From North to South, East to West, all the pretty islands and Northern Ireland, there’s endless picturesque and charming small towns in the UK. Quaint cobblestone streets with thatch cottages, seaside fishing villages and famous filming locations make up the list, with each town boasting its own unique charm…
Most Charming Small Towns In The UK
25th. Downham, Lancashire
This picture-perfect village in Lancashire is close to the thriving market town of Clitheroe, and is well known for its small town charm. There’s a beautiful brook running past the village green and stone-built cottages. It’s no wonder that Downham was chosen as the location for popular BBC drama Born and Bred.
24th. Melrose, Scotland
This quaint town in the heart of the Scottish Borders is one of the prettiest places in Scotland. Melrose sits at the foot of the triple peaks of the Eildon Hills, one of the most distinctive single landmarks in the Scottish Borders. With site such as Melrose Abbey ruins and Sir Walter Scott’s romantic mansion of Abbotsford, it’s full of history, too.
23rd. Portree, Isle of Skye
Portree, the main town on the Isle of Skye, is a bustling town that centres around a scenic harbour. Rows of candy-coloured houses and buildings line the main street, with views of the hills of Ben Tianavaig to the south and Suidh Fhinn or Fingal’s Seat to the west. It’s also a cultural hub, with artsy film screenings and local crafts.
22nd. Grasmere, Cumbria
Former home of iconic poet William Wordsworth, Grasmere is as charming as can be. As you stroll through the village with its mix of rustic cottages and Victorian villas, you’ll see why Wordsworth called it “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” It’s a real gem within the Lake District National Park.
21st. Upper and Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire
These twin villages in the Cotswolds have remained totally unchanged for more than a century, with no building work taking place at all since 1906. Both villages are linked with the sleepy River Eye, and despite such beauty they never feel overcrowded with tourists. Be sure to visit the ice cream parlour in the 19th-century flour mill in Lower Slaughter!
20th. Staithes, Yorkshire
Staithes feels like a place that’s lost in time, and that’s exactly why we love it. The fishing port has higgledy-piggledy cottages and winding streets, with colourful fishing boats (cobles) moored at the mouth of Staithes Beck. The coastal hamlet sits on Dinosaur Coast, making it a fun place for fossil hunting and rock pooling.
19th. Mousehole, Cornwall
You’ll be forgiven for thinking Mousehole (pronounced “Mowzul”) belongs in the South of France – it’s about as scenic as a village in England can be. The tiny fishing village has a lively surf scene, cosy pubs serving up local seafood and an enchanting light that makes it popular with artists. Just offshore from the harbour is St Clement’s Isle, a small cluster of rocks where an ancient hermit was said to have lived.
18th. Burford, Oxfordshire
Known as the ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds’, Burford’s medieval bridge, old limestone houses and sleepy vibes make it one of the most charming small towns in the UK. Explore the winding streets and visit England’s oldest pharmacy, a chemist’s since 1734. It’s the perfect example of a quintessential English village, complete with tearooms and an impressive church.
17th. Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales
Italy? Nope, Portmeirion is an Italian Riviera-style town in Wales, designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the early 20th century. The private village features pastel-coloured Baroque and Classical buildings, exotic gardens and an Italian ice cream parlour. It was the setting of 1960s British TV cult classic The Prisoner, and you’ll need to book a day pass to visit.
16th. Port Sunlight, Merseyside
Designed as ‘a perfect model village’ in the 19th-century as a home for workers at the nearby Lever factory, Port Sunlight is looks just as it did back then thanks to its passionate residents who protect the village’s historical beauty. Stroll through the peaceful village to the Lady Lever art gallery, containing 18th- and 19th-century works.
15th. Shere, Surrey
You might recognise this quiet village as the setting of Kate Winslet’s cottage in The Holiday. Shere is home to 16th and 17th century timber framed village houses, a hearty tearoom, two pubs and an excellent micro-brewery. You can enjoy walking along the stream that runs through the village, where you’ll often spot ducks bobbing along.
14th. Abbotsbury, Dorset
Abbostsbury is one of the most visited villages in Dorset, famous for its classical English charm, traditional country tea rooms and olde worlde pubs. Although it’s small, there’s plenty to do here, including hand feeding a colony of nesting mute swans along the Swannery. High above the village on a hill stands the 14th century St Catherine’s Chapel, where you’ll have breathtaking views of Chesil Beach.
13th. Bibury, Gloucestershire
Famed 19th-century artist William Morris called Bibury “the most beautiful village in England”, and it’s hard to disagree. Bibury is probably the most famous place in the Cotswolds, with the cottages along Arlington Row some of England’s most photographed houses.
Go fishing in the clear waters of Bibury Trout Farm and dig into freshly baked scones with clotted cream at The Swan.
12th. Lacock, Wiltshire
One of England’s oldest village, Lacock is a firm favourite for film location scouts, with appearances in ‘Downton Abbey’, the BBC’s ‘Pride and Prejudice‘ and ‘Cranford‘, and ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’. It looks just as did 200 years ago, with quaint traditional stone cottages, a village church and cute bakeries and teahouses. It’s hugely popular with visitors and is well regarded as being one of the most charming small towns in the UK.
11th. Clovelly, Devon
People flock from all over to this postcard-perfect fishing village that clings to a 400ft cliff and has has had no motorised vehicle access since the 1920’s on its steep cobbled streets. Privately owned, visitors pay a small fee to wander the streets, admiring white-washed cottages bearing flowers and donkeys carrying food supplies on their way.
10th. Portrush, Northern Ireland
Portrush is a fun seaside town in Northern Ireland that’s famous for its location along the magnificent Causeway Coast and its three sandy Blue Flag beaches. It’s a popular holiday destination for people all across Ireland and beyond, with a kitsch-y amusement park and a lively harbour.
9th. Hawkshead, Cumbria
This ancient medieval village in Cumbria is near the home of famous children’s writer Beatrix Potter. In fact, there’s a wonderful gallery here with an exhibition of a selection of Beatrix Potter’s original drawings and illustrations. Cars are banned from the village, so you can saunter through the cobbled streets at your own leisure, stopping into local tearooms and pubs.
8th. Crail, Fife, Scotland
Chances are you’ve seen photographs before of this historic fishing village on the East Neuk of Fife coast. Crail’s stone-built harbour is a hive of activity as local fishermen come and go, bringing back tasty hauls of fresh lobster. It’s peaceful here, with the real charm lying in the lack of activities. Grab an ice cream at the harbour and just soak it all up.
7th. Weymouth, Dorset
Fancy a seaside getaway? Weymouth is the perfect destination. Often described as ‘England’s Bay of Naples’, its golden sandy beaches, waterfront bistros and coastline scenery are just some of the highlights here. Kids will love the friendly donkeys on the beach and ample sandcastle-building ops. There’s also a lovely town market every Thursday.
6th. Cushendun, Northern Ireland
This small seaside village in Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland is a buzzy place with welcoming local pubs and traditional-style shops. Charmingly scenic paths wind through the village, beach front, harbour, and Glendun river, making it a walker’s paradise. The distinctive Cornish white cottages are now owned by The National Trust.
5th. Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Shanklin is one of the Isle of Wight’s most popular resort towns. There’s a real ‘bucket and spade’ feel in the summer and a warm and cosy atmosphere in colder months. Rent a beach hut on a sunny day to enjoy the golden sand and fresh air. The Old Village with its pretty thatched cottages is also a must-see.
4th. Beddgelert, Snowdonia, Wales
There’s no doubt that Beddgelert is Snowdonia’s loveliest village. Right in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, the village is unspoilt, with stone cottages, local craft stores and excellent eats. For nature lovers, the surrounding countryside boasts wooded vales, rocky slopes and mountain lakes.
3rd. Polperro, Cornwall
Polperro is a shining jewel on the Cornish coast, with sparkling blue waters at the fishing harbour and old-fashioned houses covered in flowers. The village was notorious for smuggling activities during the 18th and early 19th centuries, and there’s an excellent local museum all about it. The streets are so small that no cars can pass through, so it’s great for strolling.
2nd. Castle Combe, Cotswolds
If you haven’t already realised by now, the Cotswolds is home to plenty of the most charming small towns in the UK. Castle Combe is particularly pretty. The houses here use the honey coloured Cotswold stone, typical for a village of this area. With fairytale feels, valley views and a river, it has it all.
1st. Rye, East Sussex
Just a two hour train journey from London St. Pancras International, Rye is a must-visit village for a rural getaway. The hilltop town’s meandering cobblestone streets and timbered houses with terracotta roofs is idyllic. You can browse antique bookstores, sip on local brews in one of the snug pubs or climb to St Mary’s church tower for views of the village below.