10 Picture Perfect Villages That Are Within Easy Reach Of London

These picturesque villages may seem like they’ve been snatched from a fairytale, but they’re actually much closer to London than you might think. Escape the city for the day or treat yourself to a well-earned weekend away. Go on, these charming villages near London await – and what better time to visit them than for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee?!

1. Lavenham, Suffolk

The exterior of the old Crooked House in Lavenham, Suffolk
Photo: @shutterstock

For a trip to medieval England, a journey to Lavenham is a much simpler feat than time travel. This idyllic village boasts over 340 listed buildings and a huge, decorative church that stands at 141ft tall. The high street is lined with brightly coloured buildings, including Corpus Christi Guildhall and the De Vere House, which you may recognise from ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows‘. (You can even stay in Harry’s birthplace, which is now on Airbnb!)

🚂 1 hour 20 minutes by train from Liverpool Street to Sudbury, with a change at Marks Tey. From there, hop on the 753 bus to Lavenham. 
🚗 1 hour 50 minutes by car. 

2. Shere, Surrey

The historic church in the beautiful village of Shere in Surrey, England
Photo: @shutterstock

Shere has long been voted one of Britain’s quaintest country villages. It has everything you could ever hope for in a city escape: from cute cottages and a 12th century church, to traditional boozers and a lovely village tea room. After a short visit, you won’t be surprised to learn that scenes from ‘The Holiday‘, ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral‘, and ‘Bridget Jones‘ were all filmed here (as well as many more).

🚂 50 minutes by train from Waterloo (or Victoria) to Dorking, followed by a 25 minute bus ride on the 32 directly to Shere. 
🚗 Less than 1.5 hours by car. 

3. Rye, East Sussex

A picturesque cobbled street in the charming village of Rye in East Sussex
Photo: @shutterstock

Rye is a gorgeous, storybook village (okay it’s technically a town but let us have it?) in East Sussex. Filled with cobbled lanes with enchanting names like Mermaid Street and Wish Street, the place is just as magical as it sounds. As you explore these quaint streets lined with crooked, medieval, half-timbered houses, you’ll be transported back in time. Being near the beach, there are plenty of seaside walks to tackle, as well as luscious rolling hills to climb further inland. There’s also a castle and a few olde inns, making it the perfect place to while away the weekend.

🚂 1 hour by train from St Pancras International to Rye, with a change at Ashford International.
🚗 1.5 hours by car.

4. Finchingfield, Essex

A beautiful village scene and Finchingfield Bridge in the village of Finchingfield in Essex
Photo: @shutterstock

This award-winning chocolate box village near London is categorically beautiful. Oozing with culture, Finchingfield is home to many historical landmarks, including: the 18th Century Roundhouse, once home to author Dodie Smith of ‘101 Dalmations‘; the 15th Century Guildhall, now a museum and library; and Spains Hall, a gorgeous, imposing Elizabethan country house. Elsewhere you’ll discover the village green, plenty of country pubs and white cottages, and even a windmill.

🚂 1 hour by train from Liverpool Street (or Stratford) to Braintree. From there, hop in a 15 minute taxi. 
🚗 1 hour 20 minutes by car. 

5. Much Hadham, Hertfordshire

A grade-II listed house in the charming village of Much Hadham in Herfordshire, England
Photo: @shutterstock

Much Hadham is a gorgeous little village in Hertfordshire, not too far from Stansted Airport. It may be small but it’s certainly mighty, boasting a whole lot of culture. Visit the Forge Museum — housed in listed buildings dating back to 1480 – to learn about the history of this remarkable village, or the Henry Moore Foundation, Moore’s former home, which is open to the public during the summer. Here you can admire the artist’s iconic bronze sculptures within a beautiful garden setting. There are also loads of lovely country walks in and around the village, and a couple of great pubs to finish at. Sidehill Wood is particularly beautiful in the spring, when it’s blooming with bluebells.

🚂 40 minutes by train from Liverpool Street to Bishop’s Stortford, followed by a 25 minute bus. 
🚗 1 hour 10 minutes by car. 

6. Wendons Ambo, Essex

This charming village in the countryside near London is packed full of thatched cottages and lovely country gardens. It got its unusual name from the joining of the villages of Great and Little Ambo back in the 1600s, and means “both Wendens” or “Wendens together”. Wendens Ambo is the perfect spot to begin a countryside walk, with its storybook looks and it’s easy-to-reach location. If you’re after an easy escape from London, this is a great place to start.

🚂 1 hour by train from London Liverpool Street to Audley End. You’ll arrive smack bang in the middle of Wendens Ambo!
🚗 1.5 hours by car. 

7. Castle Hedingham, Essex

A collection of lovely cottages and a graveyard in the village of Castle Hedingham
Photo: @shutterstock

Not too far from Wendens Ambo you’ll find another of the prettiest villages near London – Castle Hedingham – home to a fairytale castle which, funnily enough, is called Hedingham Castle. While the castle gets loads visitors, the village itself is well worth a nosey at. It’s full of cute cottages and half-timbered houses, and is also the starting point for the 150-year-old Colne Valley Railway. This short one mile line offers the perfect opportunity to take a ride on a real life vintage steam train.

🚂 1 hour by train from Liverpool Street to Braintree, followed by a 45 minute bus. 
🚗 1.5 hours by car. 

8. Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire

A lovely old house with Tudor beams in the charming village of Great Missenden
Photo: @shutterstock

Next on this roundup of the most beautiful villages near London is the charming Great Missenden – once the home of the legendary author Roald Dahl. Synonymous with leafy lanes, ancient churches, higgledy-piggledy streets and the rolling green hills of the Chilterns, it’s a cute spot that has been used as the filming location for a range of different TV shows – including ‘Midsomer Murders’. There are plenty of great walks and cycling trails surrounding the village itself, and you can even follow the ‘Roald Dahl Village Trail’ – which will take you to Roald Dahl’s grave and past sites such as Sophie’s ‘norphanage’ in ‘The BFG’ or the library visited by Matilda.

🚂 40 minutes by train from Marylebone.
🚗 Less than 1.5 hours by car.

9. Lurgashall, West Sussex

Tucked away in the  rural Chichester district of the South Downs lies Lurgashall, a picturesque village close to London that only has a population of around 600 inhabitants. There’s a lovely village green here which is arguably the centre of the village, and Blackdown – the highest spot in West Sussex – which is synonymous with the former Poet Laureate Lord Alfred Tennyson. There’s a fab winery here which is family-run and specialises in fruit wines and meads, and The Noah’s Ark pub is a beautiful 16th-century country boozer which has a cottage garden, open fires and sells real ales and locally-sourced food too.

🚂 55 minutes by train from Waterloo to Haslemere. From there you’ll need to catch a bus to Midhurst and then the Y2 bus on to Lurgashall. The journey should take about 130 minutes in total.
🚗 Around 90–120 minutes by car.

10. Brockenhurst, Hampshire

A herd of cattle wandering through the village of Brockenhurst in the New Forest, Hampshire, one of the best villages near London
Photo: @shutterstock

Our last addition to this roundup of the best villages near London is a real gem. Located right in the heart of the picturesque New Forest National Park – Europe’s largest surviving area of ancient pasture woodland – Brockenhurst is a bustling village synonymous with wildlife at every turn, acres of unspoilt ancient woodland, and miles of walking and bike trails. There are some great pubs to boot here too as well as restaurants, boutique stores, quaint tea rooms and some excellent accommodation options such as campsites, B&Bs, and self-catering spots too. You’ll really feel like you’re in the countryside here – wild ponies, deer and herds of cows regularly wander through the village!

🚂 40 minutes by train from Marylebone.
🚗 Less than 1.5 hours by car.

Also published on Medium.