“Autumn days and the grass is jewelled,” so went my primary school hymn. But as the nights draw in and the heating goes on, find respite in an autumn break before half term price hikes and crowds of ankle biters and mumbling teenagers disrupt our midweek calm.
You’ll want to escape the Christmas markets and bustling high streets. So we’ve had to succumb to sharing our favourite villages with you. Be gentle on them. They need preserving. At least for our next visit to them!
Is this Devon’s most photographed village? Memorable for its car-free, cobbled main street that’s a workout in itself. So much so that this fishing village once relied on donkey power to haul the daily catch up into the village for its onward journey. Donkeys are still here and available for rides in the summer months. The village is also famous for inspiring Charles Kingsley’s book Water Babies and you can visit the Kingsley Museum to find out more.
It seems very understated to reflect on Bibury as a ‘typical’ Cotswold village. Especially when it is in the loving guardianship of the National Trust. It’s 16th century weavers’ cottages and water meadow are oft used in Cotswold marketing, but come and see these carefully restored, hobbit-like homes for yourself.
Arrive on the train and you’re greeted by a heart-warming Yorkshire slope. Heart-warming in the cardiovascular sense as much as in the scenes-from-days-of-yore way. If you’re lucky enough to stay in one of the terrace cottages on the right hand side of this street, head straight for the back of the house. The views across to the viaduct and down to the river, will woo you so much you’ll forget you put the kettle on.
This pretty Snowdonia village and its tiny population draw crowds of tourists. Most are passing through on their route around Snowdonia. Others stop to enquire as to the legend of Gelert. Wander along the Glaslyn river to find the apparent resting place of Gelert the dog. This faithful hound mistakenly slain by its owner Llewelyn, a prince of North Wales, when he’d actually protected his baby son from a preying wolf. This 13th century legend lives on and simply adds to the charm of this pretty Welsh village.
If you like a good hike, you might know Hayfield for its proximity to Kinder Scout in the Peak District. This hillocky part of Derbyshire is all stone houses and lush rural views. Walking aside there are a couple of friendly village pubs, annual sheep dog trials and the legacy of being the birthplace of the late great Arthur Lowe. That’s Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army to you and me.
Luss, Argyll and Bute
If you haven’t managed to bag a holiday cottage on Loch Lomond, get over it. On the western shores of the loch is this almost missable huddle of houses that’ll do just as well for the memories. Miss the signs and you’ll zoom along the A82 as if the place never existed. Visit in winter and it may as well not – it’s grey and mostly closed. But arrive in the summer months and you’ll more easily recognise the sandstone cottages here that were the setting for that dramatic Scottish soap opera, Take the High Road.
Castle Combe, Wiltshire
Oft heralded Britain’s prettiest village, Castle Combe packs in the history as well as being easy on the eye. It’s hill fortified by the Romans for its proximity to the Fosse Way. Their fort later castellated by the Normans. The importance of the place continued with its role in the wool industry as its tumbling river powered the local mill. And its restoration and protection has seen it appear in movies such as Dr Doolittle and War Horse. This ain’t just a pretty picture.
Not only famous for being home to Beatrix Potter. Hawkshead is one of the most picturesque villages in the Lake District. Whitewashed cottages and tearooms set in a valley walled by lush flora and fauna sets the perfectly tranquil tone that’ll draw you here and linger long after you’ve left.
Cornwall’s prettiest village is always a bit of a toss up between Polperro, Mousehole and Port Isaac. These not dissimilar fishing villages with pretty painted houses, sturdy sea walls and sniffs of catch of the day are what lured us to the M4 and M5 in the first place. Listen out for the fishermen’s choir rehearsals while tucking into your fish and chips of a midweek evening.
If you’re going to get lost anywhere when diverting from a gridlocked M40, this is the place to stop. The Bull & Butcher will amply sate your thirst and hunger, but does this place look familiar? Dawn French has wandered out of that churchyard wearing a dog collar more than once. John Thaw took in a wartime evacuee in the cottage near the lychgate. And the windmill on the hill was made famous by Dick Van Dyke’s flying car. Despite all that, it’s a remarkably peaceful place to visit.
Godshill, Isle of Wight
Yep, you guessed it, there’s a church at the top of the hill. Probably the Isle of Wight’s oldest village in architectural terms; it is quintessentially English. From thatched cottages to that medieval church and a healthy choice of tearooms, it’s more than earned it’s place on this list. And in terms of fascinating factoids: the village played host to the very first Isle of Wight Festival.
There are almost too many contenders for prettiest village in East Anglia. In Suffolk alone we’ve debated the iconic pink cottages of Cavendish versus the Tudor architecture of Lavenham. Alas we succumbed to the latter, if for nothing more that sheer bemusement at how those buildings are still standing. In amongst the wonky windows, intricate brickwork and pastel shades of daub see if you can spot the house that inspired Harry Potter’s family house in Godric’s Hollow.
We could go on, but then you’d be spoilt for choice. Where will you take your autumn break?