18 Most Charming Small Towns in England
Updated On: January 25, 2023
If you love small towns, England has plenty to offer. Whether you are a local or visiting from abroad, there are plenty of charming small towns in England for you to explore. From coastal villages to rural hamlets, the magnificent land of England has a vibrant and vast history and landscape that it can even be hard to choose where to go or what to do.
Fortunately, we have compiled a list of eighteen most charming small towns in England. Among the gems on this list lies plenty of history and character to make your visit memorable and even inspiring. Each small town on the list is worth visiting for its own unique reasons, so be sure to explore them all if possible!
1. Rye, East Sussex
Rye is a charmingly small town in East Sussex, England. It is located on the River Rother, between the towns of Hastings and Romney Marsh. The town has a population of about 4,000 people.
Rye is famous for its charming hotels and restaurants, as well as its small shops and boutiques. The town is also home to a number of historic buildings, including the 12th-century Rye Castle and the 16th-century Ypres Tower. In addition to being one of the most charming towns in England, Rye is also a popular tourist destination, with visitors coming from all around the world to experience its unique atmosphere.
2. Clovelly, Devon
Clovelly, Devon, is a small yet gorgeous town in England. The vibrant town is known for its steep streets and picturesque harbour. Visitors of Clovelly can enjoy stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the quaint shops and restaurants lining the streets.
The town is also home to several historical landmarks, including an old Norman castle and a 12th-century church. In recent years, Clovelly has become a popular tourist destination, with travellers from all over the world coming to experience its unique charm.
3. Castle Combe, Wiltshire
Castle Combe is a small town located in the county of Wiltshire, England. The town is situated on the River Avon and is known for its scenic streets and buildings. Castle Combe has a long history, and it was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The town’s name comes from the Old English words ‘combe,’ meaning ‘valley,’ and ‘castle,’ meaning ‘fortified settlement.’
Castle Combe was an important market town in the Middle Ages and had a weekly market. Today, the town is a popular tourist destination and home to several historic buildings, including the Norman castle of Lord Abingdon.
4. Warwick, Warwickshire
Warwick is a town in England that is known for its castle. The castle was originally constructed by William the Conqueror during the 11th century. Today, the castle is open to the public and is considered to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.
In addition to the castle, Warwick is also home to several other historic landmarks, including St. Mary’s Church, built in the 14th century, and Lord Leycester Hospital, founded in the 16th century. The town of Warwick is also home to many traditional English pubs and restaurants, making it the perfect place to visit for a taste of some pure and authentic English culture.
5. Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Lyndhurst is a town in Hampshire, England. Located in the New Forest, the town of Lyndhurst has a population of about 3,000 people only. Lyndhurst is known for its scenic beauty and its many shops and restaurants.
The town is also home to the New Forest Museum, which tells the story of the area’s history and culture. Visitors to Lyndhurst can enjoy many activities, including hiking, cycling, and horse riding. There are also several golf courses in the area. Lyndhurst is an ideal place to visit for a relaxing break in the countryside.
6. Painswick, Gloucestershire
Painswick is a charming little town in Gloucestershire, England. It is located on the edge of the Cotswolds, an area of rolling hills and valleys. The town is home to many historic buildings, including the church of St. Painswick, which dates back to the 12th century.
The town is also known for its yew trees, which are said to be centuries old. In recent years, Painswick has become a popular tourist destination, and its popularity is only likely to increase in the years to come. With its picturesque setting and wealth of history, Painswick is one of England’s most worthy towns for a thorough tourist tour.
7. Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is a charming English town in Berkshire situated on the south bank of the River Thames, west of London. Windsor is home to Windsor Castle, which is among the official residences of the British monarch. The castle has a long history and has been used -for centuries- by the royal family. Today, it is a popular tourist destination that attracts thousands of visitors annually.
The town of Windsor is also home to several other historic landmarks, including Windsor Guildhall and Windsor Great Park. In recent years, the town has also become a popular shopping destination, with several high-end stores and restaurants located on the pedestrianised Windsor High Street. With its mix of history and modernity, Windsor is an ideal place to visit for a day trip or a more extended laid-back holiday.
8. St. Ives, Cornwall
St. Ives is a quaint small town in Cornwall, England, well-known for its scenic setting and friendly atmosphere. Situated on the Atlantic coast, St. Ives has long been a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The town is home to a number of charming little shops and restaurants, as well as several beaches that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and/or surfing.
In recent years, St. Ives has also become a hub for the arts, with some galleries and studios popping up in the town centre. Thanks to its friendly vibe and beautiful atmosphere, St. Ives is one of the most enjoyable towns in England to visit.
9. Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Henley-on-Thames is an enchanting small town located in Oxfordshire, England. The town is situated on the River Thames and is known for its annual rowing regatta. The regatta has been held on the river since 1839 and attracts thousands of spectators each year.
In addition to being a popular tourist destination, Henley-on-Thames is also home to a number of businesses and organisations. These include the headquarters of GlaxoSmithKline, an international pharmaceutical company, and the Henley Business School, which is part of the University of Reading. With its scenic location and rich history, Henley-on-Thames is one of the towns in England that should not be skipped.
10. Southam, Gloucestershire
Southam is a town in the southwestern county of Gloucestershire, England. It lies on the River Avon, about 10 miles (16 km) east of Gloucester and 20 miles (32 km) north of Bristol. The town is twinned with the French towns of Valenciennes and Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.
Southam was occupied by the Saxons in the 7th century and was recorded in the Domesday Book as Sudham. It formed part of the Hundred of Dunston and Hinton and was granted a market charter in 1227. Southam was a prosperous market town during the Middle Ages known for its wool trade. It later became a key stop on the coaching route between London and Bristol.
The town’s industries included glass making, brewing, and brickworks. In the 19th century, those industries declined, but Southam remained an important agricultural centre. Today, Southam is a thriving community with a variety of shops and businesses. Despite its historical roots, it is very much a modern town that has embraced change while still retaining its traditional charm.
11. Frome, Somerset
Frome is a beautiful and charming town in Somerset, England, with a population of around 26,000 people. It’s located on the River Frome about 13 miles (21 km) east of Bath and 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Bristol. Frome has a long history dating back to the Roman era when it was known as Frumosa.
The town’s market charter was granted by King John in 1227, and it has been an important market town ever since. Frome is twinned with Rennes-le-Château in France and Weilburg in Germany. It’s also home to the annual Cheese & Onion Festival, which celebrates the town’s two most famous products. If you’re ever in Somerset, be sure to visit Frome!
12. Avebury, Wiltshire
Avebury is quite a beautiful town in Wiltshire, England, best known for its largest stone circle in Europe. The town itself is small and charming, with a lively market square and many historic buildings.
The town’s streets are lined with retro shops and cafes leading to the stone circle and set in a picturesque field. Visitors can explore the stones or take a walk around the nearby countryside. Avebury is a great place to explore for a day or two and provides a fascinating glimpse into England’s magnificent past.
13. Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire
Dorchester on Thames is a lovely small town located in Oxfordshire, England. Situated on the River Thames, Dorchester on Thames is home to several historical landmarks. One of the most notable landmarks is Dorchester Abbey, founded in the 7th century. The town also has a number of other old churches, as well as a medieval bridge that spans the river.
In recent years, Dorchester on the Thames has become a popular tourist destination due to its charming small-town atmosphere and proximity to Oxford. Visitors to the town can enjoy various activities, including exploring the Abbey, strolling through the quaint streets, and picnicking by the river. With its beautiful setting and rich history, Dorchester on the Thames is ideal for a day trip or a more extended holiday.
14. Arundel, West Sussex
Arundel is a small town located in the county of West Sussex in southern England. The town is situated on the River Arun, about 10 miles (16 km) north of Chichester. Arundel is a popular tourist destination due to its picturesque scenery and historic buildings, including Arundel Castle, which has been home to the Duke of Norfolk for over 850 years.
The town also has many Georgian-style houses and a 12th-century cathedral. In addition to its architectural heritage, Arundel is also known for its annual Festival of Speed, which attracts motor racing fans worldwide.
15. Sevenoaks, Kent
Sevenoaks is a small town located in Kent, England. In addition to being home to several historic buildings and landmarks, Sevenoaks also has a variety of shops and restaurants that offer excellent services to all of the town’s visitors and tourists.
Sevenoaks is also known for its strong community spirit and its annual Sevenoaks Festival, which celebrates the town’s history and culture. Visitors to Sevenoaks will find many small hotels, B&Bs, and many self-catering cottages and apartments. The town is also well-connected to London by train, making it the perfect base for exploring the rest of England.
16. Alfriston, East Sussex
Alfriston is a small town in the East Sussex district of England. Located on the River Cuckmere, Alfriston is home to about 1,300 people. The town’s name is derived from the Old English words for ‘river settlement.’ Alfriston was first inhabited in the 5th century and was later recorded in the Domesday Book as ‘Alfreton.’ The town grew steadily throughout the Middle Ages, and by the 17th century, it was home to several small industries, including tanning and brewing.
Today, Alfriston is a popular tourist destination known for its instagrammable streets and traditional English architecture. Visitors can explore Alfriston’s many historic buildings, including St. Nicholas Church, which dates back to the 14th century. The charming town is also home to several small shops and cafes, making it an ideal place to spend a day exploring England’s countryside.
17. Whitby, North Yorkshire
Whitby is a small town in North Yorkshire, England. It is best known for its association with the Dracula legend, as it was the setting for Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name. However, Whitby is also a beautiful seaside town with a long and rich history.
Whitby Abbey, for example, dates back to the 7th century, and the town’s picturesque harbour has been used as a film location for many movies and TV shows. Today, Whitby is a popular tourist destination, with visitors coming from around the globe to enjoy its stunning scenery and historical landmarks.
18. Great Budworth, Cheshire
Great Budworth is a small town located in the county of Cheshire in England. The town is situated on the River Weaver, and its name comes from the Old English words for “boat” and “worth”. Great Budworth has a long history, and its parish church, St. Mary’s, dates back to the 12th century. The town was also home to many coaching inns, serving travellers passing through on the London-to-Liverpool road.
Today, Great Budworth is a popular tourist destination known for its exceptional streets and historic buildings. Visitors can also explore the town’s beautiful countryside, which includes several parks and nature reserves. Whether you’re looking to learn about history or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll, Great Budworth is well worth visiting.
We think it is safe to say that it can’t get much more charming than this! So if you are planning to go on an English cultural tour any time soon, check out some of these unique and quaint English small towns that made it into our list. From Great Budworth to Avebury and Windsor to Warwick, there’s plenty of history and beauty to explore in these towns. And don’t forget Rye and Henley-on-Thames for a taste of something different! You can also check our Scotland guide, which will help you plan your next visit.