English towns are some of the most beautiful in the world. Well known for being welcoming and friendly places, with characteristic houses, charming churches and parks and cafes and restaurants serving delicious food, these prettiest towns in England deserve to be explored.
Windsor, Berkshire by Liliane from My Toronto, My World
Windsor is one of the prettiest towns in England. It's most known for Windsor Castle which is one of the Royal Residences and one of the major tourist attractions in England. The Queen uses the castle as her weekend home and now hosts just as many banquets and official state dinners there as she does at Buckingham Palace. If you're exploring Windsor Castle your ticket also gets you entry to St George's Chapel which is the location of many of the royal weddings!
Besides Windsor Castle, the town has plenty to offer. It's a beautiful little town with a nice main street filled with shops and restaurants worth exploring. There's also St John Baptist Church to visit which has a beautiful painting of the last supper and the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum which focuses on the history of the area. If you want to explore more of the nature side of Windsor you can't miss walking along the River Thames, walk the 2.65 mile Long Walk in Windsor Great Park or take in the flowers at Savill Garden.
If your itinerary doesn't include visiting other parts of the country besides London, then you can still see Windsor because a day trip to Windsor from London is quite easy and only requires a train ride that's just under the hour mark
Recommended hotel Macdonald Windsor
St Ives, Cornwall by Stella Jane from Around the world in 24 hours
St Ives, on the coast of Cornwall, is one of the loveliest places in England. Probably the most famous artist to visit St Ives was Joseph Turner, who was attracted to St Ives by the mysterious pink light that hovers in the distance over the water. When you go to St Ives, you’ll be able to see this light yourself.St Ives has many high-quality museums for such a small town. A combination ticket buys admission to both the Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. The Tate St Ives showcases the work of artists inspired by St Ives’s beauty from the past and present. The Hepworth Museum is inside the home of the late artist. She designed the sculpture garden to showcase her unique abstract sculptures. If the weather’s nice, the sculpture garden is one of the prettiest places in Cornwall. St Ives has delicious local specialties that will please any foodie. The most famous food in Cornwall is probably the Cornish pasty. Many places in St Ives serve this yummy treat, a baked shortcrust pastry usually filled with meat and/or vegetables. Just be careful when you are eating it because the local seagulls will want to steal a bite, and they are very aggressive!
One of the best things to do in St Ives is explore its winding streets. Because St Ives dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, there are a million legends about its history. For example, traditionally the doors were painted different colours depending on the profession of the family inside. A blue door meant a fishing family, a green door meant a farming family, and a black door was for a family of miners. You can still see doors painted this color in St Ives today!
Recommended hotel Number 9 Rosemorran
Painswick, The Cotswolds by Sophie from We dream of travel
The charming Painswick is nestled away amongst the beautiful British countryside within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With its quaint cobbled streets and homes built from locally quarried Cotswold stone, it is easily the prettiest village in the Cotswolds, if not the whole of England! Painswick makes for a perfect day trip from London, taking just over 2 hours to reach by car. Here you can forget the hustle and bustle of the city and get lost in the labyrinth of streets and alleyways steeped in history. Many of the buildings throughout the town have small plaques on them to acknowledge their historical use, and there are many information boards dotted around the town to give more insight into Painswick’s long history.On Tibbiwell Lane you’ll find the Golden Heart pub sign. While the pub no longer exists, the sign is part of a protected Grade II listed building and is representative of the history of inns and alehouses that used to be present in Painswick. This small town was once home to 17 inns and alehouses! Today Painswick is still renowned for its excellent restaurants.The village of Painswick is also famed for its parish church garden that is home to 100 yew trees. There had been 99 yew trees until 2000 and legend said that the hundredth yew tree planted would be destroyed by the devil. However, each parish in Gloucester received and planted a yew tree in 2000 to commemorate the new millenium. Despite the legend, the 100th tree is still alive and well!A popular attraction in Painswick is the Rococo Gardens. These gardens date back to 1748 and are considered one of the Cotswolds’ best kept secrets. They provide a beautiful place for a quiet afternoon stroll. Painswick is also home to the Rococo gardens, dating back to 1748 and hailed as one of the Cotwolds’ best kept secrets. These gardens provide the perfect place for an afternoon stroll.
Recommended hotel St.Michaels Bistro
Rye, East Sussex by Suzanne from The Travel Bunny
Rye in East Sussex is one of my favourite English towns. It’s very small and almost village-like and only half an hour’s drive from where I live. Needless to say I visit often. Rye is incredibly picturesque with steep cobbled streets, a tiny castle and a plenty of half-timbered medieval buildings and ancient inns. It’s set back two miles from the coast in the rolling Sussex countryside which makes it a perfect weekend break destination.
Rye is easily walkable and there’s plenty to see and do. It’s super-cute with steep cobbled streets lined with pretty cottages and medieval buildings. The Landgate, Ypres Tower and the castle are good to visit for history buffs.Mermaid Street is one of Britain’s most photographed streets and a climb up the tower of St Mary’s Church offers fabulous views across the countryside and out to the harbour. There’s a clutch of independent shops, galleries and antique emporiums. If you like tea shops you’ll be in heavenRye Harbour Nature Reserve, which is nearby, is good for bird spotting and you may even see a seal. For beach lovers there’s a wide swathe of golden sand and dunes to explore at Camber Sands.
To get to Rye from London high-speed trains run to Ashford International taking 38 minutes. From Ashford another train to Rye takes around 20 minutes which makes this historic town ideal for a day out from the city or a weekend away.The charming cobbled lanes, medieval half-timbered buildings, rustic old inns and ancient castle make Rye one of the most beautiful villages in England.
Recommended hotel Mermaid Inn
Canterbury, Kent by Ann from The Road is Life
The historic town of Canterbury in Kent dates all the way back to the Roman times and is considered one of England’s prettiest towns. Its picturesque cobbled streets are lined with well-preserved Tudor buildings and lovely old pubs dating back hundreds of years. Visiting the town of Canterbury makes the perfect day trip to Kent if you’re staying in London and looking to get out of the city for the day.
One of the most popular attractions of Canterbury is taking a scenic river cruise along the canals. Get a glimpse into Canterbury’s past as you float along the peaceful canals while learning fascinating stories and history from your guide. This is a fun way to escape the bustle of the town centre and admire some of Canterbury’s finest architecture from a unique perspective.
While you’re visiting, you cannot miss out on a trip to Canterbury Cathedral. It’s one of the oldest cathedrals in all of England and it dates back to the year 597 when St. Augustine arrived in Kent and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Take a step back in time and learn about some of England’s important historic moments that took place inside Canterbury Cathedral.
Make sure to stop at one of Canterbury’s ancient pubs for a classic English pub lunch. The Parrot Pub makes a great choice, with over 600 years of history this gorgeous medieval pub is one of the oldest pubs in all of Canterbury! You can expect to find delicious food being served and traditional ales to try out.
Recommended hotel The Victoria Hotel
Stratford-upon-Avon by Maggie from Pink Caddy Travelogue
Stratford-upon-Avon is not only one of the most beautiful towns in England. It's perched along the banks of meandering river Avon, hence the town's name. Stratford-upon-Avon is also convenient - this historic gem is just an hour from London and can be easily reached by train or car.
Founded in 1196, Stratford upon Avon has retained much of its historic flavour, despite being a bustling modern village. Many of the buildings have kept their original Elizabethan or medieval look, with exposed wooden beams, stark white paneling, and ivy-covered walls lining the town's narrow streets. In springtime, English gardens abound in the streets surrounding the town centre.
Its charm alone is worth checking out, but the town’s biggest claim to fame is for being the epicentre of all things Shakespeare. The famous poet was born here, spent most of his life here, and died and was buried in this quiet English town. Most of his immediate family had homes here as well.
Visitors can tour Shakespeare’s birthplace, a waddle-and-daub cottage where, in 1564, the poet himself was born. Tourists can also check out Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare’s family worshipped and where many of them are now buried. End the day by seeing one of Shakespeare’s works brought to life on stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theater, an unforgettable experience!
Recommended hotel Swan's Nest Hotel
Stamford, Lincolnshire by Carrie from Flying with a baby
The beautiful historic Georgian town of Stamford, Lincolnshire is barely touched by modern architecture and seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of the nearest city Peterborough a mere 20 miles away. With the majestic and stately Burghley House presiding over the town, the River Welland running through The Meadow with connections to Boudicca, a high density of Grade II listed buildings, it's no wonder the town entrance sign says "stay awhile amidst its ancient charm."
In 2013 Stamford was rated the best place to live in a survey by The Sunday Times and became the first designated conservation area in all of England and Wales back in 1967.
Locals and visitor alike enjoy the numerous boutique shops and cafes and descend upon the town for the Burghley Horse Trials. Stop for a drink at the George Hotel where kings have stayed on the route from London to York, or enjoy some pizza at the locally owned Tobie Norris or stop for delicious tea and cake at The Fine Food Store. Stamford is also close to nearby attractions such as the Nene Valley Railway and Grimsthorpe Castle.
Recommended hotel The George Hotel of Stamford
Knaresborough, Yorkshire by Jan from FalconDaleJan
Knaresborough is an ancient market town in North Yorkshire, situated between the A1M and Harrogate. Market day is Wednesday and this has run every week since the year 1310. Facing the cobbled market square is England’s oldest chemist shop, now a tourist destination. Around the town centre you can find painted windows on many buildings depicting the history and legends connected with Knaresborough.
A few yards from the market the ruined castle overlooks a high gorge with the river Nidd below. Houses are built precariously on rocky outcrops throughout the cliffs making a pretty vista. Little pathways run up and down the crags. It’s very steep, but once you get down to the riverside it’s like a Mediterranean scene. You can sit in a waterside cafe and watch rowing boats go by, or hire one yourself.
On the opposite bank is the visitor attraction Mother Shipton’s Cave and petrifying well. Mother Shipton was believed to be a prophetess who foretold events such as the fire of London. The waters of her well turn objects to stone, which you can see when you visit. There’s an impressive railway viaduct over the gorge and a regular train service to the town from York and Leeds.
Knaresborough is famous for the rather eccentric annual bed race. Teams of runners push hospital beds on a course around the towns winding streets and then swim it across the river to the finish line. Town life is lively with its own brass band, parade events and Edwardian Christmas fair.
Recommended hotel Bay Horse Inn Goldsborough
Deal, Kent by Vicky from Miss Tilly and Me
Deal on the coast of East Kent is a picturesque old smuggling town, where you can see France on a good day. In fact, France is closer than London. It is fast becoming a much-wanted town to live with the 'Down From London' lot who are buying weekend homes there. If you live there you are lucky enough to be surrounded in History. It is one of the famous Kent Cinque Ports and was a major port in England in the 1300s. Deal has three castles, as part of the Tudor defences. There is Walmer Castle, Deal Castle and Sandown Castle. Sadly Sandown Castle is only ruins now. But the other two castles, are part of English Heritage and you can visit them.
The high street is filled with second-hand shops, cafes that are perfect for sitting and watching the world go by. I think the uniqueness of Deal is why it is chosen to film many films and programmes there. Most recently we have seen the second series of Liar being filmed. We also host many famous people when the Golf Open comes to Sandwich.
We have the famous Goodwin Sands, a 10-mile long sandbank at the southern end of the North Sea lying 6 miles off the Deal coast. The place of hundreds and hundreds of shipwrecks over the years. You can actually see the Goodwin Sands from a plane when you are flying over on the way to your holiday destination. Deal is 1 hour 20 minutes out of London, so you can easily visit in the summer for a day at the beach.
These days you can buy fresh fish off the fishing boats or enjoy a drink in the pubs on the seafront. The beach is unspoilt pebbles and not overrun with fairgrounds and Penny arcades. It's perfect for bringing up a family or retiring to.
Bakewell, Peak District by Jenny from Peak District kids
Anyone visiting the Peak District finds themselves in Bakewell at some point, whether it to taste a traditional Bakewell pudding, to add a love-lock to the bridge, or to start a hike along the Monsal Trail.
Idyllically situated on the banks of the river Wye, it's a lovely town for an afternoon stroll past mellow stone buildings to quaint courtyards showcasing local art work, before popping into a cosy cafe for a pot of tea and slice of Bakewell pudding. The medieval five-arched stone bridge is also a picturesque spot and you can continue your walk along the river.
Bargains galore are on offer every Monday at the bustling outdoor market, and for an extra buzz, head for the livestock market to experience the action in the theatre-like auction ring!
Bakewell also marks the start of the Monsal Trail, which runs along the former Midland Railway line for 8.5 miles to Chee Dale. This traffic free gravel path is a popular cycle and walking track.
A top local tip: don't try and park in the town centre, especially on a weekend or during the school holidays. Instead, head to the car park next to the Agricultural Business Centre. There's then a footpath that leads you in to town.
Recommended hotel The H Boutique Hotel
Frome in Somerset by Fiona from London Attached
Frome in Somerset is a quirky English town with a fascinating heritage. It was once an important centre for cloth making and between around 1550 and 1750 it was particularly famous for making woollen pils cloth. A major regional employer, the wool merchants were independent sorts – not part of the feudal system of the time. They invested heavily in showcasing their wealth – and although they were tradesmen not nobility, that in part explains why Frome has more listed buildings than any other town in Somerset. It’s pretty, but not in the chintzy style of nearby Bath Spa. This was a working town with self-made powerful merchants and tradespeople and that tradition seems to have continued. Today the traditional cottages and houses are restored and the town thrives with artisan businesses and craftspeople. There’s an amazing market once a month that is definitely worth looking out for – you’ll find farmers, artisan foods, bric-a-brac, vintage stands and more at the Frome Independent which literally takes over the streets of the entire town on the first Sunday of each month through the summer.
Recommended hotel The Cornerhouse