England is brimming with secluded spots and rural retreats. But while Moreton-in-Marsh and Bude are tried and tested choices for many holidaymakers escaping to the countryside, have you ever considered a stay in (or even heard of) Horton-in-Ribblesdale or Icklesham?
No? Then you’re in the right place. These beautiful boltholes are starting to gain in popularity with rentals being snapped up for the summer months. Choose your favourite place from these 20 rural retreats and book a stay now (before someone else does!).
This stone-built town lies on the edge of the Northumberland National Park and the dramatic scenery and windswept hills are the perfect setting for a secluded escape. The best way to explore the area is on foot and there’s an abundance of wonderful walks amidst the local wildlife.
The Cheviot Hills’ luscious landscape is a must-do, but don’t forget to check out the College Valley Estates where you can sit and read a book next to a babbling brook or admire an ancient hill fort. There are some fantastic pubs in the town where you can refresh with a well-deserved drink before putting your feet up at a cosy holiday rental.
Thinking about taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge this year? Then Horton-in-Ribblesdale is an ideal place to stay when taking part in this exhilarating event. The challenge includes the nearby peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough and there are some fantastic holiday homes that offer a relaxing respite after completing the walk. It might go without saying, but the views in this area are breathtaking so it’s worth packing a good pair of walking boots even if you’re not planning on scaling the dizzy heights of the peaks.
The village is also popular with cavers and potholers as there are plenty of places to explore underground. If you fancy simply taking a stroll around the village, there are two pubs, a café, tea rooms and a village store. There’s also a train station so visiting other villages in the Dales is as easy as Yorkshire pudding.
This charming cathedral city is brimming with quirky shops, cute cafés, traditional pubs and tempting restaurants, so everything you’ll need is on your doorstep. There’s plenty to do in and around the area, too. Take a turn around the Spa Gardens in the heart of Ripon where you’ll find some perfect picnic spots, a Victorian bandstand, children’s play area, tennis courts, bowling, crazy golf and a café.
Ripon Cathedral with its amazing architecture and fascinating history is well worth a visit and a day out at Lightwater Valley theme park, just north of Ripon, will keep the whole family entertained for hours. And if you can’t resist a flutter on the horses, hedge your bets at Ripon Racecourse.
This traditional market town close to the North York Moors National Park with its charming cobbled streets and independent shops and cafés is perfect for a romantic weekend away. There are some beautiful book shops, art galleries and antiques shops, too; so if you’re looking for something to adorn your wall at home or want to pick out the perfect gift for someone special, you won’t be disappointed.
There are plenty of things to see and do in Thirsk. The Falconry UK Birds of Prey Centre is home to over 30 species of bird, including eagles, falcons and hawks, so you’ll want to spend the whole day there. If you fancy taking in a movie, Thirsk has its own cinema, The Ritz, where you can catch some new releases and classics. And for a day spent admiring the views, why not have a go at horse riding through the Dales?
For a holiday bursting with culinary delights, book a break in Malton. It’s known as Yorkshire’s foodie capital as its traditional food shops, delis, cookery school and food festivals make it the place to be for all lovers of fine fayre. Visit Bluebird Bakery to get your daily fresh bread. Get a taste of Italy at Groovy Moo Ice Cream and Aldo’s Fresh Pasta. There’s a butchers, a fishmongers, a patisserie and a chocolate shop and much, much more, so it’s fair to say you’ll find everything to keep your taste buds satisfied in Malton.
When you’re not busy eating, explore Wharram Percy Deserted Medieval Village – a peaceful English Heritage site full of history and character – or maybe have a go at pottery painting and create a unique souvenir to take home.
Tackle at the ready! Tattershall is an ideal spot for advanced and novice anglers as there are some excellent fisheries in the area. The lakes here are also fantastic for watersports such as wakeboarding and canoeing, so you’ll probably want to spend lots of time on or near the water in Tattershall.
If you prefer to stay dry, Tattershall Farm Park is a great day out for all the family and Tattershall Castle has a wealth of history to uncover; it’ll keep you entertained for hours. Looking for something completely different? The Kinema in the Woods is just a ten minute drive away – a visit to this unusual cinema is like stepping back in time to the 20s. There are ushers, intervals and, of course, ice creams.
This small village in the Peak District National Park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, walkers and anyone who wants to escape the trappings of the 9-5 for a while. Take a stroll through the magical woodland where you can spot rare species of birds and insects. The Peak Forest canal path is the perfect way to spend a summer’s day, walking along and watching the boats.
Just north of the village is Eldon Hole, one of the ‘seven wonders’ of the peak district. It’s a 60 metre-deep chasm and is the source of many local legends, including the story about an old woman’s goose which fell down the hole and appeared in Peak Cavern in Castleton five miles down the road. Just don’t look down!
It’s time to get out the walking boots and binoculars again, as Hayfield is a prime spot for exploring and enjoying the view. Situated in the valley of the River Sett between the towns of Glossop, New Mills and Chapel-en-le-Frith, this welcoming village is a popular choice for visitors to the Peaks. There’s a wide range of amenities including a greengrocers, gift shop, art gallery and gastro-pubs so you won’t need to worry about getting in the car – it’s walking boots all the way!
If you do want to travel further afield, the bustling market town of Glossop is just a few miles up the road and makes for a great excursion.
This historic market town, situated within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, is just 8 miles north of Derby and is full of attractions. Visit the Belper River Gardens where you can hire a rowing boat, feed the ducks or laze near the pretty flower beds. Create beautiful stained glass or pottery at The Craft Studio. Or step back in time with a look around Strutt’s North Mill – part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and one of the world’s most important buildings from the Industrial Revolution. If you want a bird’s eye view of Derbyshire, how about booking a local flight and going up, up and away in a hot air balloon?
The charming village of Longnor is within easy reach of Buxton and the Dove and Manifold Valleys, so it’s the perfect base for a holiday in the Peak District. The village’s cobbled streets, hidden passageways and winding roads are oozing with character and the countryside surrounding Longnor is just what you’d expect of the Peak District. From the edge of the village you can look down onto the Upper Dove Valley and to the north-west, you’ll see the jagged peaks of Chrome and Parkhouse hills. The River Manifold flows through the Manifold Valley near Longnor and is a beautiful sight to behold.
If you want to go walking further afield, the village has excellent bus links to other nearby towns and villages such as Ashbourne, Crowdecote and Buxton.
Sitting in the stunning Shropshire hills, this pretty market town was nicknamed “Little Switzerland” in the late Victorian and Edwardian period due to its landscape and houses built on hillsides. As you might expect, it’s perfect for walking, cycling and horse-riding.
However, if the landscape wasn’t enough, there’s much more to discover in Church Stretton. Eat out in one of the 20 restaurants, pubs or cafés. Browse for a bargain at the huge antiques market. Pick up something unique at one of the many specialist shops in the town. Or maybe join in with one of the local events such as the Church Stretton Arts Festival in July and August, or Carols in the Square in December.
Sitting pretty on the River Severn, this town certainly lives up to its name which is derived from the French ‘beau lieu’ meaning ‘beautiful place’. The Georgian architecture is gorgeous, so simply strolling around the streets is a pleasure in itself. However, there’s a lot to see and do here. Events throughout the year include the Duck Race in January, the Spring Fair in May, the Regatta in June and the Beer Festival in October.
The huge range of amenities means it’s great for families with young children and the family-friendly attractions nearby, such as the West Midlands Safari Park, will make you want to come back year after year.
This thriving market town near the River Avon has the best of both worlds: excellent shops, restaurants and quirky cafés, all surrounded by rolling hills and woodland walks. If you want to find out about the area, visit The Almonry Heritage Centre. Here you’ll find a wealth of information and artefacts documenting notable events such as the defeat of Baron Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Pack a picnic and spend the day exploring the Windmill Hill Nature Reserve where you can see wildflowers, butterflies and beautiful views of the Avon Valley.
There’s nothing cheesy about this last (but certainly not least) rural retreat on our list. Well, maybe a bit. It is the birthplace of the UK’s most popular cheese, after all. But it’s not all about dairy produce: there are plenty of other attractions to get your teeth into here. Cheddar Gorge should definitely be on your list of places to visit. This world-famous Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is home to Britain’s biggest gorge, where the dramatic cliffs and magical stalactite caverns will take your breath away. Other local attractions include go-karting, crazy golf and browsing the fantastic independent shops.
Situated in the Exmoor National Park, this medieval village is brimming with listed buildings and character. With its subtropical gardens, dramatic setting and ancient history, Dunster Castle is a must-see when visiting the village. Hop on the Dunster Castle Express steam train ride to discover 1,000 years of history before settling down to a picnic when you alight. Or maybe challenge your friends to a game of snooker in the billiard room at the castle?
Other highlights in the village include a walk along the peaceful Gallox Bridge, a snapshot of the past at the Dunster Working Watermill and, as the village is so close the coast, a day spent relaxing on the beach.
For many, nothing epitomises a countryside holiday than a break in the Cotswolds. This chocolate-box town is beautiful at any time of the year, from daffodils in spring to snowdrops in winter. There are plenty things to see and do year-round too. To find out about the town’s textiles history, visit the Old Silk Mill in Sheep Street which is now a museum.
Take a peaceful wander past blooming wisteria at Hidcote Manor – an Arts and Crafts garden created by the talented American horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnston. Or if you’re feeling peckish, pop into one of the many restaurants, tea shops or brasseries where you can enjoy a leisurely bite to eat.
Creativity is at the heart of this lively and artistic town in the Cotswolds. It’s perfect for a weekend escape with the family as there’s something here for everyone to enjoy. Children will love exploring the turrets of Berkeley Castle or burning off some energy at Cattle Country Adventure Park. For big kids, how about getting in tune with nature and joining a bushcraft course where you can carve spoons, make bows and learn how to build shelters? Nailsworth is well-known for its award-winning restaurants, pubs and cafés, so whether you want to grab a quick bite to eat or it’s a fine dining experience you’re looking for, there are plenty of places to choose from.
If it’s a pretty escape in the East Sussex countryside you’ve been hankering after, then the village of Bodiam will satisfy, and then some. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Londoners have been bringing their families to this rural escape and it’s easy to see why. A highlight here is Bodiam Castle: a 14th-century moated castle built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III. The castle holds many events where you can immerse yourself in its history, from medieval character talks to archery.
The pub in the village, The Castle Inn, dates back to the 14th century, so it’s the ideal place to reflect on the castle and its history over dinner before heading back to your holiday home to unwind.
Located around six miles east of Hastings, this scenic village has stunning views of the hills at Fairlight to the south and the Brede valley to the north. Icklesham’s historic roots are fascinating and can be traced back to 772, recorded then as ‘Icoleshamme’, in a land charter signed by Offa, King of Mercia. The village has musical history, too, as the old smock windmill on Hogs Hill was restored and used as a recording studio by Sir Paul McCartney.
There are some lovely places to eat out in Icklesham including the the Queens Head Inn and the Robin Hood, so if you don’t feel like cooking, you’re in safe hands.
If you’re a fan of Georgian architecture, then you’ll love this pretty market town on the banks of the River Stour. There are some excellent museums where you can learn about the town’s history. Start at the Blandford Forum Town Museum where you’ll find all sorts of exhibits from Roman remains to World War II memorabilia. The Fashion Museum is an unexpected gem where you’ll get to see a range of clothes on display from 1920’s flapper dresses, 70’s platform shoes and beyond.
Other highlights in the town include sampling some local ales at the Hall and Woodhouse Brewery Visitor Centre and outdoor activities such as clay shooting and quad biking.