England – “Kingdom of Fog” – is not only famous for the gloomy weather whole year round, gorgeous castles and prestigious universities. The authentic uniqueness of the country lies in its countryside with the prettiest and most charming villages and towns in the world.
Clusters of ancient stone cottages with mossy fences, old bridges crossing over winding streams, narrow cobbled country walks and quaint pubs, all of these evoke the romance of a time gone by, leading us to a different world which is dreamy and magnificent as of fairy-tale stories.
Beautiful heart-melting villages and towns are scattered across England from North to South. In this article, I just introduce those we passed by during our 2-week road trip in England, in the order of my preference. They are mainly located in Lake District in the North and Cotswold in the South of England.
1. Bibury, Cotswold
Bibury is a truly fairy-tale village with a majestically lush green atmosphere, once described as “the most beautiful village of England” by 19th-century artist-writer William Morris. An old stone bridge shadowed by huge foliage of a big tree over the winding River Coln leads us to the iconic symbol of Bibury – the road of Arlington Row.
The scenery of Arlington Row appears to us like a painting of a marvelous fairyland. Just a row of ancient stone cottages laid along a narrow path, in the backdrop of layered greenery of high trees is enough to creates a harmonious and poetic landscape.
The roses which are high above the head caress the windows of stone hamlets, enhancing the charming of Bibury village by their faintly elegant aroma.
Small St Mary Church on the other side of the river is a quiet and quaint charm with a fragrant rose garden.
2. Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire
Lower Slaughter is a small and unpopular village in Cotswold, but brings lots of feelings to us. Not noisy and packed with tourists, Lower Slaughter is reflected peacefully on the tiny River Eye running along it.
The pathway to the village is amazingly beautiful, covered by yellow fallen leaves during autumn.
Entering Lower Slaughter village, we are overwhelmed by the first house with glamorous walls fully covered by pink maple leaves, the color that I have never ever seen before. It is actually a restaurant, not yet open in the morning.
We walk leisurely alongside of River Eye and feel the slow pace of life there. Typical traditional sandstone cottages in Cotswold style are garnished by small front well-cared terraces, looking pretty and charming, however, less energetic since all the doors are shut with no sign of human. We occasionally see old people with their dogs on the passage. Life is so quaint, but probably fairly boring to live there for long.
Built in 16th century, The Old flour Mill with a waterwheel and a vintage chimney at the end of the river is an elegant highlight of the village. It’s now a tea, craft shop and museum.
3. Grasmere, Cumbria
Grasmere is a charming little village, in the middle of the Lake District, in county Cumbria with a view of stunning mountains and fells surrounding it. It’s renowned for several unique features, such as an award-winning handmade chocolate boutique, a world-famous gingerbread shop, and once a home of poet William Wordsworth for 14 years.
Today Grasmere is totally given over to the tourist industry, with plenty of gift shops, and places to eat and stay. However, just a short walk out of the main road to narrow alleys, you can find the tranquility of the village demonstrated by its rustic cottages roofed with blue slate jostling for space with large Victorian villas.
We wander around Grasmere village and are fascinated by mossy rocky fences which look firmly vintage and very British. The scenery is adorned by small streams and old stone bridges.
4. Snowhill, Gloucestershire
Tucked away in the Cotswold hills, Gloucestershire, Snowshill is a cluster of picturesque idyllic honey-stone cottages, with a beautiful Victorian church, characterful pubs and lots of ancient unspoiled charm.
Its tranquility is well demonstrated by the lush green grassland in front of the church with a lovely remark of iconic red British phone booth.
It’s a pleasure walk on an ancient road called Buckle Street, admiring beautiful cottages and their terraces which are the vibrant mix of vintage architectures, bright colors and delightful scents of plenty of flowers.
The village is also known for its fabulous lavender fields and the nearby Snowshill Manor, a National Trust property housing Charles Wade’s eccentric collection of toys (a famous 19th-century English architect), furnishings, and musical instruments.
5. Stow on the wold, Cotswold
Stow on the wold is the highest of the Cotswold town, located on 800 feet high Stow Hill at a junction of seven major roads. As a result, it is an important trading center of the region. Stow mixes elegant manor house hotels, charming bed & breakfast accommodation with cosy tea shops, chic bistros, and a fine selection of Cotswold shops.
We visited the Market Square, walked on the winding streets adorned with quintessential Cotswold buildings to browse the shops, and to enjoy great food in local restaurants.
St Edwards church with its ‘Tolkienesque’ North Door flanked by ancient yew trees is a truly magical and famous sight in the town. It looks like one of the scene in “Lord of the Ring”.
6. Windermere, Lake District.
Windermere probably is the busiest town in the Lake District as it’s home of the main train station serving as the Gateway to the region. The town was named after Windermere lake, the thin and longest natural lake of England. In Windermere itself, you can expect to find dozens of narrow streets, wide Victorian façades and plenty of things to see and do.
Windermere lake is eventually the main highlight of the area, attracted either water sports enthusiasts or walkers who come to enjoy the scenic wandering whether you walk up hills for spectacular panoramic views or down thru the lush jungle to reach clear water.
The road behind the lake was empty and beautiful with leaves changing colors in autumn. The pathway to the lake fully covered by green moss, next to a small stream looked amazingly mystical, like a scene in a secret fairy tale forest.
7. Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria
Kirkby Lonsdale is a historic quaint market town, flanking the three counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire. The town is described as a trading hub for the region with high quality independent shopping, as well as excellent restaurants, cafés and bars and superb accommodation. The way leading to the town iss impressive with high steep roads and time-marked stone mansions.
The more we get in the town, the more excited we are when seeing many charming houses. The walls are fully covered by reddish maple leaves changing color during autumn, the windows are elegantly decorated by white daisies.
A small church in the center of the town with elegant gate is a quiet and vintage remark.
8. Bourton on the water, Cotswold
Bourton-on-the-Water is the most famous village in Cotswold. It has been described as the ‘Little Venice’ thanks to its gently flowing River Windrush running through the centre of the village, adorned with charming old bridges, quaint limestone buildings and elegant shops, cafe and restaurants.
The houses and streets are much bigger and it also has more attractions than other villages in Cotswold.
However, it is very touristy. The tranquility of the village is disturbed annoyingly by crowd. Either the streets or famous attractions or well-known restaurants are packed with people. That’s why this village is not ranked high in my review, thought its landscape is marvelous.
9. Skipton, Yorkside
Skipton has a different look. The roads are very challenging with extremely high slopes and sharp turns. Blocks of stone mansions appear boringly along roadsides since they don’t have beautiful terraces filled with lots of flowers and plants as other pretty towns.
The beauty of Skipton probably lines on the canal running through its center. Walking alongside and admiring the freshness and tranquility of the town is enjoyable. The restaurants with colorful tables and chairs brighten the atmosphere of the town.
Despite being a city resident, I love the tranquility of small towns and villages. The landscape is quaint and rustic, while the people are relaxed and enjoying slow pace of life. There are plenty of other pretty villages and towns in England, I will definitely come back to explore them when I have chance.
Traveled in Sep, 2017