Often nominated for the title of “prettiest village in England”, Castle Combe sits it’s the Cotswold’s ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, making it one of the most cherished villages in the UK. But it’s not just the tourists that appreciate it – filmmakers have also picked it out as a place to be admired, with the village taking a staring role in films including War Horse and Stardust. The village, dating back to the 13th century, is filled with houses built from local Cotswold stone, while the church, pubs and village shops mean there’s always something for visitors to do.
Beddgelert sits in the beautiful region of Snowdonia, with it’s stone houses and peaceful river making it one of the nicest villages in Wales. That’s not the most interesting part of this village though – it’s the legend behind the town that has tourists flocking from all over. Dating as far back as the 13th century, the town name means “Gelert’s Grave”, a landmark that can be found just outside the town. The legend has it that Gelert was the faithful hound of Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, and is believed to have been given to him by King John of England. Llywelyn is thought to have returned home to find his baby missing and Gelert’s mouth smeared with blood – thinking his dog had killed his child, Llywelyn draws his sword and kills Gelert, only to find the baby unharmed under the cradle and a dead wolf lying nearby. Overcome with grief, Llywelyn buried the dog with great ceremony, and his grave is still visited by tourists to this day.
Porthdinllaen, pronounced in English as Port Dinllaen, is a small coastal village in North Wales. Unusually, the whole village is owned by the National Trust, with a Ty Coch pub being central to the small collection of buildings. The natural harbour caused by the thin ribbon of land is what attracted fisherman to settle there many centuries ago, with stories of traders and sailors looking for shelter in a storm being regular visitors in years gone by. Now, the town offers visitors spectacular views and the chance to try their hand at paddle-boarding, before settling down at the Ty Coch Inn for a hearty meal and drinks.
Staithes can be found on the Yorkshire coast, with it’s winding streets and quaint harbour giving it the feel of a place lost in time. The town is full of restaurants and cafes to explore, while local museums and galleries show off the town’s history and culture. At one point in it’s history Staithes was one of the largest fishing ports in England, and today visitors can still find fishing boats casting out from the town’s harbour.
Sitting in the Devon countryside, Lustleigh’s thatched cottages, tea rooms and local pub give it a quaint air, while the sweeping countryside provides visitors with beautiful views across the county. The focus of the village is a 13th Century church, while the oval shape of the churchyard suggests that a Romano-British burial ground sat here for centuries before this. The presence of Datuidoc’s Stone – a decorative piece of stone dating back to around 500 AD – supports this theory, meaning that a visit to Lustleigh will take you to one of the oldest settlements in England.
Now we know what you’re thinking with this one – but don’t be put off by the name! Slaughter comes from the old English word ‘slothre’, meaning ‘muddy place’, but we’re glad to say it doesn’t do much to describe Lower Slaughter today. The village is build on both banks of the River Eye, with a 19th century water wheel sitting on the river proving a point of interest for visitors. Records of the village date back over 1000 years, with mentions of the site in the Domesday Book, and a walk through the town or surrounding countryside is the perfect way to spend a summer’s day.
Bibury is a village typical of the Coltswolds, where visitors can find tea rooms, pubs and traditional buildings built from local stone sitting on the banks of the River Coln. A walk in the countryside or a trip to see the 13th century weaver’s cottages in Arlington Row are favourite activities in the town, while the 15th century Catherine Wheel Pub is the perfect place to settle down for the evening. An interesting and perhaps unexpected part of Bibury’s history is it’s links to Japan, as the Japanese Emperor Hirohito stayed in the village during his tour of Europe, meaning that Bibury is of particular interest to Japanese visitors.
Blakeney is a fishing village on the Norfolk coast, which was once a medieval port trading cloths and spices – and it’s fair share of smugglers to go with it! It’s winding streets and man-made Mariners Hill tell the story of the people that lived and worked in the town over the last few centuries, while art galleries, restaurants and pubs entertain visitors that come to explore the town today. The 13th century church of St Nicholas is also worth a visit, as it’s unusual architecture, consisting of two tall towers at either end of the church, provide a fantastic view over the surrounding countryside.
Hambleden is a small village in the south of England, taking it’s name from the Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘hamel denu’, meaning crooked or odd-shaped valley. It has everything to make it a quintessential English village, with overgrown rose bushes, tea rooms and a pub – The Stag and Huntsman – welcoming visitors to the quaint town. It has even been used as the setting for a variety of film and TV shows, including the children’s classic ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’.
Polperro is a typical of Cornwall, and setting foot in the traditional fishing village is like stepping back in time, as the early 13th century town has barely changed in centuries. Winding roads lined with small cottages lead down to the water’s edge, where fishing boats can still be seen bringing fresh fish into the local restaurants. The beautiful scenery also attracts a host of artists, with several galleries showing off local art dotted around the town. Beyond the town’s beauty, it also has a rich history as a smugglers haven that can be explored in the local museum, which is open every day during the summer months.