From coastal communities to countryside settlements, Britain’s villages are as different as they are delightful.
The dictionary definition of a village is simple: a collection of houses and buildings that is smaller than a town, larger than a hamlet, and in a rural setting. The real picture, however, is far more difficult to define. Britain’s villages are more akin to a patchwork quilt of fabrics in every size, shape and pattern imaginable. Each one has a charm and a character all of its own, and for visitors that’s precisely where the appeal lies.
This difference is strikingly clear when one moves between neighbouring regions. Just as dialects vary from one postcode to another, so too do the village scenes. From humble cob houses with neatly thatched roofs to rows of half-timbered houses criss-crossed with extravagant patterns, Britain’s villages are a living, breathing embodiment of the country’s rich history.
Indeed, no cluster of buildings, tangle of streets or intersection of roads is the same from one village to the next; what Britain’s bigger towns and cities boast in uniformity and precision, its villages counter in variation and charm. Here is our pick of five villages whose beauty lies in their uniqueness – just be sure to take a camera.
Endorsements don’t come much better than from a certain William Morris, who once declared Bibury “the most beautiful village in England”. Indeed, the designer isn’t the only one to have fallen in love with this typical Cotswold village just a short drive from Cirencester.
Perhaps the most photographed of its chocolate-box scenes is Arlington Row, a string of cottages built in 1380 as a monastic wool store and later converted into weavers’ cottages. Emperor Hirohito is said to have stayed here and fallen in love with them, Henry Ford liked the cottages so much he tried to ship them over to the US, and you might just recognise them if you’ve ever left the country: a blue-hued version of the row has graced the inside cover of British passports since 2010.
Elsewhere in the village, life centres on the square of St Mary’s Church – an ancient building with a charming combination of Saxon, Norman and medieval influences – on the banks of the River Coln, which runs through the village, and the vast expanse of Bibury Trout Farm. The latter takes in 15 acres of the Coln Valley, one of the most beautiful in the Cotswolds.