Perhaps the prettiest village in England, Castle Combe in the Wiltshire Cotswolds is a picturesque little community nestled on the edge of the Bybrook River. Its small, charming streets are lined with quintessential Cotswolds stonewall cottages, and its beauty has attracted the attention of more than just visitors. It has featured on the silver screen in Stardust (2007) and Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated War Horse (2011). Formerly an important wool-industry hub, Castle Combe’s history is still evident in its riverside cottages, which bear names like Weaver’s House. Explore the quaint streets and keep an eye out for one of the country’s oldest Medieval clocks still in use, which can be found at St Andrew’s Church.
The small Welsh community of Beddgelert lies on the western edges of the beautiful Snowdonia National Park, nestled around the converging point of the Glaslyn and Colwyn rivers. The village is steeped in history; legend has it that the town is named after the 13th-century Welsh prince Llywelyn’s hunting dog Gelert, whose grave resides a short distance south of Beddgelert. More recently, the village has become known as the home of the late Alfred Edmeades Bestall, illustrator of the Rupert Bear comics. Beddgelert’s proximity to nesting ospreys in the summer has made the village popular with birdwatchers, and fans of horticulture will love its flower displays, which have scooped several Britain in Bloom awards.
With its location in a sheltered bay on northwest Scotland’s Loch Carron, surrounded by the majestic Highlands, the charming coastal community of Plockton is truly special. During the early-19th century, Plockton was a thriving fishing community, but today, much of its economy relies on the tourist trade, with visitors and photographers flocking to the area’s outstanding natural beauty. A row of charming cottages curves around Plockton’s harbour, where boats offer seal-spotting and fishing trips. Across the bay is Duncraig Castle – a spectacular mansion built in 1866 for railway entrepreneur Sir Alexander Matheson.
Situated at the mouth of the River Dun on Northern Ireland’s northeast coast, Cushendun was designed in 1912 by prominent architect Clough Williams-Ellis in the style of a Cornish village for politician Lord Cushendun and his Cornish-born wife. Home to a pretty row of harbourside houses and a charming stone bridge stretching over the River Dun, Cushendun has been under the protection of the National Trust since 1954. This, along with its location on the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ensures its charm will be enjoyed for years to come. Less than an hour’s drive along Antrim’s coast is the awe-inspiring Giant’s Causeway; visit both for a glimpse into Northern Ireland’s diverse beauty.
Built into a scenic valley leading down to a beautiful bay, Polperro is the archetypal Cornish seaside village, with its winding, traffic-free streets lined with cottages and its small, boat-filled harbour. Its coastal location has contributed to a colourful history throughout the late-18th century – while it was a humble village with pilchard fishing as its main trade during the day, by night it was a smuggling hotspot where contraband goods sneakily made their way across the English Channel to Guernsey. Today, you can find charming shops selling local handcrafted items and confectionery; once you’re done browsing, make sure you try Polperro’s famous seafood, perfect whether it’s a meal in a romantic restaurant or a packet of fish and chips on the beach.
Stretching along an idyllic sandy beach on the Llŷn Peninsula in North West Wales, Porthdinllaen is home to a natural harbour, and as one might expect, it was a former fishing port. Proposals put forth in the early-19th century would have placed Porthdinllaen as the main port on the crossing route to Ireland, but Holyhead in Anglesey was chosen instead. Therefore, Porthhinllaen’s period charm is largely untouched by modern development. Spend your day rock pooling before retiring to Porthdinllaen’s legendary beachside Tŷ Coch Inn for a pint of local beer as you take in the village’s gorgeous views.
Located on the western edge of Scotland’s magnificent Loch Lomond, Luss is a picturesque conservation village that’s been inhabited since the Medieval age. Much of its character today is typified by its 18th- and 19th-century sandstone and slate cottages, and its idyllic loch-side location makes Luss the perfect starting point for exploring the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The village church is a beautiful example of 19th-century architecture with Victorian stained-glass windows, while Luss’s charming pier is a vantage point for budding photographers hoping to capture the serene beauty of Loch Lomond.
Situated just three kilometres (two miles) from Bangor on the northern edge of County Down, Groomsport is historically known as the launch site of the ship Eagle Wing – an ill-fated attempt in 1636 by a group of Ulster-Scots to travel to America. With over 3,000 residents, Groomsport is one of the largest places on this list, and its charming harbour, sandy beaches and the village’s main attraction – the thatched fisherman’s cottages of Cockle Row – make it an ideal day trip when visiting nearby Bangor or Belfast.
Nestled in the heart of England’s breathtakingly beautiful Lake District, the charming village of Hawkshead is known throughout the country for its picturesque cobbled streets, quaint whitewashed cottages and rich history. The ruins of the 15th-century Hawkshead Hall Gatehouse mark the village’s Medieval history, and Hawkshead Grammar School was where poet William Wordsworth spent his boyhood years. The National Trust-run Beatrix Potter Gallery celebrates the art of the British author and illustrator who dearly loved the Lake District. Flanked by Coniston Water and Windermere, Hawkshead is an ideal stop-off for thirsty ramblers in need of refreshment at the village’s pubs.
Located at the southernmost point of Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness, Fort Augustus’s halfway-point position on the 97-kilometre (60-mile) Caledonian Canal – stretching from Fort William to Inverness – and its dramatic, stepped canal locks make it a popular stopover for visitors exploring the region. For hikers traversing the Great Glen Way, Fort Augustus’s pubs and restaurants provide a much-needed rest stop. The Caledonian Canal Visitor Centre is perfect for boating enthusiasts wanting to learn more about the canal’s history, and boats equipped with sonar monitors offer cruises out into Loch Ness and the possibility of seeing the fabled monster.
Looking for more picturesque UK spots? Read our article on the most beautiful villages to visit in the Peak District.