Travel: The Prettiest Towns & Villages in Britain

Weekday Wanderlust | Travel: The Prettiest Towns in Britain
Edinburgh | photo by @edienthusiast

A FEW YEARS ago P took me to visit an old school chum of his, Andrew, in the picturesque town of Ilkley in West Yorkshire. Located in the Wharfe Valley, at the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales, the town was as charming as they come, with its quaint little restaurants (think I ordered Sole au Gratin) and perfect little English pubs where one of the old men from the village even asked my fancy self if I were “on the television”. We wandered the moor, had drinks on tiny stone terraces overgrown with roses and pet baby lambs roaming along the side of the road. It was idyllic and the first time I really fell in love with the quintessential British town. Having lived in Edinburgh, one of the prettiest places in Britain and visiting numerous more towns and villages on weekend road trips, it’s safe to say that we know a thing or two about pretty British towns. Here are a few of our favourites at the moment. We’ll be adding more to the list as well go along.

Weekday Wanderlust | Travel: The Prettiest Towns in Britain
Chiswick | photo by @francesmehardie


Occupying a meander of the River Thames 6 miles west of Charing Cross, Chiswick is a leafy, tranquil west London neighbourhood filled with riverside restaurants and bars, quaint cafés and independent shops.  It also contains Hogarth’s House, the former residence of the 18th-century English artist William Hogarth; Chiswick House, one of the finest neo-Palladian villas in England; and Fuller’s Brewery, London’s largest and oldest brewery. People who have lived in Chiswick include the poets Alexander Pope and W. B. Yeats; the Italian revolutionary Ugo Foscolo; the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro; the novelist E. M. Forster, and stage director Peter Brook.

Weekday Wanderlust | Travel: The Prettiest Towns in Britain
Honington, Warwickshire | photo by @postcardsbyhannah

Honington, Warwickshire

Honington is an English hamlet and parish in the Brailes division of the hundred of Kington, about two miles north of Shipston-on-Stour. The village consists of 60 houses or so contained within the Parish boundary. The River Stour flows past the village on the western side and has a 5-arched 17th-century bridge crossing it. In the village sits the half-timbered Magpie Cottage, the Shoemaker’s Cottage and Honington Hall, which was built in 1682 by Sir Henry Parker. Above is the utterly charming Rose Cottage. Most of the homes and cottages in the centre of the village are between 100 and 300 years old. The village has an abundance of apple trees in the gardens and surrounding fields, and some of the villagers meet every year to gather them to make cider.

Weekday Wanderlust | Travel: The Prettiest Towns in Britain
Wherwell | @postcardsbyhannah


Wherwell is a small English village on the River Test in Hampshire, England filled with beautiful thatched, half timbered cottages. “The village sits on the bank of the River Test, which cuts through the landscape at quite a dramatic speed and hints at the purpose of settlement at this site. The settlement existed here before Doomsday, its resources of fresh water full of fish and richly abundant woodland must have made it a very bountiful place to settle. The first mention of it in written word was in the will of King Edred in 955 AD, in which he bequeathed Wherwell to Hyde Abbey, resting place of King Alfred. Wherwell may simply have continued as one of many settlements along the Test had it not been for the foundation of an abbey that was to have significant importance in the history of England.” (Read more at Hampshire History)

Weekday Wanderlust | Travel: The Prettiest Towns in Britain
Rye | photo by @lucybwithall

Rye, East Sussex

We have actually been thinking, for the past year or so, of moving to Rye. We seem to be on a trend of abandoning large cities for smaller and smaller ones, and now we’re dreaming of villages. Medieval maps show that Rye was originally located on a huge embayment of the English Channel called the Rye Camber, which provided a safe anchorage and harbour. Perhaps as early as Roman times, Rye was important as a place of shipment and storage of iron from the Wealden iron industry. The Mermaid Inn (still open today) originally dates to 1156. Over the years, the town has been an entrepôt port, a naval base, a fishing port, an agricultural centre, and a market town. Since the second world war, the town has become a centre for ceramics. Today, there is a weekly Farmers’ Market, charming pubs, antiques shops and art galleries. There are also nature reserves nearby, Winchelsea Beach a few miles to the west, Scotney Lake off the Lydd road, and the RSPB reserve at Dungeness lies a few miles further to the east.

Weekday Wanderlust | Travel: The Prettiest Towns in Britain
Castle Combe | photo by @liolaliola

Castle Combe

Castle Combe is a quintessentially English village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, about 5 miles northwest of the town of Chippenham. Often named as the ‘prettiest village in England’, Castle Combe sits in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in north west Wiltshire.

The village has a rich history and the houses are made of the honey-coloured Cotswold stone, typical for a village in this area. The village has two parts: the narrow valley of the By Brook, and Upper Castle Combe on higher ground to the east, on the B4039 road which links Chippenham with Chipping Sodbury. A motor racing circuit is to the south of the upper village.

Within Castle Combe you’ll find a Market Cross and St Andrew’s Church, which dates from the 13th century. The church houses a faceless clock thought to be one of the oldest working clocks in the country. There are also pubs and a luxury hotel with golf course. Castle Combe’s picturesque streets are featured regularly as a film location and include scenes in the series Downton Abbey and Stephen Spielberg’s 2011 film War Horse.

Weekday Wanderlust | Travel: The Prettiest Towns in Britain
New Forest | photo by @nicolinaiacob
Weekday Wanderlust | Travel: The Prettiest Towns in Britain
New Forest | photo by @nicolinaiacob

New Forest

The New Forest is not a town, but actually one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in Southern England, covering southwest Hampshire and southeast Wiltshire. It was proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conqueror, featuring in the Domesday Book. Pre-existing rights of common pasture are still recognised today, being enforced by official verderers. In the 18th century, The New Forest became a source of timber for the Royal Navy. It remains a habitat for many rare birds and mammals.

Recently designated National Park status, The New Forest is home to some of South East England’s most picturesque countryside and is filled with paths through ancient woodland and picturesque villages dotting the landscape. Some of these towns include Brockenhurst, Beaulieu, and Burley. Places to visit include Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and Sussex.

Weekday Wanderlust | Travel: The Prettiest Towns in Britain
Dorset | photo by @nicolinaiacob


Dorset is not actually a town, but a county in southwest England, on the English Channel coast. Over half the county is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The area is known for the Jurassic Coast Natural World Heritage Site, a long stretch where the cliffs contain fossils and rock formations with millions of years of geological history and palaeontologic significance. Two beautiful natural landforms along this stretch include Durdle Door, an ancient stone arch, and the layered cliffs at Lulworth Cove. There are no motorways in Dorset, but a network of roads which cross the county and two railway main lines that connect to London. The Dorset towns of Poole, Weymouth and Swanage are popular for their sandy beaches.

Dorset is the birthplace of Thomas Hardy, who used the county as the principal setting of his novels, and William Barnes, whose poetry celebrates the ancient Dorset dialect.

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