Beyond the bustle of London, rural England is made up of rolling hills, fairytale woodlands, and rugged stretches of coastline. Countryside villages with stone cottages and cobbled streets welcome travelers from afar with snug tea rooms and traditional pubs serving British comfort food. Here are the best English villages to explore across all four seasons for heritage, scenery, and food.
Castle Combe, Cotswolds
As a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Cotswolds is revered as one of England’s most beautiful regions. As one village simply isn’t enough to explore this idyllic place, start with Castle Combe. The original keep has long since been destroyed but the village today is a postcard-pretty scene of brookside honey-colored cottages bordered by verdant woodland.
Robin Hood’s Bay, North York Moors National Park
Robin Hood’s Bay is a tiny fishing village next to the town of Whitby with a history of smuggling and fossil finds. Access to the beach requires a walk down a steep yet picturesque street lined with boutiques and cafes with bunting fluttering ahead. At low tide, you can wander along the tidal pools before settling in with a sunset portion of fish and chips while waves crash in from the North Sea.
Cornwall is a tapestry of quaint seaside villages but Tintagel stands out with its dramatic castle that tumbles down the cliffs – long associated with the mythological Celtic King Arthur. With its resemblance to the village of Hobbiton, the Old Post Office is one of the National Trust's smallest and most intriguing properties. Tintagel should be visited in tandem with Boscastle, an equally pretty village with an attractive harbor and a history of witchcraft and legends.
Kent, the “Garden of England” is known for its bucolic hamlets and villages. Chiddingstone is a meticulously preserved Tudor village comprising only one main street where buildings date to the 15th century. Under the careful watch of the National Trust, the village features a Roman Catholic church, inn, and tea room. You can also explore the interiors and gardens of Chiddingstone Castle.
Located on the rugged Northumberland coast – another AONB – Bamburgh is presided over by the wonderfully preserved Bamburgh Castle. Once the home of the Northumbrian kings, the staterooms, dungeons, and towers are now open to the public. The castle overlooks a long stretch of sandy beach that culminates with a lighthouse while Front Street is the setting for upscale bistros and seafood eateries. Plan an outing to tidal Holy Island where you can sample Lindisfarne Mead along with fruit wines and liqueurs.
Hawkshead, Lake District National Park
Located in England’s principal national park, Hawkshead is a car-free village composed of higgledy-piggledy alleys and whitewashed stone buildings draped in flora come spring and summer. View original illustrations from the beloved author and illustrator Beatrix Potter at her former residence and walk in the footsteps of the romantic poet William Wordsworth who went to school in Hawkshead.
Haworth, South Yorkshire
Once you alight the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway at Haworth station, you’ll soon see how the wild landscape of the Pennine Hills inspired the writing of the Brontë sisters. Main Street is teeming with unique stores where you can pick up books, gifts, and old-fashioned confectionery. The Brontë Parsonage Museum recreates the home of the writers, where they dwelled with their father, the priest of the village church.
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