The 6 Most Charming Villages in the UK
When visiting the U.K., it’s tempting to devote most of your time and energy to the bigger cities and the larger, well-known natural and man-made landmarks. But some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes and architecture lie in its smaller, less-frequented villages. From a small fishing village tucked away in the Scottish Highlands to a secluded spot with fewer than 200 residents, we’ve rounded up some of the most charming villages in the U.K.
Plockton, Scottish Highlands
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the Scottish village of Plockton. Located in the northwest of the Highlands and accessible via car or train, this seaside town is often referred to as the “Jewel of the Highlands.” During the warmer months, visitors can stroll along the town’s coastal area and enjoy views of Loch Carron, while biking and hiking are also great ways to explore the surrounding area. If water sports are more your thing, Plockton offers a number of activities including sailing, sea kayaking and boat trips to nearby islands and for dolphin spotting. If shopping is more your speed, Plockton is home to a number of charming, locally owned shops that tout everything from baked goods and Scottish haggis to handmade jewelry and artwork.
If seafront views and a fishing village steeped in history are what you’re looking for, Polperro is a must-see. This historic village, located in the southeast of Cornwall, features charming cottages dotted around steep hills overlooking a small harbor. Polperro was once a popular location for smugglers, particularly during the 18th century, when seafarers would evade England’s high taxes on goods by sneaking luxury items through the remote village. Today, visitors can explore more about this in Polperro’s heritage museum, which offers a look at the village’s infamous past. But it’s not all historical contraband and questionable characters in Polperro. Visitors will find beautiful beaches to stroll along, a tidal bathing pool at the foot of Chapel Cliff and several eccentric independent shops worth dipping in and out of. The village also plays host to several events, including Open Studios Cornwall, an art exhibition which will take place from May 19-28, and Polperro Music and Arts Festival, which will run from June 16-24.
Castle Combe, Wiltshire
If you’re seeking a truly traditional English village, such as those immortalized in the books of Jane Austen, add Castle Combe to your itinerary. With its twee (British for “quaint”) stone houses and rich history, this quintessentially British spot is not to be missed. Located in the southwestern county of Wiltshire, Castle Combe is perhaps best known for its role in numerous films, including “The Wolfman,” “Stardust” and “War Horse.” The village’s St. Andrew’s Church dates back to the 13th century and is a Grade I Listed building protected for its unique historical significance. Motorheads will want to venture to the edge of the village to take a turn (or two) around the Castle Combe Circuit, either in their own car or something with a bit more pep. Meanwhile, the village is home to a host of charming shops, cafes, pubs and teahouses.
Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire
Though Lower Slaughter might not be the most obvious name for a charming Cotswold village, its scenery and architecture more than make up for this. Located in the southwestern county of Gloucestershire, the village takes its name from “slothre,” the Old English word for “muddy place.” While this might be no more inviting than “Slaughter,” visitors will actually find twee stone cottages that line the River Eye, a 17th century manor house and a 19th century mill that was in use until 1958 and is now home to tea shops and a museum. If you’re visiting with a loved one, take a stroll down the romantic street of Copse Hill Road, or find your way to Upper Slaughter, an easy 20-minute walk along country roads.
Glenarm, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
If touring Northern Ireland has exhausted you and you’re in need of something a bit slower-paced, head to the sleepy village of Glenarm. This idyllic spot, located on the North Channel coast, 45 minutes north of Belfast, features quaint, winding streets and landmarks that date back to the time of the Normans. Explore the 15th century castle that is currently home to Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce. Make sure to visit the castle’s Walled Garden for a leisurely stroll before stopping for a relaxing lunch or snack at its tea rooms. Those with a bit more energy can explore the surrounding glens. Hikes range from lengthy mountain treks to easier forest walks.
Home to a mere 135 residents, the tiny northern village of Blanchland sits on the Northumberland and County Durham border. But don’t let its small scale fool you. Blanchland has much to offer, most notably its beautiful views of the Derwent Valley -- part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty -- and the many trekking opportunities accessible from the village itself. After a long day out on the moors, head over to the Lord Crewe Arms. This 12th century inn not only has a well-stocked pub but once played refuge to the Jacobite Rebellion leader, General Tom Forster.
Ashley Bess is an editor turned freelancer writer who describes herself as short, opinionated, recently repatriated, lover of gin and travel and with a head full of useless song lyrics and movie quotes.