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Best Small Towns in England - Towns in England - Best English Small Towns - Indian Chief Travel
UNITED KINGDOM  |  Great Towns of England, United Kingdom Travel Guide
Sunday, June 16, 2024

Best Small Towns in England

Edale, one of the best small towns in England (cc)

The 10 Best Small Towns in England

England has pretty villages (and towns), prettier villages, and the prettiest villages of any place in the world. Truly, there are so many of them, one lovelier than the other, that it's no mean task to have to cherry-pick among them. Still, here are what we consider to be 10 quintessentially English, most beautiful and best small towns and villages in England.

[ Pages of interest: Best Small Towns in Scotland and Best Small Towns in Ireland ]


1. Edale

A picturesque Derbyshire village in the English Midlands, Edale sits in a dale in the middle of some of the best walking country in England and at the start of the 431-km (268-mile) National Trail known as the Pennine Way. The village is actually made up of a handful of 13th-century hamlets known as “booths” and has in it a lovely stone church, a youth hostel, several bed and breakfast inns, and, the center of all social activity, the charming Old Nags Head pub.

Location: Peak District, Derbyshire, Midlands

Population: 316



2. Bibury

Singularly the loveliest Cotswolds village, which artist William Morris described as “the most beautiful village in England.” It's filled with picture-postcard stone cottages with steeply pitched roofs, mostly dating from the 14th to 17th century when the town prospered as a weaving and wool trading center, many of them lined along Arlington Row, the most photographed slice of the Cotswolds. An early-12th-century church adds to the interest, while a couple of hotels – one converted from a 17th-century coaching inn and another from a Tudor mansion – offer overnight accommodations. The river Colne runs through the village.

Location: Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

Population: 625



3. Burnsall

Small, delectable village in the rolling Yorkshire countryside on the River Wharfe. It has a lovely old grammar school, dating from 1601, that is still in use, as well as an ancient five-arched bridge and an 11th-century perpendicular church that showcases a 14th-century alabaster panel depicting the Adoration of the Magi. There's a popular little pub in town, and a couple of small hotels with restaurants to cater to visitors. Burnsall also has one of the most scenic cricket pitches in all of England.

Location: Craven District, North Yorkshire

Population: 112



4. Dunster

The Somerset village of Dunster is a typical English village, set in the Exmoor National Park, with many old buildings. It is really quite pleasant to discover by just walking around. It has a Norman castle, a lovely 15th-century priory church, a 17th-century Yarn Market built for the wool and cloth traders of the region, a nunnery, the Dunster mill, and a 15th-century former guesthouse that is now a hotel, the Luttrell Arms, with 28 rooms to offer visitors. There's also a doll museum here, and the Dunster Beach at the mouth of the River Avill, lined with beach huts.

Location: Bristol Channel Coast, West Somerset

Population: 862



5. Lacock

Lacock is an unspoiled and thoroughly enchanting village in Wiltshire in the southwest of England, well-preserved by the National Trust. It's typically filled with stone and timber frame houses, mostly dating from the 18th century or earlier, and also has a surviving 11th-century church, a 12th-century abbey, a 14th-century tithe barn, and an atmospheric 15th-century inn. The village provided the setting for the BBC films Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Cranford (2007), as well as a couple of the Harry Potter films.

Location: Wiltshire, Southwest England

Population: 190



6. Chipping Campden

Small, elegant market town in the Cotswolds, and a popular tourist destination. The centerpiece here is the town's splendid, terraced High Street, lined with scores of honey-colored stone buildings, fine examples of vernacular architecture. There's also a 15th-century perpendicular "wool church" here, as well as an impressive market hall with arches, and several inns, restaurants and quaint shops to add to the visitor interest. The late novelist Graham Greene and several artists and craftsmen from the Cotswold Arts and Crafts movement settled here during the early 1900s.

Location: Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

Population: 2,200



7. Castle Combe

Small, pretty, picture-postcard village on the River Bybrook, with well-cared-for old stone cottages and buildings, a medieval church with one of only a handful of English medieval clocks still in use, and a 14th-century manor house-turned-hotel, set upon landscaped grounds, with 48 guest rooms in its inventory. Castle Combe was the setting for the 1967 musical film Doctor Doolittle, as well as episodes of Agatha Christie's Poirot and, more recently, Steven Spielberg's War Horse.

Location: Wiltshire, Southwest England

Population: 350



8. Bourton-on-the-Water

Here's the "Venice of the Cotswolds," in an absolutely gorgeous setting, with its High Street cutting through broad greens and the River Windrush running through the greens, crisscrossed by several small, arched stone bridges. There are more than a hundred designated English Heritage buildings here, characteristically of yellow limestone construction, with projecting gables and mullioned windows. There's also a Birdland Park here with a superb collection of birds, many enjoyable walking trails in and around the village, and two small market towns in close proximity that are well worth visiting, Burford and Stow-on-the-Wold.

Location: Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

Population: 3,300



9. Hawkshead

One of the honeypots in the South Lakeland area of England, the village is a monstrously popular tourist destination. But in all fairness, Hawkshead is among the prettiest villages in the Lake District, thoroughly atmospheric, brimming with 17th-century buildings with overhanging gables winding around a warren of alleys and punctuated with medieval squares. Home to the likes of William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, and described in Wordsworth's poem, The Prelude, the village has more pubs per capita than any other village or town for miles around.

Location: Lake District, Cumbria

Population: 590



10. Winchester

Of all the small cities in England, there is none lovelier, nor more rewarding, than Winchester, the county town of Hampshire and former capital of England. Hugely historic, by some measures dating back to the Iron Age, it is filled with fabulous old buildings, statues, monuments, iconic landmarks, and atmospheric quarters. It has a famous 12th-century castle where you can see "King Arthur's Round Table," with the names of the legendary "Knights of the Round Table" written around the edge of it. It also has a splendid Gothic cathedral which is one of the largest in Europe, as well as some of England's most prestigious schools, notably the University of Winchester and Winchester College.

Location: Hampshire, South England

Population: 44,700


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Last updated November 11, 2013
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