15 of the U.K.’s Most Charming Towns

Category:  

Bucket List Worthy  

 

Photo credit: Dun.can
Photo credit: Dun.can

Cruising around London in a double-decker bus is probably on your itinerary. Catching a glimpse of Big Ben, touring Stonehenge and having tea at the Ritz; these probably made the list too.

When travelers plan a trip to the U.K, it’s London and Edinburgh that usually lure them in. However, the small towns of the United Kingdom pack in a whole lot of charm that’s really worth seeing.

 

May 'The village street' Clovelly Estate

 

Instead of coming back with the same photos — from the London Eye and in front of Loch Ness — as every other tourist, try adding a stint in one of these small towns. You’ll get to see the beauty of the countryside while digging into the authentic culture of the UK.

Want to explore the small and charming towns of the U.K.?

 

Check out the list here:

 

1. Banchory     |     2. Bradford on Avon    |     3. West Dorset

4. Blairgowrie  |   5. Burford    |     6. Broughton

7. Stony Stratford  |   8. Sherborne |     9.  Wells

10. Ryedale  |    11.  Rutland  |     12. Clovelly

13.  Shetland |   14.  Kirkby Lonsdale | 15. Arundel

 

 

1. Banchory

 

Banchory (2)

 

Banchory is located in the Aberdeenshire region of Scotland.

Town’s Best Features

Banchory features an ideal climate coupled with a photogenic countryside and stunning coastline. Visitors enjoy the best of the U.K.’s natural scenery with a charming town at the center of it all.

 

Things to do in Banchory

 

Take a ride on the Royal Deeside Railway to see the scenery while relaxing on the steam train. If you like the outdoors, spend time exploring by hiking, walking, horse riding, kayaking or golfing in the area. And don’t forget to check out the fairytale-like castles that are dotted throughout the region, including Abergeldie Castle, Balmoral Castle, Balfluig Castle and Birse Castle. The Crathes Castle, Drum Castle, Craigievar Castle and Castle Fraser are also located nearby and can be visited in most times of year. 

 

Banchory (1)

 

What You Can’t Miss in Banchory

• The Salmon Leap: Head to Feugh Falls to stand on the stone bridge and watch the salmon leap. The best times to see it are from September to November and February to March.

 

Pipe Band Championship: Bands from all over Scotland will meet in the park in May for a bagpipe competition. The event is full of food and drink vendors too, so you’ll want to make a day of it.

 

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River Festival: Taking place in June, this weekend festival brings people together for food, shopping, education and sport. There will be charity and craft vendors, bands, fishing competitions and workshops. The whole event is family friendly.

• Agricultural Show: Visit in the end of July to catch the agricultural show. There are races, sport competitions, animal showings, dancers, food and activities centered around farming.

 

2. Bradford on Avon

 

Photo credit: Saskia Heijltjes
Photo credit: Saskia Heijltjes

This small town in England has historic roots in the Roman times, and visitors can discover those roots in a number of exciting ways.

Town’s Best Features

Bradford on Avon is known for its historic architecture, ease of walking transportation (often on foot), and the beauty of the buildings and surrounding natural setting.

Things to do in Bradford on Avon

 

Photo Source: Bradford On Avon
Photo Credit: Bradford On Avon

The Town Bridge: Originally built in the 13th century, then widened in the 17th century, this historic bridge is a must-see that offers pretty views.

 

The Bradford on Avon Museum: This museum is located above the library and displays the historical and natural heritage of the town. You can also see a preserved, 20th-century pharmacy here.

 

Photo credit: JohnPickenPhoto
Photo credit: JohnPickenPhoto

 

Saxon Church of St. Lawrence: The Saxon Church of St. Lawrence was built in the early 11th century and then used as a school house.

What You Can’t Miss in Bradford on Avon

 

Photo credit: Giles Williams
Photo credit: Giles Williams

 

The Shambles: A historic area that is pedestrian only and is home to shops, restaurants, and cafes.

 

The Tithe Barn: A 14th century barn that is located on Barton Farm and holds craft workshops and tea rooms.

 

3. West Dorset

 

Lulworth Cove, Jurassic Coast
Photo credit: VisitWestDorset

 

For those who are planning to enjoy a vacation in the UK there are, of course, the obvious wonderful cities to enjoy, but there is so much more to see and enjoy in England. Nestled in the south west of England is West Dorset, an area of particular beauty and steeped in history.

Town’s Best Features

 

In West Dorset you’ll discover some wonderful historic market towns and beautiful picture postcard villages with thatched roofs, glorious countryside with outstanding views and easy access to 95 miles of the Jurassic Coast – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – 185 million years in the making

Things to do in West Dorset

 

Durdle Door, Jurassic Coast-2
Photo credit: VisitWestDorset

 

Jurassic Coast: Walk this historic coastline to discover fossils or simply enjoy the beauty of the sand and sea.

 

Weymouth: Situated right on the Jurassic Coast itself is the holiday seaside town of Weymouth. The town offers much for the visitor with a fabulous long golden sandy beach, and equally long Georgian era esplanade. Wandering around the picturesque and historic harbour with its beautiful yachts and boats is a joy, and at certain times of the day the spectacle of the road bridge opening to let the yachts with their huge masts through, delights the tourists.

 

Lyme Regis Jurassic Coast

 

Chesil Beach:  If you are hiring a car then taking a pleasant drive along the B2157 coastal road is a must with outstanding views of the coastline and the rare and famous Chesil Beach.

 

Dinosaur Museum: Located in nearby Dorchester, the county town of Dorset, this is the only mainland Britain museum dedicated entirely to dinosaurs.

 

What You Can’t Miss in Dorset

 

Lyme Regis beach

 

Visit Dorchester: The historic Roman town of Dorchester is approximately 128 miles from London and with good rail links – London to Dorchester by train takes just over 2 hours and 30 minutes. Car hire is easily accessible in the UK and there is a good bus service operating in West Dorset too.

 

Photo credit: Visit West Dorset
Photo credit: VisitWestDorset

 

Lyme Regis: The historic and picturesque seaside town of Lyme Regis is also situated right on the Jurassic Coast and has a wonderful golden sandy beach and a picturesque harbour. Lyme Regis is a great place to visit whether for a day, weekends or longer breaks as a holiday destination.

 

Lyme Regis harbour
Photo credit: VisitWestDorset

Bridport & Its Harbour

Bridport is approximately 15 miles from Dorchester and another delightful Dorset market town surrounded by breathtaking countryside and beautiful villages. Strolling around the town you’ll soon discover that it just feels like it’s an artistic town and different – and it certainly is. The town also holds a quirky and popular hat festival once a year.

 

Martyrs, Dorchester
Photo credit: VisitWestDorset

 

Traveling Back in Time: As previously mentioned, the towns, villages, countryside and coastline of West Dorset are steeped in ancient history going back centuries and long before the Romans arrived in the 4th Century AD, which means there are millions of years history to explore in West Dorset.

 

4. Blairgowrie

 

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A beautiful town in the central highlands of Scotland, Blairgowrie is an ideal base for exploring Scotland due to its location.

 

The Town’s Best Features

 

Blairgowrie is known for its friendly and warm locals, river and country views, the proud heritage of the people who live there, and its proximity to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

 

Things to do in Blairgowrie

 

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  • Walks: There is so much natural beauty in Blairgowrie, that locals and visitors love to explore the city and its surrounding natural beauty on foot. Check out the beloved walks in the countryside, along the riverfront and in the hills.

 

  • Outdoor Activities: Try archery, golf, climbing, kayaking and mountain biking in Blairgowrie.

 

  • One Voice Office: Find out about local knowledge and their very own berry museum, which offers great information on the area’s berry heritage.

 

What You Can’t Miss in Blairgowrie

 

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  • Community Markets: They take place from April through September and have everything you need for shopping and entertainment.

 

  • Highland Games: The Highland Games takes place in September and is an epicenter for Scottish culture.

 

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  • BOOKMARK Literature Festival: Lit lovers can visit in October for readings, workshops and book shopping at this festival.

 

  • Perthshire Open Studios: Visit during September for art workshops, studio tours and meetings with the artists.

5. Burford

 

Photo credit: Henry Lawford
Photo credit: Henry Lawford

 

Burford is a medieval town in the Cotswold hills. It’s the smallest town in the U.K., that still has a mayor.

 

The Town’s Best Features

 

Burford’s lineup of more than 200 historically listed buildings is why many travelers visit, but the town’s natural beauty is as impressive as its history.

 

Things to do in Burford

 

Photo credit: Random_fotos
Photo credit: Random_fotos

  • The Tolsey: A historic Tudor building that houses the town museum. The building can be dated back to Elizabeth the First.

 

  • The Parish Church: It’s dated from the 15th century and has been named one of the top churches to visit in England.

 

Photo credit: Henry Lawford
Photo credit: Henry Lawford

 

  • The Hotel Pubs: Wander around to one of the traditional pubs that are located inside the handful of hotels.

 

  • Shopping: This small town is full of tea shops and boutique stores, making it a great place to shop. Take it easy, stroll around and look for a few treasures.

 

What Not to Miss in Burford

 

Photo credit: Gail Frederick
Photo credit: Gail Frederick

 

The Burford Festival: It takes place for much of June and is full of activities for the community. There is music, talks and tours, literature, gardens, theater and film.

 

6. Broughton

 

Broughton Water Buffalo

 

Broughton is a charming and naturally beautiful small town in the Stockbridge area of England.

 

The Town’s Best Features

 

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Broughton’s local charm is what attracts visitors from far and wide.

 

Things to do in Broughton

 

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  • The Village Hall: Check in to see what kind of local events they are putting on each week.

 

  • The Garden Gallery: An outdoor art gallery that features sculptures, beautifully manicured gardens and ceramics.

 

  • The Tally Ho Restaurant: Fine dining in a historic building with a great atmosphere.

 

What not to miss in Broughton

 

Broughton Water Buffalo (1)

 

  • Broughton Water Buffalo: A sustainable buffalo farm where visitors can pick up fresh meat or tour around the grounds. It’s great for kids and offers delicious, rustic barbeque.

 

7. Stony Stratford

 

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Located in Milton Keynes, this small market town is full of Georgian architecture and history.

 

The Town’s Best Features

 

The food and beverage scene is a huge draw for foodies, and the historic architecture makes this town truly unique.

 

Things to do in Stony Stratford

 

Stony_Stratford

 

  • Ouse Valley Country Park: Mingle with swans a geese while you lounge under the trees and soak in the natural setting.

 

  • The Cock and Bull Inns: Two iconic inns that are surrounded by legend and stories. You can still visit and stay in both.

  

  • Shop on High Street: It has a significant history but is now full of great shopping and restaurants.

 

What Not to Miss in Stony Stratford

 

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The Traditional Pubs: The town is full of traditional style pubs with a charming atmosphere. Try a pub crawl or mingle with the locals in a warm and cozy bar.

 

Jump to any town by clicking here:

 

1. Banchory     |     2. Bradford on Avon    |     3. West Dorset

4. Blairgowrie  |   5. Burford    |     6. Broughton

7. Stony Stratford  |   8. Sherborne |     9.  Wells

10. Ryedale  |    11.  Rutland  |     12. Clovelly

13.  Shetland |   14.  Kirkby Lonsdale | 15. Arundel

 

8. Sherborne

The Julian 16th century

Sherborne is a civil parish and market town located in Dorset.

The Town’s Best Features

 

Sherborne’s top features are its castles, fabulous independent shops, and frequent farmers’ markets.

Things to do in Sherborne

Sherborne Castle

  • Visit Raleigh’s Seat at Sherborne Castle: This stone seat was built into the wall so that Sir Walter Raleigh could look over his gardens.

 

  • Sherborne Abbey: Also called the Abbey Church of St. Mary The Virgin. The architecture is stunning!

 

  • Johns Almshouse: Built in the 15th century, this picturesque almshouse is a must-see.

 

What Not to Miss in Sherborne

 

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Sherborne Old Castle: This 12th century castle is located on beautiful grounds that allow visitors to wander around the ruins. Keep an eye out for wildlife too!

 

9. Wells

 

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Wells is the smallest city in England, but its one packed with medieval history.

 

The Town’s Best Features

 

Travelers often visit Wells for its ecclesiastical quarter, and the quaint atmosphere that surrounds the city.

 

Things to do in Wells

 

Photo credit: James Hill & Elizabeth Jablonka
Photo credit: James Hill & Elizabeth Jablonka

 

  • The Rose and Crown Beer Garden: Have a pint and some nice food if you are visiting during warm weather.

 

  • Local Markets: Check out the local markets on Wednesday and Saturday for crafts and homemade snacks.

 

Vicar's Close, Wells Cathedral, Somerset, England

 

  • Cuthbert’s Church: The largest parish church in the area, dating back to the 12th century.

 

  • Wells Museum: Wander around to learn about the small town’s rich history.

What Not to Miss in Wells

 

Photo credit: IDS.photos
Photo credit: IDS.photos

 

Bishops Palace: This medieval palace and gardens have been home to bishops for over 800 years. Visitors can cross the moat over the drawbridge and start exploring the 14 acres of beauty. Check out the wells pools, ‘The Dragon’s Lair,’  hidden in the arboretum , and the historical galleries and buildings. Guests can take private tours, see historical reenactments, and attend talks and workshops.

 

Wells Cathedral:  It’s a significant historical landmark that exudes beauty. It is ranked as the top thing to do in Wells and is architecturally different from most other cathedrals. Visit to see the scissor arches, stained glass, the famous Wells Clock, the octagonal Charter House and the choir. Right next to the cathedral is Vicars Close, the only complete medieval street left in England. Guests can take tours of the cathedral and enjoy the café and gift shop.

 

10. Ryedale

 

Photo credit: Allan Harris
Photo credit: Allan Harris

 

Ryedale is a district in North Yorkshire that is known for picturesque villages, markets and rolling hills.

 

The Town’s Best Features

 

Travelers and locals alike love Ryedale’s markets, farms and natural scenery.

 

Things to do in Ryedale

 

Photo credit: Allan Harris
Photo credit: Allan Harris

 

  • Check Out The Arts: Visit the Helmsley Arts Centre for live music, film screenings and exhibitions. Also, check out The Shed, which is a venue for poetry and film.

 

  • The Gardens: There are plenty of gardens to explore in Ryedale. Try the Castle Howard, Duncombe Park, and Helmsley Walled Garden.

 

What Not to Miss in Ryedale

 

 

Normanton Church, Rutland, Photo credit: petelovespurple
Normanton Church, Rutland, Photo credit: petelovespurple – This iconic church is Rutland’s most famous landmark, a stunning location for civil weddings.

 

The Market Towns: The five market towns of, Pickering, Malton, Norton, Helmsley, and Kirkbymoorside are full of tradition. Take a tour through them all for unique shopping, cafes, restaurants and galleries.

 

11. Rutland

 

Photo credit: Mary Shattock
Photo credit: Mary Shattock

 

Rutland is the smallest and one of the pretties counties in England. It is home to a rural landscape that is filled with quaint villages and the two towns of Oakham and Uppingham.

 

The Town’s Best Features

 

Rutland is known for its charming natural scenery, both its towns offer English tradition in abundance, with independent shops, markets, and pubs that are scattered throughout.

 

Things to do in Rutland

 

uppingham market

 

  • Heritage Trail: A guided walking tour that stops off at the heritage sites in Oakham and Uppingham.
  • Rutland Water: situated between the two towns, offers a picturesque landscape from anywhere around its 26 mile shoreline.

  

  • Uppingham Town: It’s known for the antique stores, book shops and fine art galleries.

 

What Not to Miss in Rutland

 

Oakham Castle

 

Oakham: This quaint country town has to be visited when in Rutland. It’s a market town full of galleries, boutique shopping, jewelry, and farmer’s markets. Follow the Oakham Heritage Trail, visit the Rutland County Museum, the Oakham Castle and the Grainstore Brewery.

 

There are also plenty of annual events like the Hue & Cry Living History at the Oakham Castle which takes place on May 29th of 2017. This event is full of medieval games and reenactments. Guests can also visit for the Oakham Festival which runs from the 28th of June until the 2nd of July, featuring art, dance, theater and comedy.

12. Clovelly

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Clovelly is a picturesque, historic, fishing village, steeped in maritime atmosphere and history.  From Elizabethan days until today, it has been in private ownership and was once owned by the Queen of England.  It is a calm reflection of the days when speed, noise and stress were not what they are today.  The atmosphere is embodied in a traffic-free, cobbled street with flower-strewn cottages tumbling down a cleft in the 400-foot cliff to the tiny working port and ancient quay, bringing glorious views along the way.

 

The Village’s Best Features

 

Visitors love Clovelly for its fascinating history, lack of traffic, quaint cottages, colourful flowers and breathtaking views

 

Things to do in Clovelly

 

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  • Take a Village Tour: With Jana Edwards, a Canadian, who is passionate about Clovelly and a mine of information about the village history and traditions.

 

  • Make Crafts: Make your own unique pot at Clovelly Pottery, book a silk scarf course at Clovelly Silk Shop. Rowan Tree Studio in higher Clovelly also offers sewing, quilting, knitting, furniture painting, soap and candle making. Rag Rugging demonstrations at the Visitor Centre on specific dates where visitors can make a range of items, including a Clovelly herring and lobster!

 

  • Harbour Activities: Take a boat trip along the coast, or book to take a charter, diving, fishing or day trip.

 

What Not to Miss in Clovelly

 

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  • Watch the Film Show: A must-see film show of the history of the village.

 

  • See the Famous Donkeys: All visitors are recommended to see the village’s famous donkeys.

 

  • Charles Kingsley Museum: A museum dedicated to this writer and social reformer who once lived in Clovelly.

 

  • Fisherman’s Cottage Museum: Full of period charm, it is packed with information, old photographs, and gives a vivid picture of Clovelly’s fishing heritage.

 

  • Clovelly Court Gardens: A classic example of a lovingly restored Victorian walled kitchen gardens at the top of the village.

 

  • The Festivals:  There are annual festivals throughout the year.  Try to visit Seaweed in June, Maritime in July,  Lobster and Crab in September and Herring in November.

 

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  • Other Things Not to Miss: 

    – Two welcoming inns, one in the heart of the village and the other astride the C14th quay.

    – Shops from the Visitor Centre car park down along the village street.

13. Shetland

 

Puffin

 

Shetland is a chain of islands off the coast of Britain, and only a few of them are inhabited.

 

The Town’s Best Features

 

Shetland’s natural beauty and fishing villages draw visitors from across the globe.

 

Things to do in Shetland

 

Photo credit: Michael Day
Photo credit: Michael Day

 

  • The Northern Lights: Catch the Northern Lights when the conditions are right.

 

  • Experience Sunlight: During summer, this region can get up to 19 hours of sunlight a day.

 

  • Ninian’s Ayre: A relaxing beach that is also one of the greatest examples of a sand tombolo in Britain.

 

  • Go Island Hopping: Shetland is an ideal home base for island hopping. Hop aboard the ferry to Yell or visit the United Kingdom’s most northerly inhabited island, Unst. Several other islands await adventurous travelers, including Foula, Whalsay, Fetlar and more.

 

  • Discover Shetland History: Visit the Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement, a must-visit multi period settlement that travels back through 4,000 years of history.

 

What Not to Miss in Shetland

 

St Ninian's Beach

 

The Festivals: There are multiple festivals that go on throughout the year. Make sure to visit for: The Shetland Nature Festival in July, Shetland Wool Week in the end of September, and the Shetland Folk Festival in the end of April.

14. Kirkby Lonsdale

 

Photo credit: Andrew
Photo credit: Andrew

 

Kirkby Lonsdale is one of the smallest towns in the U.K., but it offers some of the best views.

 

The Town’s Best Features

 

Kirkby Lonsdale boasts that 98% of its many shops and stores are independently owned. Only one supermarket, a pharmacy and a clothing store prevent it from being 100%.  The town remains relatively unspoiled by so-called progress. Its narrow streets and alleyways are much as they’ve always been, with cobbles, Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and street names with echoes of the past

 

Things to do in Kirkby Lonsdale

 

 

Photo credit: fourthandfifteen
Photo credit: fourthandfifteen

 

  • St. Mary’s Parish Church: Visit this historic parish church and witness the famous view from there.

 

  • Local Shopping: The town is proud to have kept more than 98% of their shops locally owned.

 

Photo credit: Andrew H
Photo credit: Andrew H

 

 

  • Market Square: It’s in the center of town and hosts a local market every Thursday.

 

What Not to Miss in Kirkby Lonsdale

 

Photo credit: Andrew H
Photo credit: Andrew H

 

 

The Events: The town is also proud to always have something interesting going on. Check their calendar for wine and beer festivals, concerts, music festivals and the Christmas Fair.

 

Be sure to share this list with your friends who may want to visit these charming destinations too!

 

15. Arundel

 

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Arundel is a quirky and fun yet cosmopolitan town that combines one thousand years of history with happening places to shop, dine, drink and explore. Creative arts thrive in this community, creating ample opportunities to catch a theatre performance, see a live concert or buy souvenirs from local artisans. In addition to the charming downtown area, the green hills, coastline and romantic landscape are ideal for venturing off the beaten path.

Town’s Best Features

 

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Arundel is a town with many shining features, including the creative arts, surrounding natural beauty, locally-owned shops and countless must-try eateries.

Things to Do in Arundel

 

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  • Explore on foot: Arundel is nestled in the Arun Valley alongside the River Arun. The best way to explore this ancient landscape and the downtown area is on foot, taking in the breathtaking scenery, history and shops slowly.

 

  • Catch a show: Arundel’s creative arts rival those in some of Europe’s biggest  cities. Visitors are urged to visit several of the town’s theatre, comedy and music venues.

What Not to Miss in Arundel

 

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  • Arundel by Candlelight: Arundel by Candlelight is one of south England’s major Christmas events. During the Arundel by Candlelight celebration, Arundel’s cathedral and castle provide a backdrop for a Christmas event loaded with real Christmas trees, decorations, and an infectious joy that extends through the holiday season.

 

  • Arundel Festival:  The Arundel Festival is an ode to the arts held every August. Attendees can roam the Gallery Trail, watching theatre performances, seeing daily live music, admiring street art or seeing one of numerous other creative performances. The 10-day festival is one that shouldn’t be missed. 

 

Jump to any town by clicking here:

 

1. Banchory     |     2. Bradford on Avon    |     3. West Dorset

4. Blairgowrie  |   5. Burford    |     6. Broughton

7. Stony Stratford  |   8. Sherborne |     9.  Wells

10. Ryedale  |    11.  Rutland  |     12. Clovelly

13.  Shetland |   14.  Kirkby Lonsdale | 15. Arundel

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a freelance writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves.