Because there’s more to England than London and Brighton.
England is full of delightful small towns full of charm and history. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or something more permanent, we’ve got 21 small towns in England that will take your breath away. There’s something for everyone, from quaint cobbled streets to bustling market squares! So, pack your bags and get ready to uncover all these British towns have to offer.
What Is England’s Smallest Town?
Fordwich is a tiny town in Kent that holds the distinction of being the smallest town in England. With a population of just 381 people, Fordwich is the definition of quaint and rural, dating back to Saxon times.
What Is a Small City in England?
Truro is one of England’s most beautiful and small cities, nestled in the heart of Cornwall, England. Its population of 18,766 comes with much to offer, including troves of interesting shops and eateries, the Truro Cathedral, and stunning hilltop sights with 20 miles away of views to take in.
What Is the Prettiest Town in England?
Castle Combe is often called the prettiest village in England, and it’s not hard to see why. Nestled in the Cotswold Hills of Wiltshire, this charming little village offers a perfect mix of traditional architecture and stunning countryside views. From its iconic 15th-century market cross at the heart of the town to honey-colored stone cottages and rolling green hillsides sprawling with wildflowers and grazing sheep – Castle Combe is truly a sight to behold.
Are There Still Small Villages in the UK?
Yes! In fact, there are still over 6,000 small villages and hamlets throughout the UK. The English countryside has always been known for its charming small villages, and they continue to attract tourists worldwide. These tiny communities often have just a handful of inhabitants and provide an idyllic setting for local shops and businesses alongside global tourism.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: West Sussex
Perched in West Sussex, Arundel is a small market town with plenty of history and charm to offer. Start your exploration by visiting the iconic Arundel Castle and Garden, dating back to the 11th-century. Step back in time as you explore the grounds and soak up the history. For a taste of local history, make your way to the Arundel Cathedral and Arundel Museum, which is full of fascinating information and its interesting past. If you feel like immersing yourself in nature, Arundel Lido is ready with a perfectly heated relaxing swim and view of the castle. Art lovers won’t be disappointed either, with a stroll around the Arundel Contemporary Independent Art Gallery and its modern artworks.
Closest City: Portsmouth and Brighton
Where to Stay: The Swan Hotel, Arundel
Lynton and Lynmouth
Lynton and Lynmouth is like stepping into another world, from its rolling hills and winding rivers to its old castles and charming pubs. The stunning small town in England is often called “Little Switzerland” for its striking scenery. This small town has plenty to offer, including the Valley of Rocks— a geological wonder with wandering goats—to the breathtaking Watersmeet National Trust Park, where you can meander through woods, upriver streams, and cascading waterfalls. If you’re feeling adventurous, ride the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway, the world’s steepest water-powered railway. You can also head to the nearby Exmoor National Park for some stunning country views or enjoy a movie night in style at the Lynton Cinema.
Closest City: Exeter
Where to Stay: The North Cliff Hotel
It doesn’t get more idyllic than the 15th-century village, Lavenham. Its small cobblestone streets, timber-framed architecture, and star-studded allure makes it the perfect small town to visit in England. Harry Potter fans will rejoice when they stumble on the streets of Lavenham, used as a backdrop for the film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. But this small town has a lot to offer outside of the movies. Go back in history at the remarkable Lavenham Guildhall and get an amazing picture at The Crooked House before visiting Kentwell Hall Farm with a break in their tearoom.
Closest City: Ipswich
Where to Stay: The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa
If you’ve been dreaming of old English towns, then look no further than the picturesque Tintagel. Nestled in a civil parish on the coasts of Cornwall, the small English town
has become synonymous with the Arthurian legend. It’s where King Arthur was said to have been born, and it’s home to Tintagel Castle and Merlin’s Cave, a history lover’s dream. You can also visit Tintagel Old Post Office, which hosts exhibitions about local legends. After your castle and cave exploring, it’s time to take up some of Tintagel’s many natural wonders, including St Nectan’s Waterfall—believed to be sacred by some—Bossiney Cove, Rocky Valley, and Trebarwith Beach.
Closest City: Plymouth
Where to Stay: Camelot Castle Hotel
WHERE: East Sussex
Lewes is a British town that needs no introduction to locals; known across England for its mesmerizing hillside location and impressive castle ruins. Pay a Lewes Castle & Museum on Lewes High Street, built during the 11th century by William de Warenne as a fortress to keep the local population under control. Take in stunning views across the Ouse Valley, followed by a walk around the town to see the many buildings still retaining their original 16th-century facades. For the retail therapy inclined, there’s also a range of independent shops selling everything from antiques to locally made pottery for you to browse through. For visitors interested in art, don’t miss out on seeing some of the works at Depot, an artist-run space that celebrates contemporary culture and creativity based within Lewes.
Closest City: Brighton
Where to Stay: The Dorset
WHERE: North Yorkshire
When it comes to small towns in England, Malton truly stands out. Not only is this picturesque abode known as “Yorkshire’s food capital” due to its many independent shops and artisans, but it also has plenty of small-town gems to explore too.
The Rare Bird Gin Distillery is one of the highlights of Malton, offering visitors a unique insight into the gin-making process and botanicals. Afterward, head over to St Mary’s Priory Church, dating back to 1150, for a look at some impressive ancient architecture. And for the food lovers, don’t leave without stopping by Malton Market.
Closest City: Kingston upon Hull
Where to Stay: The Old Lodge
If you’re looking for a small English town that looks straight out of a postcard, then Brixham is the place for you. Situated in Devon, this harborside town has all the charm and beauty one could wish for. A great way to experience Brixham is by taking a leisurely promenade walk around its picturesque harbor. No matter what time of the year, you’ll find activities to do here—from view-filled boat trips to fishing. If history is your thing, make sure you don’t miss the Golden Hind Museum Ship, an impressive replica of Sir Francis Drake’s famous galleon. To escape the hustle and bustle, head to Berry Head National Nature Reserve, a stunning area of dramatic limestone cliffs, rich wildlife, and breathtaking views across Torbay. End your day with a jaunt through the town center to explore small independent shops, art galleries, and local pubs.
Closest City: Plymouth
Where to Stay: Harbour View Guest House
Mevagissey is a small village by the sea in Cornwall, renowned for its romantic harbors, stunning beaches, and abundance of small fishing boats. Mevagissey has a long history as one of Cornwall’s most important small fishing ports. As such, you’ll find the streets lined with traditional pubs and restaurants serving up fresh seafood dishes cooked with local ingredients, such as mussels, crab, and fish. The nearby Lost Gardens of Heligan and Mevagissey Museum is an excellent place to spend a day. It’s a town full of beautiful natural wonders, from lush meadows and colorful flower beds to mysterious sculptures and ancient ruins. For a peek into the past, visit the Mevagissey Museum. For the adventure seekers, why not treat yourself to a dolphin-watching trip on the Mevagissey to Fowey Ferry? Offering spectacular views across the sea and a chance to watch playful dolphins in their natural habitat.
Closest City: Truro
Where to Stay: The Cornwall Hotel & Spa
WHERE: East Sussex
For storybook houses, 16th-century castles, and hidden treasures, look no further than Rye. Start with a visit to the Rye Castle Museum to explore this medieval town’s history and other quaint attractions like the Lamb House National Trust Site. As you wander through Mermaid Street, be sure to pop into local shops and restaurants for some tasty treats or unique souvenirs that can only be found in charming village towns. Another highlight is the stunning Camber Sands Beach. The delightful Rye beach stretches for miles, perfect for a relaxing small English town stroll and outdoor adventure.
Closest City: Brighton
Where to Stay: The Mermaid Inn
WHERE: North Yorkshire
Knaresborough doesn’t have to do much to take your breath away. The small English town is in North Yorkshire, dosed in riverside walks, castle ruins, and stunning views from the Viaduct. Visit Mother Shipton’s and St Robert’s Cave, where you can find out about old prophecies and legends from Medieval times. The Courthouse Museum is another great way to learn more about Knaresborough’s history, while the coinciding Castle ruins provide a stunning backdrop for any visit. Then again, the views from the Knaresborough Viaduct are also spectacular—offering ample opportunity to take photos of the striking landscape surrounding the area.
Closest City: Leeds
Where to Stay: Teardrop Cottage
If the small English town of Bakewell sounds familiar, you may have Cherry Bakewells on your mind. From quaint thatched-roof cottages, lush rolling hills, and rural England beaut, Bakewell is a destination not to miss. Its claim to fame is the iconic Bakewell Tart, which was created here by accident in 1820 when a local cook mixed up two recipes for a jam tart and almond tart. Today you can find the original Bakewell tart at The Bakewell Tart Shop & Coffee House on Bridge Street. It’s also worth checking out other historic sites around town like Chatsworth House: a magnificent mansion with extensive gardens, Haddon Hall: a medieval fortress turned Elizabethan stately home, and the Bakewell Old House Museum: an 18th-century Georgian building taking visitors on a journey through time. For outdoor activities, the nearby Monsal Trail is perfect for a leisurely hike, passing by limestone dales, wooded valleys, and small villages along the way.
Closest City: Derby
Where to Stay: Bagshaw Hall
Robin Hood’s Bay
WHERE: North Yorkshire
It’s not every day that rolling green hills and dramatic coastlines surround you unless you’re in Robin Hood’s Bay. The small fishing village in North Yorkshire is home to everything you’d want out of a small English town. Take a walk along the Yorkshire Coast or visit Whitby Abbey for breathtaking views over the bay area that will leave you speechless. If you’re looking for something more low-key, The Old Coastguard Station is perfect for an afternoon spent wandering around and taking photos. And if you’re looking for adventure, be sure to check out the Falling Foss Tea Garden for a forest walk and afternoon tea.
Closest City: Ripon
Where to Stay: Victoria Hotel
Set on a UNESCO World Heritage Site Weymouth is the perfect small English town escape if you’re looking for a beach-filled weekend. Pay a visit to Weymouth Harbour, the town’s centerpiece for centuries, where you can still catch fishermen putting in an honest day’s work. Weymouth Beach is also a wonderful spot, with its stunning golden sands providing a beautiful backdrop to any day spent in England’s small towns. For a million-dollar view, head to Nothe Fort, where you can learn about the local history and Instagram til the sun goes down. For even more cultural sights, Sandsfoot Castle and Greenhill Gardens are bound to charm and delight you.
Closest City: Salisbury
Where to Stay: Gloucester House
WHERE: Wiltshire, Cotswolds
Owned by the National Trust, Lacock is a 13th-century village with plenty to offer. Small but mighty, the charming community has been used as a backdrop for many films and television programs, most notably the Harry Potter series, where it was used as the house of Harry’s parents. The area of Lacock itself is beautiful to explore with its old cobbled streets, quaint cottages, and traditional pubs. Other highlights include Lacock Abbey, which dates back to the early 13th-century, and St Cyriac’s Church, where William Henry Fox Talbot took some of his photographs.
Just outside Lacock lies the Bowood House and Gardens, a great place to explore over 250 acres of parkland with walled gardens, lakes, and woodlands. The Bowood Woodland Adventure Park also makes for an enjoyable day out with plenty of outdoor activities such as tree-top trails, zip wires, and small animal encounters.
INSIDER TIPFor some added adventure, visit the Great Chalfield National Trust, a beautiful small manor house dating back to the 14th-century.
Closest City: Bath
Where to Stay: Beechfield House
*paved the way
WHERE: Wiltshire, Cotswolds
If you’re looking for small towns in England that are truly breathtaking, then Castle Combe must be at the top of your list. Nestled within the picturesque Cotswolds region of England, it has been dubbed “the prettiest village in England” by locals and visitors alike. From its small-town charm to its storybook architecture, there is no shortage of beauty here. Prepare to be greeted by The Market Cross when you arrive, standing tall near the center of the village, with shops and cafes all around. Afterward, visit St Andrew’s Church, providing you with a striking example of 15th-century English Gothic architecture. And, of course, it’d be an absolute sin to leave without a photo on The Bridge.
Closest City: Bath
Where to Stay: The Manor House
Painswick is one of Gloucestershire’s most hidden gems, bathed in the golden glow of its signature Cotswold stone houses and divine gardens. Pay a visit to the Painswick Rococo Garden, an 18th-century masterpiece with lush grounds and intricate pathways. Other sites include St Mary’s Church, which has stood tall since the 15th century, Tibbiwell Alpacas, where visitors can feed and get up close with the animals, and Painswick Beacon, which offers stunning views of the surrounding Cotswold landscape. Once you’ve enjoyed all the main sites, head to Trench Hill–-a nearby woodland boasting natural beauty and wildlife. Wind down at Painswick’s local pubs and restaurants, offering delicious local dishes such as hearty stews and Fish & Chips.
Closest City: Gloucester
Where to Stay: Painswick Hotel
If you’re looking for small towns in England that offer a stunning and rustic picture of life, look no further than Avebury. Located in Wiltshire, it’s a small village that packs an incredible past. It’s renowned as a haven for history lovers due to its Neolithic Henge Monument—Europe’s largest neolithic stone circle and one of the best-known prehistoric sites in Britain. One can also find Avebury Manor, West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill, and The Henge Shop to explore nearby. Exploring the small village reveals charming cottages with well-kept gardens and picturesque views across the rolling countryside. Many small businesses are supported in the village, including cafes, pubs, and small independent shops, so be sure to do some countryside retail therapy before you go.
Closest City: Bath
Where to Stay: Avebury Lodge
Bourton-on-the-Water is proof that magical English towns still exist. Located in the lush Cotswold area, Bourton-on-the-Water is surrounded by traditional architecture in an enchanting rural Cotswolds setting. Find your inner child at The Model Village , a miniature replica of the town itself. For car lovers, mosey to the Cotswolds Motoring Museum for an insight into classic cars and motorbikes from yesteryear. Otherwise, you can find nature in the Birdland Park & Gardens, with over 500 birds from around the world. Last but not least, don’t leave without sampling some of the delicious locally sourced treats at The Bakery on the Water. Perfect for grabbing something sweet, sitting by the river, and watching life in the most beautiful town in England go by.
Closest City: Bath
Where to Stay: Mousetrap on the Water
Home to Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel, Windsor is well-known for its royal status. But this small English town has much to offer beyond its historic sites. Begin your journey at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, a quirky theme park dedicated to all things Lego and England. Then wander the sprawling grounds of Windsor Great Park and take in all the natural beauty the grounds have to offer. Have a shop on the high street and end your day with a memorable experience at The Theatre Royal Windsor. It’s also one of the closest small towns in England near London if you’re looking for a quick getaway.
Closest City: London
Where to Stay: Castle Hotel Windsor
They say small towns are the unsung heroes of England, and it just takes one visit to Shaftesbury to believe it. Perched atop a hill at an elevation of 215 meters above sea level, the small market town of Shaftesbury offers alluring views from every angle. Whether you stroll up Gold Hill or visit Fontmell and Melbury Downs, you can expect to be mesmerized by the rolling countryside across miles upon miles of English landscape. History buffs will love exploring the Gold Hill Museum, with a range of Shaftesbury artifacts and local stories to be told. Alternatively, if art is more your thing, why not visit the Shaftesbury Arts Centre? The small but vibrant venue offers a wide selection of plays, music, and other eclectic performances. Feeling famished? Don’t forget to stop by Shaftesbury Market, with food as good as its buzzing atmosphere.
Closest City: Southampton
Where to Stay: The Beckford Arms
Whitstable is a cozy small town in England by the sea on the north coast of Kent. Dotted with pastel houses and an ever-present ocean breeze, Whitstable is where you experience the finest English seaside life. The star attraction to Whitstable is its Harbour. Here visitors can find craft shops and cafes and even go on boat rides around the area. Or, if you want to explore the landside attractions, take a stroll over to the Castle & Gardens, where you can immerse yourself in history and beauty. The Tankerton Beach is also nearby, offering some lovely views overlooking the sea. Just make sure not to miss out on the Harbour Market, selling local produce and small gifts ideal for seaside souvenirs. To end your day, head to the Playhouse Theatre near the harbor, a unique theater space filled with local performances year-round.
Closest City: Canterbury
Where to Stay: The Marine Hotel