The English countryside is dotted with small village communities with a church, a pub and lovely cottages at their heart. From the outskirts of Bristol to the remote North Pennines in Northumberland, we were lucky enough to explore lots of villages last year. We think they are the perfect places to add to your 2020 bucket list.
1 – Blanchland, Northumberland
The small community of Blanchland is one of our favourite spots in the North Pennines. Surrounded in all directions by wild moorland, it is nestled in the Derwent Valley on the banks of the river on the Northumbrian border with County Durham and it is one of the most unspoilt villages in England. Once the site of an abbey, the only surviving buildings are the church and the gatehouse although the plan of the cottages follows the ground plan of the old monastic buildings. The name is also a reminder of the monks who lived there and refers to the white robes they wore (blanche meaning white in French).
Much of the village is now owned by the Lord Crewe Arms which has a cosy little bar, magnificent dining rooms and a lovely garden (the perfect setting to unwind after a day’s exploring). The Arms was used as a hiding place by General Thomas Forster who was arrested for involvement in the Jacobite Uprising in 1715. He escaped and was hidden in a priest hole behind the great fireplace, now in the dining room. The ghost of his sister, Dorothy, is said to roam the corridors at night asking for a message to be taken to her brother, who fled to France. The White Monk tea rooms is also a great place to have a quick but filling lunch.
2 – Chiddingstone, Kent
Chiddingstone is an Elizabethan village which is almost all intact and now maintained perfectly by the National Trust. We can recommend taking a look inside the village shop and post office after you have admired its gorgeous façade. The tea rooms through the gateway to the left of the shop do a fantastic Full English and some good coffee.
The village is surrounded by Kent countryside dotted with pretty oasthouses and also home to the 19th-century, neo-Gothic Chiddingstone Castle which started life in the 17th century as a simple manor house. Many people believe the village has got its name from a nearby ‘chiding stone’. Rumour has it that the large rock was used as an altar and place where judgement was made by ancient druid priests, Britons used it as a place to preside over judicial matters and, in the Medieval times, the rock was used by villagers to ‘chide’ nattering women and nagging wives, as well as general wrongdoers.
3 – Edensor, Derbyshire
Edensor, pronounced ‘Enza’, is a small estate village close to Chatsworth House, home to the Dukes of Devonshire. Although the village was mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086), in the 18th century the 4th Duke had it moved to its current location in another area of the park so that it didn’t spoil his favourite view from the house! Because of this, the mix of architecture there is unique with Romanesque features, medieval castellations, Tudor chimneys, Jacobean gables and Georgian doorways all making appearance. However, one house was allowed to remain in its original place. According to local legend, an old man lived in that house and didn’t want to have to move so the Duke, taking pity on him, let him stay.
The churchyard at St Peter’s church in the village contains the graves of the Devonshire family, as well as Kathleen Cavendish (née Kennedy), the sister of John F. Kennedy, who was killed in a plane crash in 1948. There is a plaque in the graveyard to commemorate President Kennedy’s visit to her grave.
4 – Lacock, Wiltshire
Lacock is a medieval village – one of the most beautiful in England – and home to Lacock Abbey. Lacock is another National Trust-owned village (they also look after the Abbey) and there is no building in its winding streets which was built later than the 18th century. There is a lovely mix of Gothic-arched, grey-stoned houses and charmingly leaning half-timbered cottages.
Interestingly, Lacock Abbey, which was founded by Ela, Countess of Salisbury, in 1232, was the last religious house in England to be dissolved after the Reformation, when it was taken on by Sir William Sharington in about 1540. He turned the Abbey into a home and built the octagonal tower overlooking the River Avon. The village has also played a vital role in the development of photography and a stone barn near the entrance to the Abbey houses a museum dedicated to William Henry Fox Talbot’s pioneering work.
Not only is Lacock the ‘model English village’, but it has also played host to many a film or TV set. The village and the abbey are perhaps most famous for appearing in the ‘Harry Potter’ series – the 13th-century cloisters, sacristy and nuns’ chapter house of the Abbey were used as Hogwarts corridors and classrooms in the first two films. You can also find the Godric’s Hollow Potter family home in the village.
5 – Penshurst, Kent
The village of Penshurst is beautifully situated between the rivers Medway and Eden and the surrounding countryside is excellent for walking. The village has grown up around the ancient Penshurst Place. Its Great Hall dates from 1340 when Sir John de Pulteney, a rich London merchant who was four times Mayor of London began building work. Although the house was extended in Tudor times, it is considered to be one of the finest and most complete medieval manor houses in England.
Penshurst village is home to the original Leicester Square, which is surrounded by timbered and tile-hung Tudor cottages. The square was named after the Elizabethan Earl of Leicester, Sir Philip Sidney, who also gave his name to Leicester Square in London. The Sidney family still live at Penshurst Place today and have been in continuous occupation for more than 460 years, although the public can now look round.
Penshurst is brimming with places to eat and drink. There is a very characterful pub which is covered in ivy located in the centre of Penshurst. On the hill above the village, there are a couple of lovely pubs which do a fine selection of food and drink – The Spotted Dog and The Bottle House Inn.
6 – Ramsgill, North Yorkshire
Ramsgill lies 4 miles north of Pateley Bridge and is situated next to the beautiful Gouthwaite Reservoir. It is a picturesque and peaceful village with some of the cottage window frames painted a photogenic bright yellow.
The land was originally owned by monks but after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, the village came into the hands of the Yorke family – a family of merchants from London. The village inn – the Yorke Arms – still bears their name today and is definitely worth a visit for lunch or a drink mid walk. The grey stone cottages mostly date from the 1840s and surround a picturesque village green which comes alive in the springtime with splashes of yellow daffodils.
7 – Snowshill, Gloucestershire
Snowshill is a delightful little village near Broadway in the heart of open Cotswolds countryside. The village saw the height of its prosperity in the 14th century through the wool trade because of the vast flocks of sheep which were kept in the surrounding fields. The church of St Barnabas was rebuilt in 1864.
Also in Snowshill is the National Trust’s Snowshill Manor, a Tudor manor house and now full of collections of musical instruments, clocks, toys and bicycles.
Nearby is the famous Cotswold Lavender Farm which overlooks Broadway and the picturesque Vale of Evesham. Founded in 1999, the farm now plants over 40 varieties of lavender and creates 140 miles of lavender rows each summer. This year, it is open from 10 June – 5 August. Don’t forget to pick up a lavender-themed sweet treat from the tea room after you’ve taken in the lavender and wild flowers! Make sure you arrive at opening to avoid the crowds.
8 – Turville, Buckinghamshire
Arguably the most attractive village in the beautiful Chiltern Hills, Turville was first recorded in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle in 796 as ‘Thyrefeld’ which means ‘dry field’. The village is full of idyllic 16th-century red brick and timber and half-timbered cottages which surround a tiny green. The best time to visit is definitely summer when all the cottages are decorated in luscious green foliage and vibrant blooms.
Turville is a popular spot with film and TV crews having been used as the backdrop to scenes in ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’, ‘An Education’, ‘Miss Marple’, ‘Midsomer Murders’ (a plaque on the village pub commemorates its role as the setting of last sightings of a victim before his murder), ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ (possibly the reason why the village and its church look so familiar!) and most recently ‘Killing Eve’ to name but a few.
Cobstone Windmill, situated on the top of a hill which towers above the village, features in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. You can walk up the hill – be careful it’s rather steep! – but sadly you can’t get access to see the windmill close up as it is still part of a private farm. We can recommend the village pub, The Bull & Butcher, for a hearty pub lunch after a walk to the windmill or during a location tour of the local area.
9 – Uffington, Oxfordshire
Uffington is a quaint and picturesque village which is home to some of the most beautiful thatched cottages and ideally located with fantastic views of the Uffington White Horse which was cut into the chalk of White Horse Hill. Many cottages in the village look like they come straight from a picture book. They are thatched, often with gorgeous animal finials on the ridge, and some are built from ‘clunch’ which is a form of chalk pebble found on or just below the surface of the surrounding land.
The former poet laureate, John Betjeman, lived in Uffington in the 1930s and his poem, ‘Village Wedding’, is about a wedding which took place in there. Another notable former resident is Thomas Hughes, the author of ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’. He was born in Uffington in 1822 and the village school mentioned in the novel survives as the Tom Brown School Museum which houses history about both writers as well as the village and surrounding area throughout history. The village of Uffington is clustered around one of the most beautiful churches in England. Uffington Parish Church, built in 1250, is known as the ‘Cathedral of the Vale’ and, unusually, has an octagonal tower.
10 – Wentworth, South Yorkshire
Wentworth, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire, is home to a selection of cosy-looking cottages as well as Wentworth Woodhouse which is a great 18th century mansion and which boasts one of the longest frontages in England at an incredible 600 feet long.
The village dates back to at least 1066 when it was mentioned in the Domesday Book. Its most famous cottages are beautifully placed around a garden courtyard and their doors and gutters frames are painted in a gorgeous dark green.
We hope this has inspired you to head out and discover some new places this year! Are there any villages you think we should add to our own 2020 bucket list? Let us know in the comments!