Village life means bowls on the green, quaint pubs, red phone boxes and Morris dancing in the village hall. But there’s way more going on in these chocolate-box towns, which are perfect for family trips, walking holidays and days out. Here, we take a look at life in some of the most beautiful villages in the UK, from Port Isaac to Plockton.
1. Tyneham, south Dorset, England
It’s still 1943 in Tyneham, where time stood still when the army told everyone to leave because they needed the surrounding hills for training. Most weekends and throughout the summer school holidays the village is open to the public, and you can stroll along the main street, between the abandoned stone cottages and poke your head into the old schoolhouse and church.
Look out for wild flowers, abundant here thanks to the army keeping the public out and unable to trample them. For more places to stroll amongst the blooms, check out our round-up of the most gorgeous gardens in the UK.
2. Avebury, Wiltshire, England
How many villages are surrounded by their very own prehistoric stone circle? Not many, it turns out. But Avebury is special. It sits in the centre of one of the UK’s most important ancient sites, open at all hours. Picnic among the stones at lunchtime or stroll through the circle at sunset.
Make time to visit Silbury Hill, Europe’s largest manmade mound located just outside the village, and once you’ve worked up an appetite fall in to village pub the Red Lion for a pint of locally brewed Wadworth’s 6X. Read more about the UK’s most magical places and learn about their mystical pasts.
3. Port Isaac, north Cornwall, England
When the council builds a big car park just outside a village and encourages all visitors to explore on foot, you know it’s going to be a pretty unspoilt place. Port Isaac’s steep narrow lanes were not designed for cars, they were designed for fisherman, and this quaint Cornish village has long been devoted to all things lobster and crab.
To fully understand their dedication and love the local sea crop yourself get down to Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, where the fishermen dictate the menu and the small plates are cooked to order. Expect to pay around £10 per dish.
4. Staithes, north Yorkshire, England
Staithes was once one of the largest fishing ports on the northeast coast. Today it’s a far more laid back place, with higgledy piggledy cottages running down to the sea and a small beach perfect for hours of old-fashioned rockpooling.
Captain Cook spent some of his formative years here so there is, of course, a museum devoted to him on the high street. You can also eat in the eponymous Captain Cook Inn, or the Cleveland Corner Bistro, which endeavours to source as much of their fish as possible from the village itself.
5. Beddgelert, Gwynedd, Wales
A stone humpbacked bridge crosses a burbling river, trees dip their branches into the water, hanging baskets bloom – Beddgelert would be scenic even if Snowdon weren’t lurking in the background.
Don’t let it tempt you away too quickly, this is a beautiful place to linger, wandering from gallery to woodcraft shop, café to ice creamery. Don’t miss Glaslyn Ices, which everyone here will tell you makes the very best homemade ice cream in Britain.
6. Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales
Nope, not Italy, this is still Wales – although you might not know it standing in central Portmeirion. Architect Clough Williams-Ellis wanted to create a village that enhanced rather than blended into its landscape, and this place certainly stands out from its surroundings.
Start in the central Mediterranean piazza, with its loggias and porticoes, before wandering at random into nooks and crannies hiding with cherub statues and painted in pastels. Endangered buildings from across Britain and around the world were brought here piece and piece and reconstructed – look out for the Buddha.
7. Plockton, Ross and Cromarty, Highlands, Scotland
A sheltered position on Loch Carron and the Gulf Stream means warm waters, sun traps employed as beer gardens and even palm trees. Idyllic Plockton tends to grab people and never let them go – one visit here is never enough.
Take a woodland stroll around the bay, walking out across the endless flat sands if it’s low tide. Return in time for a lunch of Plockton prawns (langoustines) at the small and friendly Plockton Shores.
8. Crail, East Neuk of Fife, Scotland
The East Neuk of Fife is strung with quaint fishing towns, but Crail probably wins in the cutest village stakes, a maze of cobbled streets winding down the hill to the miniature harbour.
There’s a cracking tearoom here – the Crail Harbour Tearoom which has a sheltered sea-facing terrace and dressed crab from the village’s fishing fleet – as well as the lovely Crail Pottery and you can join the Fife Coastal Path, linking it to larger Anstruther.
9. Ardglass, County Down, Northern Ireland
Make time for a meal in Ardglass. This thriving fishing village on an inlet of the Irish Sea is the landing site of some of Ireland’s best seafood and is renowned for the quality of its herring.
Look out for the atmospheric ruins around the village – there were once seven castles (fortified tower houses) here. The local golf club uses the remnants of one as their clubhouse – said to be the oldest clubhouse in the world, it dates from 1377.
10. Luss, Argyll & Bute, Scotland
Situated around 10 miles south of Tarbet on the western shore of Loch Lomond, Luss represents the very best in Scottish loch-side beauty. It’s a great base if you’re wanting to explore the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, and if you’re a fan of Victorian history, check out the 19th century village church.
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