Pretty places to visit for the bank holiday

Last minute days out for the early May bank holiday

If you're looking to get away for a day or maybe a bank holiday weekend in 2024, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve compiled a list of pretty places to visit in England that range from chocolate-box villages with skew-whiff structures to bustling cities with Medieval charm. Ready? Let’s dive in. 


Pretty villages in England: Follow in the footsteps of royalty

Broadway, Worcestershire

This famous Cotswold beauty spot, dominated by a wide main street lined with ancient honey-coloured buildings housing antique shops, restaurants and boutique hotels, is the ideal place for a summer weekend away. Peruse Broadway village before taking a walk up to Broadway Tower, which stands a scarp overlooking the town. At 312 metres high, you’ll be treated to beautiful views across multiple counties. Snowshill Manor is another must-visit, with its pretty terraced gardens and Aladdin’s cave filled with fascinating treasures, while the rolling fields of Cotswold Lavender are perfect for a picnic. If you’re here for the night, book a room at The Lygon Arms Hotel – this Cotswold institution has previously hosted both Charles I and Oliver Cromwell.

Find more Cotswolds towns and villages

Pretty cities in England: Be part of The Canterbury Tales

Canterbury, Kent

Stroll around streets mentioned by Chaucer in this rich literary city in Kent. As well as cobbled roads, beautiful pavement cafés and lovely green spaces, Canterbury is also home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites, Canterbury Cathedral, the Church of St Martin (said to be the oldest church in the English-speaking world) and the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey. If you only have time to visit one, make it the former. Its Romanesque and Gothic architecture is a treat for the eye (and the camera) and also sports an Anthony Gormley structure, ‘TRANSPORT’ that suspends above the first tomb of murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket. Take a punting trip to learn more about this historic city, before winding up at The Old Weavers’ House, a restaurant overlooking the River Stour where you can glimpse a ducking stool used to test and punish those accused of witchcraft.

Find more bank holiday breaks in Kent

Pretty villages in England: Escape to an island village

Shanklin, Isle of Wight

Famous for its lively annual regatta, Shanklin is another on our list of places to visit this summer. Wander past the thatched cottages in the Old Village, many housing cute tea rooms and old-school pubs, and look out for arts and crafts studios and shops selling local trinkets. If the sun’s out, grab your bucket and spade and head down to Shanklin Beach, or keep cool in the wooded ravine of Shanklin Chine. This unique gorge is the Isle of Wight’s oldest visitor attraction and is filled with beautiful rare plants, red squirrels and a mesmerising waterfall. When you’re ready for a bite to eat, walk along the seafront to Fisherman’s Cottage, trading since the early 1800s, its fish and chips are some of the best on the island.

Find more things to do on the Isle of Wight

Pretty towns in England: Drop by a dreamy Devonshire town

Dartmouth, Devon

From enchanting streets filled with skew-whiff Tudor and Medieval buildings (The Cherub pub built in 1380 is particularly mesmerising), to the pastel-coloured houses perched on the banks of the River Dart, Dartmouth is something out of a storybook. Explore the town on foot or take to the water on a kayaking or paddleboarding trip, before sinking into the sand at nearby beaches like Blackpool Sands Beach or Sugary Cove. Dartmouth Castle, guarding the entrance to the Dart Estuary, is also worth a visit, while a ride on the Dartmouth Steam Railway is the perfect way to pay homage to the inventor of steam engines, Thomas Newcomen, who was born in Dartmouth.

Find more things to do in Dartmouth

Pretty villages in England: Step into a storybook village

Lavenham, Suffolk

Full of wonderfully wonky buildings, the medieval timbered village of Lavenham in Suffolk was once one of England’s richest settlements, thanks to its famous wool and blue broadcloth trade. Today, there are over 300 listed buildings – including the remarkably well-preserved Guildhall – with many housing boutique shops, galleries and upscale eateries like The Great House, which specialises in traditional French cuisine. One of the most distinctive houses was depicted in the Harry Potter film series as Harry’s birthplace in Godric’s Hollow. If the sun’s out, take in some of the village’s awe-inspiring architecture with The National Trust’s Crooked Houses Walk, whose structures have shifted over the centuries.  

See more bank holiday breaks in Suffolk

Pretty cities in England: Visit a charming Medieval metropolis

Norwich, Norfolk

As England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, it’s no surprise Norwich’s cobbled streets and boutique shopping lanes look like they’ve come straight out of a fairytale. Elm Hill, lined with olde-worlde merchants’ houses, is just one of these and is moments away from the magnificent Norwich Cathedral, famous for its Romanesque design and secret Medieval graffiti. Tap into your regal side with afternoon tea at the Assembly House or go shopping underneath the colourful canopy of Norwich Market, one of the oldest open-air markets in the country. If you want some peace and quiet, leave the city to traverse The Broads National Park by boat where you’ll glide around miles of rivers and marshes teeming with wildlife.

Find more things to do in Norwich

Pretty towns in England: Get to know Shakespeare

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Hometown of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon has a lot to shout about. From Shakespeare’s Birthplace to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, this romantic market town is home to both the Bard’s inspiration and legacies. Experience the sights, sounds and smells of a Tudor farm at Mary Arden’s Farm (the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother), take a cruise along the River Avon or relax with a market-stall lunch on the grassy river banks. Don’t forget to buy tickets to one of Bill’s shows at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Spend the bank holiday in Stratford-upon-Avon

Pretty villages in England: Snoop around a Midsomer Murders village

Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire

Voted as the best place to live in Buckinghamshire, Long Crendon may well be the perfect English village. Thatched cottages and a 15th-century courthouse are interspersed with top-notch pubs and restaurants like The Angel – a 16th-century coaching inn serving decadent dishes like Thai-spiced Tiger prawn risotto with parmesan crackling. The village has its own brewery as well. It’s so picturesque, in fact, that it is regularly featured as a backdrop for the long-running detective drama Midsomer Murders

Find more bank holiday breaks in Buckinghamshire

Pretty cities in England: Relive Roman life

St Albans, Hertfordshire

St Albans isn’t only a must-visit because of its rich Roman heritage, but also for its bustling market vibes. This Hertfordshire city was the first formalised Roman municipality in Britain and remnants of its Roman life can be seen throughout, from the Roman Theatre ruins to mosaics at the Verulamium Museum. Its Norman cathedral – complete with Roman bricks and Gothic arches – is also a draw as are its numerous watering holes, like The Peahen and Britain’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks. Be sure to visit on Wednesday or Saturday to peruse the street market and stay after sunset for the vibrant nightlife.


Have a bank holiday break in Hertfordshire

Pretty towns in England: Peruse peculiar shopping streets

Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Shropshire’s county capital, and birthplace of Charles Darwin, is much more than a typical Tudor town. Bordered by a meandering loop of the River Severn, Shrewsbury’s centre is home to timber-framed mansions lining quirky streets with equally quirky names like Wyle Cop, Grope Lane and Dogpole. Fuel up at The Cat’s Pyjamas – the town’s hottest brunch spot – before perusing Shrewsbury’s skew-whiff streets, keeping an eye out for faces engraved into these historic buildings – a tradition that was started by Tudor craftsmen who carved rebellious characters into the walls. This practice is still alive and kicking today, so you may even be able to spot the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Mick Jagger.

Enjoy a bank holiday in Shropshire

Pretty places in England: Get to know a London village

Hampstead, London

Nestled beside the leafy wilds of Hampstead Heath is its namesake village of Hampstead. Cosy pubs, cobbled streets and upscale boutiques make up this urban area in north London, and while it’s been known to have residents including the likes of Ricky Gervais, George Michael and Emma Thompson, Hampstead offers so much more than just pretty buildings and famous faces. Visit the former home of John Keats to discover the inspiration behind the Romantic poet’s works or nose around Kenwood House, a stately home turned art museum standing proud at the top of the Heath. Be sure to grab a snack from La Creperie De Hampstead, a local institution doling out a delicious selection of sweet and savoury pancakes, or go for a sit-down meal at The Spaniard’s Inn. Rumoured to be the birthplace of highwayman Dick Turpin, this iconic pub has been immortalised by Dickens in The Pickwick Papers and comes with a lovely walled beer garden.

Find more London villages

Pretty villages in England: Unearth rare gems in Derbyshire

Castleton, Derbyshire

You’ll find this hidden gem in the heart of the Peak District, overlooked by Mam Tor (known by locals as the Shivering Mountain) and the rugged ruins of Peveril Castle, a Norman fortress completed in 1086 for William Peveril, a favoured knight of William the Conquerer. Castleton prospered from lead mining – the closest, Odin Mine, now has four show caves open to the public – and is the only place in the world where the semi-precious Blue John stone can be found. Surrounded by rolling hills, this charming hamlet also has a good handful of pubs including Ye Olde Nags Head and is the starting point for walks up to Winnats Pass and Cave Dale.

Discover more of the Peak District

Pretty villages in England: Explore Lancashire’s most scenic hamlet

Downham, Lancashire

Lying at the bottom of Pendle Hill in the Forest of Bowland is Downham, often hailed as the prettiest place to visit in Lancashire. With unrivalled views across to Ribble Valley, a babbling brook and no aerials, overhead wires or road signs in sight, it’s easy to see why. Lacking all signs of modernity, this popular filming location – most famously used in Whistle Down the Wind – has been under the ownership of the Assheton family since 1558. Ivy-clad cottages line its handful of streets, while a gastropub and a cute tea room welcome locals and visitors alike. If you fancy a ramble, stretch your legs on the Pendle Sculpture Trail where you’ll discover the fascinating true story of England’s biggest witch hunt over 400 years ago.

Find a bank holiday escape in Lancashire

Pretty villages in England: Tuck into The Cotswolds

Kingham, Oxfordshire

Bordered by photogenic limestone cottages with pastel-painted doors, this Cotswold village in Oxfordshire’s Evenlode Valley has plenty of country charm. There’s a wide-open village green, a very good-looking local shop and an intriguing Norman church with a 17th-century rectory. Daylesford Organic is based here too – an ultra-chic farm shop stocking fresh produce and irresistible cakes. Other foodie hotspots include The Wild Rabbit, a reputable gastropub with crackling log fires and a constantly changing menu and the annual Big Feastival, one of the UK’s largest food festivals held each August.

Plan a bank holiday break in the Cotswolds

Pretty villages in England: Uncover stories of smugglers

Polperro, Cornwall

Clusters of colourful cottages cling to steep hillsides in this peaceful fishing village on the east coast of Cornwall. Narrow, traffic-free streets wind down to a harbour dotted with cute shops and seafood restaurants, all with unbeatable views of the Cornish coastline. Once a haven for smugglers and profiteers, this tiny village has a rich boot-legging history. Learn more at the Polperro Heritage Museum or have a meal at the award-winning Blue Peter Inn, a 16th-century pub that was most likely frequented by a smuggler or two in its heyday.

Find more places to visit in Cornwall

Pretty villages in England: Visit Enid Blyton’s staycation haven

Corfe Castle, Dorset

With romantic ruins, secret corners and tales of treachery and treason around every corner, this thousand-year-old royal castle in Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck is one of Britain’s most iconic survivors of the English Civil War, and one of the main draws for visitors to the village – though it’s not the only one. Corfe Castle, on the route between Wareham and Swanage, is also home to postcard-perfect buildings made of local grey Purbeck stone, as well as a small cluster of shops and pubs, and a heritage steam train line. It was also a popular holiday destination for children’s author, Enid Blyton, who featured some local places in her books.

Find more bank holiday ideas in Dorset

Pretty villages in England: Explore a scouse village

Port Sunlight, Merseyside

The story of how Port Sunlight came into being is a reason in itself to visit this fascinating village. William Hesketh Lever, who along with his brother eventually became part of global giant Unilever, originally built the village in 1888 to house workers of the Sunlight Soap Company. Today, the village has no fewer than 900 Grade II-listed buildings and 130 acres of parkland and gardens. Wide boulevards are flanked by structures from nearly every period of British architecture and the world-class Lady Lever Art Gallery is home to an array of paintings and sculptures. Pay a visit to the Port Sunlight Museum to learn more about the village’s history or have a mosey around a market at Hulme Hall, the venue that hosted Ringo Starr’s first performance with The Beatles in 1962.

Spend the bank holiday in Liverpool

Pretty villages in England: Watch Morris dancing in Thaxted

Thaxted, Essex

Steeply pitched roofs and chimneys, 17th-century parish almshouses, a pre-Tudor Guildhall and a beautiful windmill boldly stand out against the surrounding mosaic of a yellow and green countryside. But despite Thaxted’s 1,000-year-old architectural history, it’s the thriving community spirit that makes this East Anglian village pretty special. In true English spirit, you’ll find a resident band of Morris dancers here and a small, friendly population that meet in the village’s few shops, restaurants and pubs that reside on quaint streets, many still bearing their age-old descriptive names, like Fishmarket Street and Stoney Lane.

Discover more bank holiday breaks in Essex

Pretty towns in England: Unwind in a Yorkshire market town

Helmsley, North Yorkshire

A bustling market square, dramatic castle ruins, charming tea rooms and award-winning restaurants make Helmsley – the North York Moors National Park’s only market town – more than weekend worthy. Explore the five acres of Helmsley Walled Gardens or meet eagles, owls and more at the National Centre for Birds of Prey before sitting down to imaginative food-from-scratch at eco-conscious Bantam Restaurant. Helmsley is also just an arrow shot from two magnificent monasteries – Byland Abbey and Rievaulx Abbey – as well as miles of North Yorkshire countryside.

Find more bank holiday breaks in Yorkshire

Pretty villages in England: Pop by the friendliest port in England

Amble, Northumberland

Perched on the southern gateway to the Northumberland Coast Area of Natural Beauty, Amble is a picture-perfect harbour town known for its seafood shacks, pastel-painted beach huts and annual puffin festival. The award-winning marina is also home to wooden huts selling everything from cheese to bracelets, salty fish and chips to gourmet ice cream. Explore the coastline by kayak and keep an eye out for the puffins, seals and seabirds that dwell on it before filling up on fresh seafood under the fishnet and fairy light-strewn ceiling of The Fish Shack.

Find more places to visit in Northumberland

Pretty villages in England: Learn to cook in an ancient village

Great Milton, Oxfordshire

Dotted with period houses and thatched cottages, the ancient village of Great Milton near Oxford is spread across three roads that intersect at a small green at their centre. The community dates back as far as 1086 and has been home to several notable figures over the years, and one famous current resident, chef Raymond Blanc, uses a historical manor house as a cookery school, hotel and double Michelin-starred restaurant, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. Why not take a short course? You’ll be in good hands as this is where both Heston Blumenthal and Marco Pierre White started out. The nearby Harcourt Arboretum is great for a post-meal walk which, in the spring, is a blaze of colour thanks to its azaleas and rhododendrons.

Find more bank holiday breaks in Oxfordshire

Pretty towns in England: Visit a cinema in the woods

Woodhall Spa

A former spa town nestled in picturesque pine woods owned by The Woodland Trust, Woodhall Spa is a one of  Lincolnshire's most charming places to visit. It's famous for its quirky cinema 'Kinema in the Woods' which is also home to the Compton Kinestra organ, played during intervals if you're lucky. Other heritage sites include the super-cute Cottage Museum and leafy Jubilee Park, which has an outdoor heated swimming pool. Aviation enthusiasts can discover various heritage sites associated with 617 Squadron, whilst keen golfers will be familiar with Woodhall Spa as the birthplace of amateur golf in England and the home of the world-renowned Hotchkin course, consistently ranked among the top 50 courses in the world. 

Find more bank holiday breaks in Lincolnshire
12 Jul 2024(last updated)

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  • 1

    Broadway, Worcestershire

  • 2

    Canterbury, Kent

  • 3

    Shanklin, Isle of Wight

  • 4

    Dartmouth, Devon

  • 5

    Lavenham, Suffolk

  • 6

    Norwich, Norfolk

  • 7

    Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

  • 8

    Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire

  • 9

    St Albans, Hertfordshire

  • 10

    Shrewsbury, Shropshire

  • 11

    Hampstead, London

  • 12

    Castleton, Derbyshire

  • 13

    Downham, Lancashire

  • 14

    Kingham, Oxfordshire

  • 15

    Polperro, Cornwall

  • 16

    Corfe Castle, Dorset

  • 17

    Port Sunlight, Merseyside

  • 18

    Thaxted, Essex

  • 19

    Helmsley, North Yorkshire

  • 20

    Amble, Northumberland

  • 21

    Great Milton, Oxfordshire

  • 22

    Woodhall Spa

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