Despite being inflicted with British weather, Whitstable somehow manages to retain an air of sunshine throughout the year. This may of course be due to the pretty houses and shops painted in pastel colours, but alternatively, the amount of oysters consumed there could be entirely responsible. Whilst holidaymakers may flock to the beach, they cannot fail to be entranced by this lovely gem of a town. Pretty and picturesque, it also has an interesting and somewhat seedy history of smugglers, helped in part by Whitstable’s plethora of alleys and shortcuts often leading to the unexpected. With names such as ‘Squeeze Gut Alley’ — they are all worthy of exploration — their quirkiness helps this seaside town stand out from the crowd.
Set in North Oxford, Woodstock is locally beloved for its association with the fictional character Inspector Morse. More famously perhaps, it is where Blenheim Palace is situated, one of the most beautiful estates in Britain and birthplace of Winston Churchill. The town is full of history, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Chaucer (son of Geoffrey) resided in the town centre (although privately owned, their houses can be viewed externally) and a visit would not be complete without a stroll past the Five-Hole Stocks that gave the town its name. For art-lovers, Woodstock is one of the best destinations in Oxfordshire for galleries and antiques. It is a beautiful and calming place to shop or relax in one of its many bars, restaurants and cafes.
Renowned for its architecture and Tea Rooms, Harrogate is one of the prettiest towns in the north of England and a popular tourist destination. In keeping with its tradition as a spa town, Harrogate is proud to play host to one of the most beautiful Turkish baths in the country. For the more adventurous, it is still possible to drink the sulphurous spring water in the Pump Rooms, but understandably not as desirable as a day at the baths. With beautiful buildings throughout the town, one need hardly look further afield than the town centre; however, with RHS Garden Harlow Carr nearby and the Yorkshire Dales on its doorstep, Harrogate is definitely worth visiting as part of an extended tour of the area.
A beautiful and luxurious market town, Marlborough has the second widest high street in Britain, giving it a wonderful sense of grandeur. The period properties lend themselves to the variety of independent shops found on the high street and the wonderful places to stop for refreshments, including tea rooms, cafés and traditional pubs. Marlborough College, situated at the west end of the high street, boasts stunning grounds and a spectacular chapel. The college regularly hosts events open to the public allowing closer inspection of its historic buildings. Notable alumni from the college include William Morris, Siegfried Sassoon and more recently The Duchess of Cambridge. The Preshute or White Horse is clearly visible from the Bath Road, and with Avebury Stone Circle minutes away, this is definitely a part of Wiltshire worth exploring.
Although not technically a town, Castle Combe is, however, arguably the prettiest village in England and well worthy of a visit. The village is a favourite with TV and Film Producers; the epitome of Cotswold perfection and there is not one corner of it that doesn’t delight the eye. The river Bybrook runs through its centre and the village is surrounded by delightful countryside, perfect for a stroll. Wandering the streets, it is not unusual to see horses tethered to the market cross, also known as ‘Buttercross’ in the heart of the village. For a fine dining experience the Manor House to the east of the village offers an array of food options, lovely relaxing bars and lounges and wonderful grounds nestled attractively within Castle Combe.
A small market town in South Oxfordshire filled with listed buildings, Thame hosts a cattle market every Tuesday and is home to many long-standing families from the area. The majority of businesses on the high street are unique and offer exceptional craftsmanship; traditional butchers, bakers, blacksmiths, bookbinders, leather workers and carpenters are just a few of the artisans to be discovered. The blacksmiths have also been known to make candlesticks ensuring that all bases are well and truly covered. Picturesque, quaint and friendly, it is a sought after place to live; Boris Johnson, Tony Hadley and Kim Wilde are just a few of the well-known locals who frequent the high street. The Prebendal, situated by St Mary’s Church, was once home to the late Robin Gibb. With parts of the building dating back to 1138 AD, it is worth wandering down Priest End to marvel at its beautiful gatehouse.
Every list of towns should contain at least one that boasts a castle and for the purpose of our list, we have chosen Ludlow. Whilst having a castle may not on its own guarantee a place on this list, the impressive Tudor buildings that line the streets of Ludlow definitely do. Historical and intricately designed, they lend themselves to the very individual style of this town, making it the perfect backdrop for the many events and festivals that take place here throughout the year. Despite having more than its fair share of beauty in the streets alone, at the heart of the town stands St Laurence Church. A Norman church over 500 years old, it is a perfect example of exceptional craftsmanship and skill; carvings, sculptures and vast stained-glass windows lure visitors in to marvel and soak up the peaceful atmosphere.
The final town on our list is Padstow, although often dubbed ‘Padstein’ in honour of its most famous resident, Rick Stein. Previously a typical Cornish harbour town, Stein has certainly played a part in putting Padstow on the map and promoting a more upmarket feel. With colourful shop fronts and plenty on offer by way of gift emporiums, patisseries and delis, it is now one of the most visited seaside towns in the area. It is hard not to be enchanted by the prettiness of Padstow Harbour and in order to appreciate it at its best, we recommend a trip on the Padstow to Rock Ferry – this crosses the harbour every 20 minutes throughout the day. The town is also home to Prideaux Place, an Elizabethan residence and one of the oldest houses in Cornwall. The beautiful gardens and tea rooms can be visited from May to October and are exceedingly popular.