There’s something about quintessentially English towns that just radiates charm. From rural and scenic, captivating and historic to sunny seaside towns, there’s plenty to dazzle everyone. But with over a thousand of them dotted across the country, choosing which to visit can be tough. To make it a little easier for you, we’ve rounded up the most beautiful towns in England, each one of them with its own unique allure.
Known for: Sandy bays and pastel-hued buildings
Undoubtedly one of the best seaside towns in England, Salcombe’s laid-back atmosphere, picture-perfect harbour, pristine water and stretches of sand are what make this place, in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so popular. Please your palate with Salcombe’s locally distilled gin, freshly caught crab or to die for Devonshire ice cream. Also, you’ll be spoilt for choice with all of the quirky independent shops and surf stores around.
Place to stay: Soak up the spectacular sea views from the balcony at the romantic 4 Bolt Head apartment.
Known for: Scenic strolls and lake views
Ambleside’s delightful range of cafes, restaurants and the iconic Bridge House are enveloped by the striking Lake District landscape. The town sits on the edge of Windermere — the largest lake in England. Surrounding it are mighty mountains, lush forests and cascading waterfalls that are all waiting to be explored. There’s no surprise that this place has inspired many writers and Romantic poets throughout history.
Place to stay: Old Stones Cottage tops the list when it comes to location — both the local shops and Windermere Lake are just a stone’s throw away.
3. Bradford on Avon
Best for: Romantic strolls and traditional tea rooms
The historic market town of Bradford-on-Avon is a destination that exudes romance. Explore the narrow streets that are lined with cream Bath Stone buildings and Georgian mansions. With the 15th-century Westwood manor house, 14th-century Tithe Barn and iconic 13th-century town bridge, there’s plenty of history to delve into here, too. Breathe in the fresh air as you stroll along the river banks of the Avon or swan along the canal and watch the boats cruising by. Also, it’s only a short drive away from one of the most beautiful villages in England, Castle Combe.
Place to stay: The quaint, stone-built Holly Cottage overlooks the small town.
Location: East Sussex
Best for: Fascinating history and nature walks
The Cinque Ports town Rye is perfect for a tranquil weekend away. In the centre, you’ll find brunch spots, seafood restaurants, vintage stores, the elegant 15th-century houses of Mermaid Street and the Georgian Lamb House, which is a National Trust site. Experience Rye’s nature and natural beauty at Camber Sands and Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Or immerse yourself in history at the remains of the mighty Camber Castle, which was built by Henry VII.
Place to stay: Perched on the banks of the River Brede, at 17 The Boat House you can watch the sunset over the water from your balcony.
5. St Ives
Best for: Cornish delicacies and crystal-clear water
Tuck into a traditional Cornish pasty while taking in the picturesque working harbour, whitewashed buildings and pristine sandy beaches of St Ives — which began as just a small fishing village. If its natural beauty, boho shops and top-quality restaurants on the high street aren’t wooing you enough already, the array of art galleries is sure to blow you away. Also, make sure you treat yourself to a Cornish cream tea during your visit. But which goes first, the jam or the cream?
Place to stay: Relax in your very own hot tub while admiring glorious views of the Atlantic Ocean at Atlantic Watch 7.
Best for: Stunning architecture and rich history
Striking mediaeval architecture, with beautiful timber woodwork, is the centre of attention of this market town. Step back in time while you amble along the cobbled streets and appreciate over 420 listed buildings in Ludlow. The oldest structure here is the stunning 11th century Ludlow Castle. Make sure you also visit Castle Square’s award-winning market, which is on four days a week, for high-quality local produce, handmade pies, wine, fabrics and jewellery.
Place to stay: House in Shropshire is a quirky 17th-century cottage with a delightful garden in the heart of Ludlow.
Location: North Yorkshire
Best for: Majestic ruins and freshly caught seafood
Whitby is a small seaside town on the coast of North York Moors National Park’s moody rolling hills. Towering over the fish and chip shops, caramel coastline and red clay topped Georgian townhouses, sits the ruins that inspired the setting of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Whitby Abbey. Climb the iconic 199 steps to the remains of the 657 AD abbey, beside the Church of St Mary. This town is steeped in history — from Captain Cook learning his trade here to the development of Viking settlements.
Place to stay: Cedar View, on the outskirts of Whitby, is a stone-built cottage with rustic beams, exposed stonework and a luxurious freestanding bath.
Best for: Classic countryside and picturesque buildings
Considered by many the prettiest town in the Cotswolds, Stow-on-the-Wold is home to beautiful honey-coloured buildings, made from Cotswold stone, that date back as far as the 11th century. St Edward’s Church, the parish church, is a must-see. It has an unusual tree-framed doorway that inspired Tolkien’s Doors of Durin in Lord of the Rings. If you’re a cheese lover head to Cotswold Cheese Company or satisfy your sweet tooth at one of many tea rooms here. Take a stroll out of town to see the panoramic views and diverse wildlife of the Cotswolds.
Place to stay: Cosy up next to the log burner in the endearing 17th-century Spinners Cottage.
Best for: Bakewell puddings and tranquil strolls
In the heart of the Peak District National Park, known for its deep caves and rolling hills, sits the idyllic town, Bakewell. Treat yourself to a Bakewell pudding in the place where these delicious treats were first made in the 1860s. Delve into the history of the opulent Chatsworth House, a Pride and Prejudice filming location, and the 13th century Bakewell Bridge. After you’ve been to some independent shops and art galleries, a riverside walk along the Wye is the perfect relaxing way to finish your day.
Place to stay: Put your feet up in the light and airy, open-plan Cottage in Derbyshire.