14 Prettiest Villages in England

Written by Bryan Dearsley
Sep 2, 2022
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Nothing says "England" quite like a picturesque village. Fortunately for visitors to this green and pleasant land, England offers no end of pretty villages to explore.

Chilham village
Chilham village | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

From the beautiful Cotswolds in the southwest of the country to Kent, the "Garden of England," all the way up north to Yorkshire and the Peak District, a visit to a quaint village is an excellent way to truly experience England at its best.

Along the way, you'll find no end of romantic bed and breakfasts, intimate inns, and country cottages to stay at, as well as many excellent restaurants and tea shops serving the best in locally produced foods.

Whether you're planning a romantic weekend getaway or a fun day trip for the kids, be sure to look for inspiration in our list of the prettiest villages in England.

1. Castle Combe, Wiltshire

Castle Combe
Castle Combe

When most people think of the picture-perfect English village, something like Castle Combe will inevitably spring to mind.

One of the top places to visit in the Cotswolds for an authentic English village experience, Castle Combe is widely touted as the country's prettiest village for its quaint thatch-roofed cottages, its old market square, and the quaint bridges crossing the Bybrook River.

Unspoiled by the usual tourist traps of souvenir shops and fast-food outlets, it's a delight to explore on foot. Instead, you can peruse the goods on sale at locally owned shops and enjoy a pleasant afternoon tea as you wander and explore at an unhurried pace.

For a truly memorable experience, book a stay at The Manor House hotel and golf club. This delightful old country estate has been reimagined as a 5-star hotel and is just a few minutes' walk from the village center.

2. Chilham, Kent

Chilham Castle Gatehouse
Chilham Castle Gatehouse | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Just seven miles away from the popular cathedral city of Canterbury, the quaint village of Chilham is well worth a visit.

While parking is at a premium, leave your car in the designated parking area to the north of the village and take a short stroll up Taylors Hill to the village center. You can also take the train from Canterbury and enjoy a 15-minute walk into the heart of the village.

Known as The Square, the village center features many picturesque old timber-framed houses, as well as St. Mary's Church.

From here you can also access Chilham Castle. Built in 1616, this old manor home can be visited as a part of a fun guided tour. Its beautiful gardens are also available to visit.

3. Bolton Percy, North Yorkshire

All Saints Church in Bolton Percy
All Saints Church in Bolton Percy | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Just 20 minutes' drive south from the historic city of York, Bolton Percy is undoubtedly one of the pretties villages in North Yorkshire.

Home to just over 300 residents, this quiet community makes a fun diversion from its larger neighbor for those who enjoy exploring the English countryside.

A great place to begin your adventure is at All Saints Church. Built in the 15th century, the church is open to the public during the day and is well worth popping in for a visit.

Highlights include its elegant stained-glass windows, ornately carved stone seating, as well as graffiti left behind during Medieval times and later by Cromwell's army during the English Civil War.

Across the road, the beautiful Cemetery Garden makes for an excellent photo backdrop. When you're done exploring, pop into D'Oylys Tearoom for a first-rate afternoon tea.

4. Castleton, Derbyshire

Path in Castleton
Path in Castleton | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

You'll find the pretty village of Castleton located in the Peak District of Derbyshire. A popular tourist spot for its attractive rural setting in the heart of the Hope Valley, Castleton remains largely unspoiled and has managed to retain its small-village appeal despite the influx of tourists.

Accessible by car or via train from the neighboring village of Hope, just two miles away, those wanting to get a real feel for this charming community should consider booking an overnight stay at a local inn or a cottage rental. This will not only allow more time to wander the old village streets, but to venture out on hikes to explore nearby attractions such as Peak Cavern and Cave Dale.

5. East Dean, East Sussex

East Dean
East Dean | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

You'll find the beautiful East Sussex village of East Dean tucked away behind the famous Seven Sisters cliffs, one of the top attractions in the seaside town of Eastbourne. There's ample parking off Village Green Road, where you can park for free while exploring the village.

Highlights include exploring East Dean Village Green, a large communal space ringed by picturesque old homes, a sprinkling of shops and restaurants, as well as the historic 16th-century The Tiger Inn, which offers B&B style accommodations. East Dean is also home to one of the most picturesque churches in East Sussex, St. Simon and St. Jude.

The village also makes a great jumping-off point for hikers wanting to explore nearby Beachy Head, the Birling Gap, and the Seven Sisters cliffs.

6. Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire

Bourton-on the-Water
Bourton-on the-Water

Bourton-on the-Water is another Cotswolds village that's well worth including on your England travel itinerary.

The "water" in question here is the River Windrush. Crossed in numerous spots by beautiful old bridges, this gently meandering river has led to the village earning the nickname the "Venice of the Cotswolds."

Fun things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water include walking the riverside trails and grabbing photos of its beautiful bridges, or better still, stopping at a riverside café for a spot of lunch or an afternoon tea.

Other highlights include taking the kids to the Dragonfly Maze, visiting the Cotswold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection, and enjoying some family time at Birdland & Jurassic Journey.

7. Rievaulx, North Yorkshire

Abbey ruins in Rievaulx
Abbey ruins in Rievaulx | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty known as the North York Moors National Park, the small village of Rievaulx should definitely be included on your North Yorkshire travel itinerary.

In addition to the huge abbey ruins, other notable buildings include an old water-powered mill (now a home), a picturesque miller's cottage, and a number of homes built from stones taken from the abbey in the 1600s.

Also worth seeing is the Swiss Cottage, a beautiful 17th-century home that can now be rented out, and the 13th-century village church of St. Mary, the only structure to have survived the abby's dissolution intact.

And if you meet someone else wandering through this tiny village or the abbey, be sure to say hello; only 100 or so folks live here, so you may actually have met a local!

8. Bodiam, East Sussex

Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

The village of Bodiam offers plenty of reasons for travelers to want to visit. In addition to its attractive 12th-century St. Giles Church, as well as many fine old homes, Bodiam is also home to one of the most-visited castles in east Sussex.

Built in the 1300s, Bodiam Castle is an easy 10-minute walk from the village. Surrounded by trees, fields, and the rolling hills of the Rother Valley, this picture-perfect setting will make you want to extend your village stay as long as possible.

Topping off the whole experience is paying a visit to Bodiam train station where you can hop aboard a steam train run by the Kent & East Sussex Railway for a trip to the charming small town of Tenterden in Kent.

9. Pagham, West Sussex

Pagham | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Not only is it home to one of the best beaches in Sussex, the coastal village of Pagham offers plenty of fun things to do off-beach, too.

Located just two miles west of the popular seaside resort town of Bognor Regis, the village of Pagham is fun to explore on foot when you're done soaking up the sun on the beach.

Highlights include trying to spot some of the older bungalows near the beach that were once used as railway carriages. Other interesting landmarks include the 7th-century Church of St. Thomas a'Becket, as well as Pagham Harbour, a popular spot for birdwatchers and wildlife spotting.

10. Old Byland, North Yorkshire

Old Byland
Old Byland | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Not only is Old Byland one of the prettiest villages in England, it's also one of the least populated. However, the 120 souls who live here are blessed with stunning countryside.

Set in the beautiful North York Moors National Park, its history dates back even before the time of William the Conqueror. In fact, Old Byland is one of only two communities in the area to survive the Norman king's purges of the Anglo-Saxon populations in the 11th century.

While little survives from this era, the nearby ruins of 12th-century Byland Abbey can be explored, and the village's charming stone cottages and farmhouses, built from local stone, are certainly very photogenic.

The village is also known to have been the location of a major battle between the English and the Scots during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 1300s at the Battle of Old Byland.

11. Uplyme, Devon

Uplyme and Lyme Regis
Uplyme and Lyme Regis | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Situated in Devon on the border with the neighboring county of Dorset, the village of Uplyme is one of the best places in southwest England for walkers.

In addition to its pretty village streets and quaint buildings, Uplyme is notable for its location at the source of the River Lym (or Lim).

This three-mile-long river winds its way through extremely pretty countryside before ending up entering the English Channel at the popular seaside resort town of Lyme Regis.

Starting on Mill Lane in Uplyme, a lovely country trail follows the river all the way down to the sea, with numerous scenic places to visit and take a great photo along the way. Known as the River Lim Path, this excellent path is as popular with hikers as it is joggers, cyclists, and nature lovers.

12. Lamberhurst, Kent

Scotney Castle
Scotney Castle | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

The village of Lamberhurst in Kent is another small English community that's well-known for its old castle. Located just eight miles east of the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, it's here you'll find Scotney Castle, a beautiful property owned by the National Trust.

Built in the 14th century, this remarkably well-preserved building is more country house than castle, but nonetheless impresses with its scale and setting. Wandering the exterior you'll get to take stunning photos of the moat that surrounds the castle. It's an especially lovely place to visit in spring when its gardens burst into bloom.

Other Lamberhurst attractions include the ruins of Bayham Old Abbey and the old High Street with its timber-framed houses.

13. Charmouth, Devon

Charmouth West Beach
Charmouth West Beach | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

The village of Charmouth in Dorset is a must-visit destination for those who enjoy the English seaside.

Located on the mouth of the River Char, after which it's named, this charming seaside village also has the distinction of having two of the best beaches in Dorset: Charmouth West Beach and Charmouth East Beach.

A highlight of the village's seafront is the Charmouth Heritage Centre. Situated between the two beaches and overlooking the water, this must-visit attraction does a great job of explaining the significance of the Jurassic Coast, the UNESCO World Heritage designated site on which it stands.

The fact it's largely unspoiled by the usual seafront developments, souvenir shops, and amusement arcades ensures the village remains something of a peaceful oasis.

No matter how big the crowds, though, you've only got to wander inland for a quiet bite to eat at places like The Bank House Café, which also does an excellent cream tea.

14. Beaulieu, Hampshire

Beaulieu village
Beaulieu village

Just 12 miles east of the port city of Southampton, the attractive village of Beaulieu has plenty to offer those seeking a fun English countryside experience. The village itself is a delight to explore and features a beautiful waterfront area along the river after which it's named.

It's also a great jumping-off point for explorations of the New Forest National Park, as well as the famous British National Motor Museum.

Map of Prettiest Villages in England