Britain's prettiest inhabitied places FEATURE
Feature article by BritEvents.
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From chocolate-box villages of quaint thatched cottages, to old medieval churches steeped with history, it's no surprise that Britain has some of the prettiest places in the world. Tourists flock from all corners of the globe to see picturesque villages such as Castle Combe, St Ives, Clovelly and Portmeirion. BritEvents' Lucy Middleton has the tough job of whittling down the prettiest inhabited places in Britain.
By Lucy Middleton
Throughout its many counties and varied backdrops, Britain is home to many glorious villages and towns in every county.
Though it was very difficult to narrow down the list considering the hundreds of places worth a mention, BritEvents lists our top picks of the prettiest inhabited places in the country.
Best known as the location of the famous public school of the same name, Eton in Berkshire lies 21 west of London and is connected to Windsor by a bridge crossing the Thames river.
Welcoming traditional caf´es and beautiful antique shops can be found dotted amongst the architecturally varied backdrop of modern, Victorian and Tudor buildings, making Eton quintessentially British.
If you find yourself in Windsor, walking across the bridge for a quick visit to Eton is definitely recommended.
Turville in Buckinghamshire is a quaint little village situated in the Chiltern Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, located roughly five miles west of High Wycombe. For many years it was the set of BBC comedy The Vicar of Dibley and the village is also well-known due to a girl called Ellen Sadler who fell asleep in 1871 and did not wake for nine years.
The village was first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 796 and though the village has changed its face and name since then, the village is still a reminder of times gone by, with the exception of a few cars.
Marazion in the southern region of Cornwall is a beautiful coastal town located two miles east of Penzance. Claimed to be one of the oldest towns in Britain, Marazion was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1088 and has a population of roughly 1,500 residents.
Marazion a thriving tourist resort with St Michael's Mount found half a mile off-shore, a walk-able distance during low tide with many boat trips offered to visitors during high tide. Home to a plentiful community of artists, Marazion is a place of inspiration for those who are creative and enjoyed equally as much by those wanting a Cornish pasty in the sun while taking in the sea views.
Polperro is a traditional fishing village on the south-east coast of Cornwall. An idyllic location for tourists, Polperro's harbour is home to a tight-knit cluster of old fisherman's cottages and its typically narrow streets makes the village inaccessible by car, with a tourist car park a short walk away.
The South West Coast Path, a 630 mile long established coastal path passes through the village which allows tourists to take in the stunning Cornish scenery. The village has its own museum, documenting Polperro's fishing and smuggling heritage and tourist information offer guided walks on a regular basis throughout the summer.
St Ives, Cornwall
Down near the tip of the Cornish leg lies the stunning seaside town of St Ives. Renown for its large artistic community, galleries, art museums and The Tate gallery, it is no surprise that the town's beautiful atmosphere has been the source of inspiration for artists for nearly a century.
Once a bustling town dependent on commercial fishing, it is now mostly a hot tourist destination for the British, with many central Europeans driving the distance to holiday there. Awarded the Best UK Seaside Town award in both 2010 and 2011, St Ives has many picturesque beaches, great surfing and a scenic harbour found amongst the fantastic narrow streets and Cornish cottages.
Enjoy mouthwatering seafood served fresh from the coast, handmade pizzas or, of course, the tasty Cornish pasties which can be bought on the harbour-front, just watch out for the opportunistic seagulls!
The village of Edensor, pronounced EnZer, is the epitome of the sleepy, picturesque central England village. With its delightful yellow stone houses and blue woodwork, it is mostly owned by the Dukes of Devonshire to this day. It is the closest village to the glorious Chatsworth House, once found on the estate by the river Derwent but was relocated over the hill, tucked away out of sight.
It is a quiet village, often missed by the Chatsworth House visitors, but it must be visited to fully appreciate its beauty. The church found in the village is one of the highlights of walking through the village and John F Kennedy's sister, Kathleen, who was married to the 10th Duke's eldest son, was buried in the graveyard.
The village of Clovelly is a major tourist attraction nestled amongst the woods in the Torridge district of Devon. Clovelly is famous for its history, beauty and mild weather caused by the protection of the woodland surrounding it.
The village is a cluster of pretty wattle and daub cottages built on a steep hill looking down towards the colourful harbour. The village has been privately owned for centuries and, though inaccessible by car, for a small entrance fee visitors can park above the village and are granted free entry to its two museums and use of its facilities.
Lynmouth is a small harbour village on the north-edge of Exmoor.
Once described as the most delightful place for a landscape painter this country can boast, Lynmouth is boasts beautiful architecture amongst the woodlands sheltering it and on the harbour-front.
Make sure your parallel-parking skills are up to scratch before attempting to park your vehicle in this pretty little village!
Bourton-on-the-Water could be described as Britain's answer to Venice, with the River Windrush that runs through the village's wide greens, crossed by low-arched stone bridges.
It is an incredibly picturesque village that is popular amongst Cotswolds visitors during peak season.
As well as the beautiful scenery to explore, the village has many attractions to enjoy including medieval football in the river in the summer, a model village, the Birdland park and gardens home to penguins and parrots and the fascinating Cotswold Perfumery, making Bourton-on-the-Water worth a visit if you are in the Cotswold area.
Chipping Campden, Gloucester
Another Cotswold gem is Chipping Campden, a small market town in the north east region of Gloucestershire. Originally a wool trading area in the Middle Ages, Chipping Campden is now a popular tourist destination with traditional inns, hotels, quirky shops and restaurants.
Boasting fine vernacular architecture, Chipping Campden comprises of beautiful Cotswold limestone buildings and still has a regular bustling marketplace to this day. Nearby Chipping Campden are two historic gardens, Hidcote Manor Gardens and Kiftsgate which are especially charming in the summer.
Though famous for being the birthplace of playwright William Shakespeare, there is more to the town of Stratford-upon-Avon than meets the eye. Visiting Stratford-upon-Avon is a treat for Shakespeare fans, those who are fond of Tudor architecture and it is a hotspot for fine dining when you get a bit peckish.
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to attractions in Stratford with walks along the river, cycle tours, boat tours, the Stratford Butterfly Farm, a traditional teddy bear shop and even a peculiar but endearing Christmas shop which is open all year round.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company can be found near the river front and an evening of theatre is a perfect way to end a day in this beautiful town.
Less than a hundred miles from the West Midlands lies Aberdovey in Gwynedd, Wales. Aberdovey is a popular tourist village with one of the nicest beaches in Wales a short walk away.
Once a lively ship-building village, Aberdovey now relies on tourism for its economy and is a popular spot for holidaymakers to return year after year. Aberdovey sees the Dyfi estuary join the ocean and is a popular spot for canoeing and other watersports including windsurfing, kitesurfing, fishing, crabbing and sailing.
The harbour-front is a scenic one with pretty coastal townhouse-type buildings and the village has adequate transport links and parking areas, allowing visitors to travel by means of train, car or bus.
Portmeirion in Gwynedd, Wales is a popular tourist destination found on the coast of Snowdonia's National Park. Though it seems like more a set of a film than an actual village with its brightly painted houses and small entry fee to visitors, it is home to a small number of residents in the cottages in between the holiday homes and hotel.
Crafted by Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion in Gwynedd, was inspired by traditional Mediterranean architecture and it really is one of the prettiest places in Britain. With spectacular panoramic views, nice walks and a popular beach to enjoy in summer, Portmeirion is a must-visit British village.
Millport, Isle of Great Cumbrae
Four miles south of the shores of Largs is the town of Millport on the Isle of Great Cumbrae. A small town 11 miles in circumference, Millport is a haven for wildlife. A great spot for rockpooling and bird watching, exploring Millport is an exciting adventure and easily accessible by regular ferry service throughout the summer.
Millport is home to Europe's smallest cathedral and the world's narrowest house which measures 11 feet at its widest point. Travelling by foot, bicycle or car is easy and there are many restaurants and caf´e;s catering for all tastes.
Grasmere, Lake District
The village of Grasmere was once described by William Wordsworth as "the loveliest spot that man hath ever found" and is a popular tourist destination in the centre of the Lake District. Taking its name from the adjacent lake, Grasmere is a hotspot for walkers with many walks starting at the centre. Grasmere is also on the route of Alain Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk. Grasmere Gingerbread is made in the village with the recipe never leaving the building's walls and Wordsworth's house of 14 years can be found in a hamlet nearby.
If you find yourself in Grasmere in August, be sure to enjoy the Grasmere Sports including Cumberland wrestling, fell running and hound trails with plenty of thrills and spills. In an idyllic setting, this charming village is a favourite in the Lake District area.
Elgin in Morayshire is one of Scotland's finest medieval towns first recorded in a charter of David in 1151. The mirror of the country and the glory of the kingdom, Elgin cathedral, is a beautiful example of the town's architecture and was first built in 1224.
The modern town of Elgin straddles the river Flossie and has many culture and leisure attractions including a museum, library, biblical gardens, theatre, galleries and a jazz club. Elgin is an hour and a half's journey from Aberdeen and is easily accessible by car, train and bus.
Tobermory on the isle of Mull in the Scottish Inner Hebrides was founded as a fishing port in 1788 and is home to a population of just 700 residents. With beautifully colourful houses lining the harbour, Tobermory is a popular tourist destination and has featured in many television programmes including children's show Balamory.
The burgh of Tobermory feautres the Mull museum, the Tobermorey Scotch whiskey distillery, the Isle of Mull brewery, an arts centre as well as many shops and restaurants. Ferries sail between Tobermory and the mainland and during the summer a seaplane service operates, taking visitors from Tobermory to the Glasgow city centre. A great spot for wildlife excursions, Tobermory welcomes eagles, otters, corncrake, dolphins, whales and basking sharks to its shores each year.
The Canadian-looking town is said to have had a famous pirate ship plummet to Davey Jones' locker on the rocky shores and is a great place to visit year-round.
Corbridge is Northumberland is situated 16 miles west of Newcastle on the banks of the river Tyne. Corbridge has a long and rich history and was once a Roman town, ruins of which can be seen at The Corbridge Roman site. A beautiful example of northern-stone architecture, the houses in Corbridge are an elegant sight to be seen, as is the church of St Andrew and the seven arch bridge that goes over the Tyne, built in 1674.
Every June there is the annual Steam Fair and Vintage rally to be enjoyed, as is the county agricultural show. A quiet village, Corbridge is one of the finest in the Northumberland county and is a must-visit if you are in the area.
Grassington, North Yorkshire
The market town of Grassington in North Yorkshire, situated in Wharfedale, 9 miles from Bolton Abbey, is a pretty area surrounded by limestone scenery. The town is centred around a small cobbled square with a fine selection of pubs, shops, restaurants, charming caf´e;s and hotels.
The town's museum tells the history of Wharfedale and is run entirely by volunteers. The market town holds the Grassington Festival each year and the two-week-long event proudly presents many famous acts, previous acts include Jo Brand, Dara O Briain and Toyah Wilcox.
In the winter, the town also holds a very popular Dickensian Festival, where the town is taken over by people in Dickensian costumes taking part in Christmas festivities.
Presteigne in Powys, Radnorshire, is a historic town found a stone's throw away from Knighton and is considered to by Country Life to be one of Britain's top 10 small towns and it's easy to see why. Presteigne is a picturesque town with narrow hillside streets and is popular amongst walkers and cyclists.
Its central location to attractions in both Shropshire and Powys make it an ideal location for holidays and day-visits and twice a year the town comes alive with the Sheep Music and Presteigne annual festivals.
In the Severn Valley in Shropshire lies the beautiful old town of Bridgnorth. Home to winding streets and cottages with character, Bridgnorth is separated into two areas; High Town and Low Town, which are connected by a funicular railway. The only inland railway of its type in Britain, the steep climb is a favourite with children, as is the Severn Valley Railway which runs southwards to Kidderminster.
The castle ruins found in the town are inclined at an angle of 15 degrees due to damage caused by the Civil War and makes for amusing photo opportunities similar to the Leaning Tower of Piazza. With many tearooms, vintage clothing shops and restaurants, Bridgnorth is one of Shropshire's prettiest towns and its central location makes it ideal for day trips.
Much Wenlock, Shropshire
Built around an abbey founded in the late 600's, Much Wenlock in Shropshire is a market town located 18 miles south-east of Shrewsbury. The town is best known for the Wenlock Olympian Games started in 1850 which contributed hugely to the modern day Olympics as we know them now.
Modern day Much Wenlock is a rustic 700 year old medieval market town with stunning views of the Shropshire countryside, black and white half timbered architecture and cottages, many pubs, speciality shops and the ruins of a 12th century Priory. Book-lovers at heart, Wenlock hosts annual poetry and fiction festivals and has one of the best independent book stores in Britain, which is no surprise as the town inspired so many poets and novelists over the centuries.
Whether you love a good book, walk, dish of food or just fancy visiting somewhere new, Much Wenlock is a fantastic place to visit full of history and natural beauty.
Discover the phenomenal village of Avebury in Wiltshire, home to the largest stone circle in the world which is thought to be over 4,000 years old. West of Marlborough, the village of Avebury was built around the stone circle and, though the stones are well-visited, the village is quiet in comparison.
The Avebury museum discovers the stone circle's history and its significance, being the most extensive pre-historic collection in Britain. A mix of barns, Victorian and Tudor architecture, the village is worth visiting while at the stone circle and the Red Lion in the centre welcomes visitors with a pint or two and a hearty meal.
Castle Combe, Wiltshire
The tranquil village of Castle Combe in Wiltshire is home to just 350 people and is an attractive haven found north-west of Chippingham. The picturesque village has been the site for many tv dramas and Hollywood films over the years, most recently Stardust and some scenes of Spielberg's War Horse.
Castle Combe features many fine medieval buildings, including the church. The market cross and steps used by horse riders are just a few of the many charming features of the village. Castle Combe is home to the major racing venue Castle Combe Circuit, located on a disused RAF airfield and the village is close to the M4, making it very accessible by car.