Top 10 UK VillagesPosted: 2009-06-09
Some people enjoy the bustle of the big city. Not me. I love the quiet of the countryside. My idea of a great day out is to poke my nose into an old medieval parish church, wander country lanes and footpaths, and fetch up at a village pub for a good pint at the end of the day.
Over the past several years I've had the good fortune to indulge in just that sort of thing in almost every corner of the UK. Along the way, I've enjoyed some pretty wonderful villages. Here are some of my favourites, in no particular order:
10. Dunster, Somerset
Dunster has been described as a village lost in the Middle Ages. There's a certain truth in that, though I'm not so sure the Middle Ages had quite so many tea shops! A superb castle overlooks Dunster, and a short stroll from the castle leads to a medieval packhorse bridge. In the centre of the village is a beautiful timber-framed butter cross, and on the edge of Dunster stands an old preaching cross.
9. Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire
The old mill at Lower Slaughter shows up on calendars and postcards with alarming frequency, but it's easy to see why. The River Eye meanders - I can't really call its slow, peaceful pace 'flowing' - past beautiful cottages of Cotswold limestone. Small footbridges lead across the river to a lovely old village hall. There are two country hotels in the village, but you'd never know it; its the sort of place where nothing seems to happen, and thank goodness for that!
8. Malham, Yorkshire
A popular destination for walkers, situated on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. There is a park visitor centre at the edge of Malham. Two pubs stand on the edge of a small triangular green, and a ford runs across the river, past the door of a small village shop. Trails lead to Malham Cove, a horseshoe-shaped cliff with limestone pavement atop.
7. Carew, Pembrokeshire
A small village east of Pembroke, Carew is blessed with a superb medieval castle which was later 'updated' with huge Elizabethan windows. The shell of the castle looks out across a placid mill pond, while a surviving water mill stands at one end of the pond. At the other end, near the castle entrance, is the Carew Cross, a marvellously carved Celtic cross that looks down at the village pub across the road.
6. Stein, Isle of Skye
Stein is a hamlet more than a village. It stands midway along the glorious Watenish peninsula on the west coast of the Isle of Skye. On the waterfront is a wonderful 18th-century inn, from where, if you are lucky, you can watch one of the glorious sunsets for which Waternish is famous.
5. Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire
A quiet backwater near Witney, Minster Lovell stands on the eastern edge of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, which means the cottages are largely built of warm-toned Cotswold stone. The ruins of a Jacobean manor house stand beside a slow-moving stream behind the medieval church, and trails lead along the stream for lovely walks.
4. Lulworth, Dorset
Lulworth gets a lot of visitors, most of whom come to visit the natural sea arch known as Durdle Door. A walk along the coast from Durdle Door leads you to the circular harbour of Lulworth itself. A few miles away is Lulworth Castle, but if you prefer natural attractions to man-made, keep walking along the coast to a series of petrified trees by the shore, or a bit further to Mupe Bay, where knife-edged rock formations jut out into the sea.
3. Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon
Famous for the 'Uncle Tom Cobley and all' nursery rhyme, Widecombe is the largest village on Dartmoor. The lovely old parish church, which is known as the Cathedral of the Moors, boasts beautifully carved medieval roof bosses. Near the small green are a medieval village hall, a friendly shop, and a jolly good pub!
2. Glenridding, Cumbria
Glenridding, on the western shore of Ullswater, is one of the most popular destinations for keen walkers in the Lake District. Trails lead from the village to some of the best routes in the national park, including the trail up Helvellyn by way of Striding Edge. Glenridding is the southern terminus of the Ullswater Steamer, and a popular boating area, but what I love best about Glenridding is the incredible beauty of the place as you walk along the lake on a peaceful summer evening.
1. Castle Acre, Norfolk
You approach the village of Castle Acre through an old medieval gateway, and find yourself in the centre of the village. To one side is the site of an old Norman castle. To the other side is a long village green, leading to the ruins of a medieval abbey. Beside the green is n attractive pub, on the other, the medieval parish church.
Note, I didn't say that these villages are in any way 'the best'! They are just my personal favourites at the moment! What are your favourites?