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The prettiest UK towns and villages to visit this spring and summer

Beddgelert, in the heart of Eryri/Snowdonia National Park, Wales  (Getty)
Beddgelert, in the heart of Eryri/Snowdonia National Park, Wales (Getty)

Golden sand beaches, rolling countryside and charming towns and cities are abundant in the UK, providing plenty of opportunities for holidays and day trips.

For anyone who wants to discover somewhere new to take in the sights this summer, the quieter wonders of lesser-known inland and coastal locations are well worth exploring.

Pastel houses, ancient castles and cobbled streets dot fairytale towns and picturesque villages in the UK, with hidden gems delighting in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – after all, who doesn’t want to upgrade their afternoon tea view?

From streets filled with bookshops to small-town home-from-homes in national parks and quaint island shores for water sports enthusiasts, there are plenty of eye-catching towns and villages slightly off the usual UK tourist path.

With options for charming strolls past traditional thatched houses and awe-inspiring architecture so plentiful, The Independent has pulled together a list of 12 of the UK’s prettiest towns and villages to visit this summer.

Read more on UK travel:

Castle Combe, Cotswolds

The quintessentially English village sits in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Getty/iStock)
The quintessentially English village sits in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Getty/iStock)

The picturesque Cotswolds village of Castle Combe is the image of a quintessential English town, with quaint streets, stone houses and lush greenery – perfect for scenic walks – all staples of a stay. Surrounded by the Cotswolds Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, the bridged village is home to stunning 13th-century churches, traditional pubs and intimate bed and breakfasts. and the tranquil environment is a popular setting for blockbusters including Stardust and War Horse – it’s no wonder the charming area is regualrly voted the most beautiful in the UK.

Where to stay

The Old Museum offers unrivalled charm, character and home comforts. The rustic holiday home features one double bedroom, comfortable seating areas and a fully equipped kitchenette. The area is perfect for hiking, and guests benefit from amenities in the idyllic local village just a short stroll away.

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Portmeirion, Gwynedd

The picturesque town was inspired by Italian architecture (Getty/iStock)
The picturesque town was inspired by Italian architecture (Getty/iStock)

Portmeirion, a charming Italian-style village in Gwynedd, is an ideal spot for a relaxed weekend in North Wales. The coastal village was created by architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1925 – with the project completed around 50 years later – as an example of architecture’s ability to enhance natural beauty rather than destroy it. The pastel buildings, piazza and Gwyllt Japanese gardens will take you from rural Wales to Italy, Japan and back without ever having to leave the UK.

Where to stay

Portmeirion Village & Castell Deudraeth sits on a private peninsula overlooking the Dywryd Estuary. The hotel has an award-winning brasserie, acres of woodland and is close to Eryri/Snowdonia National Park. A spa, on-site bar, quirky room decor and a complimentary breakfast welcome visitors to the unique Welsh locale.

Port Isaac, Cornwall

Port Isaac is famous for being the set of ‘Doc Martin’ (Getty/iStock)
Port Isaac is famous for being the set of ‘Doc Martin’ (Getty/iStock)

Narrow winding streets and whitewashed cottages line the 14th-century fishing harbour of Port Isaac. The quaint Cornish haven, which acts as the setting for the popular TV series Doc Martin, is the perfect place for fishing, boat trips and coastal walks in the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coastline. The surroundings of gentle hills and rugged Cornish cliffs complement the neatly packed streets, themselves lined with charming boutiques, sweet shops and traditional bars and restaurants.

Where to stay

Port Gaverne, a 17th-century hotel and restaurant, features cosy rooms with nautical decor just a five-minute walk from Port Isaac. The coastal accents and traditional old bar cultivate a quirky character – fitting for the ancient fishing village.

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull’s capital inspired the colourful houses of ‘Balamory’ (Getty)
The Isle of Mull’s capital inspired the colourful houses of ‘Balamory’ (Getty)

The Isle of Mull’s capital, Tobermory, is fringed by dense woodland. Experience the CBeebies childhood classic Balamory in real life here – the rainbow houses were based on Tobermory’s colourful waterfront – and with rows of vibrant townhouses, it’s clear to see why they stood out. Boat trips from Tobermory give you the opportunity to get up close to the Scottish isle’s natural beauty, as well as see a range of extraordinary wildlife, including puffins, whales, eagles and otters.

Where to stay

Western Isles Hotel boasts a relaxed atmosphere, great local cuisine and sea views across Tobermory Harbour. Spacious doubles and family suites are fitted with comfortable beds and walk-in showers, and breakfast is included in the price of your stay.

Portrush, County Antrim

Historic cafes, pastel townhouses and a ballroom dot the coast of Portrush (Getty)
Historic cafes, pastel townhouses and a ballroom dot the coast of Portrush (Getty)

Portrush, a small seaside town in County Antrim, is home to idyllic white sand beaches and pastel houses, all set on a mile-long peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The once-humble fishing village is the perfect base to explore Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway Coastal Route making it a popular spot for holidaymakers in peak season – especially since the dramatic medieval ruins at Dunluce Castle were used as a filming location in Game of Thrones.

Where to stay

Just 800m from Whiterocks Beach, Elephant Rock Hotel exudes quirky character and Irish charm. Buffet breakfasts are included in your stay, while a terrace, in-house bar and lounge await guests staying in the stylish sea-view rooms.

Cockington, Devon

Thatched-roof houses are common in Cockington (Getty)
Thatched-roof houses are common in Cockington (Getty)

The chocolate-box village of Cockington sits beside popular Torquay on the so-called “English Riviera”. Old thatched cottages, rural countryside and Cockington Court manor house conjure an atmosphere of traditional English charm – best enjoyed with a Devon cream tea at The Drum Inn. Take a walk back in time, past the romantic water mill, Norman churches and cricket green, away from the hustle of city life.

Where to stay

Orestone Manor is a charming country house that features sea-view suites, private hot tubs and inviting Georgian decor. Neighbouring a secluded sandy beach, Orestone is a 15-minute drive from the centre of Cockington.

Lavenham, Suffolk

Crooked timber frame houses line the streets of Lavenham (Getty)
Crooked timber frame houses line the streets of Lavenham (Getty)

One of the best preserved medieval villages in England, Lavenham in the Suffolk countryside is formed of timbered cottages, 15th-century churches and magical woodlands. The market square is lined with Tudor architecture, listed buildings and independent local shops that once traded wool (and now sell quilted jackets). Famous for its role as Godric’s Hollow in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, the charming backdrop of cosy tea rooms, a traditional English guildhall and crooked houses are not to be missed on a picturesque UK staycation.

Where to stay

Rectory Manor offers world-class service and elegant rooms in Great Waldingfield. The manor features an outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts and spacious rooms with garden views for a taste of luxury in the English countryside.

Hay-on-Wye, Powys

The bookshop capital of the UK, Hay-on-Wye is renowned for its literature (Getty Images)
The bookshop capital of the UK, Hay-on-Wye is renowned for its literature (Getty Images)

This one is for all bookworms, bibliophiles and collectors. World-renowned as the “town of books”, the market village of Hay-on-Wye – on the border between England and Wales – not only boasts more than 20 bookshops, but also enchanting streets, galleries and Hay Castle. This literature hotspot and cultural hub has second-hand and antiquarian bookshops that open year-round, and its location on the River Wye means that you’re only a short stroll away from secluded reading spots hidden in the hills and woods of Brecknockshire.

Where to stay

If exposed wooden beams, stone fireplaces and a rich history are your accommodation desires, then The Old Black Lion Inn is just the place for you. A neighbour to the Lion Gate – an original access point to the walled Hay-on-Wye – and walks in the Bannau Brycheiniog, traditional rooms are the ideal space to cosy up with a good book.

Portree, Isle of Skye

Portree is the largest town on the Isle of Skye, Scotland (Getty)
Portree is the largest town on the Isle of Skye, Scotland (Getty)

The Isle of Skye’s capital, Portree, sits in a sheltered bay surrounded by rolling hills, walking routes and a beautiful loch dotted with boats. A former fishing town, Portree’s rustic harbour is lined with rows of rainbow stone cottages on the waterfront and is a popular base from which to explore the island’s fairy pools, dramatic rock formations and spectacular scenery. Head to Colour House Viewpoint, next to the Royal Hotel, at sunset for the best views across the bay.

Where to stay

A few steps from Portree Bay, Cuillin Hills Hotel boasts spectacular views, an award-winning restaurant, The View, and stylish decor in modern rooms. The calm atmosphere and various whiskies on offer make Cuillin Hills the perfect home-from-home stay on the Isle of Skye.

Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

Enniskillen is sandwiched by the waters of Lough Erne (Getty)
Enniskillen is sandwiched by the waters of Lough Erne (Getty)

The largest town in County Fermanagh has also been named the UK’s friendliest. Enniskillen’s welcoming waterfront setting is a particular attraction, with impressive history to be found in the 15th-century Enniskillen Castle as well as the Marble Arch Caves, which were formed over 340 million years ago and are part of an unmissable natural landscape of rivers, woodlands and waterfalls – all just a short journey from the centre of this Northern Irish jewel. In the town centre, the Enniskillen Buttermarket hosts local jewellers and cafes with Irish produce, and the idyllic area around Lough Erne’s two connected lakes is perfect for a long hike, relaxed stroll, or simple day spent getting away from it all.

Where to stay

Belle Isle Castle and Cottages offers guests a fully equipped kitchen, terrace and car rental service six miles from Enniskillen Castle. There’s the option to stay in courtyard and detached three-bedroom cottages, some with loch views and log-burning stoves.

Whitby, North Yorkshire

The seaside town in Yorkshire has connections to Captain Cook and Dracula (Getty/iStock)
The seaside town in Yorkshire has connections to Captain Cook and Dracula (Getty/iStock)

Whitby’s quirky streets, lively harbour and moorlands are full of captivating character and charm. Pristine sands, the North York Moors National Park and the gothic Whitby Abbey on the East Cliff create a dramatic Yorkshire landscape that begs to be discovered – the pretty seaside town was even a setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In summer, Whitby’s 21 golden beaches are a hit with holidaymakers, with several offering the quintessential British seaside experience – think coloured huts, ice cream vendors and fish and chips galore, all completed by the presence of pesky seagulls. Take a refreshing dip in the sea or catch your breath after taking on the 199 Whitby Abbey steps, which were originally used as a test of Christian faith.

Where to stay

The Horngarth apartment in central Whitby features a clean, spacious king room with a comfortable bed. Just metres from Whitby’s gardens, museums and train station, this is the perfect place to stay for a couple wanting a weekend away.

Beddgelert, Snowdonia

Find stone cottages under a mountain backdrop in North Wales (Getty/iStock)
Find stone cottages under a mountain backdrop in North Wales (Getty/iStock)

Beddgelert, a village built of stone in the heart of Snowdonia, is a spot of classic Welsh beauty. Its proximity to Snowdon, the Welsh Highland Railway and rocky slopes create a back-in-time feel in the picturesque streets. Rumoured to be named after the hound Gelert, a beloved Welsh folktale about Prince Llywelyn’s faithful dog, the town feels just as magical as its namesake. Arched stone bridges zig-zag across the River Colwyn, which you can cross on charming walks to blooming gardens and the Sygun Copper Mine.

Where to stay

Ty Afon River House has 12 cosy bedrooms, complimentary continental breakfasts and leafy gardens. The secluded country house includes a terrace with panoramic views of the North Wales scenery, and Snowdonia’s famous hiking trails are just a short walk from Beddgelert town.