The Most Beautiful Villages in the UK

Hawkshead village in Cumbria is just one of the many beautiful places to visit in the UK
Hawkshead village in Cumbria is just one of the many beautiful places to visit in the UK | © Neil McAllister / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Helen Armitage
30 April 2021

The United Kingdom is home to some of the most charming villages in the world. It’s got vibrant communities dotted along the coastline, rural country villages crammed with cosy pubs and cobbled streets, and remote gems with much more to see than their small size suggests. Here are the ten best.

Castle Combe, Chippenham

Historical Landmark
Map View
Castle Combe in the Cotswolds
Castle Combe in the Cotswolds | © Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo

Perhaps the prettiest village in England, Castle Combe rests in the Wiltshire Cotswolds as a picturesque little community on the edge of the Bybrook River. The small, charming streets are lined with quintessentially Cotswolds stonewall cottages. Such beauty has attracted the attention of more than just visitors: it featured on the silver screen in Stardust (2007) and Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated War Horse (2011). Explore the quaint streets and keep an eye out for one of the oldest functioning medieval clocks still in the UK, which can be found at St Andrew’s Church. There are also a selection of lovely hotels, if you’d like to spend a few days in this beautiful little community.

Beddgelert, Wales

Historical Landmark
Map View
Attractive stone buildings beside the river Glaslyn, in Beddgelert, in the Snowdonia National Park_TA1XF1
Attractive stone buildings beside the river Glaslyn, in Beddgelert, in the Snowdonia National Park | © Adrian Baker / Alamy

The small Welsh community of Beddgelert lies on the western edges of the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. The village is steeped in history; legend has it that it’s named after 13th-century Welsh prince Llywelyn’s hunting dog, Gelert, whose grave resides a short distance away. If you want to embrace that historic atmosphere, you can stay in an actual castle in nearby Portmeirion. More recently, the village has become known as the home of the late Alfred Edmeades Bestall, illustrator of the Rupert Bear comics. Furthermore, the proximity to nesting ospreys in the summer has made Beddgelert popular with birdwatchers; fans of horticulture, meanwhile, will love the flower displays, which have scooped several Britain in Bloom awards.

Plockton, Scotland

Historical Landmark
Map View
Plockton, Lochalsh, Highlands of Scotland DR3HTW
Plockton | © Andrew Hopkins / Alamy

Found in a sheltered bay on Loch Carron, surrounded by the majestic Highlands, the charming coastal community of Plockton is truly special. During the early 19th century, it was a thriving fishing community; today, much of the local economy relies on the tourist trade, with visitors and photographers flocking to the outstanding natural beauty. A row of charming cottages curves around the harbour, where boats offer seal-spotting and fishing trips. Across the bay is Duncraig Castle – a spectacular Scottish mansion built in 1866 for railway entrepreneur Sir Alexander Matheson.

Cushendun, Northern Ireland

Natural Feature
Map View
Cushendun_Northern-Ireland_2A356AA
Cushendun | © David Nixon / Alamy
On the northeast Northern Irish coast is Cushendun, which was designed in 1912 to emulate 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 ensures the local charm will be enjoyed for years to come. Less than an hour’s drive away is the awe-inspiring Giant’s Causeway.

Polperro, Cornwall

Historical Landmark
Map View
Polperro, Cornwall, UK - One of the most beautiful villages in Cornwall, on an idyllic summer day, with a boat just leaving the harbour._PW6ACA
Polperro, Cornwall | © travellinglight / Alamy

Built into a valley leading down to a beautiful bay, Polperro is the archetypal Cornish seaside village. The coastal location has contributed to a colourful history throughout the late 18th century. While it was a humble village with pilchard fishing as the 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, the spot is considerably less seedy: you’ll find charming shops selling handcrafted items and confectionery. Once you’re done browsing, make sure you try the seafood – perfect whether it’s a meal in a romantic restaurant, or a packet of fish and chips on the beach. You’re also spoilt for choice when it comes to places to stay, thanks to the wealth of luxury hotels all over the county.

Porthdinllaen, Wales

Historical Landmark
Map View
Evening light over Porthdinllaen, Wales
Evening light over Porthdinllaen, Wales | © paul weston / Alamy Stock Photo

Stretching along an idyllic beach on the Llŷn Peninsula in Northwest Wales, Porthdinllaen is home to a natural harbour; as you might expect, it was a former fishing port. Proposals put forth in the early 19th century would have made Porthdinllaen the main port on the crossing route to Ireland, but Holyhead in Anglesey was chosen instead. Therefore, the period charm here is largely untouched by modern development. Spend your day rock-pooling, before retiring to the beachside Tŷ Coch Inn for a cold one as you take in the gorgeous views.

Luss, Scotland

Architectural Landmark
Map View
The Village of Luss in Scotland W29G1W
The Village of Luss in Scotland | © Rik Hamilton / Alamy

Located on the western edge of Loch Lomond in Scotland, Luss is a picturesque conservation village that’s been inhabited since the Medieval age. Much of the character there today is typified by the 18th- and 19th-century sandstone and slate cottages. The village church is a beautiful example of 19th-century architecture with Victorian stained-glass windows, while the charming pier is a great vantage point for budding photographers. There’s also the idyllic loch-side location, which makes Luss the perfect starting point for exploring the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Groomsport, Northern Ireland

Historical Landmark
Map View
Yachts  in the calm waters of Groomsport Harbour in Northern Ireland and pictured in the soft glow of mid winter sunlight
Yachts in the calm waters of Groomsport Harbour | © MHarp / Alamy

Situated just 2mi (3km) from Bangor, 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. Today the village has more than 3,000 residents, but the 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 staying in one of the best hotels in nearby Belfast.

Hawkshead, Lake District

Cathedral, School
Map View
© PURPLE MARBLES CUMBRIA / Alamy Stock Photo
Nestled in the heart of the breathtaking Lake District, Hawkshead has picturesque cobbled streets, whitewashed cottages and a rich backstory. The ruins of the 15th-century Hawkshead Hall Gatehouse mark the 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 pub. Also, there are no shortage of romantic hotels nearby if you’re looking for an idyllic retreat.

Fort Augustus, Scotland

Architectural Landmark
Map View
W5XNH6 Fort Augustus, UK, 30 July 2019. Fort Augustus Abbey on the shore of Loch Ness. The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has been hearing of abuse suffered by residents of the former boarding school. Credit: Andrew Smith
Fort Augustus Abbey on the shore of Loch Ness | © Andrew Smith / Alamy

Located at the southernmost point of Loch Ness, Fort Augustus is the halfway point on the 60mi (97km) Caledonian Canal, which stretches from Fort William to Inverness. The dramatic canal locks make it a popular stopover for visitors exploring the region. If you’re a hiker traversing the Great Glen Way, the 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 history of the canals. Plus, boats equipped with sonar monitors offer cruises out into Loch Ness. Will you spot the fabled monster?

These recommendations were updated on April 30, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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