England is full of stunning fairy tale villages. From corners of the Cotswold’s to hidden gems in Essex or coastal villages on the Devon cliff side. There are so many beautiful and quintessential villages in England to explore. No matter what part of the country you visit you’ll find the essence of a traditional village – many with hidden secrets. Explore these six beautiful villages in England with our guide to how to see the best of them.
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This is a guest article from Katie Black. Katie runs a travel blog with her partner Jack called You Me Under The Palm Tree. They plan to set of on their two year back packing adventure, once the Pandemic is over! After that they plan to move to Bali!
Finding the most beautiful villages in England
England’s traditional villages usually have a combination of small quaint buildings. You’ll always find a village green, perhaps a duck pond, there’s usually a good pub too! Maybe in coastal regions, there will be dramatic cliffs or a gorgeous harbour with colourful fishing boats. These most lovely villages date back centuries and are often found off the beaten track, down narrow winding lanes. What’s clear is that they’re worth the visit, and sometimes its quite the trip, just getting to them. So why not explore these pretty villages in England’s countryside and coast and stay around a while, and experience the gloriously slow pace of village life.
Finchingfield – Essex – England’s most photographed village
Finchingfield is a textbook traditional village in Essex, England. Known as the most photographed village in England. The village is full of cosy quaint cottages with heavy wooden beams and crooked windows and doors. Finchingfield is so picturesque. The combination of its perfect village green, duck pond, humpback bridge and pastel-coloured cottages. Finchingfield is home to a medieval church, a perfectly preserved windmill.
There are many features of interest that shouldn’t be missed. These include the Guildhall which was built around 1500. The magnificent, Grade I listed, Spain’s Hall is an Elizabethan building in the heart of 150 acres of impressive woodland. The roundhouse which was built in the 18th century, known locally as the Pepper pot. This remarkable house was once inhabited by Dodie Smith, the author of the novel “101 Dalmatians”. There is a blue plaque on the house to honour the author.
Top 3 Things to do in Finchingfield
1. Walk from Finchingfield to Great Bardfield
This walk is a magical loop from Finchingfield that takes you through the stunning village of Great Bardfield. This path is 8.2 km long and it takes around 2 hours. This trail is full of muddy paths and cute windmills. Make sure to head to the Fox Inn in Finchingfield after for a refreshing drink and lunch.
2. Have a picnic on Finchingfield’s Village Green
The village green is the most perfect spot for a picnic. With a backdrop of pastel washed cottages and ducks cuddled up on the bank it is a perfect spot for a picnic. Pack your own picnic complete with fresh strawberries for the ultimate English experience. You can also pick up some great food from one of the local cafes or tea rooms.
3. Have tea and cake in one of Finchingfield’s tea rooms
The Greedy Duck is the perfect place for Avocado toast! There is so much on offer here at this cosy tea room.
Winners Tearooms has the most magical selection of cakes. They offer the largest slices of cake we have ever seen. The tea room is so cosy and quaint it is the perfect spot for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
The Picture Pot Tea room is well known for their delicious sausage rolls and bacon sandwiches.
While you’re in Essex, you’ll want to head to Mersea Island – this glorious estuary island is only accessible by a Roman causeway, has its own vineyard, fabulous seafood and some gorgeous hidden corners.
Clovelly, Devon’s cliffside village
Clovelly village sits on the dramatic cliff sides of the Devon coastline. This village is the most beautiful in Devon and is known as the Positano of England. Clovelly is a steep pedestrian-only cobbled village with an incredible view over the Bristol Channel. The cobbled steep street leads down to the pub, harbour and the sea. This adorable village in England is dotted with independent arts and crafts shops. You could spend a whole day walking around the streets learning different forms of arts and crafts.
Clovelly provides the perfect escape from normal life. Being in the village makes you feel like you are being transported back in time. With no motorized vehicles allowed in the village and with donkeys frequently sighted, this village has perfectly preserved its old way of life. Devon is also full of so many other magical towns and villages that are equally swoon-worthy.
Top 3 Things to do in Clovelly Village
1. Clovelly Waterfall
This village of Clovelly has its own waterfall. From the harbour, you can walk across the beach to the waterfall. The waterfall offers stunning sea views and powerful cascading water. This part of the beach is especially perfect for couples to come and spend time.
This waterfall is also of Mythical significance. According to legend, the cave behind the waterfall is where Merlin, the Arthurian magician was born.
2. Clovelly Gardens
The Clovelly gardens in Devon are truly beautiful. These gardens consist of walled gardens dotted with lime trees. During the summer there is so much to see here. In the beautifully restored Victorian glasshouse, it is full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Check out their website here for more information.
3. Walk from Clovelly Town to Mouthmill Cove
This is a stunning 5.1 miles / 8.3 kilometres long walk that takes you through enchanting woods, the Brownsham Moors and the Culm Grasslands. The grasslands are an unusual habitat with a rich diversity of wildlife that makes this walk so much more exciting. In the spring you will see blankets of bluebells and wild garlic. This walk is also exceptional in the Autumn when the trees turn bright orange and red.
For more villages and towns in Devon, check out our guide here.
Castle Combe – the Cotswold’s Perfect Village
Castle Combe is one of the most perfect villages in England. The Cotswolds is full of magical villages and towns, Castle Combe is by far the most stunning and picturesque village of them all. Castle Combe is the perfect example of a quintessential Cotswold’s village full of charming narrow streets and oldy worldy pubs and tea rooms. This village is full of medieval features. This village looks as if it has been taken right out of a historic novel.
One thing to bear in mind is that this village can get really busy. Especially in the summer months when it is the peak tourist season for the Cotswolds. To make the most out of the village make sure to head here early before the coach tours arrive. Heading here early will allow you to experience this village as it should be. Quiet and sleepy with flower baskets hanging from cosy cottages.
Top 3 things to do in Castle Combe
1. Head to Castle Combe’s Manor House for afternoon tea
The Manor house is an incredible place for food. They offer traditional Sunday lunch, alfresco dining and an afternoon tea complete with all the trimmings. If you don’t come here for afternoon tea at least take the time to walk around the Manor Grounds. The Manor is covered in stunning ivy and it is so beautiful to walk around.
2. Head to one of Castle Combe’s Local Pubs
Castle Combe has two pubs that both offer the perfect countryside experience. Picture roaring fires, the perfectly pulled pint and charming courtyards. There are two pubs, the White Hart and the Castle Inn. In our opinion, the Castle Inn was the best for food and there Sunday roast was incredible.
3. See Dr Dolittle’s house in Castle Combe
There is a bright yellow house in Castle Combe called Dower house. This house is a two and a half storey listed house that was featured in the film Dr Dolittle in 1967. You can read more about what to do in Castle Combe in our complete guide here.
Painswick, a(nother) beautiful Cotswold Village in England
Another village in the Cotswolds! This one is so different from Castle Combe but still has all the features typical of the Cotswolds area. Sand stone washed cottages, quirky pubs and narrow streets and a beautiful church. Painswick village has the most perfect churchyard filled with perfectly cut yews and green grass.
Painswick tends to be quieter than other villages in the Cotswolds. This village sits on the edge of Slad valley giving it the most beautiful backdrop of rolling hills and blue clouds.
Top 3 things to do Painswick Village
1. Walk the Slad Valley
The Slad Valley circular walk is such a beautiful walk in the Cotswolds. It is around 8.4 km long and is a loop trail. It consists of beautiful wildflowers and an abundance of wildlife. Make sure to bring a backup map or screenshot of the route. GPS can be a little patchy in this area and it is easy to get lost. We recommend using the Ordnance Survey downloadable maps in their app – check them out here.
2. Explore the magical Rocco Gardens in Painswick
This is by far one of the most magical experiences in Painswick, maybe even the whole of the Cotswolds. These gardens are some of the best we have ever experienced. There is a little café that serves hot drinks and cakes. They also have a plant shop and local products made by local companies and suppliers.
This garden in Painswick is the only surviving Rocco gardens in England. Rocco is a period of art from the 17th century that is defined by pastel colours and asymmetry. Once this period of fashion passed the gardens were left for ruin. After many years the Gardens were restored to the beauty you can see today. The beauty of these gardens is so spectacular. The Rocco Gardens have now been added to the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
3. Take afternoon tea at The Painswick
Afternoon tea is a must when in the Cotswolds. The Painswick offers the most incredible traditional afternoon tea with all the trimmings.
Lynmouth Village in Devon
Lynmouth is a beautiful village tucked away on the northern edge of Exmoor. This village is known as Little Switzerland due to its hilly setting and deep woodlands. Lynmouth is full of incredible walking trails and river gorges. It has so many features that remind us of an Alpine village you may find in Switzerland.
Lynmouth village is really near to the seaside town of Lynton which is a quaint traditional English seaside town. Together these two places make the most perfect English getaway. You will rarely hear the two named separately, they’re always “Lynton & Lynmouth” or “Lynmouth and Lynton”.
Top 3 things to do in Lynmouth and Lynton
1. Take the Steam Powered Cliff Railway in Lynmouth
This full water-powered railway remains the worlds highest and steepest water-powered railway. It is one of only three left in the world. It was built back in 1888. The towns of Lynmouth and Lynton are separated by a high cliff. This railway was originally built to make it easy to move between the two towns. A single adult trip costs £3.00 and a return is £4.00.
2. Watersmeet walk to Lynmouth
This circular route is such a beautiful walk. Full of cascading waterfalls, dense woodlands and green scenery. It will take you through both Lynton and Lynmouth. Once you reach Lynton you can get a pack of chips and sit on the beach before heading back. This walk is around 3.7 miles (about 6 km) long and is relatively easy. The path takes about 35 minutes each way. You can do the full circular route or just go from Lynmouth to Lynton and explore the town. Read this post by the National Trust for details of the longer route.
This river is named Watersmeet because it is the point at which two powerful streams meet. This fast flower river breaks up into multiple waterfalls with the occasional arching bridge across the river.
3. Climb Dunkery Beacon on Exmoor
Dunkery Beacon on Exmoor provides some of the most breathtaking views over the Bristol Channel. The walk is about 2.5 miles (4.02 km) and will take around one and a half hours. This walk will guide you through farmland to the open moors and then to the beacon itself. The path is easy to navigate and is well-trodden. The beacon is the highest point on Exmoor with the most breathtaking views.
Keswick in the Lake District
While our final choice is technically a town, we couldn’t fail to include Keswick in the glorious Lake District. Keswick is a quaint market town in the Lake District National Park. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains like Skiddaw. It is the most perfect base to explore the Lake District. With easy access to all the hikes, this corner of the UK has to offer. Keswick is home to some very quirky attractions, such as The Cumberland Pencil Museum, Keswick Museum & Art Gallery and the Castlerigg stone circle that dates back to the Neolithic era.
Top 3 things to do in Keswick
1. Walk around Buttermere Lake
A walk around the magical Buttermere Lake is a must when in the Lake District. The lake is so tranquil and beautiful it is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Lake District.
2. Visit the Keswick Alhambra Cinema
This cinema is such a unique experience. A traditional old school theatre-style picture house with a balcony and a programme of classic blockbusters. This theatre is an experience in itself. The owners come and offer you cups of tea and it such a memorable experience.
3. Buy local produce at Keswick Market
Keswick market is full of good quality food and brings many locals and visitors to the town. The market is on every Saturday and Thursday. It is held in the centre of the market square.
Final Words on the Most Beautiful Villages in England
Beauty, is they say, in the eye of the beholder and we hope you enjoyed our guide to these beautiful villages in England and that you use it to explore some of the smaller and hidden places that England has to offer. England is full of incredible villages, some off the beaten path and some visited by tourists from all over the world. What’s your favourite English village?