Hidden Gems: Discovering the 10 Best Small Towns in England England is a country full of history, tradition, and charm. While London is the most well-known and popular destination for tourists, there are many small towns scattered throughout the country that are just as impressive and worth visiting. These hidden gems offer a glimpse into the rich culture and heritage of England while providing a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. In this post, we will take you on a journey to discover the top 10 small towns in England that you absolutely must visit. From quaint villages with thatched-roof cottages to medieval market towns with historic castles, we’ll show you what each destination has to offer and why they are so special. So, pack your bags and join us on this adventure as we explore the best small towns in England.
When people think of England, iconic images of bustling cities like London or historic landmarks like Stonehenge often come to mind. However, beyond the well-trodden paths of these popular destinations, lies a treasure trove of hidden gems – the small towns of England. These quaint, picturesque towns offer a unique charm and a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the country.
In these small towns, time seems to stand still as centuries-old architecture, charming cobblestone streets, and idyllic landscapes create a nostalgic atmosphere. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, these towns provide a peaceful retreat where visitors can escape the crowds and immerse themselves in a more tranquil way of life.
One of the most enticing aspects of these small towns is the sense of community that permeates through every street. With close-knit neighborhoods, friendly locals, and a slower pace of life, visitors are welcomed with open arms and are able to experience genuine hospitality at every turn. Whether it’s striking up a conversation with a local in a cozy pub or exploring the local markets, the warmth and authenticity of these communities leave a lasting impression.
Moreover, small towns in England offer a glimpse into the country’s rich cultural heritage. From ancient castles and churches to traditional festivals and folklore, these towns are steeped in history and tradition. Each town has its own unique story to tell, whether it’s the birthplace of a famous author, the site of a significant historical event, or a hub for local artisans and craftsmen. Exploring these hidden historical and cultural gems provides a deeper understanding of England’s past and its influence on the present.
In this blog post, we will take you on a journey to discover the 10 best small towns in England. From the charming coastal villages of Cornwall to the enchanting countryside of the Cotswolds, each town on this list offers its own distinct character and allure. So, grab your map and get ready to explore these hidden gems that showcase the true essence of England.
1. Castle Combe, Wiltshire
When you walk through the door of Castle Combe, it’s as if you’ve stepped back in time, or into a book. No one can deny the town’s reputation as ‘the most beautiful town in England’. Beautifully preserved with honey-coloured cotswold stonework and narrow lanes lined with blooming flowers, it is no surprise that Castle Combe tops our list of ‘best villages in the cotswolds’. There’s beauty to be found in every corner of this historic village, from the town centre’s ancient water pump, nestled behind a row of fresh flowers, to its stone market cross, to the holy walls of St Andrew’s Church, where you’ll always find something beautiful to photograph. The church is also home to the faceless but working medieval castle combe clock. You’ll find no big box stores or billboards, no tourist shops, and that’s a big part of Castle Combe’s charm – it’s lack of commercialism.
2. Painswick, Gloucestershire
Have you ever dreamed of living in a fairytale? Walk through Painswick’s St. Mary’s churchyard and you’ll be in for a treat. Filled with 99 impressive yew trees – the 100th is said to never grow again – it’s no wonder it’s been dubbed ‘the queen of the cotswolds’. There’s a tree tunnel to wander through, tabletop tombs to explore, and a Civil War-era search of the church tower. The 17th-century tombs date back to the early 19th century. If you’re lucky enough to be there during a service, don’t forget to stick around. The locals are welcoming and full of interesting stories (and occasionally tea and biscuits). Don’t miss out on the spectacular views from the gardens at Rococo Gardens. It’s a little out of town, but you’re in for it!
3. Rye, East Sussex
Rye is one of England’s quietest and most picturesque villages. It’s easy to get lost in the cobbled streets lined with crooked houses, and it’s no wonder why it’s at the top of our list of Britain’s best small towns. It’s a little over an hour’s drive west of Brighton, and sits on a fortified hilltop with stunning views of the River Thames. On your tour of the village, start on Mermaid Street where you’ll take in the timber framed houses of the 15th century. Make it your mission to find the house with the most unusual name, such as “The House with two front doors”. You’ll pass through a number of secret passages before making your way to the famous The Mermaid Inn, the street’s most well-known historic building, one of England’s oldest inns and one of Rye’s best hotels. Dating back over 600 years, it’s been re-constructed in 1420 with a cozy restaurant and modern amenities. Inside, you’ll find the most scrumptious scone, with cream and jam
4. Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is best known as the location of Prince Harry’s and Meghan’s royal wedding, and as the location of their first photo op with baby Archie. But for centuries, it has been one of England’s most popular tourist attractions. Windsor Castle is one of the largest occupied castles in the world. It also serves as the Queen’s weekend and holiday residence. On top of a hill, this royal residence is home to St. George’s chapel. To get to the chapel, you’ll need to walk up a beautiful, twisting street lined with quaint shops. You’ll find some delicious fudge in the shops, so make sure to stop in for a bite before you head to the castle. There’s a wait in line outside the castle, but the check-in process takes a while. If you’re looking for some of England’s finest gardens, Windsor won’t disappoint. Not only do you have access to the magnificent castle grounds, but you’ll also be rewarded with Windsor Great Park south of the town. The Long ‘Gazebo’
5. Clovelly, Devon
The beauty of this charming little town is indescribable. The cobbled, twisting streets are lined with elegant white cottages festooned with flowers. They simply ooze charm. The village is built into a cliff in North Devon at the base of which is an ancient port. The port dates back to the 14th century and is still in use today. Visitors don’t have to dodge cars as they explore this charming little English town. Instead, they’ll have to dodge donkeys and sled dogs. No cars are permitted in the village. If you’re staying the night in this tranquil haven, you’ll need to pay a small entry fee, which is usually waved. The fee includes parking, a brief film about the town’s history, access to two museums (the Kingsley museum and the Fisherman’s Cottage) and access to the beautiful gardens of Clovelly Court.
6. St. Ives, Cornwall
Once a fishing village, this picturesque coastal town has come to be known as one of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK. It boasts an immaculate harbor, clean, soft sandy beaches, and has been voted “Best Seaside town,” “Best family holiday destination,” and “One of the Top 10 European beaches.” The narrow cobbled streets add to the charm, as do fishermen’s cottages, and the eclectic shops that line the streets. If you’re a water-lover or a sun-watcher, you’ve come to the right place. With sheltered coves, there’s plenty of time to swim, ride a surfboard, windsurf or waterski. If you’re not a swimmer, take a stroll along the shoreline. Don’t forget to make time for a visit to the Tate St Ives, a stunning art gallery with stunning views over the Atlantic. Be sure to book your accommodation well in advance – especially if you’re planning to visit during peak summer months.
England is known for its iconic cities like London, Manchester, and Edinburgh. However, tucked away in the picturesque countryside are hidden gems that often go unnoticed by tourists and even locals. In this blog post, we have taken you on a journey through the 10 best small towns in England, each with its own unique charm and character.
From the historic streets of Rye, with its well-preserved medieval architecture and enchanting cobbled lanes, to the tranquil beauty of Burford, known as the “Gateway to the Cotswolds”, these small towns offer a glimpse into a different side of England.
Exploring these hidden gems will transport you back in time, as you wander through the narrow streets of Bamburgh, dominated by its majestic castle overlooking the Northumberland coastline. The vibrant town of Whitstable will delight your senses with its colorful beach huts, fresh seafood, and charming independent shops.
The allure of these small towns lies in their authenticity and sense of community. Take a stroll along the river in Bradford-on-Avon, where the picturesque canal and quaint cottages create a postcard-perfect setting. Or immerse yourself in the literary history of Haworth, home to the renowned Brontë sisters, and be captivated by the moody landscapes that inspired their timeless novels.
Each small town has its own unique attractions, whether it’s the charming market town of Ludlow, known for its gastronomic delights and medieval castle, or the bohemian vibe of Hebden Bridge, with its independent boutiques and thriving arts scene.
As our journey through England’s hidden gems comes to an end, we hope you have been inspired to explore beyond the bustling cities and discover the beauty and character that lie within these small towns. Whether you prefer history, nature, or simply soaking up the atmosphere of a traditional English village, there is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. So pack your bags, hit the road, and embark on an unforgettable adventure through the best small towns in England.
We hope you enjoyed our blog post on the 10 best small towns in England, the hidden gems waiting to be discovered. England may be famous for its bustling cities, but these small towns offer a unique charm and beauty that should not be overlooked. From historic architecture to picturesque landscapes, each town has its own distinct character and attractions. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or simply in search of a peaceful retreat, these small towns have something to offer everyone. So pack your bags, embark on an adventure, and uncover the hidden gems that make England truly special. 10 Best Small Towns in England – 2025