Charming English Villages For Lazy Weekend Escapes

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

Away from the sprawling metropolis of London, rural England often seems like a different world — with true cities few and far between, and each marked by an increase in train lines and pollution. But scattered throughout the countryside are hundreds of delightful chocolate box villages forming quaint but almost invisible points on the map. Life in these villages is languorous and relaxed, folk say good morning and nod their hats, indigenous flora and fauna are never far away, beaches are unspoiled and walks often lonesome, while farmlands are plentiful and hand-written signposts direct weary travellers down muddy paths to buy seasonal strawberries, sacks of potatoes and to warn of “cows crossing”.


Nestled just above the south coast of East Sussex next door to the scenic dunes of Camber Sands, Rye is a charming village of whimsy-filled cobbled streets lined with a mishmash of attractive architectural styles. Some are textbook Tudor with their medieval timber frames covered in lush creeping vines, others are red brick Georgian terraces with bay windows and iron lamps reaching from their façades — but all are equally beautiful, so very beguiling and a perfect accompaniment to a weekend away. Be sure to stroll along Mermaid Street to see the beautiful cottages, and after tea, take a peek into the life of author Henry James in the grade II listed Lamb House.

Rye’s proximity to the sea makes it a good option for a weekend split equally between romantic evening walks along the coast and daytime steps along the cobbles of the village. The best overnight option is the sophisticated former motel — The Gallivant at Camber Sands. Here quirky British charm is weaved beautifully into laidback luxuries, with relaxing, lovingly furnaced spaces looking out to the estuary and the harbour, as well as elegant gardens and a charmingly breezy wrap-around terrace. Most of the rooms have sea views and there are complimentary Gin and Sherry trays too, but the Luxury Garden rooms, with their understated stylish finishings, super kingsized beds, freestanding baths and direct access to the gardens are best. 


There’s something really quite exquisite about Polperro — a Cornish fishing village whose whitewashed sea-view houses cascade down a lush wooded hill to a delightfully picturesque harbour, its limpid turquoise-tinged waters reflecting small fishing boats looking out to the Channel. The bay with its lush towering treetops, looming hillside homes and magical, pellucid waters can sometimes remind one of the villages dotted along the Italian Riviera, but it’s ever so more English. There’s very little to do here other than to immerse oneself into village life — taking strolls up the cobbled streets, taking in views across the Cornwall coast and grabbing lunch in a local haunt like the Three Pilchards, though there is a peculiar and exceeding musty little museum dedicated to Polperro’s past as a smuggler’s cove, at the Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling & Fishing.

While there are a handful of quaint and suitably rustic hotels in Polperro, we favour driving, or better yet — taking a local boat taxi from Polperro to nearby Fowey, to spend the evening in the gorgeous Fowey Harbour Hotel that overlooks the marina from its enviable position above the estuary.

Castle Combe

The Cotswolds aren’t exactly lacking in bucolic delights, but Castle Combe, with its rows of fairytale-cute stone weaver cottages, backed up by lush wooded hillsides and a shallow river with a low, ever-so-slightly-arched bridge is quite possibly the prettiest of them all. Like much of the Cotswolds it isn’t an easy place to travel to without a car — but driving from Bath shouldn’t take much longer than twenty-five minutes and there are buses available too. And from the languid streets of Castle Combe, it’s a short scenery-filled onward journey to the stunning 13th-century Lacock Abbey and a charming village of the same name that’s filled with devilishly pretty antique stone cottages.

Stay at the nearby and frankly stunning Manor House — a 14th-century grand country mansion with climbing ivies covering much of its outer walls, stained glass windows and a collection of delicately rendered rooms and suites with four-poster beds, beamed ceilings and luxurious bathrooms fitted with large tubs and walk-in showers, all embedded in a lush and calming ring of woodland hills. Choose either a room in the main house or one of the cottages in the grounds that with their flowery stone façades evoke a real sense of laidback country living.


This blissful little hamlet is snuggled into the Derbyshire Peak District at the foot of the windswept peak of Mam Tor and the atmospheric 1000-year old ruins of Pevril Castle. The air here is crisp and fresh, punctuated by the fresh bouquet of purple orchids and the grape-like scent of Jacob’s Ladder perennials, and the surrounding hills are perfect for walking. But the highlight trek to Mam Tor is as equally arduous as it is pretty, with miles of country cobbles and trodden grass to ramble before reaching the (more than worthy) summit, to enjoys some of the best (along with with some of the windiest) views in the north of England.

While there aren’t many hotels in the village, the splendid Cavendish Hotel at Chatsworth House is only 30-minutes away by car. Its elegant, individually styled rooms with views of the open countryside are perfect for a day or two of romantic countryside immersion, while its collection of restaurants and cafes — the highlight Gallery Restaurant has just earned 3 AA Rosettes in 2020 — make it a more than worthy destination for roaming foodies too.

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