Britain's beautiful villages

Britain’s many charming villages offer a chance to retrace hundreds of years of history and heritage – a past that can be soaked up through riverside strolls, indulgent afternoon teas or pints of local ale in a traditional pub. Whether it’s stone cottages in the Cotswolds, eye-catching history along the Scottish coast or a traditional fishing spot in Yorkshire, here are just a few of Britain’s most beautiful villages for you to dream about visiting…

Ripley, Surrey

Rock Garden at RHS Wisley at sunset, Surrey, England

With its historic high street, 15th century coaching inn and a connection to the king of the Mods, Paul Weller, Ripley is one for your village wish list. Although only 40 minutes from London’s West End, Ripley offers a slice of classical country life in Britain. Plan a trip during the monthly Farmers’ Market, when locally grown produce, as well as homemade delicacies and crafts are on offer. Alternatively, enjoy a taste of Britain in The Talbot, a coaching inn turned dining spot, ideal for indulging in a traditional afternoon tea.

Ripley is also home to Weller’s renowned Black Barn recording studio, which has welcomed artists including The Who, James and the Manic Street Preachers since launching in 1985 – so don’t forget to be on the lookout for celebrities when wandering around the village! Other highlights include the beautiful RHS Garden Wisley, bursting with horticultural delights, and the crumbling ruin of an Augustinian Abbey at Newark Priory. Although it is located on private land and not accessible to the public, the Abbey can be viewed while on a tranquil riverside ramble along the banks of the River Wey.  

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Ripley

Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Dartmoor

Old cottages in Ponsworthy Village, close to Widecombe-in-the-Moor.

Complete with a medieval church tower nestled against a backdrop of south Devon’s rugged hills and undulating meadows, Widecome-in the-Moor is a countryside village offering plenty of charm. The village features cafes packed with character, local markets and two of the most picturesque pubs imaginable. Both The Old Inn and the Rugglestone Inn offer cosy fires, hearty home-cooked food and lashings of real ale. Dreaming of a cottage getaway in Britain? This area is home to a quirky pink cottage holiday home, set in the nearby hamlet of Ponsworthy.

Less than ten miles away from Widecome-in-the-Moor, you can plan to hop aboard a vintage train on the South Devon Railway. Featuring restored carriages from the stylish days of 1930s to 1960s train travel, the route follows the former Great Western Railway branch line, running between Buckfastleigh and Totnes Riverside, with the area’s stunning scenery ready to be admired along the way. There are many unmissable beauty spots, vintage train stations and historic sites along this line – so make sure you plan in some exploration time!

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Widecombe-in-the-Moor

St Fagans, Cardiff

Keen to explore Welsh village life through the ages? Then you can add St Fagans National Museum of History to your list. Located in the charismatic village of St Fagans, around a 20-minute drive from the centre of Cardiff, this free museum brings together over forty buildings from Wales’ rich past, from Iron Age Roundhouses to restored 17th century farmhouses and mills – all of which are open for you to roam. A few highlights include the splendid Elizabethan manor house of St Fagans Castle, recreated ancient mud cottages, and two working mills – one producing flour, complete with waterwheel, and the other being a small wool factory.

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St Fagans

Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

Birds eye view of the village and Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire, England

Nestled along the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast, on the eastern edge of the North York Moors National Park, Robin Hood’s Bay is a picturesque fishing village brimming with rural character. From the winding cobbled streets, rows of traditional cottages, and alleyways leading to cosy pubs and a serene beach, this is a one of Yorkshire’s gems – there is even a chance to sample a delicious portion of fish and chips, to boot!

If you’re longing to stretch your legs on a scenic hike, you should plan to explore part of the Cleveland Way National Trail, where you can enjoy a walk from Robin Hood’s Bay to the historic town of Whitby. Home to Whitby Abbey, a traditional harbour and a maze of cobblestone streets, this captivating seaside town provided the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula.

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Robin Hood’s Bay

Castle Combe, Cotswolds

Traditional Cotswold stone houses in the village of Castle Combe on the village high street.

With its rows of idyllic centuries-old stone cottages, quintessential countryside pubs and a picturesque river running through its centre, it is easy to see why Castle Combe is often called one of the prettiest villages in England. Dream of walking among the honey-coloured houses, seeing the Weaver’s Cottage where the area’s famous red and white cloth was produced in the 15th century, and marvelling at the medieval Market Cross, a focal point marking the village’s square.

Planning to explore a little further? This chocolate box village is also little over 30 miles from the world-famous prehistoric monument of Stonehenge.

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Castle Combe

Culross, Edinburgh

Fancy travelling back to 17th century Scotland? Plan a trip to the colourful village of Culross, less than 30 miles outside of Edinburgh. A former royal burgh (historic chartered borough), this village is awash with red-roofed 17th-century cottages and narrow cobbled streets, but the gem in its crown is Culross Palace. Once a merchant’s house, this ochre-coloured palace dates back to the late 1600s and boasts richly restored rooms, painted ceilings and reconstructed historic gardens. Eagle-eyed fans of the TV series Outlander will no doubt recognise these picturesque streets, as the village has been used many times as a filming location.

Discover more of the area’s natural beauty along the 77-mile Fife Coastal Route, a wonder-filled journey that can completed by road or on foot. The route passes the village of Culross, as well as seaside must-sees including Aberdour Castle, the Scottish Fisheries Museum and Kingsbarns Distillery, all on the way to the Tay Road Bridge, which crosses over to the city of Dundee.

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Culross

You are encouraged to always check individual attraction websites for the latest information, as events and details are subject to change.

04 Jan 2021(last updated)

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