England – is not only “the Kingdom of Fog” with year-long gloomy weather, majestic castles and prestigious universities. The authentic characteristics of the country are found in its countryside in some of the most picturesque villages and charming towns in the world.
Clusters of ancient stone cottages with mossy fences, old bridges that stretch over winding streams, narrow cobbled village alleys and quaint pubs, all evoke the romance of a time gone by, leading us to a different world of dreamy and magnificent fairy tales.
Beautiful heart-melting English villages and towns are scattered 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 truly is a fairy-tale village with its mystical lush green atmosphere, once described by the 19th century artist-writer William Morrisas as “the most beautiful village of England” . Over the meandering River Coln is an old stone bridge shadowed by a massive ancient tree that leads us to the symbol of Bibury – 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, on the backdrop of layered greenery is enough to create a harmonious and poetic landscape.
The roses here are taller than most people, swaying near the windows of stone hamlets, along with their elegant aroma they add to the charm of Bibury.
Small St Mary Church on the other side of the river nestled quietly in a fragrant rose garden.
2. Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire
Lower Slaughter is a small and lesser known village in Cotswold, but brings lots of feelings to us. Far away from the hectic sounds of tourists, the idyllic beauty of Lower Slaughter can be seen through its reflection on the tiny River Eye that runs along the village.
The pathway to the village fully covered by yellow fallen leaves looks poetic.
The first house upon entering Lower Slaughter village made us bewitched and captivated. The radiantly pink “maple leaf” outfit draped the entire house, giving it an unprecedented charm, just like the house of a beautiful lady from a fairy tale. It was actually a restaurant that was not yet opened on that early morning.
We leisurely walk along the banks of River Eye, enjoying the slow pace of life there. In front of each house in the village, there is a small garden, meticulously cared for, looking pretty and elegant. But most of the doors were closed, with no sign of human. We occasionally saw some old people walking their dogs. And that seemed to be the only lively movement in the quiet environment of Lower Slaughter village, beautiful but somewhat lifeless.
Built in the 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. Today, It’s a tea, craft shop and museum.
3. Grasmere, Cumbria
Grasmere is a little enchanting village amidst the majestic mountains and hills of Lake District in Cumbria. Once home to the poet William Wordsworth for 14 years, it is also famous for its award-winning handmade chocolate shop and world-renowned gingerbread bakery.
Today Grasmere is entitrely devoted to serving tourists, with numerous gift shops, and hotels & eateries. However, just a short walk away from the main road into 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.
Wandering around Grasmere, we became infatuated with mossy rocky fences -an exceptionally British and vintage beauty. The scenery is further adorned by small streams and old stone bridges.
4. Snowhill, Gloucestershire
Nestled into the remote hills of Cotswold in Gloucestershire, Snowshill is a cluster of picturesque honey-colored stone cottages, with a small timeworn village church, characterful pubs and countless ancient unspoiled charms.
Its tranquility is signified by the lush green grassland in the churchyard. A re phone booth, a chief English symbol adds a distinctly British touch.
It’s so pleasant to walk on the ancient Buckle Street, gazing upon gorgeous cottages and their verandas – a lively combination of old-fashioned architectures and vibrant flowers with their delightful scents wafting in the air.
The village is also known for its fabulous lavender fields and the nearby Snowshill Manor, a National Trust Collections property which houses the eccentric toy collection, home decorations and musical instruments of Charles Wade (a famous 19th-century English architect).
5. Stow on the wold, Cotswold
Stow on the wold is the highest town in Cotswold, located on Stow Hill at 250m high, right at the junction of 7 major roads. This is the trading center of the whole region. The town of Stow is a combination of elegant hotels, charming hostel, cosy tea shops, chic bistros, and the exquisite independent stores of Cotswold.
We visited the Market Square, walked on the winding streets adorned with quintessential Cotswold buildings to browse the shops, and to enjoy delicious specialties 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. Some have compared this door to scenes in “Lord of the Ring” movie.
6. Windermere, Lake District.
Windermere probably is the busiest town in the Lake District because of its main train station that serves as the Gateway to the region. The town was named after Windermere lake, the narrowest and longest natural lake of England. In Windermere itself, you can find dozens of narrow streets, wide Victorian façades and plenty of things to experience.
Windermere lake is eventually the main highlight of the area, attracting all types of people from water sports enthusiasts to those who love taking long strolls, trekking up hills for breathtaking views, experiencing nature’s beauty in the vast forests or dipping your feet in the clear water.
The road behind the lake was deserted 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 forest scene straight out of a folktale.
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 having high quality independent shops, excellent restaurants, cafés and bars and superb accommodation. Leading to the town is an impressively steep roads lined with stone houses that serve as a reminder of time’s footprint.
The deeper we entered into the town, the more we enjoyed seeing countless charming houses. The wall is covered with crimson maple leaves in autumn, harmonious with the pristine white chrysanthemum bushes by the window.
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. Described as the ‘Little Venice’ thanks to its soothing River Windrush flowing through the centre of the village, adorned with charming old bridges, quaint limestone buildings and elegant shops, cozy cafe and restaurants.
The houses and streets here are much larger and it also has more attractions than other villages in Cotswold.
However, this village is crowded with tourists, stirring up the inherent peace. The streets, as well as famous attractions or well-known restaurants are always packed with people. That was why I did not appreciate this area as much, although its landscape is marvelous.
9. Skipton, Yorkside
Skipton was a very different experience. The roads are very challenging with extremely high slopes and sharp turns. Blocks of stone mansions on both side of the road appeared boringly without beautiful terraces filled with flowers and plants as other pretty towns.
The charm of Skipton probably lines on its canal that runs through its center. Walking along the canal road while peering out onto tranquil scenes was interesting experience. The colorful furniture of local restaurants helped to add vibrancy to the town.
Though I am an urbanist, I find myself in love with the tranquility of small towns and villages. The landscape is quaint and rustic, while the people are relaxed with their slow-pace lifestyle. I believe that there are many other pretty villages and towns in England, and if I had another chance, I would definitely come back to explore more.
Traveled in Sep, 2017
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