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12 pretty towns and villages in England (+ map & travel tips)

From the rugged beauty of Northumberland in the north east to the picturesque fishing villages of Cornwall in the south west England has an abundance of beautiful villages and towns to explore.

If visiting a quintessentially English village with historic buildings, cosy tea houses, antique shops and chocolate box cottages is on your bucket list we have you covered. In this article we will explore 12 of the most beautiful towns and villages in England.

At the end of the article, there is a map showing the locations of the towns and villages.


12 pretty English villages and towns

Whitby in North Yorkshire

This popular coastal town is located on the North Yorkshire coast of England. 

Don’t miss visiting the ruined Whitby Abbey to enjoy great views of the town and harbour.

This Gothic building dates back to the 7th century and was a Christian abbey and later Benedictine monastery. Whitby Abbey was famously also the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  

Whitby Abbey.

Whitby was the home of famous explorer Captain Cook. If you would like to learn more about his life you can take a tour around the house in which he once lived and which now houses the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.  

If you enjoy traditional English fish and chips Whitby arguably has the best in England. Head to the Magpie Cafe but do expect a queue as it is very famous for its beautiful food. No visit to Whitby is complete without a fish and chip lunch or dinner and I highly recommend it. Take your bucket and spade too as the sandy beaches are spectacular here too.

Whitby is just one of many places to visit in Yorkshire. If you are based in the county popular Yorkshire day trip destinations include Saltaire, York, Harrogate, and Fountains Abbey.

LEARN MORE – Ultimate guide to visiting Whitby

Whitby Harbour
The gorgeous coastal town of Whitby in Yorkshire

Bakewell in the Peak District

The market town of Bakewell in the Peak District of Derbyshire is a popular destination for visitors from all over the UK. As well as the attractions of the town itself the Peak District in England’s East Midlands is a beautiful area to explore with picturesque walks, stately homes and more to offer visitors.  

In the small town of Bakewell do not miss the opportunity to try a famous Bakewell Pudding which can be purchased at the Old Original Bakewell Pudding shop in the town. It is delicious and much tastier than the mass-produced versions of Bakewell Tart you may be familiar with.  

A row of stone houses in Bakewell England.
The surrounding countryside of the Peak District is perfect to explore.

Another must-visit in the Bakewell area is Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. It is one of the grandest stately homes in England and there are always lots of activities and events happening throughout the year.

Christmas at Chatsworth is particularly beautiful and worth visiting if you are in the area during the festive period. Chatsworth’s Farm Shop is also a favourite and stocks local produce.    

Read more – Guide to visiting Bakewell

Christmas decorations in Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

St Ives in Cornwall

Located on the Cornish coast St Ives is one of the prettiest seaside towns in England and a must-visit destination in Cornwall. Famous for its links to artists such as Barbara Hepworth a trip to the Tate St Ives is a must for art lovers.  

There are lots of lovely cafes, galleries and shops to enjoy. Take a stroll around the harbour and the harbour beach or a boat trip to nearby Seal Island. 

Indulge in an afternoon tea with scones, jam and Cornish clotted cream (just remember you are in Cornwall so the jam is added to the scone before the cream).

Read more – Cornwall Travel Guide & 10 Best things to do in St Ives

View of St Ives harbour one of the prettiest villages in England.
The pretty seaside town of St Ives in Cornwall have lovely sandy beaches

Alnwick in Northumberland

Take a drive along the Northumberland Coast and visit the pretty town of Alnwick in Northumberland and take a tour of its famous castle.  Featured in many movies including the first two Harry Potter films Alnwick Castle is open daily from the end of March to October.

If you enjoy visiting castles and learning more about English history you may be interested to know that Northumberland has more castles than any other county in England. In addition to Alnwick Castle other popular castles in the county include Bamburgh Castle and Lindisfarne Castle.  

Also worth visiting in the town is the wonderful second hand bookshop of Barter Books which is located in the old train station building. Have lunch at the book shop and enjoy perusing the largest selection of second hand books in the UK.

LEARN MORE – Northumberland Travel Guide

Alnwick Castle.
Explore the incredible countryside in Northumberland

Ambleside in the Lake District

With so many beautiful towns and villages in the Lake District choosing my favourite is not easy. However if I have to pick one then Ambleside located in the heart of Windermere is the winner.

Take a boat trip across Windermere from Ambleside to Bowness and Lakeside and enjoy stunning views of the area. Or why not explore on foot on one of the scenic walks or hikes in the Lake District.

I recommend spending at least a day in the Lake District as there is so much to see and do.  If you can stay for a few days why not book a cosy log cabin or lodge and base yourself there whilst exploring the beautiful North West.

Read more – Lake District Travel Guide

View over the Lake District  one of the prettiest villages in England.
Ambleside could claim the crown as the prettiest town in Lake District

Warwick in Shakespeare country

Warwick Castle dominates the market town of Warwick and is the highlight of any visit to the area. If you have an interest in history this is one of the best castles to visit in the UK.

With lots of fun activities during the summer months including jousting, birds of prey and the trebuchet it is fantastic for all the family.

Take the free walking trail and spot the medieval buildings as you stroll through the market town. Warwick is also close to Stratford-upon-Avon the home of William Shakespeare and easily reached by car or train.   

 Read more – 10 Places to visit in the West Midlands

Warwick Castle.

Burford in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is famed for its beautiful villages and towns. Burford is often described as the gateway to the Cotswolds and is situated west of Oxford.

Its beautiful medieval buildings and cottages make this a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.  

Explore the side streets filled with antique shops and tea rooms and don’t forget your camera for some of those iconic chocolate box shots of this pretty English village.    

Read more – 10 Cotswold Villages to add to your itinerary

Cotswolds villages in England

Windsor in Berkshire

Windsor Castle is the Queen’s favourite weekend retreat from the hustle and bustle of the capital. If the Royal Standard is flying above the castle the Queen is in residence.

Windsor is located in South East England and is the perfect destination for a day trip from London by train.

Good to know – Check the times of the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the castle. The times and days do change and it is weather dependent so check before you go. Find out more information by clicking this link to the official changing of the Guard website.

Read more – 10 things to do in the South East of England


Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds

Bourton-on-the-Water is known as Venice of the Cotswolds because of the many bridges that span the River Windrush and is the second Cotswolds village to be included on this list.

Don’t miss the miniature model of the village which is 1/9 scale of the original or stop by at some of the shops and tea houses for an afternoon refreshment break.    

Read more – Things to do in the Cotswolds

A view of Bourton on the water through an arch of shrubbery.
Bourton on the water is fairytale pretty

Polperro in Cornwall

I love Polperro and first visited this Cornish seaside village as a child nearly 50 years ago.

Explore the cobbled stoned streets and harbour views and enjoy locally caught seafood in one of the excellent restaurants, cafes or pubs in the village.  

Situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty if you are an experienced walker why not take the south west coast path from Polperro to Polruan a strenuous but beautiful 7 mile walk.  

Alternatively base yourself in Polperro and take day trips to Bodmin Moor, Looe and Liskeard or even to the Eden Project in St Astell which is a 45 minute drive away.    

Read more – Best places to stay in Cornwall

Cornish fishing village.

Bibury in the Cotswolds

Yes, a third village from the Cotswolds makes it into this list! If you haven’t considered including the Cotswolds in your UK itinerary or live in the UK and haven’t yet explored this beautiful region hopefully the inclusion of 3 Cotswold villages will inspire you to visit. (Though villages such as Castle Combe were worthy of inclusion too!)

Bibury is situated in the county of Gloucestershire on the River Coln and is only 9 km from Burford. Arlington Row is a line of ancient cottages which feature in all pictures of the village.

Built in the 16th century these cottages have appeared in many films including Bridget Jones Diary. Henry Ford even attempted to buy the entire row to ship back to America but luckily was thwarted in his attempt.  

Read more – Cotswolds Travel Guide

Row of stone cottages in one of the prettiest villages in England.
The historic village of Bibury in the Cotswolds

Rye in East Sussex

Rye is consistently described as one of the prettiest towns in South East England. Medieval half-timbered houses can be seen in cobblestone streets in the centre of town.

Explore the passages and winding street and soak in the atmosphere of this historic town. There are lots of tea rooms, pubs and cafes as well as quirky shops to visit along the way.  

Don’t miss the 14th century Ypres Tower which was built to defend the town. And if you want to spend the night in Rye why not stay in a windmill? Rye Windmill really is a bed and breakfast with a difference!    

Medieval street in England in one of the prettiest villages in England
Rye in East Sussex

Map – Pretty towns and villages in England

As you can see from the map these pretty English towns and villages are spread across the country from the Lake District and Northumberland in the north down to St Cornwall in the south.

Click on the arrow below for the menu or on the camera icon for more information about each place.

Itinerary Planning Challenge

More travel inspiration for England

Find more travel inspiration for your travels in England in the article below.

If you have specific questions about a destination in England why not join my UK and London Travel Planning Group on Facebook where you can chat to others planning their trip.

Join my UK and London travel planning group on Facebook for more tips, inspiration and help from other travelers planning future travel to London and the UK.