15 Hidden Gems in England Off-the-Beaten Path

England is a country rich in history, culture and natural beauty. While many visitors flock to famous landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, there is much more to see and explore beyond these well-trodden paths. In this blog post, we’ll be taking a look at 15 hidden gems in England that are off-the-beaten path. From quaint villages to stunning landscapes, these lesser-known destinations offer a unique and authentic glimpse into England’s hidden charms. So, pack your bags and join us as we uncover some of the most breathtaking, little-known corners of this magnificent country.

Hidden Gems in England Off-the-Beaten Path

Chipping Norton

By Maria of It’s All Trip To Me

Photo by Becky Fantham on Unsplash

A charming market town that vibrates with life, Chipping Norton is one of the best villages to visit in the Cotswolds. A fine example of typical Cotswolds architecture, Chipping Norton is home to buildings that date back to the 12th century. Moreover, Chipping Norton boasts an amazing location that renders it the perfect base from where to explore the beauties of the surrounding countryside alongside nearby villages and monuments. 

Things to do in Chipping Norton

One of the best things to do in Chipping Norton is to attend a performance at the town’s theatre. No matter its small size, Chipping Norton features its very own theatre, the celebrated The Theatre Chipping Norton, since 1975. Another site not to miss is the Parish Church of St Mary, which adorns the town of Chipping Norton since medieval times. Yet the ultimate highlight is the impressive Bliss Tweed Mill, a building closely related to Chipping Norton’s past as a significant hub for the wool trade. 

Near Chipping Norton, it’s worth exploring the Rollright Stones monument, a complex of remarkable stone formations that are several thousand years old. Last but not least, Chipping Norton is the ideal place to see other Cotswolds villages on easy day trips. 

Getting to Chipping Norton

From London: 2 hours 30 minutes by car
From Bristol: 1 hour 30 minutes by car

Sennen Cove

By JJ from travelacrosstheborderline.com

Sennen Cove is a pretty little beach and village located in West Cornwall, around 3 km from Land’s end and close to Penzance. It is the most westerly village in England and is surrounded by dramatic 200ft cliffs and striking scenery. Hundreds of tourists come to visit Land’s End every day but many of them miss out on nearby Sennen Cove which is a shame as it is a truly hidden gem. 

Things to do in Sennen Cove

There are lots of fun and interesting things to do in Sennen Cove. I love to walk the short section of the South West Coast Path that runs from Sennen to Land’s End. The views are spectacular and there are several interesting sights along the way such as an iron age fort, an old coastguard lookout and RMS Mulheim shipwreck

There’s lots of other great things to do in Sennen cove too. Such as spending a day at the beach, exploring the local shops, visiting the Roundhouse Capstan Gallery and learning to surf. 

In fact, Sennen beach is a great beach for beginners to learn to surf and you might even be lucky enough to spot a friendly seal surfing the waves alongside you! 

Getting to Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove is quite remote, but that is part of its charm. The closest major town is Penzance, which is a 20 min drive away or a 1 hr bus ride. Sennen has two car parks, one at the beach and the other at the harbour end of the village. Be sure to park in the harbour car park if you plan to walk to Land’s End as this is where the trail starts.

Rannerdale, Lake District 

By Heather from conversanttraveller.com

The bluebells in the Rannerdale Valley are one of England’s top floral hidden gems. Tucked away in a sleepy corner of the Lake District National Park, Rannerdale sits on the shores of beautiful Crummock Water, just a short hop from Buttermere village. In spring, the open hillsides are carpeted with bluebells, which is quite a rare sight considering these delicate flowers usually prefer shaded woodlands. The land is owned by the National Trust but it’s free to enter.

Things to do in Buttermere 

Of course, walking up Rannerdale is a must if you want to see the bluebells. There are clearly marked trails to protect the flowers from being trampled, with plenty of great vantage points for photos. Head up the valley to the little wooden bridge for some particularly photogenic angles.

You could spend between 30 minutes and an hour exploring, or longer if you fancy a hike up into the hills. Head back to Buttermere village for cafes, restaurants and ice creams. There’s also a lovely circular walk around Buttermere lake which has great views of the surrounding fells. The historic church of St. James is worth a look too.

Getting to Rannerdale

You’ll need a car to get there, as the area is quite remote. It’s best accessed via the A66 from Keswick. There’s a small parking area by the road, and from there it takes just a couple of minutes to stroll up into the valley.

From Keswick: 30 minutes by car

Amberley

By Kristin from scotlandlessexplored.com

Amberley is a small village in the South Downs National Park in West Sussex and one of the most charming hidden gems in England. It is worth a visit for its picture-perfect lanes lined with thatched cottages and flint houses. After wandering the lane of Amberley or going for a walk in the nearby countryside stop for homemade cakes at the quaint Amberley Tea Room or book an afternoon tea at the luxurious Amberley Castle.

Things to do in Amberley

Wandering the pretty lanes is a must but the area is also a hiker’s paradise. As a short walk climb the steep hill to Amberley Mount for amazing views over the Downs. There are also several options for longer hikes such as walking to nearby Arundel or hiking sections of the 100 mile South Downs Way. The South Downs Way is suitable for bikes which can be rented at Riverside South Downs Bike Hire close to Amberley train station. Next door is a company that offers self-drive boat hire for trips up and down the River Arun. To learn more about the history of the area stop by Amberley Museum which showcases the region’s industrial past. It even has its own industrial narrow gauge railway for train enthusiasts.

Getting to Amberley

From London: Hourly trains run from London Victoria to Amberley and take 1 hour 40 minutes. There is a 20-minute walk from Amberley Station into the village itself. Travelling by car Amberley is about 2 hours from London.

From Brighton: It is a 45-minute drive to Amberley.

Painshill Park

By Paulina from the UK Every Day

One of the best-surviving examples of an 18th-century English landscape park is Painshill. This Grade I listed site is also an award-winning park that is often overlooked by visitors to southern England in favor of visiting Royal Parks in London. This is one of the prettiest hidden gems in England for nature lovers.

Things to do in Painshill Park

The vast area in Surrey where Painshill Park is located is full of hidden gems. Whether, it is Turkish Tent, Chinese Bridge, or Gothic Template, this park has an attraction that you will not find in typical travel guides. Moreover, a visit to the magical Crystal Grotto situated in the park is one of the best things to do in Surrey. It is hard to believe that a beautiful cave full of corals and stalactites can be found in England.

So, plan a nice day out in Painshill Park to stroll along the footpaths by the lake and walk across various bridges. This picturesque location will make you fall in love with one of the best-hidden gems in England.

Getting to Painshill Park

The best way to get there is to drive to Painshill Park by car. It is only 1 hour away from the city center of London. Painshill Park car park is just a short walk from the reception and gift shop where you can buy your ticket.

Looe

By Alex and Leah from alexandleahontour.com

If you’re looking for a hidden gem in England, look no further than Looe. 

Situated near the Cornwall-Devon border on the southern coast, this fishing town is absolutely stunning and must be on your list to visit! 

Things to do in Looe

Despite being a quaint town, there are loads of things to do in Looe. People flock from all over the south west just to eat some freshly caught fish and chips on the beautiful East Looe beach. You can also take some time to wander the beautiful streets, filled with independent shops which is a perfect place to pick up a souvenir. 

Alternatively, if you’re visiting as a family, why not check out the Riverside Amusement arcade where you’ll have hours of fun enjoying the array of games. There’s also a huge crabbing scene in Looe and it’s really easy to get all the equipment you need. It’s highly recommended to purchase a crab net and some crab sticks as bait, works every time! 

If you’re lucky enough to spend a day in Looe, you absolutely have to pick up a traditional Cornish pasty and finish it off with a yummy Cornish ice cream!! 

Getting to Looe

The best way to get to Looe is by car. It’s a 35 minute drive from Plymouth or an hour drive from Truro but driving makes Looe easily accessible and will allow you to enjoy your day much more! 

If you can’t get there by car then no worries, there’s always the train or an array of buses you can choose from.

Wells-Next-the-Sea in Norfolk 

By Anisa from Norfolk Local Guide

Wells-Next-the-Sea is a charming seaside town on the North Norfolk Coast.  It’s best known for huge sandy beach with around 200 colourful beach huts.  The town is also a fantastic destination for foodies and art lovers. This is one of the best hidden gems in England for a beach vacation.

Things to Do in Wells-Next-the-Sea 

The top attraction in Wells-Next-the-Sea is the beach.  At low tide, you will find plenty of sand perfect for sandcastles and calm shallow water.  You can hire one of the famous beach huts and make a day out of it, but be sure to heed the siren as the tide does come in fast. 

The town is a scenic mile walk (or bus ride) away.  Here you will find lots of independent shops, art galleries, amusements, and restaurants.  Grab some fish & chips from French’s or Platten’s in the Quay and watch the activity in the harbour.  During the summer months, you can see the Lifeboat Horse sculpture which is fully visible at low tide and partly submerged like it is swimming in the sea at high tide. 

If you want to see more of the area, you can take a boat tour of the harbour.  Alternatively, those with stand up paddle board experience, might prefer to do the longer SUP tour. 

After a busy day exploring Wells-Next-the-Sea, you can relax in one of its charming pubs.  The Globe Inn has been recently refurbished and has a sun-filled courtyard for alfresco dining or drinks. 

Getting to Wells-Next-the-Sea 

From London: Three hours by car 

From Cambridge: Two hours by car 

From Norwich: One hour by car or two hours by bus

Staithes

By Ella from manymoremaps.com

The tiny fishing village of Staithes, on the North Yorkshire Coast, is one of the region’s best hidden gems. With pastel-coloured fishermen’s cottages, cute wooden fishing boats bobbing in the water, and miles of hiking paths surrounding the town, this is the perfect place to get away from it all for a day.

Things to do in Staithes

One of the best things to do in Staithes is to stroll along Staithes’ harbour. Here you’ll find idyllic shops selling trinkets, cosy cafes selling strong cups of tea, and beautiful views of the sea. Eating fish and chips at Staithes is a must-do for foodies. The fish here was probably caught the very same day you’ll eat it!

One of the top activities is the Staithes to Runswick Bay hike, a scenic three-mile chunk of the Cleveland Way hiking trail. The views from this hike are out-of-this-world, and it’s a very moderate walk.

Getting to Staithes

To get to Staithes, you really do need a car. Public transport along the Yorkshire Coast is infrequent at best, and with Staithes being such a tiny village its transport links leave a lot to be desired. Staithes is around a 20-minute drive from Whitby, 80 minutes from York and 80 minutes from Newcastle.

Alfriston

By Shandos Cleaver from Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel

One of the most delightful hidden gems in England is the pretty village of Alfriston. Located in the shire of East Sussex, it’s just a short detour off the A27, but a step back in time to a different era, thanks to its well-preserved historic buildings. It even reputedly inspired the hymn “Morning Has Broken”, thanks to its beauty.

Things to do in Alfriston

A highlight of a visit to Alfriston is the Alfriston Clergy House. This charming thatched house is over 600 years old. It was the first built property to be acquired by the National Trust in 1896, who then lovingly restored it, including its surrounding gardens. The house sits next to the lush grass of the village green and the 14th-century Church of St Andrew, which also shouldn’t be missed. 

A wander around the village will unearth charming old shops, cafes and historic pubs. The perfect way to cap a visit is by having a traditional cream tea, perhaps at the Badgers Teahouse at The Old Village Bakery, where it is served on old-fashioned china. If visiting with your dog, they are welcome in the courtyard. 

Getting to Alfriston

Alfriston is easily accessible from the A27 that runs along the southern coast of England, about a 30 minute drive east of Brighton. Without traffic, it’s only a 90 minute drive from London, putting it within easy reach for a day trip. 

Dedham, Essex

By Kylie from Essex Explored

Dedham is a lovely village along the River Stour in Essex and is one of the hidden gems in England to visit. It is located within the Dedham Vale AONB (Area of Natural Beauty). The British artist, John Constable, got inspiration for many of his paintings from the area. One of his most well known paintings ‘The Hay Wain’ is of the nearby Flatford Mill.

Things To Do In Dedham

One of the most popular things to do in Dedham is to hire a row boat. The Boathouse has been in operation for over 70 years. A 1 hour rental is £20 per boat and each boat can fit up to 4 adults (5 people if some are children). With a 2 hour rental, it will give plenty of time to reach Flatford Mill and back. Alternatively there is a 1.5 mile walk to Flatford, or a 4 mile circular route that takes in more of the countryside. Flatford Mill is a National Trust property. Many people also go paddle boarding along this stretch of the River Stour.

The Kitchen at Dedham is a great riverside cafe and restaurant, or there are other pubs and tearooms in the village. The Essex Rose Tea Room is part of Wilkin & Sons LTD. This Essex based company is best known for producing ‘Tiptree Jam’, which is often served with afternoon and cream teas all around the country!

Getting To Dedham, Essex

From London: 1hr 45 by car via the A12

Hackfall Woods

By Hannah from Get Lost Travel Blog

Hackfall Woods is one of the most enchanting hidden gems in England. Originally landscaped in the 17th century, this North Yorkshire woodland was once considered “one of the most beautiful woods in the country.” After several years of neglect, Hackfall Woods was purchased by the Woodland Trust who restored it to its former glory.Today, this woodland in Grewelthorpe, near Ripon, is beautiful hidden gem that is well worth exploring.

Things to do at Hackfall Woods

Hackfall isn’t simply a location for a woodland walk. Tucked away within the woodland are a number of historic and restored follies waiting to be found. These enchanting small buildings are fun to seek out and create a mystical feel. Walking through the woods is like stepping through the pages of a fairytale!

For visitors who can’t resist a waterfall, you must seek out the Forty Foot Waterfall. As the name suggests, this incredible waterfall is forty-foot high and is a dramatic sight to behold.

One unique thing to do at Hackfall is to activate the fountain in the pond. It is manually operated by a hand pump. It is trickier than it sounds but worth the challenge to see the tower of water shooting over 30 metres into the air!

Plus, if you are up for a climb, follow the footpaths up towards Mowbray Castle and Lovers Leap to admire the spectacular views across the woods.

Getting to Hackfall Woods

From Ripon: 15 minutes by car or 40 minutes by public transport

From Leeds: 1 hour by car or 2 hours 30 minutes by public transport

From York: 1 hour by car or 2 hours 30 minutes by public transport

Knaresborough

By Cristina of My Little World of Travelling

Knaresborough is a beautiful and vibrant hidden gem in the United Kingdom that offers an array of fantastic attractions that will delight any traveller. From exploring stunning historical sites to taking a quiet stroll along the Bebra Gardens or visiting the Art in the Mill Gallery, Knaresborough is the perfect place to visit and provides endless hours of entertainment! This is one of the perfect hidden gems in England for history enthusiasts. 

Things to do in Knaresborough

History buffs will marvel at the Knaresborough Castle, which offers stunning views of the River Nidd and the viaduct across the Nidd Gorge. Another great attraction to check out is the largest church in town, St. John the Baptist Church, a structure that dates back to 1114. After exploring the historical sites, take some time to enjoy the greenery in Bebra Gardens, which is a great place to relax and enjoy the vibrant flowers and trees. If art is what you’re after, check out one of the best activities to do in Knaresborough, the Art in the Mill Gallery. This gallery features a collection of unique sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and more. 

Getting to Knaresborough

There are several different ways to get to Knaresborough. The closest airport to Knaresborough is Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA). If you’re coming from Leeds, the most cost-effective way to get to Knaresborough is to drive, which only takes around 40 minutes.”

Haworth

By Moumita from chasingthelongroad.com

Located in West Yorkshire is Haworth, a charming village that is one of the hidden gems in England. The village is famous for its connection with 19th-century legendary literary figures, the Bronte sisters – Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte. Having plenty of amazing things to do in Haworth, you will fall in love with this picturesque village.

Things to do in Haworth

One of the must-visit attractions is the Bronte Parsonage Museum which was Bronte Sisters’ home from 1820 to 1861. You will get to see a lot of memorabilia which includes letters, notebooks and household furniture used by the family. Take a leisurely stroll along the main street of this village and discover cute independent shops and cafes. There are plenty of hiking opportunities around this village as well. Follow the path through the wild moorlands to visit Bronte Waterfalls and ruined Top Withens, which is believed to be the inspiration behind Emily Bronte’s famous work, Wuthering Heights. 

Getting to Haworth

Haworth is very well connected with nearby cities and towns. It takes an hour to drive here from Leeds and just over an hour to drive from Manchester. You can also use public transport to reach here. There are regular bus services that run to Haworth from Bradford, Keighley and Hebden Bridge. The nearest main railway station is Leeds, and the nearest local railway station is Keighley. You have to board a bus service from there.

Kirkham Priory

By Faith from xyuandbeyond.com

Legend says that Kirkham Priory, North Yorkshire was founded in the 1120s by Walter l’Espec, lord of nearby Helmsley in remembrance of l’Espec’s only son who had died close to the site due to his horse being startled by a boar.

The Augustinian Kirkham Priory is located between the city of York and the town of Malton. The stunning ruins are set in the magnificent Derwent valley on the edge of the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is definitely one of the cool hidden gems in England. 

Things to see at Kirkham Priory

The most extensive remains are those of the 12th and 13th-century priory church, which forms the north cloister range.

The Gatehouse of Kirkham Priory was built c. 1290–95 and is a rare example of Gothic architecture. It has a wide arch of continuous moldings with an ornamented gable running up to the windows, with sculptures of St George and the Dragon on the left, and David and Goliath to the right. 

During the Second World War, the priory grounds were used by the military in training for the D-Day landings which took place in 1944 on the Normandy beaches. 

The British 11th Armored Division used Kirkham and its grounds to maneuver and test tanks, jeeps and other landing vehicles as well as testing waterproof compounds on the equipment to be used in the landing. The troops used the high wall of the Western Cloister in training with scrambling nets.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI visited the priory in secret to monitor preparations, which demonstrates just how important this use of the Abbey grounds was.

Getting to Kirkham Priory

From York 22 minutes by car

From Malton 13 minutes by car 

Saffron Walden

By Paula from trulyexpattravel.com

Saffron Walden is a historic market town dating back to 1500; it is located in northwest Essex, just 15 miles south of Cambridge and 56 miles from London. The town was first named Walden and then Chipping Walden until Henry VIII officially called Saffron Walden in 1514 when Saffron was grown everywhere in this area, and the saffron Trade was at its peak. It is one of the cool hidden gems in England and should not be missed by history lovers.

Things to do in Saffron Walden

You can visit Bridge End Garden, which was created in about 1840 by Francis Gibson. The gardens are beautiful, but the maze is a must; incredibly brilliant on a sunny day and will keep you amused for hours. There is an entrance fee to Audley End House and Gardens, which takes you around the beautiful Estate. Every season brings a new experience, so depending on when you go, it will depend on what there is to see. There is also the mansion and stables to get through as well. 

Saffron Grange Vineyard is only 1.7 miles from the town centre. Booking online before your arrival can ensure a spot on their vineyard tour and tasting. What a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Check out the town centre (especially during the weekend where you will find markets), and stop for a bite or afternoon tea. The restaurants and pubs serve deliciously fresh food, so you are spoilt for choices. In addition, there are a lot of unique boutiques here that you can spend your afternoon browsing through.

How to get to Saffron Walden 

The train to Audley End is the fastest and easiest way to get there from London. It will take approximately 1.5 hours to get to Saffron Walden, including the bus or taxi from the station to the city centre.

Additional Links:

Hidden Gems in Austria: https://merrylstravelandtricks.com/15-hidden-gems-in-austria-off-the-beaten-path/ 

Hidden Gems in Switerland: https://merrylstravelandtricks.com/10-hidden-gems-in-switzerland-off-the-beaten-path/

Hidden Gems in Greece: https://merrylstravelandtricks.com/hidden-gems-in-greece-off-the-beaten-path/

Hidden Gems in Spain: https://merrylstravelandtricks.com/hidden-gems-in-spain-off-the-beaten-path/

Hidden Gems in France: https://merrylstravelandtricks.com/15-hidden-gems-in-france-off-the-beaten-path/

Hidden Gems in Germany: https://merrylstravelandtricks.com/hidden-gems-in-germany-off-the-beaten-path/

Hidden Gems in Italy: https://merrylstravelandtricks.com/hidden-gems-in-italy/

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