit – some more macabre than others!
On the surface, it’s a typical Cornish village – cute stone houses around a picturesque harbour full of local fishing boats. There is also a world-famous pottery shop and lots of delicious local ice-cream!
However, the village is also home to one of the most famous witchcraft museums in the world. Yep, this tiny village has an entire building filled with myth, magical and gore. It’s a fascinating place to visit – learn the history of witchcraft in the area, devices used to torture and condemn witches and even discover your fortune!
Combine a visit to Boscastle with the incredible Tintagel Castle & Merlin’s Cave, the supposed home of King Arthur. Boscastle is a short drive away from Tintagel Castle and there’s plenty of accommodation options in the area if you need.
Cadgwith Cove, Cornwall
Contributed by Heather from Conversant Traveller.
Hidden away on the south-east coast of the Lizard Peninsula, the tiny fishing village of Cadgwith Cove is one of the best places to visit in Cornwall.
It’s one of the few settlements where most of the community is still involved in the fishing industry. You’ll see that the boats lined up on the small shingle beach are in use almost daily. The village itself is impossibly charming with thatched cottages, cheerfully painted houses and hidden pathways leading up to the headland offering incredible views out to sea.
The Cornish coastal trail runs through here. This makes it a great place for a lunch stop if you’re doing a longer walk. Once you’ve scrambled around the coastline, had a chat to the fishermen and admired the blooming cottage gardens… head to The Old Cellars café for the freshest, most delicious crab soup you’ll ever taste! There’s a small gift shop and a pub here too, so it makes a great half-day trip for anyone exploring the peninsula.
If you want to stay here there are several quaint holiday cottages to choose from. Just be aware that you have to park your car outside the village and walk down after unloading. Being car-free is one of the reasons why the cove is so peaceful.
Marazion and St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
Contributed by Sophie from We Dream of Travel.
The pretty little town of Marazion in Cornwall is perhaps most famous due to the island and castle of St Michael’s Mount. During low tide, it is possible to walk from Marazion to St Michael’s Mount. When the tide is higher the island can be reached by small boats.
Towering 230ft above sea level, the castle is owned and occupied by the St Aubyn family. This family have lived here since the 17th century. The island has a rich history dating to the Bronze Ages and is a fascinating place to visit. The castle and gardens are open to the public. There is also a small harbour, shops and restaurant on the island.
However, the village of Marazion is worth exploring as well. It is a popular place for beach holidays and watersports, with several beautiful sandy beaches nearby. Marazion is also considered to be one of the oldest villages in Britain, dating back to the Roman times.
There are various walks to take in the area, with the Perranuthnoe Circular route being one of the most popular. For a short, easy walk, head up Back Lane for a spectacular view over the village across to St Michael’s Mount.
Sennen Cove, Cornwall
Contributed by Suzanne from Meandering Wild.
Sennen Cove is a pretty fishing village located just north of Land’s End. It was first established as a Trust Port in 1907 and now has a fleet of small fishing boats. It is the most south-westerly village in England with nothing else other than the Scilly Isles before America.
Given its exposed location this village is dominated by the sea. It has a small fishing harbour which protects the fleet from the worst of the winter storms. However, even in the summer months, it can have large waves breaking over the harbour wall. Adjacent to the harbour is the lifeboat station which is integral to the safety of the fishermen as well as visiting boats. It has a small viewing gallery so you can see the boat close up.
Next to the lifeboat station is the Roundhouse and Capstan Gallery. This is an old building which has a beautiful small gallery of local crafts and art works. From here it is just a short walk to the small but fantastic Little Bo Café.
If you are feeling energetic then paths lead from behind the village to Land’s End. This is just 20 minutes walk away along the South West Coast Path. Alternatively the surf school on the beach will get you started catching the waves.
Staying in Sennen Cove is easy as there are lots of options. However, Harbour Mews is probably one of the closest to the beach and the harbour with a cosy feel. Don’t forget to click here for £35 off your first AirBnb booking!
Map of the Prettiest English Villages
As promised, here’s a map of all the prettiest villages in England! Click here or on the image of the map to open up a Google map in a new tab.
Final Thoughts on the Prettiest English Villages
Whether you are planning a trip or just perusing, we hope you’ve found some inspiration in this guide to the prettiest villages in England!
Exploring these rural English towns provides more than just some postcard-worthy images; it also provides a glimpse into the past and an insight into traditional English living.
Do you have a favourite village that we’ve missed? Let us know! We’re always looking for more inspiration ourselves and would love to explore your favourite English villages, too.
If you are travelling elsewhere in the UK, you may also enjoy these guides:
- Prettiest Villages in the Cotswolds
- Best Things to Do in York
- 2 Days in London
- Best Castles near London
- The White Cliffs of Dover
- 3 Day Snowdonia Road Trip
- 10 Days in Scotland
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