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Cars & travel.

15 September 2021

The UK’s best towns and villages

Readers rated inland locations to visit including Wells, Castle Combe, Hay-on-Wye and Aberfeldy for scenery, food and drink options and more
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Which?Editorial team

Whether you’re keen to visit a destination that offers rural serenity, an array of independent shops, or a slice of British history, the best-rated towns and villages in the UK all have something unique to offer visitors.

Several well-regarded inland towns and villages in our recent survey have famous connections too. John Constable painted the water meadows of Dedham. Robert Burns wrote songs about Aberfeldy. Plus, poet William Wordsworth was so taken with the beauty of Grasmere that he moved there. 

However, the top rated village in a recent survey by 5,333 Which? readers, has few artistic connections. Instead, it offers a glimpse into England’s pre-historic past, housing the largest stone circle in the world. That, plus its traditional village feel may explain why it’s a Which? readers’ favourite.

UK towns and villages rated


Food & drink
Tourist attractions
Attractiveness
Scenery
Peace & quiet
Destination score
Avebury, Wiltshire
-
90%
Castle Combe, Wiltshire
-
-
88%
Wells, Somerset
88%
Saltaire, Yorkshire
87%
Castleton, Derbyshire
86%
Ironbridge, Shropshire
86%
Grasmere, Cumbria
85%
Hawes, Yorkshire
85%
Dedham, Essex
84%
Hay-on-Wye, Powys (W)
-
-
84%
Corfe Castle, Dorset
83%
Ely, Cambridgeshire
83%
Keswick, Cumbria
83%
Lavenham, Suffolk
83%
Ludlow, Shropshire
83%
Aberfeldy, Perthshire (S)
-
-
82%
Ambleside, Cumbria 
82%
Arundel, West Sussex
82%
Port Sunlight, Merseyside
82%
Salisbury, Wiltshire
82%
Alnwick, Northumberland
81%
Bakewell, Derbyshire
80%
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
80%
Pitlochry, Perthshire (S)
-
-
80%
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
80%
Barnard Castle, County Durham
79%
Burford, Oxfordshire
79%
Cartmel, Cumbria
79%
Hawkshead, Cumbria
79%
Stamford, Lincolnshire
79%
Buxton, Derbyshire
78%
Woodbridge, Suffolk
78%
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire (W)
77%
Malvern, Worcestershire
77%
Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire
77%
Lewes, East Sussex
77%
Sherborne, Dorset
77%
Windsor, Berkshire
77%
Brecon, Powys (W)
76%
Shaftesbury, Dorset
76%
Totnes, Devon
76%
Beaulieu, Hampshire
75%
Lower & Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire
75%
Windermere, Cumbria
75%
Betws-y-Coed, Conwy (W)
74%
Marlborough, Wiltshire
74%
Truro, Cornwall
74%
Woodstock, Oxfordshire
-
74%
Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire
73%
Chepstow, Monmouthshire (W)
-
-
-
73%
Fort William, Highlands (S)
73%
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
73%
Burnham Market, Norfolk
71%
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
71%
Dorchester, Dorset
70%
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
70%
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
66%
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire
65%
Bodmin, Cornwall
-
-
-
55%

USING THE TABLE: Destination score: combines overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend. A dash (-) indicates the sample size was too small to calculate a rating. Sample size too small to include any Northern Irish locations. Coastal destinations covered in separate survey here.

The best-rated town or village in the UK: Avebury, Wiltshire, 90%

The stone circle in Avebury, Wiltshire

Avebury scored five stars for scenery in our survey, possibly because it showcases many of the usual trappings associated with rural England including a thatched pub, a church that dates back over 1,500 years and front gardens full of roses. But it’s also home to the largest stone circle in the world. Unlike the better-known Stonehenge, Avebury Stone Circles and Henge has no entry fee and you are free to wander around the ceremonial site, which dates all the way back to around 2850 BC and 2200 BC.

The village also comprises a handful of houses, a couple of B&Bs, a National Trust manor and a 19th-century Greene King pub where you’ll find robed druids sinking pints.


Looking for a seaside? All the villages and towns in this visitor survey are inland. For bucket-and-spade getaways, see the results of our seaside survey


Joint second best-rated town or village in the UK: Castle Combe, Wiltshire, 88%

Castle Combe, Wiltshire

It’s no surprise that the pretty English village of Castle Combe was rated five stars in our survey for attractiveness and scenery.

Centuries-old houses with warped slate roofs line twisting lanes. A comfortable pub and a couple of shops offer sustenance for the many visitors. A stone bridge rises above a gurgling stream and the 15th-century church is backed by beech woodland.

Castle Combe looks as though it has been constructed as a film set and has in fact appeared in countless cinematic productions, including War Horse and Downton Abbey.

Joint second best-rated town or village in the UK: Wells, Somerset, 88%

Cathedral in Wells, Somserset

The awe-inspiring cathedral at the heart of Wells bumps it up to ‘city’ status, but the scale and charm of the place feels more like a medieval country town.

The 13th-century cathedral, with its elaborately carved west façade, is an outstanding example of early English Gothic architecture. Vicars’ Close nearby is a rare example of a complete medieval street and is still inhabited by priests. More secular pleasures are to be found at the twice weekly markets, and these fascinating crowd-pleasers combined are likely why Wells scored five out of five for tourist attractions.

Best-rated town or village in Wales: Hay-on-Wye, Powys, 84%

Book shops in Hay-on-Wye, Powys

This Welsh border town has appealed to creative types for decades, pulled by the dramatic five-star-rated scenery of the Black Mountains and the beauty of the River Wye. 

It was a sleepy place until bookseller Richard Booth transformed it into the world’s first Book Town, opening numerous shops and declaring himself King of Hay in the process. Now, once a year, Hay’s population swells to 10,000 as book lovers pile in for the literary festival.

As well as bookshops, there are numerous farm and foodie shops, cafés and pubs, and a market taking place on Thursdays. 

Best-rated town or village in Scotland: Aberfeldy, Perthshire, 82%

Bridge in Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland

Robert Burns was so fond of the scenery around Aberfeldy that he wrote a song lyric about the local landmark, the Birks of Aberfeldy. You’ll find a statue of him at the entrance to the walk to the waterfalls.

But there is more to this thriving town than its notoriety brought by the illustrious poet. It’s Scotland’s first Fairtrade Town, with retailers promoting environmentally friendly products. Its bookshop, The Watermill, is housed in a converted oatmeal mill and has an art gallery on the premises. And for those seeking a tipple, Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery on the outskirts runs tours and whisky tastings.