An assortment of top towns to put on your visit list this summer.
We know how it goes – cities get all the good press, all the prominent exposure. Yet the UK has some truly beautiful, characterful and tourist-ready towns that can offer all the same charm and enchantment, whilst providing a feeling of connection and belonging that’s so easily lost in bigger, bustling conurbations.
Shrewsbury’s stunning history and architecture isn’t so much a secret, albeit it’s only recently that this picture-perfect town has started pulling in real numbers, with a climb to almost seven million visitors in 2022.
Located on the banks of the River Severn, Shrewsbury is an underrated gem. The town boasts over 600 listed buildings, including Shrewsbury Castle, Shrewsbury Abbey, and the historic market square. The town is also the birthplace of Charles Darwin and offers lovely parks and gardens like The Quarry, which is perfect for a leisurely stroll.
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
This picturesque town is nestled within the stunning Calder Valley, surrounded by hills and forests. It is well-known for its artistic community, independent shops, and vibrant cultural scene. You can explore the historic canals, take scenic walks, and attend various events like the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival or the annual Duck Race.
Visitor numbers were boosted last year by the success of Sarah Lancashire’s Happy Valley BBC drama, with over a quarter of a million flocking there in July alone.
Rye, East Sussex
Rye is a medieval town steeped in history and charm, and is visited by over a million tourists each year.
With its cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, and ancient Mermaid Inn, Rye has an enchanting atmosphere. Visit the Rye Castle Museum, the 14th-century St. Mary’s Church, and the surrounding nature reserves such as Rye Harbour or Dungeness.
Alnwick is a charming market town that features the magnificent Alnwick Castle, which alone welcomes over 600,000 visitors each year. It is the second-largest inhabited castle in the UK, and the inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.
The Alnwick Garden, adjacent to the castle, is another attraction with its beautiful landscapes, the Grand Cascade, and the unique Poison Garden.
Known almost exclusively for its Bakewell pudding and tart, this charming market town, situated in the heart of the Peak District National Park (which attracts 13 million tourists each year), has more to offer than high cholesterol.
The town boasts beautiful stone buildings, a medieval bridge, and lovely walking paths along the River Wye.
Visit the Old House Museum and the nearby Chatsworth House, one of England’s most famous stately homes.
Tenby, Pembrokeshire (pictured)
This picturesque coastal town is located within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and boasts colourful Georgian buildings, sandy beaches, and a historic harbour. Explore the town’s medieval walls, visit the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, and take a boat trip to the nearby Caldey Island, which is home to a Cistercian monastery.
Over two-and-a-half million people visited in 2022.
A market town with a rich history and well-preserved medieval layout, visitors can take in the British Schools Museum, St. Mary’s Church, and the North Hertfordshire Museum to learn about the area’s heritage.
Hitchin Lavender Farm is a popular attraction where you can pick your own lavender during the summer months. The town also hosts a weekly market and boasts a variety of independent shops and eateries.
It’s annual Rhythms of the World music festival pulls in 20,000 visitors each year – that’s more than half of the town’s population!