15 of the Most Picturesque Small Towns in England

  • 15 of the Most Picturesque Small Towns in England

    Because there’s more to England than London and Brighton.

    England is a country of contrasts. Ditch the London buzz and you’ll soon find yourself drooling over half-timber houses, rugged coasts, ancient castles, and all the old-age charm that comes with small English towns. Wander through the magical caves in Tintagel and reminisce with King Arthur. Or indulge in all the world-class culinary pleasures Malton has to offer. Then again, Robin Hood’s Bay could be calling your name—and it’s hard to say no to secluded coastlines and winding cobbled alleyways. Whatever you do, be sure to add a few of these British escapes to your bucket list.

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  • Arundel

    WHERE: West Sussex

    Arundel is where time goes to stand still. Dating back to the Roman and Saxon era, a day here is best spent touring medieval castle grounds, dipping into antique shops, and eating like a local. Enjoy the 11th-century charm of the Arundel Castle and venture to the gothically blessed Arundel Cathedral before taking up a day in the quaint timbered town. It’ll be hard to ignore the smells of fresh bread and hot pastries floating out of the Pallant of Arundel, but just remember to save room for a lazy lunch along the River Arun at The Black Rabbit.

     

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  • Lynton and Lynmouth

    WHERE: Devon

    It’s not every day you meet two towns joined by majestic coastlines and English scenery—or maybe you just haven’t been to Lynton and Lynmouth. Once you manage to pry your eyes away from the dramatic cliff views, take in a summer day of the arts at the Pleasure Dome Theatre. Brace yourself for a ride on the only water-powered railway in the U.K., experience art and culture along the Exmoor Arts Trail, or take a romantic walk up Coleridge Way. Just make sure you recharge with a classic cream tea at Watersmeet.

     

    John Spur

  • Lavenham

    WHERE: Suffolk

    One of the richest towns of the Tudor period, Lavenham still holds onto its history, with all the medieval architecture still very much intact. Meander down the narrow streets until you land on the statuesque St. Peter and St. Paul Church —if you keep an eye out, you may even catch a Harry Potter backdrop or two. Then it’s time to indulge in some more modern pleasures—enjoy award-winning French cuisine (in a 14th-century building, as expected) at The Great House, dip into chic boutiques and attractive tea shops, or simply enjoy the kind of sunny community atmosphere that can only come with village life.

     

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  • Tintagel

    WHERE: Cornwall

    Tintagel has long been famous for its mysterious history, like being the supposed birthplace of King Arthur or the apparent magical home of wizards in Merlin’s Cave. But whether you believe in folktales or not, you’ll be drawn into the charm of the area almost immediately. Roam the Tintagel Castle and discover St. Nectan’s Waterfall, or visit The Old Post Office to feel transported in time. Don’t leave without indulging in hefty dollops of traditional Cornish ice cream at Treleavens.

     

    English Heritage

  • Lewes

    WHERE: East Sussex

    With a population of under 20,000, it’s surprising to see just how much you can get up to in this traditional market town. Just a short hop from Brighton, this alternative summer destination packs a historic castle, museum, a national park, and a no-frills pub—just the way it should be. The famed Harvey’s Brewery is conveniently tucked in Lewes, where you can catch a glimpse of English gray horses delivering the pints of the day. Otherwise, take up a spot of shopping at the coveted craft market followed by a lazy sit down at “The Grange ” as the locals call it.

    Nigel French

  • Malton

    WHERE: North Yorkshire

    Known as Yorkshire’s foodie capital, you’ll want to have as many meals as possible in this award-winning market town. The countryside village holds everything you’d want in an English escape—grandiose castles and gardens, rolling hills, and an inviting people zone. Take your pick of the litter at the Talbot Yard Food Court for savory pleasures followed by hot bread, creamy gelato, fragrant coffee, and sweet macaroons (not necessarily in that order). Oh, and rumor has it that it’s a sin to leave before dipping into the Rare Bird Gin Distillery.

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  • Brixham

    WHERE: Devon

    Life in Brixham starts and ends by the harborside. Proudly situated along the English Riviera, this South Devon English hub is renowned for its fish market and never-ending menus that clearly have seafood lovers in mind. Take a timeless walk along the oceanfront promenade and enjoy views of rare and eager trawler boats and luxury yachts. Then relax (or try your luck at scuba diving) at Breakwater Beach before winding down with a catch of the day at Breakwater Bistro.

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  • Mevagissey

    WHERE: Cornwall

    This small English village is everything you’d expect of quintessential Cornish life—known for its untouched coastline, troves of boutique shops (the silent refusal of chain anything), and the best fish and chips England has to offer. Mosey along the coastal path long enough to reach Vault Beach, a secluded crescent of sandy pleasures. Enjoy the entrepreneurial spirit of all the independent shopkeepers, as passionate as they come. As the day turns to night, retreat to The Fountain Inn for a warm welcome and 600 years of history hiding in the walls.

     

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  • Rye

    WHERE: East Sussex

    Rye might be one of the more popular English villages, but the hype is well-deserved. This East Sussex hideaway is an easy backdrop for a day of roaming storybook houses, aweing at 16th-century castles, bargain hunting, and quenching your thirst at the Rye Waterworks Micropub. If you’re keener on nature, take the three-mile trek down to the golden beaches of Camber Sands, or a simple walk through the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

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  • Knaresborough

    WHERE: North Yorkshire

    Knaresborough is a village of postcard perfection, but there’s more to do than gawk at all the storybook houses. Pique your curiosity along the dungeons and secret tunnels of Knaresborough Castle and Museum before venturing to the town square to lay your eyes on the statue of Mother Shipton—an infamous witch thought to have predicted the Great Fire of London and the Spanish Armada’s defeat. The Yorkshire English hub doesn’t disappoint in market offerings, with fresh meat, fish, cheeses, and bread practically spilling out onto the streets since 1310. Have a row along the River Nidd for a peaceful hour, then stroll over to Marigold’s for a creamy scoop, rumored to be the best ice cream in Yorkshire.

     

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  • Bakewell

    WHERE: Derbyshire

    Bakewell is where the 18th century comes to life. The old stomping grounds of Jane Austen are perfect for a day of sampling fresh markets finds, devouring a Bakewell pudding from the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, and finishing it off with a spot of tea. But there’s more than gluttony to satisfy here. Visit the stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and Haddon Hall —one of the oldest houses in England. If things are starting to look familiar, your hunches are right—both served as quintessential English backdrops for films such as Pride and Prejudice , The Princess Bride , and Jane Eyre .

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  • Robin Hood’s Bay

    WHERE: North Yorkshire

    It’s easy to imagine life in Robin Hood’s Bay—long lazy walks across the coast and winding alleyways, looking for fossils and jewels along powdery sand, and retreating into candlelight dinners at a cozy pub. Luckily, tourists can experience these same pleasures of seaside life year-round. If you’re wondering about the name, legend has it this is where Robin Hood had a tiff with some pirates.

     

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  • Weymouth

    WHERE: Dorset

    A UNESCO world heritage site and King George’s holiday destination—Weymouth is a Georgian era dream. Walking through the candied-colored houses, popping into welcoming food stalls, and lounging on pristine beaches feels like nothing short of a royal British holiday. Plopped in the middle of the Jurassic Coast, you can enjoy 185 million years of history and views before taking up the nightly comedy scene at the Pavilion Theatre.

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  • Lacock

    WHERE: Wiltshire, Cotswolds

    If you’re looking for an English getaway and just so happen to have a Harry Potter obsession—welcome to Lacock. The medieval wool town has come a long way from its 13th century village days but still stands as a mirror back in time. The village holds everything from dainty antique shops to chocolate havens begging you to come in and have a taste of their delectable delights. Check out the stoned memorials at St. Cyriac’s Church and ooh-and-ahh at one of the earliest photographs ever taken in the world at the Fox Talbot Museum.

     

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  • Castle Combe

    WHERE: Wiltshire, Cotswolds

    Castle Combe is proof that fairytale towns do still exist. Despite the tourists, a local feel still survives here. Discover the rustically charming St. Andrew’s Church and wind through the 5.5-mile loop around the area. Have a proper English roast at The Castle Inn, then dip into the Old Rectory Tearoom for the best home-baked cake in the Cotswolds. But don’t leave before you’ve snagged a picture at the famously beautiful Castle Combe Bridge.

     

    Great West Way

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