Revealed: UK’s best towns and villages as Avebury comes top

Picturesque village in south-west England tops poll by consumer champion Which?

With the largest stone circle in the world and its unspoilt countryside views, Avebury has been named the best of the UK’s towns and villages.

Much of the village, which is in Wiltshire in the south-west of England, is encircled by the prehistoric monument complex.

Avebury received a destination score of 90 per cent in a survey by consumer group Which?, and was given five stars for scenery and tourist attractions. It also received four stars for peace and quiet, attractiveness and value for money.

Visitors were particularly enthusiastic about its stone circle, but along with its Neolithic site Avebury offers visitors a 16th-century manor house and garden managed by the National Trust, the Alexander Keiller museum displaying many of the archaeological finds from the area, and a quaint village pub with a thatched roof.

All of the top-three destinations in the survey are located in the south-west of England, with Castle Combe, also in Wiltshire, and Wells, Somerset, coming joint second in the rankings, with scores of 88 per cent.

With its pretty houses and twisting lanes, complete with a babbling brook, the quintessentially English village of Castle Combe was given five stars for scenery and attractiveness. The village has appeared in a number of cinematic productions including Warhorse and Downton Abbey, and is revered as one of England’s prettiest.

Despite its size and charm, Wells is technically a city on account of its cathedral. It is the smallest city in England though, and received five stars for its tourist attractions and four stars in every other category including scenery and attractiveness. Tourist attractions include the aforementioned cathedral, as well as the moated Bishop’s Palace and Vicars’ Close, a complete medieval street inhabited by vicars.

Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: “The UK is full of towns and villages bursting with character and history, many of which are relatively quiet and unspoilt, making them perfect destinations for a day trip or a holiday.

“Avebury topped the table in our survey on account of its unique history and quintessential English surroundings, while other high scorers impressed with their tourist attractions and excellent surroundings.”

The Victorian model village of Saltaire, West Yorkshire, came fourth, with a destination score of 87 per cent. The Unesco World Heritage Site was given four stars for tourist attractions, shopping, peace and quiet, and value for money, and three stars in every other category.

Salts Mill and the surrounding area were originally built to house the workers of the mill in the 19th century, as well as provide them with decent working and living conditions. Visitors were impressed by the history of the village, and spoke highly of the mill which now houses a diner, galleries and a bookshop, as well as an array of paintings by David Hockney.

In joint fifth place was Castleton in Derbyshire, alongside Ironbridge in Shropshire, both with destination scores of 86 per cent. Castleton was given five stars for scenery while Ironbridge received the top rating for tourist attractions, and both secured four stars for attractiveness.

The best scoring village in Wales was Hay-on-Wye in Powys, with a destination score of 84 per cent, while the best in Scotland was Aberfeldy in Perthshire, with 82 per cent.

The small market town, on the border between England and Wales, received four stars for scenery, attractiveness, and peace and quiet. It is often described as “the town of books”, with more than 20 bookshops and hosts the annual Hay Festival of Literature and Arts. It has beautiful scenery and great walks, with the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, the winding River Wye and many surrounding lakes and forests for visitors to enjoy.

Aberfeldy, another small market town, was made famous by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns. Today it is better known for being Scotland’s first Fairtrade town, and for its many attractions including The Watermill, containing a book shop, gallery and cafe, and Dewar’s Aberfeldy distillery. The town received five stars for scenery and four for peace and quiet.

At the bottom of the table was Bodmin, in Cornwall, with a destination score of 55 per cent, followed by Matlock Bath in Derbyshire (65%) and Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire (66%).

Despite its low score, visitors were positive about Bodmin’s cycle trail and the surrounding areas, while others spoke highly of attractions including Bodmin Jail and Lanhydrock house and garden.

Visitors to Matlock Bath reported enjoying the riverside walks and the Heights of Abraham, which can be reached by cable car, and while it placed near the bottom of the table, Ross-on-Wye was still given four stars for scenery and peace and quiet.

Which? surveyed 2,710 members of its online panel who visited an inland town or village in the UK in the past two years.

Updated: August 31st 2021, 10:30 AM