10 of the prettiest villages and small towns in England

Criss-cross your way around Britain and you will stumble upon gorgeous unspoilt villages and small towns with cottage-lined streets and rolling countryside views. From a medieval wool town in Suffolk to a colourful Cornish retreat, we've rounded up ten of the prettiest to visit across England plus have highlighted where to stay nearby within our Collection.


1. Shaftesbury, Dorset

The hilltop market town of Shaftesbury in north Dorset is steeped in Saxon history and filled to the brim with bakeries, cool galleries, bookstores and antique shops. In the middle is one of England's most iconic landmarks, postcard-pretty Gold Hill - a lovely cobbled street with sweeping countryside views. The pub-with-rooms to visit in the centre is the historic Grosvenor Arms where you'll find rich fabrics and funky tiles splashed throughout the rooms.

Nearby Collection inns: The Grosvenor Arms, Shaftesbury; The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford; The Museum Inn, Farnham


2. Lacock, Wiltshire

The timeless National Trust owned village of Lacock doesn't look much different to how it was 200 years ago. Filled with quaint streets and half-timbered cottages, it is a popular filming location and has appeared in Downton Abbey, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and BBC's Pride and Prejudice to name a few. Don't miss a visit to the Sign of the Angel - a 15th-century former wool merchant's house turned destination foodie pub-with-rooms where you might find pork tenderloin with cider braised chips or pea and pesto arancini on the evening menu.

Nearby Collection inns: Sign of the Angel, Lacock; Pear Tree Inn, Whitley; Methuen Arms, Corsham


3. Fowey, Cornwall

On the south coast of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is the historic harbour town of Fowey, a place of little lanes, pastel-coloured houses and splendid sea views. For secluded coves and peaceful woodland, amble along the Fowey Estuary - a favourite loop is the National Trust 'Hall Walk' - or catch the small boat from the harbour to Polruan and walk to majestic Lantic Bay.

Click here to view all our Cornish inns >


4. Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Tucked away in a gorge beside the River Nidd, just 30 minutes by train from York, is the fairy-tale market town of Knaresborough - the home of a stone viaduct, ancient cobbled walkways, serene riverside paths and its own enchanting castle. Hire a rowing boat to explore the river, browse the boutique independent shops in the quaint town square, or visit the tiny medieval Chapel of our Lady of the Crag which was carved into the cliff face by John the Mason in 1408.

Nearby Collection inn: The Durham Ox, Crayke


5. Castle Combe, Wiltshire

This quintessentially English village sits in northwest Wiltshire in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With its sleepy picture-book streets, it's no wonder this village has been used in various films and TV series, including Stardust, The Wolfman, War Horse and Dr Doolittle. At its heart is the handsome Castle Inn whose menus offer delicious homemade delicacies - the golden Merguez sausage roll is a must-try.

Nearby Collection inns: The Castle Inn, Castle Combe; Sign of the Angel, Lacock; The King's Arms, Didmarton; Pear Tree Inn, Whitley


6. Rye, East Sussex

Famed for its antiques and seaside proximity, city folk flock to this charming hilltop town for a dose of East Sussex charm. Head to the Church of Saint Mary for panoramic marsh views, or pay a visit to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve or nearby Camber Sands for a seaside stroll, before tucking into flavour-filled plates at the Ship Inn - a former 16th-century smuggler's warehouse perched at the bottom of cutely cobbled Mermaid Street.⁣

Nearby Collection inns: The Bell, Ticehurst


7. Sedbergh, Cumbria

The charming market town of Sedbergh sits at the foot of the splendid Howgill Fells between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. Dating back to the Saxon times, the place is filled with historic charm - from the quiet cottage-lined streets to the well-preserved motte and bailey castle of Castlehaw Tower. Find the Black Bull at its centre, a striking pub-with-rooms loved for its deep tubs and cosy interiors.

Nearby Collection inn: The Black Bull, Sedbergh


8. Bibury, Gloucestershire

Just a short drive from Cirencester is Bibury, a peaceful riverside village peppered with honey-coloured 17th-century weaver's houses which was once referred to as "the most beautiful village in England" by poet William Morris. Seek out snap-happy hotspot Arlington Row, a National Trust treasure that was originally built in the 14th-century as a monastic wool store.

Nearby Collection inn: The Wheatsheaf Inn, Northleach


9. Blakeney, Norfolk

Walkers and nature lovers are drawn to this tranquil coastal village on the North Norfolk Coast due to its dramatic expanse of marshland and rich wildlife population. Go seal-spotting at Blakeney Point before a visit to Blakeney Deli for some of the best Norfolk-made produce - from chocolate and orange liqueur by Norfolk Rum to Candi's Bramley apple and Norfolk ale chutney. Another must-visit is the White Horse, the village's oldest pub-with-rooms which sits close to the harbour.

Nearby Collection inns: The White Horse, Blakeney; The Wiveton Bell, Wiveton; The Kings Head, Letheringsett


10. Lavenham, Suffolk

Once a wealthy wool trade hub, Lavenham is one of Britain's most well-preserved small towns. Tudor timber-framed houses, candy-cane-coloured shops and an impressive 15th-century stone church border the streets - find the enchanting Crooked House at its centre, easily reached via the National Trust wonky house walk. Under two hours from London, this medieval treasure makes the perfect day out for history lovers.

Nearby Collection inns: The Black Lion, Long Melford; The Bildeston Crown, Bildeston

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Last updated: 20.07.22

Photo credit: Unsplash (Nick Fewings - Shaftesbury; Benjamin Elliot - Fowey; Chloe Frost - Blakeney); The September Chronicles - Sedbergh